It is one of those areas that it is often best not to enquire too closely. So, of course, someone has.
Just how often should you wash towels? And if no one can see them does it really matter?
Or, now that it is winter, the bed sheets?
Well you may be surprised to learn that we should change them far more often than we actually do.
Because even if they appear clean they can contain lots of harmful microbes that can make us ill.
Here’s our guide.
9/10 UK dishcloths tested in a Dettol study were deeply contaminated with germs. More than half harboured E. coli. Used dishcloths have 4 billion living germs, 6 times as much bacteria as toilet handles.
How often? Rinse completely and air-dry after every use. Don’t cover over bacteria-ridden kitchen taps or leave in the kitchen sink. Replace once-a-month.
How to clean them: Each evening, rinse with an anti-bacterial washing cleanser or wash at 60C or more. Air or tumble dry.
These are one of the top causes of cross contamination. “Cloth towels could quickly and easily become contaminated at significant levels, including microorganisms that can lead to food-borne illnesses,” Science Daily reported.
How often? Change every day – and don’t dry your hands on them!
How to clean them: Launder at 60C or above, different to regular towels.
Bath towels engross dead skin cells and natural bacteria from our bodies and warm, damp conditions mean this bacteria flourishes. Sharing towels can increase bacteria and viruses such as Staphylococcus aureus (which can cause skin infections), cold sores and Athlete’s Foot.
How often? Bath towels should be washed after every 3 uses, insists Philip Tierno (New York based microbiologist).
How to clean them: Clean the sheets at a high temperature, 60C or more, and an anti-bacterial product.
“Beds can become reservoirs of human cells, bacteria and bodily excretions. Humans shed half an ounce of skin each week – and a lot of that will be in the bed,” says Dr Ackerley. Warm, especially moist environments are also ideal breeding grounds for dust mites, with the ordinary bed containing 10 million of them! Their faeces can activate allergic reactions.
The build-up of bacteria from your sweat and skin cells can become “significant” in as little as a week. Your mouth and nose are very close to those sheets so you’re breathing in those spores. In hot weather we sweat more, creating the perfect conditions for bacteria and fungus to blowout.
How often? Every morning, pull back the duvet and open the window to release moisture and humidity. Change your sheets each week.
How to clean them: Wash at 60C to kill mites.
Apparently, a 3rd of the weight of a two-year-old pillow is made up of dead skin and dust mite faeces. According to Johnson Cleaners: “Duvets can harbour live and dead dust mites, skin scales and fungus, which can lead to allergies such as rhinitis and infections such as conjunctivitis.”
How often? Duvets should be washed every few months, or at least twice a year, says Sara Wadsworth (from The Fine Bedding Company), and replaced every five years, pillows more frequently – every two to three years,
How to clean them: If the duvet has synthetic filling, wash at 60C to destroy dust mites. Feather fillings need professional dry cleaning twice a year.
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