Yes, There Are Bacteria on Your Kitchen Towel. No, They Won’t Make You Sick

By Rachael Rettner

Your kitchen towel may harbor a number of different bacteria, a new study finds. But does that mean your towel can actually make you sick?

Although the new finding may sound gross, it doesn’t mean you should ditch your kitchen towel; experts said the bacteria found on the towels in this study aren’t particularly concerning when it comes to foodborne illnesses.

For the study, the researchers gathered 100 kitchen towels from families. The scientists took samples from the towels — which had been used, without being washed, for one month — and cultured, or grew, these samples in lab dishes. The study found that 49 percent of the towels tested positive for bacteria and that the amount of bacteria was higher for towels used by large families or families with children, compared with towels used by smaller families or families without children.

In addition, towels used for multiple purposes — including wiping utensils, drying hands and wiping surfaces — grew more bacteria than towels used for a single purpose, the researchers found. And damp towels grew more bacteria than dry towels, according to the study, which was presented Saturday (June 9) at the American Society for Microbiology meeting in Atlanta.

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