When was the last time you washed your tea towels?
If you’re anything like us, you’re probably struggling to remember. Maybe last week? Or whenever that time was when you spotted some caked on pasta sauce?
We all know that we should be washing our bath towels, makeup brushes, bras, and bedsheets more often than we might have previously thought, but tea towels are one of those little things that tend to fall off our cleaning radar.
It’s a tool for drying clean things, we think. How bad can it be?
Turns out it can get pretty bad.
Ralitsa Prodanova, a cleaning expert at Fantastic Services, tells Metro.co.uk that we should all be washing or changing out tea towels every day.
We’ll pause so everyone can take that in. Yes, every day.
If you don’t do that, says Ralitsa, you could be exposing yourself to all sorts of nasty germs and putting yourself at risk of food poisoning. Cool.
‘Tea towels make the perfect breeding ground for germs,’ Ralitsa tells us.
‘They’re often moist and warm from previous use, allowing for bacteria to multiply rapidly.
‘And because they come into contact with all manner of surfaces – from your dirty hands to clean dishes – you need to be really careful to make sure there’s no cross-contamination.
‘I’d recommend you either replace them every day with clean, dry ones, or you wash them at the end of each day so they’re ready for use again the next morning.
‘Be sure not to wash them with soiled garments, either, like filthy socks or gym shoes. Instead batch wash them.’
A study conducted back in 2003 backs up the nastiness of an unwashed tea towel.
Researchers at the University of Bristol asked people to prepare a chicken meal in their kitchen, then analysed the bacteria left on a range of surfaces. They found that none of the taps or sinks tested positive for bacteria such as campylobacter or salmonella, but what did were tea towels and sponges.
It makes sense when you think about it.
You get a little mess on your kitchen counter, so you do a quick swipe with the tea towel. You dry off a dish that hasn’t been properly cleaned. You wipe your hands on the towel because you need dry hands before you keep cooking.
All of these little blips can involve putting your tea towel in direct content with dangerous bacteria. Then you use that tea towel to wipe your plates, your counters, or your hands and spread those germs further.
Ralitsa says: ‘Make no mistake, it’s very easy to suffer food poisoning caused by bugs like Salmonella and Campylobacter. If the infection is serious enough, and if the patient is particularly vulnerable, it’s not unknown for food poisoning to cause fatalities.
‘I’d expect other germs to be lurking in tea towels, too, including Staphylococcus aureus and Enterococcus, which can also make you extremely unwell.
‘If you’re a meat eater, or you eat dairy, then you’re clearly more at risk as these foods have a greater risk of contamination.
‘Those with families might also be at an elevated risk. It’s all too easy for a child to drop the tea towel on the floor and then neglect to tell his or her parents.’
Well, that’s just horrifying.
Thankfully the remedy for all this horror is pretty simple. We don’t imagine you can be bothered doing laundry every day (think of the amount of water you’d use), so what you can do instead is invest in seven tea towels, bung them in the laundry bin at the end of each day, and then do a weekly wash.
Ralitsa says it’s best not to cross-contaminate by washing your tea towels with other non-kitchen items, so it’s best to keep one weekly wash for your tea towels, table cloths, and oven gloves (yes, you should clean those too). Wash at 40 degrees to get rid of any nasties.
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