Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How often should I wash my washcloth?


Washcloths and Bacteria

The whole point of using a washcloth is to cleanse your face or body. But if you take the spreading power of bacteria for granted, that seemingly harmless little towel could potentially introduce new germs into your system.

Consider this: Nothing is ever completely germ-free, even a fresh towel that has just come from the dryer. So naturally a used washcloth that is left to air each day gives bacteria and other microbes more of a chance to grow and spread. And each time you use a cloth to wash your face, dead skin cells get caught in it, providing even more food for the bacteria that gather in the towel. Laundering your washcloth regularly may not kill every germ it contains, but it will lessen the overall amount of bacteria and decrease your chances of catching an illness [source: National Institutes of Health].

You should never share your washcloth with other people, including members of your family, since this can spread disease-causing bacteria and infections, including staph infection [source: Mayo Clinic: MRSA]. Staphylococcus bacteria, the germs that cause staph infections, result in minor irritation on the surface of the skin or serious illness if they get under the skin. People who already have a medical condition are especially vulnerable to serious staph infections [source: Mayo Clinic: Staph]. If you suspect that you've developed an infection, you should consult your physician immediately.

Similarly, all personal items, especially washcloths, can be instrumental in spreading pinkeye, a condition that's also known as conjunctivitis. This disease is easy to transmit from person to person, and anything that has contact with the eye area can easily transport bacteria from one person to another [source: WebMD]. If your family often gets towels and washcloths confused, consider using a color-coded system to distinguish which towel is whose [source: Mann].

Bacteria may not be the only thing growing on your unwashed towel; mold could be there, too. Read on to find out more about the potential effects of mold.


More to Explore