Kitchen towels can cause food poisoning, according to new study

A recent study explains how you’re unknowingly spreading germs while you cook. Here’s how to stop.

We know doing laundry may not be your favorite chore, but a recent study revealed that the towels in your kitchen could be infested with bacteria, like E. coli, that lead to food poisoning. Read up on E. coli here.

Researchers tested 100 kitchen towels after they were in use for a month. You may not be surprised: 49 of them showed bacterial growth.

How do towels get so dirty?

The amount of people in your house certainly affects what’s on your towels (more people mean more chances for bacteria to get in your kitchen in the first place), but canceling a party won’t help much. Whether you live alone or with extended family, you’re bound to come into contact with dangerous microorganisms at some point during the day.

If anyone in your household eats meat, your hand towels are likely to be home to bad bacteria. Meats and poultry are typically contaminated, especially before they’re cooked. In fact, food poisoning experts never eat raw meat.

How to minimize the spread of bacteria

Anything you touch before you eat could end up in your mouth, so first, wash your hands the right way. Then, cut down on germs by swapping out cloths every day and use multiples throughout the kitchen. By having one towel for hands, one for dishes and one for cleaning, you’ll limit the amount of surfaces (and bacteria) each one comes in contact with.

Using towels for fewer purposes, or embracing the “one and done” mentality of disposable ones, could keep you healthy since there’s less opportunity for bacteria to grow over time.

Curious about how long to keep your sponge? We’ll tell you.

How to keep your towels clean

Washing your hand towels in hot water keeps them clean and helps them stay in like-new condition. Don’t disregard washing directions, but keep in mind high heat will kill bacteria.

And don’t put off laundry duty. There’s no perfect timeline, but washing towels frequently—or at least when they were used on something unsanitary—will help combat illness.

If the towels you have right now look a little nasty, read up on why we love microfiber towels before you decide what kind to buy.

This article originally appeared on Family Handyman.