Pink towel on white wooden background, top view

How long can bacteria live on a towel? How many times should you use a towel before washing it? Is it OK to use the same towel for a week?

There’s no finer feeling than getting out of the shower and wrapping yourself up in a nice, fresh bath towel. Of course, having fresh towels on standby every single day of the week isn’t practical – unless of course, you’re staying in a hotel.

The trouble is, after every use, there is bacteria living, breeding, and building up, on your towel – which begs the question, how many times can you safely use a towel before washing it? And is it OK to use the same towel for a week?

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know, including how long bacteria can live on a towel and the optimal frequency at which you should wash yours!

How long can bacteria live on a towel?

So, how long can bacteria live on a towel? Research gathered by ASM Microbe Online has shown that some harmful bacteria, such as E. coli, Staphylococcus, and Salmonella can survive on kitchen towels for up to 13 days.

Bathroom towels are similar breeding grounds for germs. In fact, almost 90% of bathroom towels will be contaminated with coliform – a class of bacteria that is found in human faeces. Further to that, 14% of bathroom towels will contain Gerba, which contains E. coli.
The fact is, if you are still using the same bathroom towel after 13 days without washing, then you will be smothering your freshly washed body in potentially harmful bacteria.

How many times should you use a towel before washing it?

How many times should you use a towel before washing it? The truth is that no matter how frequently you wash a towel, there will always be some bacteria present on it. That being said, the best way to prevent these germs from growing and thriving on your bath towel is to ensure that it completely dries out between each use and that you wash it frequently. But, how much is too much?
It is recommended that you wash your bath towel after a maximum of three uses (whilst allowing the towel to dry properly in between each use). If you are one to shower every day, then this means you should be doing your laundry twice a week.

Is it OK to use the same towel for a week?

What happens if you don’t wash your towel after three uses? Is it OK to use the same towel for a week?

If you continue using a towel after three uses, the germs and bacteria thriving on your towel will begin to make it feel grungy. This isn’t necessarily dangerous but it is certainly unpleasant.

Yes, a serious build-up of bacteria can lead to mild sickness (particularly if you are sharing a towel with others) – but using the same towel for longer than a week isn’t going to kill you.

However, that isn’t the point. Would you put on a pair of dirty underwear every day of the week after having a shower? Likely not.

Certainly, having to do laundry twice a week might sound like a little bit too much work for you, but there are ways around it.

If you would prefer not to have to do laundry twice a week then you need to invest in more towels. That way, after two or three uses you can throw your dirty towel into the laundry basket (before thoroughly drying it out) and grab a fresh towel from the cupboard. That way, come the end of the week you can do one big wash and start over again.


What is the correct way to wash and dry your bath towels?

Another important thing to consider is that there is a right and a wrong way to wash and dry your bath towels. If you aren’t washing them properly and allowing them to air out sufficiently after having been washed, then you’ll do a pretty poor job of getting rid of the bacteria build-up.
Here’s a quick and easy guide to washing your bath towels properly for the best results:

  • Hang your towels to dry before putting them in the wash basket
  • Wash towels only: It may seem like an extreme but it will prolong your towels lives and help maintain softness – particularly if you are washing a high-quality Thai Hotel Towel.
  • Use warm water for coloured towels and hot water for white
  • Separate your colours: If you want to keep your white towels nice and fresh, wash them separately to colours and put them on high heat.
  • Avoid bleach and add vinegar: Bleach isn’t necessary to kill germs but a dash of vinegar can work wonders (and no, it won’t cause your towels to smell).
  • Don’t over-use detergent: There is such a thing as too much detergent; follow the instructions to the letter.
  • Don’t overload the washing machine: The more you overload a washing machine the less effective the wash will be.
  • Dry on low heat: High heat in a tumble dryer can damage the fibres on a quality cotton towel so always dry on low heat.
  • Don’t let them sit: To keep your towels soft and fluffy, don’t allow them to sit for too long and give them a good shake out before folding and storing them.


And there it is:

  • Bacteria and germs can thrive on a damp bath towel for 13 days and beyond
  • The ideal amount of usage before washing a towel is three uses (with thorough drying in between uses)
  • You should avoid sharing the same towel with others
  • Using the same towel for a week will not kill you but is certainly not advised given the large build-ups of bacteria that will occur
  • If you don’t want to do laundry more than once a week then invest in more high-quality towels to use throughout the week

We hope that this article has been helpful to you. Please take these guidelines on board and ensure that you are washing your towels properly and regularly.