Why reusing kitchen towels poses a health risk 2023

Why reusing kitchen towels poses a health risk 2023

According to scientists, using the same cloth for different tasks increases the risk of the appearance of E.coli bacteria.

According to research, using dish towels for multiple tasks may put your household at risk of food poisoning.

Scientists from the University of Mauritius examined 100 kitchen towels used for a month.

Why reusing kitchen towels poses a health risk 2023

Why reusing kitchen towels poses a health risk 2023

They found that E. coli bacteria were more likely to be found on cloths used for different functions, such as cleaning utensils and surfaces and drying our hands.

They also concluded that this bacterium was more likely found in wet towels or homes where meat is eaten.

The ‘multi-use’ nature of these clothes increases the chances of cross-contamination from potential pathogens that can spread bacteria and cause food poisoning.

Therefore, washing or changing kitchen rags, gloves, clothes, and sponges regularly and letting them dry well before using them again.

The scientists studied the bacteria on the cloths to identify and determine their bacterial load.

Of the rags tested, 49% had bacterial growth that increased in homes with large families with children.

E.coli bacteria are more likely to show up on clothes used in homes with children or large families, the study says.

Of the 49 samples that were positive for bacterial growth, 36.7% cultured coliform bacteria, a group that includes E. coli.

Of the rest, 36.7% were ‘enterococcus spp’, and 14.3% were staphylococcus aureus.

In addition, coliform bacteria and staphylococci were found in “significantly higher prevalence” on cloth from homes where meat was eaten.

E. coli is a type of bacteria common in the intestines of humans and animals. Most are harmless, but some can cause severe food poisoning and infections.

Why reusing kitchen towels poses a health risk 2023

How to prevent the spread of germs in the kitchen

  • Change kitchen towels regularly.
  • Some experts recommend replacing dish towels daily or on days when you’ve been cooking.
  • Using disposable cloths or paper towels will stop the spread of germs.
  • Reusable cloths must be disinfected or washed at 60°C after each use.
  • Wash the brushes in the dishwasher frequently, or wash them with detergent and warm water after each use.
  • Make sure surfaces used to prepare food are clean before use.
  • Use separate cutting boards for raw foods that do not need to be cooked.
  • Wash and dry your hands after handling foods such as raw meat.
  • Clean surfaces immediately after use.

The researchers said the presence of E. coli points to possible fecal contamination and poor hygiene practices.

“The data indicated that unhygienic practices when handling non-vegetarian foods might be common in the kitchen,” said lead author Dr Susheela Biranjia-Hurdoyal.

“The use of damp cloths and the multipurpose use of kitchen towels should be discouraged . Large families with children and the elderly should be especially attentive to hygiene in the kitchen,” he said.

They also concluded that staphylococci were more likely found in cloth from families with children and lower socioeconomic status.

Staph can cause food poisoning, as the bacteria multiply rapidly at room temperature to produce a disease-causing toxin. It is eliminated with cooking and pasteurization of food.

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Why reusing kitchen towels poses a health risk 2023

Kitchen clothes, the paradise of bacteria

Kitchen rags act as a reservoir and propagator of pathogenic germs.

Cloth has always been one of the utensils with the greatest prominence in domestic and industrial kitchens. Together with knives and cutting surfaces, it shares space with food of all kinds and, consequently, with possible food risks derived from pathogens. Because of their ability to act as a germ carrier, rags, and also cloths, can be relegated to the background and replaced by single-use paper. According to a recent British study, many of the cleaning cloths used in restaurants and community kitchens in the country contain high levels of bacteria, resulting from poor hygiene and cross-contamination.

More is needed to frequently wash the rags used in the kitchen because they are, along with hands and other commonly used utensils, one of the main pathways for forming and spreading pathogenic bacteria in food. These are products that, despite being practical, lead to the formation of microorganisms. Any carelessness in hygiene can translate into the passage of bacteria to the hands and, from these to the surfaces and work equipment.

According to a study by the British Health Protection Agency (HPA), 56% of the rags tested in 120 establishments in the north of the country contain unacceptable levels of bacteria, especially enterobacteria, E.coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Listeria, indicators of the application of inadequate hygienic measures.

Why reusing kitchen towels poses a health risk 2023

reduce risks

Even though the inspections carried out by the British health authorities have shown that most of the more complex hygiene guidelines are rigorously followed, they nevertheless confirm that other simpler ones are ignored, such as cleaning clothes. Any leftover food can store germs. Rags in contact with dishes or other utensils require very specific cooking guidelines. Some of the recommendations to avoid the risks derived from its use are:

  • Separate the rags used to handle raw food from the cooked food areas.
  • Disinfect them frequently (do not exceed 24 hours of use), although this does not guarantee that bacteria will not grow again.
  • Do not dry your hands with a cloth previously used to handle raw foods, such as meat or fish.
  • Replace them with kitchen paper.

The goal is to reduce contamination since kitchen rags are used for cleaning; they spread bacteria from one area to another and act as reservoirs, especially if the rags are wet. Humidity is a great ally of pathogens. These same recommendations apply to cloths or cloths, considered another possible risk factor and whose conservation must be done once they have been cleaned with a soapy solution or have been disinfected with bleach and dried.

Why reusing kitchen towels poses a health risk 2023

kitchen paper

Tissue “versus” paper. This dichotomy in food safety arises from the need to guarantee that hygiene conditions are met in this field. The paper has more followers because the risk of pathogens remaining in a medium or food and spreading to other areas is reduced due to its disposable nature.

For this reason, it is advisable to replace kitchen towels with paper. Its uses also extend to drying hands, cleaning harmful particles, including those on the floor, washing the stove area and drying other surfaces, such as the table. This alternative to the textile version minimizes the risk of spreading germs between different areas and parts of the kitchen.

Why reusing kitchen towels poses a health risk 2023

The reason why you should never dry dishes with a kitchen towel: big mistake

Do you habitually dry the dishes and cutlery with a kitchen towel? Be careful; it can pose a serious health risk!

We have all washed the dishes at some point. But drying them can be even more cumbersome. Of course, if you use the nearest kitchen towel to do so, you should know that this action should be avoided in the future, and it is a complete mistake.

At first glance, you tell yourself there is nothing wrong with drying the dishes with one or several kitchen towels. Instead of leaving your cutlery to dry quietly in the open air, you rush to clean it with the first kitchen towel you see, only to put everything back in order as soon as possible and resume your usual activities. Although kitchen towels do not present any risk at first glance, they can be real breeding grounds for bacteria.

Why shouldn’t we use kitchen towels to dry dishes?

You probably don’t know it, but kitchen towels can contain dangerous bacteria. The latter can accumulate bacteria on the hands, the sink, the worktop and the dirty dishes. 

Once wet, the kitchen towel becomes a breeding ground for the growth of microbes. Worse still, some people have the annoying habit of cleaning their hands with the kitchen towel used to dry the dishes.

Furthermore, a study conducted by the American Society for Microbiology revealed that kitchen towels could harbour pathogens that can lead to food poisoning.

In that study, in which they analyzed 100 tea towels from 100 different families for a month, 49% were genuine breeding grounds for bacteria, some of which posed health risks. Furthermore, 36.7% of them had developed coliform bacteria of the E.Coli type, which causes gastroenteritis. At the same time, enterococci were also found in feces.

Why reusing kitchen towels poses a health risk 2023

How to dry dishes and cutlery without using a kitchen towel?

If you’re wondering how to dry your dishes, let your cutlery air dry on a rack. It is, therefore, the most effective way to prevent the transmission of germs from one surface to another.

Of course, before washing your cutlery, make sure you first get rid of all the food remains and do not hesitate, at the same time, to clean and disinfect the sink well so that it does not become contaminated with any bacteria.

As you can see, washing the dishes well will only be good if you remember to dry them properly. No need to use a kitchen towel or paper towel; just let your cutlery air dry in a rack to avoid any risk of bacterial contamination.

And it is that, to be more precise, the cutlery should stay dry. To dry, leave it in the open air before storing it. And that is why you need to have a dish drainer.

Why reusing kitchen towels poses a health risk 2023

It is also recommended…

But, if you’re in a hurry, in this case, it’s best to use single-use paper napkins, which will help prevent bacteria from generating and that they also impregnate anything we touch. Changing the kitchen towels, ideally every day, just before cooking, is also advisable. And, preferably, always try to use single-use napkins.

Therefore, remember the essentials: try using single-use absorbent paper before using kitchen towels to dry the dishes. Finally, try to change your kitchen towels daily, even if you don’t use them to dry the dishes.

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Why reusing kitchen towels poses a health risk 2023

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