Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Kitchen towels can harbor disgusting bacteria

Kitchen towels can harbor disgusting bacteria

Researchers analyzed 100 towels after one month of use and found that almost half had bacterial growth.

Of the 49 towels that carried pathogens, nearly three-quarters grew coliform bacteria (a type that may include E. coli); 36.7 percent grew Enterococcus; and 14.3 percent grew staphylococcus aureus, a type of staph that can cause serious infections.

Benjamin Chapman, an associate professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University, said the study gives us a look at what bacteria are in the environment around us. "But there are specific types that can cause problems, like the ones recently found on romaine lettuce".

Staphylococcus aureus, or Staph A, also causes skin infections including boils and blisters and Enterococcus spp, which is normally found in our digestive tracts, can cause bacterial infections meningitis in already ill people.

A 2011 study conducted by the National Sanitation Foundation International found that more than 75 per cent of dish sponges contained bacteria.

When it comes to the bacteria species, Coliform and S. aureus were found to be significantly higher in prevalence from families who have non-vegetarian diets.

Further, S aureus was isolated at a higher rate from families of lower socio-economic status and those with children. "Cutting boards and table tops used for food prep are of concern and need to be cleaned regularly and dried".


In addition, towels used for multiple purposes - including wiping utensils, drying hands and wiping surfaces - grew more bacteria than towels used for a single goal, the researchers found. Use of the towel for different purposes increases the chances of cross contamination in the kitchen due to the presence of pathogens. "We also found that diet, type of use and moist kitchen towels could be very important in promoting the growth of potential pathogens responsible for food poisoning", she added.

Scientists cultured the bacteria found on the towels to identify them and determined the bacterial load. USDA said washing dish towels on the hot cycle of your washing machine will remove bacteria. "There's just a wider range of sources of possible bacteria in the kitchen".

Every time you reuse that cloth you are wiping bacteria across your kitchen bench.

For cloth towels, wash them often.

If you wipe a floor spillage with a tea towel, the advice is to put that in the wash instead of then using it to dry cutlery.

The level of contamination increased in samples from larger households, and families with children. "Bigger families with children and elderly members should be especially vigilant to hygiene in the kitchen", Biranjia-Hurdoyal said.

Written by Mark Lieber for CNN.

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