Here Is The Gross Truth About Shower Loofahs

by Lily Feinn
sponge, loofah, bath
Jena Ardell/Moment/Getty Images

A long hot shower can leave you feeling squeaky clean, but in reality that may not be the case. Recent research suggests that millennials love body wash and shower gel, but the pouf we’re pouring it onto may be positively crawling with germs! Loofahs have bacteria, so much bacteria in fact, that using one could defeat the very purpose of your shower. I know, I know, I’m grossed out too.

Research dating as far back as 1994 has found that loofahs, those natural scrubbers made from a tropical species of cucumber fiber, make the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. The study published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology found that loofahs can transmit potentially pathogenic species of bacterial flora to the skin that under the right circumstances may even cause an infection.

When you lather up to exfoliate by scrubbing away dead skin cells, they get caught in the nooks and folds of the sponge. The humid, damp, and relatively undisturbed environment of the shower allows the bacteria to multiply before your next rinse. The bacteria feeds on the organic matter trapped in the loofah, and every time it does not dry properly the bacterial colony continues to bloom. Sadly, applying antibacterial wash to the loofah and rinsing it out after each use doesn't count for nada if you’re not regularly disinfecting it.

Most dermatologists agree that using loofahs and shower sponges are not great for the skin. Dermatologist Dr. Michele Green, M.D. told the Huffington Post that continuing to use a contaminated loofah will only make things worse. “You spread the bacteria that you washed off your body the last time,” Dr. Green confirms. “The loofah is spreading yesterday’s dirt back on your body.” J. Mathhew Knight of the Knight Dermatology Institute adds that mold and yeast (yep, like that kind of yeast) can also infect your plastic mesh sponge or natural loofah. Double yuck. If you wash too briskly, or knick yourself shaving, you may be priming yourself for an infection.

It doesn’t matter if your body wash is lavender-scented or hydrates with aloe and lemongrass, if you’ve been using the same sponge for months the results will be the same. Let's face it — most of us flake on rotating our bath sponges.

To keep your showers clean, dermatologists recommend replacing your bath loofah and mesh pouf every three weeks, especially if it turns a different color or develops an odor. If for some reason you have become emotionally attached to your loofah, there are some precautions that you can take to lower the risk of bacterial overgrowth, reports the Huffington Post. To keep your damp sponge from festering in the mold palace that we call a bathtub, try drying it outside of the shower, where there is good air circulation. To disinfect your bath scrubber properly microwave natural loofahs and sponges for 20 seconds (but not the plastic ones, alas), or soak them in a solution of five percent bleach (as they recommended in the 1994 study). Follow these steps, and you will finally get clean in the shower!

Images: Jena Ardell/Moment/Getty Images; giphy