The humble tea towel in your kitchen is harbouring some nasty bacteria
University of Mauritius researchers collected 100 tea towels and cultured the bacteria from them to identify the types and load of bacteria.
Researchers from the University of Mauritius collected 100 tea towels cultured the bacteria on the towels and identified the types and load of bacteria through biochemical tests
A significant number of kitchen towels they had collected tested positive for bacteria like E.coli (36.7%), S. aureus (14.3%) and Enterococcus (36.7%)
S. aureus can cause illnesses from minor skin infections to pneumonia and some strains of E.coli bacteria can cause food poisoning
The ordinary tea towel puts out fires in our kitchen. When the milk threatens to boil over, the handy towel helps you take the pot off the flame. When you want to wipe a spoon before you serve the daal, the towel is at your service. And when you want to press a chappati down to get an even cook on the tawa, the kitchen towel is again happy to help.
However, research has shown that about 49% of the time, this heroic towel is crying out for some love and soap.
In 2018, researchers from the University of Mauritius collected 100 tea towels - all the towels had at least one month of experience in a household. They cultured the bacteria on the towels and identified the types and load of bacteria through biochemical tests.
Their findings: a significant number of kitchen towels they had collected tested positive for bacteria like E.coli (36.7%), S. aureus (14.3%) and Enterococcus (36.7%).
“Our study demonstrates that the family composition and hygienic practices in the kitchen affected the microbial load of kitchen towels,” the research supervisor Dr Susheela D. Biranjia-Hurdoyal said at a conference of microbiologists in the U.S. “We also found that diet, type of use and moist kitchen towels could be very important in promoting the growth of potential pathogens responsible for food poisoning,” she said.
S. aureus can cause illnesses from minor skin infections to pneumonia. E.coli is present in our intestine - some strains of this bacteria can cause food poisoning.
Naturally, if you use the same kitchen towel for the various purposes like wiping the dishes, holding the utensils or for drying your hands, your kitchen towel will swarm with bacteria.
Add to that, humidity encourages bacterial growth - at the time of writing this article, Mumbai had 77% humidity; New Delhi, 58%; Chennai, 69%; and Chennai, 81%.
Thankfully, there are many things you can do to counter this problem. Start with these tips:
- Keep separate towels for different functions in the kitchen
- Keep kitchen towels dry and clean
- Use paper towels or disinfectant wipes to clean countertops
- Wash your tea towels daily and dry them in the sun rather than inside the kitchen
- Change kitchen towels frequently
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