Authored by Ellen Wan via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
Who would think the innocuous bathroom towel could potentially pose a threat to one’s health? An indispensable tool in our bathing routine, seemingly clean, or lightly used bath towels, coupled with a potentially humid bathroom environment can harbor innumerable disease causing bacteria.
Germs contained in towels can cause skin disease, hair loss, urinary tract infections, and even spread drug-resistant bacteria that can be fatal.
Most of the bacteria in towels comes from the user’s body, face, and hands. With the high humidity usually found in a bathroom it becomes a highly favorable environment for rapid bacterial growth. Towels that appear clean to the naked eye may be full of tens of thousands of bacteria, posing potentially serious health threats.
Bacteria on towels pose three major health risks:
1. Breed and spread bacteria
A Japanese life encyclopedia TV program called Non Stop, tested the bacterial content of bath towels, and found that freshly washed towels contained 190,000 count of bacteria. After one day of use, the number increased to 17 million—nearly 90 times more than day zero. The bacterial count found on towels used for three days soared to 87 million and as high as 94 million on towels used for one week without being washed.
Noritoshi Ri, director of the Hygiene & Microbiology Research Center, Tokyo, explained in the TV program that the bacteria count in a towel after one week of use can reach 10 billion plus—equivalent to that of a drainage pipe.
2. Cause skin diseases
William Chao, a certified diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology, toxicologist, and professor at Chung Yuan Christian University in Taiwan said that if towels are left unwashed for three days, they will contain a variety of germs and that using them for cleaning is “like wiping your body against a toilet.” In addition to E. coli—most abundant on and in toilets—more types of bacteria could be found according to the different physical conditions of the towel’s user, and included Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella, and Legionella.
Wiping your body with unclean towels can lead to skin problems. William Chao said that the germs contained in the towel are prone to causing skin allergies, folliculitis, hair loss, and other skin diseases. Many people have the habit of sharing towels, including families with children and couples.
If one of the users has an infection, the towel may become a breeding ground for the bacteria, causing mutual and repeated infections. When one towel user is undergoing treatment for an ailment there is the chance that the germ will reside with the partner and soon return to the initiator, creating a cycle. This is quite often the case of the fungal infection Hong Kong foot, or athlete’s Foot (Tinea pedis) and viral warts.
Chao noted that if your body is itchy after taking a bath, or you often have allergies or infections, it is recommended to check the cleanliness of your bathroom environment. Even within a family, it is recommended each use their own towel.
Rin Doi, director of a Japanese Dermatology Clinic, said in the same “Non Stop” program that for people with skin allergies, or for the tender skin of infants and young children, using towels with high bacterial content will cause infection. Especially if there is a wound—it is more likely to become inflamed and purulent.
3. Bring higher risk of death
In 2003, the New England Journal of medicine published a study of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus among players and staff members of a professional football team. Drug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is immune to common antibiotics such as oxacillin, penicillin, amoxicillin, and cephalosporins. In addition to players sharing saunas, whirlpools, and training, therapy equipment, and the turf of the playing fields, players frequently shared towels to wipe their sweat, hands, and faces.
The study found that the frequently occurred skin abrasions among players; a lack of regular access to hand hygiene for trainers who provided wound care; skipping of showers by players before the use of communal whirlpools; and sharing of towels — all factors that might facilitate the transmission of infection.
According to the “Antimicrobial Resistance: Global Report on Surveillance,” published by the World Health Organization in late 2022, drug-resistant bacteria are becoming more prevalent in communities and can cause life-threatening bloodstream infections.
The report states that Klebsiella pneumoniae and Acinetobacter bacteria that cause blood infections in hospitals have 50 percent resistance to antibiotics, and that 8 percent of blood infections caused by Klebsiella pneumoniae are also resistant to antibiotics typically used as a last resort, Carbapenems, which increases the risk of death from uncontrollable diseases.
The report also showed a 15 percent increase in bloodstream infections and gonorrhea infections caused by drug-resistant E. coli and Salmonella compared with 2017.
These superbugs could also reside on your towels. According to a 2014 study on kitchen towels, coliform bacteria were detected in 89 percent of the kitchen towels in 82 households, and E. coli was detected in 25.6 percent of the towels. Moreover, researchers also discovered Klebsiella pneumoniae and Salmonella in the towels.
Three Treasures for Washing Towels to Remove Odor?
Miscellaneous bacteria that multiply due to unclean towels will produce odors. Japanese towel critic Tetsuya Abe demonstrates how to wash towels on a TV show. He first boils a towel in hot water for 3 to 4 minutes, then rinse it with water, and the odor (bacteria) on the towel disappears.
Kensuke Kanzaki, director of the long-established Japanese laundromat “Hakuyosha,” recommended using sodium percarbonate to help cleaning. Sodium percarbonate, baking soda, and citric acid are known as the “Three Treasures of Cleaning for the Mothers.” They are not only non-toxic, odorless, and pollution-free, but also have bleaching power, decontamination, and odor removal properties. Kensuke Kanzaki said in a post that the use of sodium percarbonate is very simple. Just put the towel(s) into the washbasin, sprinkle 1 cup of sodium percarbonate evenly on the towel(s), add 140-176 °F (60-80 ℃) hot water, soak for 30 minutes, and then clean it in the usual way.