When you share a bathroom with a partner, it’s inevitable that you’re going to end up sharing more than just toothpaste. Our bodies are constantly crawling with bacteria—some good, some bad—and the bathroom, a room dedicated as it is to both dampness and nudity, is the perfect place to swap them back and forth. We’ve already looked at what germs you’re passing around when you share a toothbrush, but that’s something most of us only ever do in an emergency. Loofahs, on the other hand—along with sponges and those little plastic poufy things—are much more readily shared between couples, or even roommates, so we took a look at exactly what’s living on them. Spoiler alert: It’s not good.
First up, let’s talk about the germs that you pick up on an average day. Everything you touch on a regular basis is covered in them: 90 percent of the paper bills in your wallet have traces of fecal matter on them—same goes for 96 percent of shoes. Half of all credit cards have tested positive for MRSA. Your gym bag contains everything from Aspergillus mold to E. coli. Every square inch of your cell phone contains roughly 25,000 germs. Your skin has a built in defense against some of this stuff, but still: Shudder. Thank God for regular showers, right? And especially that loofah you use to scrub all the dirt and grime away each day.
But a lot of that stuff isn’t going down the drain—it’s being stored inside your loofah. As you exfoliate yourself, hundreds of your dead skin cells get swept into all the tiny nooks and crannies of your loofah. Since it’s then left to sit, damp, in your dimly lit bathroom, germs are given everything they need to thrive: Darkness, moisture and a ready food source (your skin cells). That’s why, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology in 1994, loofahs, sponges and poufs are swarming not just with bacteria but yeast and molds, too. If you’re sharing a loofah with someone else, you’re also sharing all of that with them. Yum!
“Loofahs should be replaced when they start to smell or there is a visible buildup of body oils, product or mold on them. It may be every month or so, depending on use. Rinse them in clear water after each use to remove any soaps and other residues, as those residues can promote mold growth. Loofahs can be soaked in a diluted bleach solution for five minutes to kill germs if they start to smell, and for a deeper cleaning. The bleach solution shouldn’t cause any skin problems, but it can always be rinsed again thoroughly before use to be sure. The other option is to simply throw it away.”
Alternatively, just buy separate loofahs. At least that way, you’re only spreading your own filth back on yourself.