Should You Ditch Your Kitchen Towels for Paper Towels?

Family Health

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder

Are you one of those people who will practically go through an entire roll of kitchen paper towels in one day? Or are you more environmentally conscious and use reusable kitchen towels?

If you are conservative with paper towels and a big reusable kitchen towel user, I applaud you for your efforts in doing something good for our planet. But you should also be aware that  your kitchen towels may be providing a home to germs that may make you and your families sick.

And there are variables that you probably have never even thought of that may make your kitchen towels particularly germy.

One recent study found that family size, type of diet, multi-usage of towels and other factors may influence the growth of pathogens in kitchen towels that may cause food poisoning.

According to the report of the study, “49% of the kitchen towels collected in the study had bacterial growth which increased in number with extended family, presence of children and increasing family size. The towels for multipurpose usage (wiping utensils, drying hands, holding hot utensils, wiping/cleaning surfaces) had a higher bacterial count than single-use towels and humid towels showed higher bacterial count than the dry ones.”

What was even more interesting about this study was that type of diet may also be a contributing factor.

“Coliform and S. aureus were detected at significantly higher prevalence from families with non-vegetarian diets.”  

Coliform is a type of bacteria found in the intestinal tract of warm-blooded animals. They are essentially fecal bacteria and can make you sick. Yuck!

S. aureus, more commonly known as Staph, may also cause illness.

One of the leads of the study said that the results suggest that unhygienic practices while handling non-vegetarian food could be common in the kitchen. So if you are a meat-eater, be sure to wash your hands with hot water and soap after you touch raw meat. You should also not use your kitchen towels after you touch raw meat. This would be a good time to be a paper towel user.

Larger families are more likely to expose more people to the germs on those reusable kitchen towels. So if you have a full house, be especially proactive by regularly washing your kitchen towels in hot water and detergent. Dry them right away, and do not let them hang dry after you use them.

An earlier study which discusses this issue can be found here.

As parents, it is very important to teach children proper hygiene practices, especially if they are going to be involved in meal prep.

And as a general rule of thumb, avoid using your kitchen towels for multiple purposes. For example, have one towel for drying dishes and another towel for wiping countertops. If you struggle with remembering which towel you used for what purpose, I recommend getting different colored towels and having a color coding system. It may sound silly, but it’s better than exposing yourself or your family to unnecessary and harmful bacteria.

Be careful of what you see on television.

I love competition cooking shows like Chopped and Iron Chef America. These types of shows have become widely popular, but do not always exhibit proper hygiene practices in the kitchen.

This report discusses a study that found that celebrity chefs may turn viewers into “dirty cooks.”

“Viewers pick up basic hygiene errors including wiping hands on tea towels, not washing chopping boards between preparing different ingredients, using finger tips to sprinkle salt or pepper and not washing hands after coughing, sneezing, scratching or touching their hair,” according to the report.

We have to remember that T.V. is not real life and that hygiene practices may be ignored while filming shows, for the sake of time, aesthetics and production purposes.

One of the leads of this study said that during cooking shows one hygiene error is observed every 50 seconds on average.

So it appears we may be picking up these bad hygiene practices without even realizing it. As a result, try to be mindful of handwashing while in the kitchen, and dry your hands with a paper towel.

Other ways you can be proactive about protecting yourself from kitchen towel pathogens?


Let your kitchen be the place where you prepare the healthiest, most nutrient-dense foods so you can protect your immune system. There are various nutrients which may help strengthen your immune system. One of these nutrients is water.   

“Water is an essential nutrient we can only live a few days without, and it is also extremely important for immune function. Water helps carry oxygen to cells in the body, and oxygenated cells are necessary for systems in the body, like the immune system, to function properly. Water also helps flush toxins out of the body that can cause infections.”

(For more information about how to protect your immune system, read here).

And finally, it is extremely important to avoid nutritional deficiencies if you want to have a strong immune system. One of the ways you can do this, in addition to eating a variety of healthy foods, is to get a comprehensive nutrient test to determine whether you have any nutrient deficiencies or imbalances. If you do, your doctor or a competent healthcare professional can help you tweak your diet and/or take good quality supplements.

Also be aware of any medications you are taking (both prescription and over-the-counter), as these may deplete vital nutrients from your body

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of healthcare and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


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