Are you washing your loofah weekly? If not, you're going to want to start now, because that exfoliating bath you're taking might be a lot grosser than you thought. Whether your loofah is natural or synthetic, it's very porous, which means it's great for sloughing off dead skin but also great for trapping those skin cells between its fibers. Combine that with a humid environment and no place to dry, and your scrubby is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.
Like many bacteria hot spots, your bath buddy could lead to an array of diseases, especially skin infections like folliculitis, impetigo, and perleche. Trust us; those may sound like Harry Potter spells, but they are way less fun.
Luckily, there are a few easy things you can do to keep this nastiness at bay.
1. Rinse out your loofah and allow it to dry between uses.
Every time you use your loofah, give it a thorough rinse and set it out to dry in a cool, dry place. (Hint: Not your shower.) This washes away much of the dirt and dead skin you just scrubbed off of your body, so you don't spread it back on the next time you use it. Gross.
2. Clean it once a week.
Even with all the rinsing and drying, your loofah is still going to hold on to some bacteria. Wash it regularly with a diluted bleach solution or hydrogen peroxide solution for a natural sea sponge. Don't forget to rinse it thoroughly after cleaning. Your little scrubby is almost as high-maintenance as you are.
3. Replace it regularly.
Both natural and synthetic loofahs have a shelf life, and it's a lot shorter than you think. Replace your natural loofah every three to four weeks, and get a new plastic loofah every couple of months. If you notice that it starts to mold or smell mildewy, throw out that nasty thing immediately.
4. Do not share your loofah.
For the people in the back: DO NOT SHARE YOUR LOOFAH. When a person uses a loofah without properly rinsing and drying it, that dirt and dead skin has nowhere to go. Washing your body with your own dirty loofah is gross enough, but using someone else's is too much to think about.
5. Cut back your weekly uses.
If you're scrubbing down every time you step in the shower, you're scrubbing too much. Once or twice a week is a good rule to go by. Avoid using any sort of scrubby for a few days post-shave and always avoid any open wounds. These are most prone to infection. You should never use a loofah on your face or genitals, which are also infection favorites. And avoid loofah contact with any bodily fluid.
6. Abandon your scrubby entirely.
Everyone likes to feel soft and clean after a shower, but is it really worth all this work? A wash cloth can be a more reasonable alternative. They're easier to clean, dry, and replace. However, many dermatologists, like Jessica Krant, M.D., recommend tossing your scrubbies out the window, including loofahs and wash cloths. A little body wash and your hands should be enough to keep sufficiently clean.