Chances are you have a few dish towels in your kitchen. Most of us do.
They’re handy for drying dishes and hands, wiping up messes and, in a pinch, even picking up a hot dish now and again.
But scientists are now warning they could also make you sick.
Scientists from the University of Mauritius examined 100 dish towels that had been in use for a month. And before you read any further, I have to warn you what they found may make your stomach turn over.
You’ll never look at your dishtowel the same way again
Almost half of the towels were crawling with sickening bacteria.
E.coli: Coliform bacteria, including E. coli, were living on 36.7 percent of the contaminated towels. And yes, in case you were wondering, that DOES mean they were contaminated with poop.
E.coli bacteria are commonly found in both animal and human intestines. And while many of these bugs are basically harmless, others can cause severe food poisoning or infections.
Enterococcus spp: Of the remaining contaminated towels, 36.7 percent contained enterococcus spp bacteria. This bug is often found in human gastrointestinal tracts as well.
For healthy folks, enterococcus spp typically aren’t an issue. But they can sometimes be a problem for people with a weaker immune system, as well as children and the elderly. Enterococcus spp can cause a number of illnesses including soft tissue and wound infections, blood infections and urinary tract infections.
Staphylococcus aureus: The remaining 14.3 percent of the bug-infested towels contained staphylococcus aureus, another potentially serious bug.
Staph can trigger a wide range of illnesses from minor skin infections such as impetigo to more serious ones such as cellulitis. Even worse, these bacteria can lead to life-threatening diseases including pneumonia, endocarditis, meningitis and sepsis. And staph can cause serious food poisoning as well.
Fight back against dishtowel bacteria
There are things you can do to fight back against the bugs.
- Experts recommend you change your dish towels regularly. Even better, replace them on any day that you cook.
- Consider color coding your towels and sticking to one use for each (such as white for drying dishes, red for working with meats, etc.).
- You should wash your towels on the hottest setting your washing machine provides.
- If any members of your household have compromised immune systems, or are older, you should consider using disposable cloths or paper towels.
Beware of these OTHER bacteria hot spots
Of course, your dish towels aren’t the only danger zones in your kitchen. You should pay attention to other bacteria hot spots too.
1. Sponges and brushes:
Dish sponges and brushes can quickly become a breeding zone for bacteria. Give them a good clean with soap and warm water after every use. And if you have a dishwasher, regularly put them through a cycle on the top rack to disinfect them.
2. Cutting boards:
Use a separate cutting board for uncooked meats, one for veggies, and one for slicing cooked foods. And be sure to wipe them down with white vinegar to disinfect them, and keep bacteria at bay, after each use.
Clean all food preparation areas such as counter tops both before and after preparing foods. A mix of half isopropyl rubbing alcohol and half water makes a good disinfectant for nearly any surface in the kitchen. Alcohol can kill bacteria, viruses and fungi.
Wash your hands with warm soapy water before and after preparing food. Lightly scrub them for at least 15 seconds to kill off any lurking bacteria. (Longer is better.) To make sure you scrub for long enough try humming two rounds of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” while you’re soaping your hands.
Don’t let your bacteria infested dishtowels, or other bug hot spots, make you or your family sick. Fight back and make your kitchen a bug-free zone with these tips.