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Worse Than Sponges? The Hidden Source of Dangerous Bacteria Lurking in Your Kitchen


When it comes to germs in the kitchen, we often think of our counter-tops and cooking utensils as being the top sources of potential bacterial contamination. However, it turns out that kitchen towels may be another culprit to keep your eyes on.

Research presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology found that kitchen towels can easily become contaminated with pathogens that may cause food poisoning.

In the new analysis, the researchers collected 100 kitchen towels after a month of use. Then, the team cultured the bacteria and measured the bacterial load on the towels. What they discovered is that about half the towels tested were positive for bacterial growth.

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Types of Bacteria Commonly Found on Kitchen Towels

Out of the 49 towel samples that held bacteria, 36.7% grew coliforms (E.coli), 36.7% Enterococcus spp and 14.3% S. aureus. If you aren’t familiar with these microbes, here’s a quick primer:

  • E. coli is found in the feces of humans and animals, which indicates possible fecal contamination in the towels. This strain of bacteria is often associated with the development of severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting and other symptoms of food poisoning. The risk of E. coli was higher in humid towels, multi-purpose towels and those used by non-vegetarian families.
  • Enterococcus spp is another group of bacteria that is a normal part of the fecal microbiota. And like E. coli, it is often associated with the outbreak of foodborne illnesses. This type of bacteria is also a frequent cause of bloodstream infections.
  • S. aureus is one of the most important bacteria that cause disease in humans. Not only do foods contaminated with it cause food poisoning, but it’s also associated with MRSA and Staphylococcal pneumonia. S. aureus was detected at significantly higher prevalence in families with non-vegetarian diets.

“The data indicated that unhygienic practices while handling non-vegetarian food could be common in the kitchen,” said Dr. Biranjia-Hurdoyal, lead author on the study. “Humid towels and multipurpose usage of kitchen towels should be discouraged. Bigger families with children and elderly members should be especially vigilant to hygiene in the kitchen,” she said.

Are You Changing Your Kitchen Towels Often Enough?

The message from this study is clear. Kitchen towels should be changed on a regular basis. They should also be washed frequently, using the hot water setting on your washing machine to kill off any bacteria that are lingering on them.

There are also a few more things you can do to reduce contaminating your kitchen with bacteria-ridden towels:

  • Always wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water when you enter the kitchen.
  • When working with foods, don’t wipe your hands on the dish towel.
  • Avoid wiping your counters down with the kitchen towel.
  • Use disposable paper towels for drying and wiping your hands. You can also use paper towels to wipe down your counters.
  • It goes without saying, but just to be clear…never reuse paper towels.
  • Nix the sponges. They are a breeding ground for bacteria. (If you insist on a sponge, zap it in the microwave for about 30 seconds after you use it, while it is still damp.)


American Society for Microbiology. “Kitchen towels could contribute to the growth of potential pathogens that cause food poisoning.” ScienceDaily. June 2018.

Dana Nicholas is a freelance writer and researcher in the field of natural and alternative healing. She has over 20 years of experience working with many noted health authors and anti-aging professionals, including James Balch, M.D., Dr. Linda Page, “Amazon” John Easterling and Al Sears M.D. Dana’s goal is to keep you up-to-date on information, news and breakthroughs that can have a direct impact on your health, your quality of life… and your lifespan. “I’m absolutely convinced that America’s misguided trust in mainstream medicine – including reliance on the government to regulate our food and medicine supply – is killing us, slowly but surely,” she cautions. “By sharing what I’ve learned throughout the years I hope I can empower others to take control over their own health.”

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