Do you know what's growing on your kitchen towel?

Henrietta Brewer
June 13, 2018

Researchers from the University of Mauritius have shown that factors such as family size, type of diet, multi-usage of towels, among other factors, impact the growth of pathogens on kitchen towels, potentially causing food poisoning. Out of 100 towels collected for the study, the researchers found that 49 percent contained bacterial growth and the figure increased in the families that had more of members, presence of kids and increasing family size.

They found E.coli was more likely to be found on towels used for multiple jobs, such as wiping utensils and cleaning surfaces, as well as drying hands.

The risk of harboring coliforms, such as E. coli, was higher in humid towels than dry ones. Out of the 49 samples which were positive for bacterial growth, 36.7 percent grew coliforms, 36.7 percent Enterococcus spp, and 14.3 percent S. aureus.

The scientists swabbed, cultured and preserved the bacterial contamination from such towels.

Findings from the study were scheduled for presentation Saturday at the American Society for Microbiology meeting, in Atlanta.


The answer could be yes if you use the towel for many purposes, have a large family and are not a vegetarian, according to a new study of germs lurking on towels.

Kitchen towels that don't air dry are filled with nasty germs. They also determined the bacterial load on the towels.

"Our study demonstrates that the family composition and hygienic practices in the kitchen affected the microbial load of kitchen towels", says lead author Susheela D Biranjia-Hurdoyal, senior lecturer at the University of Mauritius.

They're in the air that we breathe, hanging out on our phones and computer keyboards - and teeming on kitchen sinks, counters and cutting boards.

Only use tea towels on clean, washed dishes.


"Humid towels and multipurpose usage of kitchen towels should be discouraged", Dr. Biranjia-Hurdoyal said.

Moreover, the coliform bacteria and staphylococcus aureus were discovered to have a higher prevalence in towels collected from households eating non-vegetarian meals.

Families who ate meat were more likely to have bacteria growing on their tea towels and E.coli indicated possible faecal contamination from bad hygiene.

Although staph can indeed cause foodborne illness when it's found in food, the bacterium is also very common on skin.

Higher rates of S. aureus were found among low-income families and those with children, the findings showed.


The presence of potential pathogens from the kitchen towels indicates that they could be responsible for cross-contamination in the kitchen and could lead to food poisoning.

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