Using tea towels more than once could be putting households at risk of food poisoning, a new study suggests.
Researchers examined 100 towels that had been used for a month.
Their work uncovered that e.coli was more likely to be found on towels used for multiple jobs, such as drying hands or wiping utensils and cleaning surfaces.
Damp towels or those in households where meat was eaten, were also more likely to be home to the bacteria, reports the BBC.
The study by a team at the University of Mauritius concluded multiple use increases the chance of cross-contamination of potential pathogens that can spread bacteria and lead to food poisoning.
The UK government recommends washing or changing dish cloths, tea towels, sponges and oven gloves regularly and letting them dry before re-use.
Scientists cultured the bacteria from the towels to help identify them.
Nearly half of the towels collected (49%) had bacterial growth, which increased in number with extended family, presence of children and increasing family size.
Of the 49 samples which were positive for bacterial growth, 36.7% grew coliform bacteria, a group which includes E. coli.
Of the rest, 36.7% were enterococcus spp and 14.3% staphylococcus aureus.
Coliform bacteria and staphylococcus were found at a “significantly higher prevalence” on towels from meat-eating households.
E.coli is a type of bacteria common in human and animal intestines. The majority are harmless but some can cause severe food poisoning and serious infection.
The research is being presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Atlanta, Georgia.