NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — How often do you wash that dish towel hanging in your kitchen?
Probably not nearly enough, according to a new study.
Not many people smell their dish towels, but a funky aroma is probably a warning sign that yours may be harboring some nasty bacteria.
“Routinely, we don’t wash those towels as often as we do other apparel of daily use around the house,” said Dr. Frank Esper at the Cleveland Clinic. “Usually those towels can last there for weeks, if not even longer. And so they were testing exactly how much bacteria has accumulated on those towels and they’re finding a substantial amount of bacteria.”
The testing Dr. Frank Esper is referring to is a study presented last month at the American Society for Microbiology Meetings. Researchers collected 100 kitchen towels after one month of use. About half contained bacterial growth such as E. coli and staph.
That’s concerning because bacteria found on multi-use kitchen towels after handling meat products could be a source of cross-contamination, which could lead to food poisoning.
You should wipe down and sanitize food preparation areas often, especially after preparing uncooked meat.
“It’s never going to be completely zero-bacteria at all. Just a moderate amount of bacteria, making sure that we change the towels, which was the whole subject of the study, but also, swabbing the tables every so often with bleach or some sort of disinfectant,” said Esper.
Don’t forget to clean other parts of the kitchen — like refrigerator door handles, microwave handles and sink faucets, because these places are touched by many and are often touched before consuming food.
While bacteria can be hazardous in certain situations, most of the ones that were found on the towels are the kind you would expect to find around the house. So you don’t have to obsess over your kitchen towels, just have them visit the washing machine at least once a week.