We’re all guilty of using a tea towel for a couple of weeks without washing it, but new research suggests that doing this could cause food poisoning.
Scientists from the University of Mauritius examined 100 towels that had been used for a month and the results are pretty scary.
They found that E.coli was more likely to be found on tea towels that are used for several purposes such as drying kitchen utensils and wiping surfaces, as well as drying hands.
The research also shows that E.coli is more likely to be found on damp tea towels.
Almost half of the tea towels analysed had bacterial growth, which increased in number with extended family and the presence of children.
Out of the 49 samples which were positive, more than a third (37%) grew E.coli, or Enterococcus spp and one in seven (14%) S. aureus.
All three food poisoning bugs, which can be fatal for the elderly, were much more prevalent among meat-eating families.
Dr Susheela Biranjia-Hurdoyal, of the University of Mauritius, said: “Our study demonstrates the family composition and hygienic practices in the kitchen affected the microbial load of kitchen towels.
“We also found that diet, type of use and moist kitchen towels could be very important in promoting the growth of potential pathogens responsible for food poisoning.”
The government recommends washing or changing tea towels, sponges, dish cloths and oven gloves regularly and letting them dry before re-using them.
Words by Kirsty McCormack