Like many of us, New York model Marisa Hunter uses a towel to dry off her hands and face each day. And she uses the same towel when she comes out of the shower. She looks fresh and clean, but what about the towel?
"Marisa, do you know what's lurking in your towel?" asked Inside Edition Chief Investigative Correspondent Lisa Guerrero.
"I hope nothing," Hunter replied.
Using a standard testing procedure, we swabbed her towel with sterilized bacti-swabs and sent them off to Micrim Labs in Davie, Florida. Two weeks later, the results came back.
"We tested your towel for over a week, and during that time we found one fungus and five different bacteria, including E. coli," Guerrero revealed to Hunter.
"Oh no, that's awful," Hunter said.
But that's not all. Because Hunter used the same towel for a week, the bacteria count on day one was 260,000. By day seven, the count had shot up to 650 million.
"What? Million?" Hunter said.
"Million with an M," Guerrero replied.
"That is crazy," Hunter added.
Next, we visited Lara Alcontara and her daughters Maia and Marcella. They wash their towels about once a week.
"Are you ready for me to swab your towels," Guerrero asked the family.
"Yeah, I'm ready, go for it. I'm confident of the cleanliness of my towels," Lara said.
"Famous last words," Guerrero jokingly replied.
We sent their samples off to the lab and found eight different types of bacteria, including E. coli and staph aureus, which can cause infections.
"That is disgusting. No!" Lara said.
And on Lara's towel specifically, we found a bacteria count of 490 million.
Would we get the same results with office worker Shanna Marie Wallace? She's also very clean, but when it comes to washing her towels, maybe not so much. She told Guerrero she washes her towels only twice a month.
After we tested her towels, she was in for a shock. We found one fungus and four bacteria, one of which can cause urinary tract infections and even pneumonia.
"No, Lisa, that's gross!" Wallace said.
Dr. Charles Gerba is a professor and microbiologist at the University of Arizona. He said that "towels are one of the germiest things you can use."
"If you are drying your face or body with a dirty towel, what is that like?" Guerrero asked him.
"Well you are actually getting more bacteria, fecal bacteria in your face than if you put your head and flushed it in the toilet," Gerba said.
So Gerba recommends washing your towels once every three days using hot water. It's also good to put your towels in the dryer between uses to kill or slow bacteria growth. It's more effective that just hanging a wet towel up to dry. And don't share towels because they can transfer germs.
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