How Often Should You Wash Your Bath Towels?

How Often Should You Wash Your Bath Towels?

Bedsheets and towels are materials that touch your skin daily, especially the most intimate parts of your body. Like most people, you probably hang your towel up after drying off when you exit the shower. You don’t think about it (perhaps) until the towel starts to smell. That is downright gross, and it raises the question: How often should you wash your bath towels?

Why Washing Your Bath Towels Is So Important

There’s no other way to say this without being blunt: you get up close and personal with your bath towel on a daily basis. You use it to dry off every square inch of your body, from head to toe. After a few uses, your towel can be contaminated with several pathogens or bacteria that increase your risk of infection. Some of those things include:

  • Fecal pathogens (norovirus, C. diff, and E. coli)
  • Fungal species (such as the ones that cause ringworm and athlete’s foot)
  • Skin pathogens (such as Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA)
  • Bacterial and viral pathogens that can cause conjunctivitis 

How Often Should You Wash Your Bath Towel?

Some researchers suggest that you should wash or change your bath towel after every use. This isn’t exactly feasible for everyone. Other researchers say that you can stretch your bath towel to three uses (max), so long as it dries fully between each use. According to one dermatologist and cofounder of Audubon Dermatology in New Orleans, Louisiana, she changes her bath towel every day. She added that it is acceptable to throw them in the laundry after every two to three uses.

What all researchers can agree on is that the towel must fully dry between each use. The reason for this is because drying helps kill potential microbes and inhibits them from growing. Your towel’s ability to dry will depend on the climate in your house. A towel may never fully dry in a more humid environment, and your bathroom tends to stay more humid than other areas in the home. For this reason, you may want to hang dry your towels outside the bathroom. 

As a quick note, there are some exceptions to the three-day towel rule. If you have open cuts or scrapes, had a recent surgery (such as mole or skin cancer removal), or have a lot of eczema or psoriasis, you will want to change towels more frequently. The reason for that is because the skin barrier is not intact, which is why you want to be more careful. Use a fresh towel after every shower until the skin has properly healed. 

How To Correctly Wash (And Dry) Your Towels

Make sure to wash your towels with detergent and then dry them on high heat. Health experts agree that that is the most efficient washing and drying routine to kill germs and keep mold counts down. Choose a detergent that contains enzymes, which break down dirt and kill germs during the wash cycle. The detergent will have that listed on the front label, saying that enzymes fight stains. 

If you have sensitive skin, it is possible that using a new detergent may cause irritation. If you experience any irritation after using a new detergent, stop using it. You can also find dye-free and fragrance-free detergents that incorporate enzymes into their formulas, as they may be gentler on the skin. You can also use liquid bleach or laundry products that contain activated oxygen bleach. Those products increase the efficacy of the cleaning process

What Happens If You Don’t Wash Towels Twice Per Week?

The short answer is that your skin will never be the same. No, of course this is not the truth. The reality is that not everyone will have problems with infrequent towel washing. If you notice that your towel has a mildew smell, that stink can transfer onto your skin when you dry off after showering. That could potentially trigger or contribute to allergy symptoms if you are allergic to mold. 

The transferring of pathogens from your towels to your own skin is possible, as we stated earlier in this article. That is true even if they are your own germs. You can get something from your towel, but it depends on how long the specific pathogen can survive and whether or not it will transfer from the towel to your body. On the other hand, some people won’t have any skin problems from overusing one towel. It really just depends on your skin and your body’s risk of infections.



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