26/04/2016 8:39 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:52 PM AEST

How Clean Are Your Bathroom Products, Really?

Mike Kemp via Getty Images
Bearded Caucasian man examining razor

Soap, razors, loofahs and toothbrushes... all items we associate with getting clean, right? Right.

Except -- and by no means do we mean to hit the 'germ alert' panic button here -- the misuse of certain bathroom products can result in an outcome less hygienic than the user perhaps originally intended.

Don't know what we're on about? If you happen to share a loofah with your partner, or haven't thrown out your razor since who-knows-when, yes, we're talking to you.

"There is actually hardly any research on the risks to the general community when it comes to these sorts of things, so really, you have to use logic and common sense," renowned infection control expert, Professor MaryLouise McLaws from The University of New South Wales, told The Huffington Post Australia.

"Luckily, we have very, very clean water in Australia coming out of our taps. Pristine, in fact. So as long as you're not in a compromised environment, and are abiding by basic hygiene standards, there shouldn't really be a problem."

However, there are still some rules-of-thumb worth following when it comes to certain products in your bathroom (and we're not even talking about the icky ones like toilet brushes). We're talking about the ones you use on -- and sometimes in -- your body.

Liquid soap

"Liquid soap can build up a film of bacteria unless it has a special additive," McLaws told HuffPost Australia.

"For example, in public toilets where you see a dispenser full of pink soap and they get topped up, they have been found to have bacteria in them.

"I do generally dislike top-up soap dispensers. If you are going to use one at home, make sure you rinse it out and give it a chance to dry.

"At home, if people are washing their hands as often as they should, a soap dispenser doesn’t have enough time to build up enough water loving bacteria. As long as you are washing and drying your hands, because our water is so pristine, there really isn’t a very large problem.

"When it comes to liquid soap, if you are using it properly and buying a reasonably sensible size -- not one of these mega ones -- it may not cause an enormous problem for you. That said, if it starts smelling, toss it out."

Razors are not for sharing.


"Razor blades are more problematic. While bacteria is normal on your face or underarms, for example, once you start cutting hair away, you get micro lacerations," McLaws said.

"Bacteria can get into those micro lacerations, especially if you have bacteria on your blade from last time, or if you have started to shave without washing your skin beforehand. Then you might find you cause yourself a little infection.

"It is really important to rinse the blades really well, as bacteria is not going to live on your blade unless there is some organic matter on there. Then let it drip dry.

"With razors, bluntness is a problem and bacteria can be a problem, so I would suggest changing your razor before either of these things become an issue."


"When it comes to your toothbrush, the manufacturers actually usually have made it pretty simple to tell when it's time to throw it out. A colour on the bristles will start disappearing, for instance.

"Generally, you want to throw it away pretty regularly. Often people don't rinse their toothbrushes very well or often, and they can build up a little bit of bacteria or mould."

Bye bye, brushie.


"Yuck. I am not a fan. People just don’t get to dry them properly.

"Often you'll find they smell a bit, which tends to tell you there is water loving bacteria in them or a bit of mould.

"The fact there is bacteria from our skin in that loofah means we should not be sharing it without other people.

"If you have a little infection, it will be in that loofah. As soon as you think you have a little rash or something, don’t use it," McLaws said.

"Loofahs also tend to move bacteria around our bodies. There are certain zones in our body where different types of 'friendly' germs may reside, but as soon as we take those germs from one spot to another, they become less friendly.

"They can cause smelly underarms, for instance. Often because people have moved coliform bacteria from around their buttocks. Coliform or fecal bacteria is nice in the gut, but not so nice under the armpit.

"This is why it's important to wash from the head down. Start with the face, then go down from there. Private parts should always be last."


"I have a rule of thumb when it comes to towels. It's not evidence based, just on logic," McLaws said. "If your towel is very wet and you don't have a towel dryer to make it bone dry, it will encourage bacteria to grow.

"It shouldn’t be a problem necessarily, except when you think of the fact you are using a towel all over the body. You might be moving bacteria into your eyes and other places. If it's fully wet and unlikely to get dry, wash it immediately. Otherwise, wash it at the end of the week or if it looks soiled.

"That is assuming everyone is having at least one shower a day."

Face towels

"Please wash your face cloth every day," McLaws said. "You don’t want the bacteria that is living happily in your nose to then be pushed into your eyes. Every day, no excuses."