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Your towels should be replaced more often than you think — here's why

The ones in your kitchen and bathroom can get pretty gross.
Vivian Le / TODAY

Don't remember the last time you cleaned your towels? You might want to stop what you're doing and throw them in the washing machine ASAP.

In fact, the hand, bath and kitchen towels in your home are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. According to Jason Tetro, a microbiologist and author of "The Germ Files," it can not only cause some unpleasant aromas, but it could also potentially lead to skin irritation or an infection.

How often to clean your towels | How often to replace your towels | How to get odors out of towels | Best towels to dry dishes | Should bath towels and kitchen towels be washed together? | How often to wash washcloths | How often to wash kitchen towels | Best bath towels, according to shoppers

How often should you clean your towels?

To avoid smelly towels and potential irritation or infections, you should wash your bath towels at least once a week, Tetro recommends. For hand towels, which are used more regularly and not always on completely clean hands, you should switch them out every one to two days.

How often should you replace your towels?

With frequent washing comes quicker breaking down of the towel's fibers and materials. While there's no official rule to follow about when you should replace your towels, you'll want to get rid of them when they start to lose their absorbency. With many brands, that tends to happen around two years in. In addition, if you have a towel that still has a funky odor after being washed, you may want to toss it, according to New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Hadley King.

Your kitchen towels are even worse germ offenders since they're used for many different things. In fact, a study conducted by the University of Mauritius concluded that 49 percent of kitchen towels had a high bacterial count, especially when used for multiple purposes.

How do you get odors out of towels?

"Wash the towels using a detergent designed for odor removal," suggests Jessica Ek, senior director of digital communications at the American Cleaning Institute. "Afterward, make sure to fully dry the towels before putting them away."

Ek says that's the easiest way to remove odors, but you can also soak towels in distilled vinegar for at least half an hour before rinsing them and then laundering in the washer and dryer.

What are the best towels to dry dishes?

Ek says that microfiber towels tend to be very absorbent and a good option for dish towels. She also says cotton and linen are good options.

Should bath towels and kitchen towels be washed together?

"Generally, it is best not to mix the bathroom cleaning cloths with those used to clean food preparation surfaces or dishes," mentions Ek.

How often should you wash washcloths?

Ek suggests washing them after a few uses. "Although if you’re sick or have a skin infection, you may need to wash it more frequently," she recommends.

How often should you wash kitchen towels?

"It depends what they’ve been used for," says Ek. "If you clean up raw chicken juices, that towel should be washed immediately. If you only use it as a drying towel, you may not need to put it in the laundry for several days."

With all that said, you may realize that you are way overdue for a replacement — or you at least need to add some new ones to your rotation for when all your others are in the laundry basket. Below, we rounded up several options for your kitchen and bathroom, including some that are specially designed to keep germs at bay.

Best bath towels, according to shoppers

American Soft Linen Towel Set

With over 36,000 verified five-star ratings, Amazon's bestselling towel set is made with 100 percent Turkish cotton and comes with all the essentials your washroom needs. It also comes in 15 colorways to match your home's color scheme.

Nutrl Home Classic Bath Towel

These towels use polygeine technology to help keep odor and bacteria at bay. The waffle-textured towel is also lightweight and breathable.

Parachute Classic Bath Towel

Not only are Parachute's bath towels incredibly soft, but they're quick-drying, too, thanks to the Aerocotton Technology which allows air to pass through the fibers more quickly. They come in six colors, and you can grab a single towel or an entire set — complete with two bath towels, hand towels and washcloths — for $136.

Best hand and face towels, according to shoppers

Qute Home Hand Towels Set

According to the brand, the plush cotton in these hand towels only gets softer with every wash. They're absorbent and quick-drying, so they're built to last. To maximize absorbency, the company recommends that you soak them in cold water for 12 hours before your first use and hang to dry. After that, you can throw them in the washing machine as you normally would.

Amazon Basics Fast Drying, Extra Absorbent, Terry Cotton Washcloths

According to one Shop TODAY writer, not only are these towels thick and soft, but they'll make your bathroom feel like a spa.

Tushy Bamboo Bum Towels

OK, hear us out: while these towels from Tushy are technically made to be used on your behind, we think they'd make pretty good washcloths, too. They're soft, absorbent and come in a pack of five. According to King, cloths made from bamboo are less likely to harbor yeast and bacteria. Plus, they're gentle on your skin.

Brooklinen Super-Plush Washcloths

You deserve a washcloth that feels as soft and luxurious as your bath towel. Fortunately, Brooklinen's got you covered with their bestselling option that's made with 100 percent Turkish cotton and a durable z-twist construction.

Best kitchen towels, according to shoppers

Homaxy Waffle Weave Kitchen Dish Cloths

According to Dr. Charles Gerba, a professor of virology at the University of Arizona, you should never hang your kitchen towels on the handle of your refrigerator because they can contaminate the handle. Instead, you should have a separate hanger to store them.

Thankfully, these bestselling dish cloths have a handy hanging hook that makes that much easier to do so. The honeycomb weave of these kitchen towels also makes them super lightweight and absorbent.

Grove Collaborative Kitchen Towel

Durable, versatile and good for the planet, Grove Collaborative's kitchen towel set is made with 100 percent cotton and comes with hundreds of rave reviews backing them up. "As soon as you see these towels, you know you just bought something that will last a long time," added one verified shopper about their quality.

Utopia Towels Kitchen Towels

This 12-pack of towels currently has more than 37,000 verified five-star ratings. It comes with six solid and six gingham towels. Plus, you can choose between a variety of color options to match the aesthetic of your kitchen.

Williams Sonoma All-Purpose Pantry Towels

With terry cloth on one side and a waffle texture on the other, these all-purpose pantry towels really can do anything. They're made from absorbent Turkish cotton and come in nine color options.