Is it Safe to Reuse Bath Towels?

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Some of you have misgivings about reusing bath towels, so I wanted to share this information from Go Ask Alice, Columbia University’s online Health Q and A service:

“Washing your bath towel after each use is a way to keep bacteria at bay, but it is not completely necessary. Although you’re right that some bacteria may live on your towel, it’s probably not enough to cause any health problems, and you will save energy (and time! and quarters!) if you reuse bath towels. A good compromise is to wash your bath towel after several uses since storing towels in humid places (like bathrooms) can create a bacteria-friendly environment. Different seasons and climates may also make towels more susceptible to bacteria and odor.

The bottom line is that if you frequently wash your towels and store them so they dry properly between uses you should be in fine shape. Shower on!”

This answer is in agreement with my personal opinion on this issue. Presumably you’re clean when you finish bathing, and as long as you hang your towel to dry thoroughly between uses, I don’t feel that reusing bath towels poses a health risk. My children do not share bath towels – they each have their own – and they do use a clean washcloth at each bath. Between uses, our bath towels are laundered in hot water with a capful of bleach, and are dried in a hot dryer (I typically machine-dry towels, washcloths, socks, underwear and diapers to insure sanitation, but I do line-dry other clothing), so my decision to reuse bath towels 3 times before laundering is one that I’m quite comfortable with.

I’ve said before that each of us has our own individual “squeam factor,” meaning that not everyone is comfortable with every frugal practice. Some people will not eat leftovers, or shop at scratch and dent stores, or use cloth diapers, because it makes them feel icky. If reusing bath towels makes you feel icky, then by all means, don’t do it. Concentrate your thriftiness in other areas instead.

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Heather is a minimalist in love with a recovering packrat. 7 years ago, she and her husband sold pretty much anything that wasn't nailed down in order to pay off their mortgage, and they've been living happily debt-free ever since. They have 3 hilarious little kids who were conceived with the help of in vitro fertilization, and they haven't had a good night's sleep in the last decade. Heather is an anglophile who loves all things British, and spends her free time looking at real estate listings in Cornwall. Every day, she and her family work toward a simpler, more meaningful life. Some days are awesome, some are disastrous, and you can read about all of them here.

Have a question? Need a listening ear? Contact Heather, or visit Want What You Have on Facebook.

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