Tuesday, February 14, 2006
7 News Features: Dirty Secret
Whether it's after a shower or coming in from the pool, most of us use the same towel more than once. But what you probably don't know is those towels contain a dirty secret. In tonight's special assignment report, we found they can be a breeding ground for bacteria.
WSVN--Washing your hands.
After a bath.
You use your towel when you're clean, so it must stay clean right?
Dr. Philip Tierno: "Showering does not erradicate the germs that are on your skin and in your body."
And over time that could pile up to no good.
Andrea Fontaine: "Anything that can remain on a towel and survive can be transfered."
We tested towels from six busy families.
The towels were used as many as four or more times... Often by more than one person.
And as anyone with kids might expect, the families admit the towels probably spent a little time on the bathroom floor.
One of the families: "It's very hard to be clean."
If those towels could talk -- these petri dishes show what they would say.
The towels are loaded with bacteria.
The most disturbing discovery staph bacteria... That could cause skin infections or food poisoning if you dry your hands on an infected towel and then eat.
Andrea Fontaine: "The towel could be used as a way to contaminate someone else if you share your towel and recontaminate yourself if you are re-using your towel."
"Oh gross, I didn't think a towel would be a germy thing."
Dr. Philip Tierno wrote the book on germs.
He says you can avoid risks by following a few simple steps.
For starters, lay out your towel so it dries completely after every use -- simply hanging it on a hook may not cut it.
Dr. Philip Tierno: "You can cut down on the number of staph that survive. But if you let it sort of grow in a nice damp environment you can increase the staph count on the towel."
Plus, make sure your towel never touches the floor and don't share it.
Experts say you should wash your towel after two uses -- and if you have any skin problems, even acne, wash it every time you use it.
Andrea Fontaine: "You could end up re-infecting yourself or prolonging the healing process."
And finally, to avoid cross contamination -- wash your towels separately from your clothes and use a detergent with a sanitizing agent.
Belkys Nerey: "One more note - experts say when you're sick it's a good idea to only use your towel once before washing."