Loofahs, those spongy, handheld scrubbers, are known to help exfoliate our skin in the shower. Yours could be hanging in the shower right now, and unbeknownst to you, other family members may be using it to scrub up. No big deal, right? You’re family!
Sadly, it’s doesn’t matter how close you are, sharing a loofah is more unsanitary than you’d imagine. “A loofah can cause bacteria to spread,” says Debra Brooks, MD, from Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care. Not only can loofahs store bacteria—including pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium that can cause disease in animals, according to the CDC—but every time you use it to slough off dead skin, you’re also more than likely rubbing yesterday’s dead skin back onto your body. Yuck!
The nature of a loofah makes it a virtual petri dish for germs. “It stays in the shower, a warm, wet environment which can be a breeding ground for bacteria like mold and mildew,” says Brooks. Even if you wash it, there’s still a good chance that germs are hiding in those little indentations and holes. Anyone who has or is a carrier for MRSA, a super bug responsible for several difficult-to-treat infections, could easily spread that through their loofah. And people who are diabetic or immunocompromised in any way could be at higher risk of developing a general infection, especially because a loofah causes microscopic abrasions as it removes dead skin, essentially opening doors for germs to enter, says Brooks.
If you’re keen on exfoliating your skin, consider using a body scrub, like Svelta Luxe Coffee & Raw Sugar Body Scrub or H20 Beauty Eucalyptus & Aloe Body Scrub. Or make a homemade exfoliant using ingredients already in your kitchen.
If you’re still stubbornly feeling the loofah love, try following these tips from Penn State University to keep it as sanitary as possible:
- Make sure that your loofah is made from all natural substances rather than synthetic material
- Don’t ever leave it in your shower, where it invites mold and takes longer to dry
- Always store in a dry place, and make sure to dry it completely after every use to stop bacteria from proliferating
- Periodically soak it in a 5 percent bleach solution to kill off bacteria and germs
- Replace your loofah at least once every three to four weeks, or sooner if it starts to smell.