It happens: you slip out of the water, walk along the sides of the pool and realize you’ve forgotten to bring a towel. A friend may offer his or hers—a kind gesture—but you should decline.
Towels are one of the least hygienic things for you to share. Bacteria can survive on a towel for several hours—even for days, weeks and months. This is because towels retain moisture better than most fabrics. Once germs get onto the towel, which inevitably happens after wiping down the body, they can transfer to another person easily. It’s a common way to pass on an infection, especially to people with sensitive skin or open wounds.
A common misconception regarding swimming towels is that the chlorine rinses all bacteria from the skin in the pool, making towel-sharing a safe practice. While various chemicals in the water do kill germs effectively, there are other areas of the body that constantly produce new germs. For example, your eyes, nose and private areas.
How Often Should You Clean Your Swimming Towels?
Unless the pool you frequent does laundry, then you’ll have to tend to your own towels throughout the week. For bath towels that your hang to dry immediately after use, it’s wise to run them through the wash after three uses. That said, the towel you bring to the swimming pool might not have such a lifespan. It depends entirely on what you do with it. For instance, if you rent a well-ventilated locker, then leaving it to airdry will buy you three days. However, if you toss it straight into a gym bag, then you’ll need to wash it after every use.
When clumped together, a towel cannot adequately dry. It also retains pockets of moisture and generates warmth between the folded areas—conditions conducive for bacteria multiplication.