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The Germaphobe Chronicles: How Gross Are Your Kitchen Towels?

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Were you a germaphobe long before it was fashionable and necessary (or before COVID-19)? We’re right there with you. An obsession with germs and keeping a clean house have long been on our radar, so we’re launching a new series that dives into the down and dirty details of just how gross various household objects really are.

We’ll chat with cleaning experts and scientists to get all their best tips on keeping your house clean and germ-free—one object at a time.

First up on our list? Your kitchen towels—and what the experts have to say about them. Buckle up! Here’s everything you need to know about how gross your kitchen towels really are and what you can do to keep the nasties at bay.

What’s crawling around on your kitchen towels?

So what kinds of bacteria can we expect to find? Everything from E. coli and salmonella to toxic plastic residue, says home and cleaning expert Stephan Bucur, of The Rhythm of the Home.

The biggest issue by far with dirty dish towels comes from cross-contamination.

“Don’t ever forget: For something to get clean, something else has to get dirty,” says chemist Bill Carroll, of Carroll Applied Science. “If you’re wiping up countertops with kitchen towels, then drying your hands—and you haven’t been rigorously sanitizing either—you’re just moving bacteria from one place to another.”

The fastest way to turn your towel into a petri dish is by cross-contaminating it with food—particularly meat. The worst-case scenario? A food poisoning type of sickness. This is frequently how it happens.

Tips for keeping your kitchen towels clean

You can do several things to keep your kitchen towels from becoming a home for wayward bacteria beyond compulsively overwashing them.

The first solution is to keep clean towels handy for different purposes.

“Don’t use a single towel for multiple uses,” says Stephen Keighery of Home Buyer Louisiana. “Arrange one for drying hands, one for wiping the counter, and one for wiping the appliances.”

Another way to keep things from getting grosser than necessary? Ensure that your towels dry between each use.

“Bacteria greatly prefer warm, damp areas, so at the very least, towels should not sit around being damp and warm,” says Carroll. “Hang them up to dry.”

Finally, do consider giving your kitchen towels a deep clean now and again to rid them of any lingering bacteria.

“If you want to make sure your kitchen towels are extra clean, stretch them out on an even surface and spread baking soda and washing powder all over them,” suggests Bucur. “Let them soak in the powder for a couple of hours, and then microwave them. This process kills most dangerous bacteria and germs when coupled with a regular washing schedule.”

How often should I wash my kitchen towels?

Probably one of the most surprising things about the gross factor of kitchen towels is how little time passes before things get truly icky.

“On average, it takes about four to five uses or a maximum of one week until you should rewash kitchen towels,” says Bucur. “The main reason kitchen towels get nasty is humidity levels and the proximity to food residue. Both of these put together are breeding grounds for bacteria and germs.”

And don’t forget new kitchen towels

While most of us assume that kitchen towels get germy only after being used, that’s not exactly true.

“The sanitary conditions of a kitchen towel vary when you pick them off the shelf,” says Gabby Martin of Bio Recovery, a professional disinfection service. “While most manufacturers do spray new towels down, the honest truth is that they’re vulnerable to anyone who touches them when they’re on the shelf.”

The journey from factory to store means towels are exposed to the chemicals used at the factory, plus thousands of germs from being handled both before and after being put on a store shelf.

The bottom line: Wash those kitchen towels immediately after purchasing them.

The post The Germaphobe Chronicles: How Gross Are Your Kitchen Towels? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

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