Smell Test

How often should you run the towels in the bathroom at your house through the washer and dryer?  The experts say to pay attention to your nose.

img_3625It’s kind of disgusting to think about, but microbiologists will tell you that once you use a towel, you’re leaving a deposit of all kinds of materials that microscopic organisms crave on that nice, warm, fluffy, cottony cloth.  That includes not only the water, dead skin cells, bacteria, grime, and other substances that you’re swabbing away as you dry off — that’s what a towel is for, after all — but also tiny droplets that may get thrust into the air when you flush your toilet, as well as other germ life lingering in your bathroom.  By providing such moist, fertile territory, your towel can quickly become a teeming petri dish for mass microbial breeding.


But we also know that washing towels after one use is inconvenient and not particularly environmentally sensitive.  If you’ve stayed in a hotel in the last decade, you’ve undoubtedly seen the little signs asking you to consider whether, to help protect the environment, you can hang up that towel and use it a second time.

So what’s the appropriate balance?  Experts say that, if you hang up and can completely dry your towel, you should use it no more than three times before washing it again.  And be sure to give it a sniff, too.  If your towel smells, that means the microbes are at it in force, and it’s time for a trip to the washer.

Who says science isn’t useful?  Now we can officially confirm that a smelly towel should be washed.  I wonder what science says about smelly socks?

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