Is it Dangerous to Rarely Wash Your Bath Towel?

Do bath towels really ever get dirty?

from Imponderables
Is it Dangerous to Rarely Wash Your Bath Towel?© Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock

Do bath towels really ever get dirty? Most towels are made of 100 percent cotton. While it’s true that after a shower you have eliminated most of the germs and dirt from your skin, the process of rubbing a towel against the body rubs off dead skin that sticks to the moist towel. Towels become an ideal nesting place for the mildew endemic to humid bathrooms.

Most people flip a fan on or open the windows when showering but then turn off the fan or close the windows when they dry themselves. Jean Lang, director of marketing at Fieldcrest, says it is much more important to promote circulation after the shower.

Without dispersing the moisture, the bathroom becomes like a terrarium. The same type of mildew that afflicts plastic shower curtains attacks towels, especially if the towels have never dried completely from their last use.

We remember our windowless high school locker room with little nostalgia. The lack of ventilation and circulation led to mildew and smelly towels. We would have gladly endured the smell of garbage for the odious aroma of schoolmates’ moist towels.

How often do you wash your bath towels?

  • Your Comments

    • Jean-Sébastien Venne

      I wash my personal body towels (the ones that are always only used by me) about 4 times a year. Most of your dead skin cells are gone after a good shower, so very little are picked by the towel. In order to prevent mildew and bacteria, the towel must dry quickly after each use. Do not hang your towels to dry in the bathroom, it’s the most humid place in your home…. Hang them immediately after use, in a dry place, and hang them cleanly and evenly (no more than one fold) so that there can be no “moist spot”.

      • Jean-Sébastien Venne

        I forgot to add: Using the method described above, my towels never have a foul smell, even after weeks of using them without washing them… sure, they don’t have that artificial smell of a freshly washed towel, but they are clean nonetheless. You might think a freshly washed towel smells clean, but what you smell is not cleanliness, it’s the fragrances added to the detergent you used to wash them…After a few uses, that fragrance is gone, that’s why you think it’s dirty. You’ve been fooled by marketing scams invented by detergent makers, so that you use their product more often in order to get that “clean” smell. The truth is: clean has no smell.

    • Brevity, Brevity, Brevity

      The worst thing is washing clothes and hanging it up to dry in the shower. If you hang it up to drain the water out of it, that’s ok, but then take it out of the bathroom and hang it outside to dry in the fresh air. Staph bacteria will grow on your washed items and smell horrible.

      • bcvmomma

        Really? I hang my clothes up to dry in the bathroom at least once a week for the past 10 years or so. They smell like laundry detergent when dry and never have I had a staph infection.

        • Brevity, Brevity, Brevity

          Do you sh*t where you eat, too?

    • Mamahen

      Articles like this crack me up. How many people have been negatively affected by dirty bath towels?

      • Brevity, Brevity, Brevity

        What can you possibly say about clean bath towels? doh.

      • J

        Ever had a yeast infection, or eczema? Or a sore that didn’t heal as fast as it should have? Hmmmm….

    • mermaidintheshade

      So – if I live in a desert, and the towel doesn’t smell after a month or 2, is it going to kill me if I don’t wash it more than four times a year? I doubt it, though this article fails to answer the question. I wash them if they start to look dirty or smell a bit, otherwise I fail to see a reason.

      • J

        You seriously don’t wash your towels but every 3 months?!?! Gross!!!

      • J

        I mean, just think of all the dead skin on that towel and all of the bacteria feeding on that dead skin. Seriously, I wash mine in hot water twice a week and I live in the desert too. Just because the air is dry outside doesn’t mean your towel isn’t wet. Gross, gross, gross….wash your towels!!!

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    • Calogero Mira

      Cleaning towels, marketing and Jean Lang? Thanks.