You wouldn’t use an obviously dirty bath towel; it might cause a skin irritation or infection. But you can’t see all the dead skin cells, sweat and microorganisms that are on a towel.
What sorts of microbes live on used bath towels?
• Eye pathogens, the bacteria and viruses responsible for conjunctivitis or pink eye
Although it’s safest to wash towels after every time they are used, you can probably get away with as many as three consecutive uses if the towels are dried out between times. Drying wet towels will kill the microbes on them, or at least prevent them from multiplying. It may be difficult to get a wet towel dry in the humid bathroom.
You will want to stick to grabbing a new towel for each shower if you have open cuts or scrapes on your skin, if you’ve had recent surgery, if you are prone to abscesses, or if you have eczema or skin rashes. It is also important not to share towels with anyone else.
But don’t panic. The chance of getting an infection from a used towel is less than from touching an infected hard surface, like the wet bathroom floor or a doorknob.
Read the label on your towel before throwing it into the washer. Labels contain important care information.
You should wash new towels before you ever use them. Chemicals for coloration, conditioners for softness, and formaldehyde to reduce wrinkles are added during manufacturing. You don’t want those on your skin. New towels also contain a lot of excess lint. Get rid of all this stuff by pre-washing all new towels. (The lintiness is a good reason to wash towels only with other towels, not with the rest of your laundry.)