High levels of bacteria found in kitchen towels: study

Tucson, AZ – You might want to think twice before reaching for a kitchen towel to dry your hands or dishes. A new study from the University of Arizona has revealed that these towels can be covered in an assortment of bacteria.

Researchers gathered 82 kitchen hand towels from homes in Chicago, Tucson, New Orleans, Orlando and Toronto and found 89 percent of the towels had coliform bacteria and 25.6 percent harbored E. coli.

According to the researchers, differences in bacteria samples among the cities likely were due to differences in climate, use and types of food. The highest amount of bacteria per towel was found in New Orleans.

Other bacteria found were Enterobacter cloacae, Klebsiella pneumonia and K. oxytoca. Concentration of E. coli was lower the more often the towels were washed.

Researchers encourage users to frequently clean or replace kitchen towels. They cited a study that concluded washing kitchen towels with detergent “only slightly reduced microbial contamination, and regrowth occurred” when the towels remained wet, and said soaking towels in 4,000 milligrams per liter of bleach for two minutes was found to be more effective.

The research was published in the September/October issue of Food Protection Trends.