Mon | Dec 4, 2023

Those over-rated bath rags

Published:Monday | July 4, 2016 | 12:00 AMJONESHIA BRYAN-THOMAS

Wash articles such as rags, sponges and wafers are often-times overrated as excellent medium in which the body can be cleansed. But recent studies sought to bring to light the bacterial count that can be found on three different types of wash articles that are frequently the material of choice for bathing.

For years, the common type of wash article has been found to be the sponge, followed by the regular cotton wash rags, and in recent times the nylon wafers. However, are individuals depositing more organisms on their person after a bath is taken?

We pride ourselves on the fact that we have the nicest water parks and beaches in the Caribbean. We pride ourselves also of having many different types of wash articles, such as plastic and synthetic wafers, bath sponges and wash rags stored in our bedroom chests. But do we, however, pride ourselves after we have taken a shower? Can we be absolutely sure that our wash articles are making us clean?

Recent studies show that the choice of bath article is a major determining factor to the amount of microbes that are removed from the body. Have you ever wondered about the wash article that you use to bathe? We often go to the store and purchase several items with the aim of using them as articles for cleansing the skin before our day's work and after our day's activities. However, little study is done on the part of the purchaser on the efficacy of these wash articles.

This article seeks to shed some light on three specific types of bath material and the number of bacteria that has been found growing on them over a period of three weeks. In this study, the Mirage glycerine bath soap was used with three bath articles: bath sponge, a cotton terry rag and the bath wafer.




The participants were chosen based on their location on a prominent college dormitory. Samples were taken from the specified wash cloth and cultured. A bacterial colony count was done, and after the three weeks of sampling a comparison was done.

It was observed that the plastic wafer wash rag produced a comparative colony load of 20 microorganisms from all three individuals. This result indicates that for all the students that were involved in the study using the wafer as their bath article, only 20 organisms were retained in the wash article. The cotton terry wash cloth had a colony load of 40 organisms, while the sponge had the highest colony load of 60 microorganisms. The higher the bacterial retention in the wash article, the higher the likelihood of reintroducing these bacteria unto the body.

When we take a bath, the aim, whether we know it or not, is to rid the body of unwanted microbes and dirt along with sweat. If our choice of wash article will leave almost the same number of microbes, then one could question the reason for showering.




Some of the organisms isolated from all three wash articles were: Staphylococcus aureus (an organism that causes boils and skin rashes), Candida albicans (a fungi that causes yeast infections). These microbes were also isolated: Staphylococcus epidermidis, Beta haemolytic Staphylococcus and Beta haemolytic Streptococcus, along with the dreaded Escherichia coli (leading cause of urinary tract infection) and also one of the organisms that was implicated in June and September last year with the 19 dead babies scandal.

Escherichia coli, however, was only isolated from two sponge wash articles. The microbes that were isolated have been implicated in many illnesses, ranging from skin rash, yeast infections, boils and sores.

It is very interesting to note that after one takes a bath they could very well be adding more detrimental bacteria to their body.

Care must then be taken to ensure that we inform ourselves about the possibilities that lie with each bath article in order to sustain our own health.

Additional preservational mechanism is the good old counsel from older mothers, "Ensure that all wash articles are air-dried in the sun to inhibit the over-growth of any microbe." When wash articles are allowed to stay in moist environments, microbes will be allowed to quickly multiply. Based on the preferred choice of wash article, each person must ensure that care is taken to remove all soap residue by rinsing with lots of water and. in addition, sun-dry as much as possible all wash articles each day. This is especially important for women to remember as they are more susceptible to some infections, such as yeast infections.

-Joneshia Bryan-Thomas, MSc, BSc (MT), ASc.