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How often should you be washing your towels?

A scientist explains just how dirty your gym towel really is – and what will actually get it clean.

Picture: iStock

This article was originally published on The Sun and was republished here with permission.

Dirty, unwashed towels contain potentially disease-causing bacteria, new research has found.

Dr Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, discovered nearly 90 per cent of bathroom towels were contaminated with coliform bacteria, while 14 per cent carried E. coli, reports The Sun.

In some cases, Dr Gerba even found traces of salmonella.

He told Time: “After about two days, if you dry your face on a hand towel, you’re probably getting more E. coli on your face than if you stuck your head in a toilet and flushed it.”

Because of this, people should wash any bathroom towels after about two days of use, Gerba said, particularly if there are children living with you.

A rinse isn’t good enough, either. Nor is regular detergent. Gerba suggests using a product with activated oxygen bleach.

So why are they so dirty?

Every time we use a towel we transfer natural skin bacteria into the fibres, along with any other germs we might be carrying.

Towels that remain damp for a while after use also have the potential to become a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria.

A 2003 study found “superbug” MRSA on the towels of college football players.

But, while this may sound scary, it’s not as dangerous as it seems.

The human body has adapted to being able to live in an environment that has microbes all around.

Using your own towel that is covered in your own bacteria is very unlikely to have any negative health effects.

And, even when it comes to somebody else’s towel, the chances of getting sick are slim.

Susan Whittier, director of clinical microbiology at New York-Presbyterian and Columbia University Medical Centre, said: “As long as it’s drying completely between use, there’s almost no chance of passing bacteria from one person to another.”

Avoid using someone else’s towel if you have open wounds or dry skin as this can let microbes into your system.

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