Here's How Often You Should Wash Your Hand Towels

Those hand towels in your bathroom and kitchen are high-traffic linens. From messy kids to surprise guests, all sorts of hands are touching them. If you're drying off clean hands and clean dishes, do you need to wash those hand towels often? You might think they're safe to use for a while, but that's not likely the case.

When it comes to cleaning your hand towels, microbiologist Charles Gerba suggested in a chat with Time that you do it around every two days. There's more that goes into how often cleaning is required, and the best way to clean them, however. The more people using your towels and the wetter they get without thoroughly drying, the more often they'll need replacement in order to stay free of bacteria and dirt. To that end, before you toss those wet hand towels in the laundry basket, here's what you need to know about cleaning them.

Here's when and how to wash your hand towels

In microbiologist Charles Gerba's study, he found that most of our towels have some amount of bacteria on them even though we're drying clean hands off on them. Part of the problem is that people may not wash their hands well enough to prevent the spread of bacteria. The other issue is that your hand towels aren't drying off in between uses — be sure to have them hung in a way that allows proper drying.

Every two days, switch out your kitchen and bathroom hand towels. You can do it more often if they're looking extra wet or grungy. Wet hand towels in your laundry basket will spread germs to the rest of your dirty linens, so let them dry first unless you're washing them right away. Wash them in hot water, too. Additionally, if your hand towels are white, you can use some bleach to help kill germs. 

Better Homes & Gardens says to add 1/2 cup of white vinegar if you want your hand towels to be fluffier. The vinegar won't affect absorbency as fabric softeners can. Be sure to thoroughly dry your hand towels in the dryer before folding them and putting them away, as most of the bacteria happening in them are due to dampness.