Survey finds people only wash their towels once a year… here’s what happens when you don’t

How often should you wash and change your towel? Definitely more than once a year!

Stack of towels on a chair with soap on the top
(Image credit: Karolina Grabowska / Pexels)

After having a long hot shower, there’s nothing quite like wrapping yourself up in a soft fluffy towel. But for some people in the UK, that pleasure is few and far between. According to a recent survey, over a million people in the UK confessed to only washing their towels once a year… ew!

To find out more about people’s showering habits, bathroom experts at Showers to You conducted research and surveys, and the results were shocking. Showers to You found that freshly washed towels contain 190,000 counts of bacteria and this increases to around 17 million after just one day of use.

With this in mind, Showers to You surveyed 2,200 UK residents and found that many people were using their best bath towels for much longer than recommended before washing them or changing them. Results of the survey showed that 3% of UK residents surveyed only wash their towels once a year (equating to over 1.5 million people), with one in 10 washing them twice a year, and a third washing them once every three months.

I’m not going to lie, when I read the survey results, I felt a little bit sick. Is putting a wash on the most exciting thing to do? No, but if you’re not washing or changing your towels regularly, you could be putting yourself at risk of infections, skin irritations and more. Keep reading to find out what happens when you don’t wash your towels.

What happens if you don’t wash your towels

Wet used towels collect a serious amount of dirt, germs, fungus and bacteria. When this bacteria builds up, it can become a serious health hazard for you and the people you live with. Regularly cleaning and changing your towels is not only important to get rid of this bacteria, but if you wait too long to put them in your best washing machine, the germs can stick around for longer and not effectively be removed during the washing process.

Three rolled up towels stacked on top of each other

(Image credit: Dom J / Pexels)

Having excess bacteria on your towels and making contact with your skin increases the risk of infections which can make you sick. For example, if you’ve been showering and using your towel while you’ve had the flu, these flu particles will cling onto your towel, making you feel sick for longer and worsening your symptoms. Not washing your towel can also irritate your skin and give you a rash or other skin problems.

Aside from health reasons, continuously washing yourself with a dirty towel won’t clean your body or hair effectively. Just think about it: if your towel smells bad, you smell bad, so even if you’ve just had a deep clean in the shower, you could be left smelling sweaty and dirty because you’re rubbing bacteria and stains back onto yourself (see how to remove stains and smells from towels for cleaning tips).

How often should you wash your towel?

So, how often should you wash or change your towel? Definitely more than once a year, that’s for sure! Ideally, you should be washing your towel after every three uses. If this seems excessive or you don’t want to rack up your energy or water bill, you should wash your towel once a week. Keep in mind to keep your towel fresher for longer and prevent germs from growing on it, try to let your towel dry completely between each use.

For more cleaning advice, here are 10 tips to keep your towels soft and fluffy.

Bethan Girdler-Maslen
Home Editor

Beth is Home Editor for T3, looking after style, living and wellness. From the comfiest mattresses to what strange things you can cook in an air fryer, Beth covers sleep, yoga, smart home, coffee machines, grooming tools, fragrances, gardening and much more. If it's something that goes in your house, chances are Beth knows about it and has the latest reviews and recommendations! She's also in the know about the latest deals and discount codes from top brands and retailers.

Having always been passionate about writing, she’s written for websites, newspapers and magazines on a variety of topics, from jewellery and culture, to food and telecoms. You can find her work across numerous sites, including Wedding Ideas Magazine, Health & Wellbeing, The Bristol Post, Fashion & Style Directory, TechRadar, CreativeBloq and more. In her spare time, Beth enjoys running, reading, baking and attempting craft projects that will probably end in disaster!