You may feel clean after just stepping out of the shower, but chances are if you used a bath towel to dry off, you’re anything but. Some scientists have gone so far as to call towels the most germ-infected object in your home, and it’s likely you aren’t washing them nearly enough.

Bath towels have the ideal environment for growing germs: dampness and close proximity to the human body. According Marilyn C. Roberts, a professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at the University of Washington School of Public Health, not only do bath towels have their own germs, but they also pick up bacteria from the human body and bath water, Yahoo Beauty reported. In addition, the damp environment of the average bathroom allows germs on towels to thrive.

“It’s the same problem as with the loofah sponge. If it remains wet, bacteria will grow,” Roberts told Yahoo Beauty. “Bacteria love moisture, but they do not love areas that have been desiccated. And bathrooms tend to be a humid place, so unless you live in a desert, your towel isn’t going to be dried from morning until evening.”

Although most of the germs on towels are harmless, some do have the capacity to cause serious illness. For example, a 2013 study conducted by researchers from the University of Arizona, funded by Kimberly-Clark Corporation, found that fecal bacteria, which is associated with outbreaks of food poisoning and diarrhea, is in 89 percent of kitchen tea-towels, and E. coli is in 25.6 percent of towels, The Daily Mail reported.

To avoid the spread of illness-causing germs, Roberts recommends that you have a new clean towel every four to five days. And when you do wash your towel, it’s best to opt for higher temperature water to assure that all germs are effectively eliminated.

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