Published on April 26, 2021

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Photography by Laure Joliet; Design by Jenni Kayne

Sponges get all the blame when it comes to germs in the kitchen, but according to findings from Bounty paper towels—with help from Bill Nye (the Science Guy), actor and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik, and others—the cleanup tool has a sidekick: the dish towel. Eleven percent of survey respondents admitted that they’ll only replace theirs after a full week of use, despite the fact that in the report, infectious disease expert and microbiologist Jessica Malaty Rivera says “used dishcloths can be a haven for bacteria,” including E.coli.

Think of everything that hits your countertops in the course of a week—now imagine spreading that around with the same towel you use to dry plates with. “Because they are multipurpose and often go unwashed between uses, the wet and absorbent nature of the product can provide a flourishing environment for bacteria to grow,” explains Rivera. But the study also mentions 92 percent of Americans have amped up their cleaning game this past year—so why not use that momentum to change this lesser-known bad habit?

Even though Bounty is behind the survey, we recommend going a more eco-friendly route to reducing germs: Double your reusable dish towel collection so you have options to swap out while the soiled textiles get clean in the washing machine. (Philip Tierno Jr., director of microbiology and immunology at New York University Langone Medical Center, told CBS News it’s best to switch them out daily if you can.) We’ve got some options we’re putting into our own rotation:

 

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