Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Eevee from Lake in the Hills, IL. Eevee Wonders, “If you come out of the shower clean, why is the towel dirty after you use it?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Eevee!

Is there anything more refreshing than a long shower? Many people say it’s the best way to wake up in the morning. The water leaves them feeling alert and ready to face the day. Even better, they start the day squeaky clean!

But others WONDER: How clean can our bodies really get? They point to bath towels—aren’t they dirty after people use them? Why would that be? Aren’t our bodies clean after showering?

It turns out, people aren’t as clean as they feel after showering. Sure, soap and hot water go a long way. They scrub the body of a lot of dirt and germs. They help get rid of odors and excess oil. However, even the longest shower will miss many microorganisms.

What are microorganisms? You may have heard of the word “organism“ before. It means any living thing. The prefix “micro” means "very small." So a microorganism is a very small living thing. This can include bacteria, fungi, and some viruses. 

Just how tiny are microorganisms? They’re much too small to see with the naked eye. They range from 100 nanometers to almost one millimeter in size. There can be thousands of microorganisms in just one drop of untreated water!

Luckily, the water most people shower with is treated. It doesn’t contain many microorganisms if any at all. But plenty of these tiny creatures are still holding onto your body when you step out of the shower. Many of them will then move to the towel when you dry off. 

A damp towel is a perfect environment for microorganisms to thrive. Not all of these small organisms are bad for people. In fact, many of them serve important purposes. But towels can also allow those that cause skin conditions, like staph infections, to grow. Towels can also grow mildew if not washed often enough.

How can you stop your bath towel from becoming a thriving ecosystem? You might think about scrubbing harder or using antibacterial soap. However, scrubbing too hard can hurt your skin. And antibacterial soaps can kill good bacteria your body needs. Instead, it’s best to wash your bath towels often.

How often should you wash a bath towel? A good rule of thumb is to wash a towel after three uses. It may need to be washed more often if it’s not drying completely between uses. Drying off with a dirty towel can undo all the work of a good shower.

Human bodies may never be completely clean. But good hygiene practices are still important! You should wash your skin often—especially your hands. This can help you and those around you avoid infections and illnesses.

Standards: NGSS.LS.1.A, NGSS.LS4.D, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.SL.1

Wonder What's Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day is a very important BonaPARTe of history!