How Often Should You Wash Kitchen Towels? Experts Weigh In
Find out if you need to start cleaning them more frequently than you are.
Whether they're hanging off of your oven door or resting on a wall hook, kitchen towels are essential to have on hand. Maybe you use yours to dry your dishes, or perhaps they double as a pot holder and a paper towel. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter where you keep your kitchen towels or how you use them (within reason). What really matters is how regularly you are cleaning these cloth. Read on to discover how often you should wash your kitchen towels, according to the experts.
READ THIS NEXT: What Happens When You Don't Wash Your Sheets Every Week, Doctors Say.
Your kitchen towels are likely harboring bad bacteria.
Research has found that the cloths we keep in our kitchen may be much dirtier than we realize. A study presented at the American Society for Microbiology's annual meeting in 2018 showed that that kitchen towels could contribute to the growth of potential pathogens that cause food poisoning.
According to their findings, nearly 50 percent of the towels tested were positive for some type of bacterial growth, with 36.7 growing coliform bacteria (which may include E.coli), and 14.3 percent growing Staphylococcus aureus, which is a type of staph infection.
This is why it is so important to regularly clean them, Francine L. Shaw, FMP, a food safety expert and CEO of Savvy Food Safety, Inc., tells Best Life.
"If kitchen towels are not washed often enough, they can become a breeding ground for germs and present health risks. Bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus aureus can thrive on damp and soiled towels," Shaw warns. "If they are not properly eliminated, they can contaminate your hands, surfaces, and food. This can lead to cross-contamination, cross-contact, and increase the likelihood of foodborne illnesses."
So, how often should you be washing them?
Some experts recommend washing towels after every single use.
If you reuse your kitchen towels more than once, you're actually going against some experts' advice. Nathaly Vieira, a cleaning expert and owner of the home cleaning service InspireClean, says she recommends washing them after every single use.
"Using a fresh towel each time will help keep your kitchen surfaces clean and free of bacteria," Vieira explains.
Natalia Thompson, a kitchen expert and CEO of Flavorful Home, is also an advocate for this cleaning frequency.
"It is recommended to wash kitchen towels every day in order to be completely safe," she says. "Every kitchen should place the highest importance on food safety, and a good place to start is by cleaning your kitchen towels every day."
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Others say you can wait a little longer.
But if you're not ready to start doing a fresh load of laundry every day, don't worry. Diana Georgieva, a cleaning expert and founder of the London-based cleaning company Wimbledon Cleaning Services, says that while kitchen towels may be washed daily if they're being used a lot, this doesn't have to be the case for everyone.
Instead, "kitchen towels in a modern-day household should be washed every two to three days," she recommends.
Chi Ip, owner of the Boston-based cleaning service Tidy Here, says that some cloths can even go up to seven days without being washed—depending on how they're used.
"If towels are used for drying dishes or hands, then they can be laundered once a week," Ip says. "If the towels are used to clean spills and other messes, we suggest that the towels be immediately rinsed and removed from any food bits and debris to avoid any bacteria build-up."
There are telltale signs that you need to wash your kitchen towel before using it again.
Whether you're willing to adopt the once-a-day cleaning lifestyle or you're going to wait a little longer, there are some specific things you need to watch for.
According to Shaw, there are telltale signs that indicate it's time to wash your kitchen towel immediately—no matter how long it has been. These include stains, unpleasant odors, or a noticeable change in texture, she says.
"If the towel feels sticky, greasy, or damp even after drying, it is likely contaminated and should be washed," Shaw notes.
She also says there are certain situations that might call for a more frequent cleaning cycle.
"For example, if a towel has been used to clean up raw meat juices, it is advisable to wash it immediately to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria," Shaw suggests. "Additionally, if you or someone in your household has been sick, it's advisable to wash kitchen towels more frequently to minimize the risk of germs lingering on the fabric."