Let me start by saying this: My intention here is not to make you fear your dirty towels. It’s more interesting science than anything else, but it may also lead to you changing your towel-washing habits for the better, as it did for me. That being said:
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We’re clean when we get out of the shower and dry ourselves, so our bath towels must stay clean for a while between washes, right?
Not so, according to science
We are not made of stone
We are made of flesh and bone. And skin. Skin cells rub off when we dry ourselves. Skin cells on a wet towel will decay. Then you get it wet again the next day and rub yesterday’s dead skin cells back onto your body.
And that’s not all
Bacteria: The Double-Edged Sword
Bacteria is what makes your towels smell bad.
Bacteria has a bad reputation, but we need bacteria to live. Not all bacteria is bad for us, some is even beneficial. In fact, bacteria makes up about 1 to 3 percent of a human’s body weight. That’s 2 to 6 pounds of bacteria in a 200 pound human.
The issue is with bad bacteria, or bacteria that’s not where it’s supposed to be (like on your towel).
Bacteria grows anywhere there is moisture and air. Let it grow long enough (which isn’t very long) and it will start to smell.
Bacteria on a towel causes smells, and it’s not a good smell. Also, bacteria can cause infections, especially when exposed to any more vulnerable parts of the skin.
If Your Towel Still Smells After Washing, It’s Probably Something Growing in Your Washing Machine
Side-load washers can collect puddles of moisture in between the seals, which causes mildew and bacteria to collect and imbue your clothes (especially thicker, fluffier ones, like towels and blankets) with a disgusting smell.
You can combat this by correcting the problem with your washer, but you may need to contact a repairman for that. A temporary fix is to pour in half a cup of white vinegar in with your clothes when you wash them.
No need to freak out, but I now wash my towels after every use. Buy a bunch of cheap towels and you can have a clean towel every time you shower. I bought these towels for just that purpose, and they work well:
Cotton Bath Towels (6 Pack, 24 x 48 Inch) – 500 GSM – Lightweight Multipurpose Pool Gym Towels Quick Drying Towel – by Utopia Towels