8 Unhealthy Hygiene Habits to Break Immediately

Personal hygiene is just that — personal. Everyone has variations of hygiene habits that work best for them. But there still are some general rules most of us should follow. If you’re guilty of any of these eight unhealthy hygiene habits, it’s probably time to break them.

1. Popping pimples

When you notice a pimple forming, it can be incredibly tempting to give it a squeeze. But you might want to leave the popping to the pros. “Squeezing pimples and other acne blemishes may seem so simple that anyone can do it, but there is an art to doing it right,” according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Amateur poppers can cause permanent scarring, more prominent or painful acne, inflammation and infection.

What to do: That’s why it’s best to see a dermatologist, who can give you the tools you need to clear up acne safely and efficiently. In the meantime, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends keeping your hands away from your face. Use ice on any painful acne, as it helps to bring down inflammation. And give acne treatments time to work.

2. Using dirty towels

Perhaps the source of your acne can be traced to a towel that isn’t so fresh. The frequency with which you should wash your towels largely depends on personal hygiene habits. But judging by the amount of germs researchers have found on towels, some people aren’t washing them often enough.

What to do: In general, wash bath towels after three to five normal uses, according to the American Cleaning Institute. And always hang them to dry completely between uses. If the towel has been used to wipe up bodily fluids — sweat from the gym, blood from a shaving cut, etc. — wash it immediately. As for kitchen towels, unhealthy hygiene habits can easily cause them to become a major source of cross-contamination in the home. Experts suggest changing kitchen towels daily, especially if they’ve become soiled with food messes, according to Cleveland Clinic. But you can extend that slightly longer if you’re good about thoroughly washing your hands and safely handling food.

3. Not cleaning loofahs

synthetic loofahs hanging in a showerCredit: Annie Richards/Getty Images

Maybe you’re great about frequently washing your towels. But what about that loofah hanging in your shower? Bath sponges — both the synthetic and natural varieties with all their nooks and crannies — can become bacteria breeding grounds if you aren’t cleaning them properly. And no, the soap from your shower doesn’t count as cleaning.

What to do: Rinse your loofah after each use, and shake off as much water as possible, Cleveland Clinic recommends. Then, hang it to dry somewhere cool, preferably outside of the humid shower. Clean your loofah at least weekly, using a diluted bleach or white vinegar solution. Depending on use, you might have to replace natural loofahs every three to four weeks and the synthetic ones after a couple months. But if they ever develop mold or a musty odor, it’s best to get rid of them and start fresh. If you want to avoid this hassle altogether, try switching to washcloths, which are easier to clean and less susceptible to holding bacteria.

4. Washing bedding too infrequently

If you get a solid eight hours of sleep every night, that’s 56 hours per week you’re spending on your bedding. “That leaves a lot of time for sweat, oil, dirt, and maybe even makeup to build up, possibly leading to skin issues like breakouts, more allergy symptoms, and even conditions like fungal infections,” according to Sleep.org. But washing bedding can be cumbersome, making it easy to let that chore slide for longer than you should.

What to do: The general rule is to wash your sheets once a week, Sleep.org says. You might be able to stretch it a little longer, especially if you shower right before bed. But if you’ve been sick or tend to sweat while you sleep, more frequent washings are a must. And if you can’t get around to washing the sheets, at least do your pillowcases weekly. Duvet covers generally should be washed monthly. And pillows and comforters take a seasonal wash.

5. Taking long, hot showers

shower head spraying hot waterCredit: nikkytok/Getty Images

During the colder months, nothing beats a hot, steamy shower. And many of us are guilty of indulging in one, even though we know it won’t help our cold weather-induced dry skin. “The hot water can strip away your skin’s natural oils — leaving your skin dry and itchy,” according to Cleveland Clinic.

What to do: No, you don’t have to take an ice bath to retain your skin’s moisture. Simply keep your showers at a warm temperature instead of scalding hot, Cleveland Clinic says. And limit your time in there to 10 minutes at most. Plus, make sure you’re using a gentle soap that won’t strip your skin, and apply moisturizer after you dry off. Of course, everyone’s skin has different needs. So if hot showers seem to work fine for you, then by all means enjoy.

6. Cleaning ears with cotton swabs

If you’re like most people, you don’t actually need to regularly clean wax out of your ears. Although occasionally earwax can build up and cause a blockage, it usually works its way out naturally through chewing, speaking and other jaw movement, according to Healthline. Even so, you might have developed the potentially dangerous habit of using cotton swabs in your ears.

What to do: “The rule you’ll hear from most doctors is to not put anything smaller than your elbow inside of your ear,” Healthline says. That rules out cotton swabs, which can push wax deeper into the ear canal and potentially damage hearing. Instead, clean the outer part of your ears with a damp cloth. If you feel you have a wax buildup, visit your doctor to safely have it removed. They might advise you in using over-the-counter wax softeners or other at-home methods to irrigate your ears.

7. Reusing a water bottle without washing it

Do you always carry a reusable water bottle in your gym bag or have one sitting on your desk? Good for you for helping the environment and staying hydrated. But how often do you give it a proper cleaning? It seems the answer might be “not often enough,” as one study found drinking from the average reusable bottle might expose people to more germs than licking a dog toy.

What to do: If you’re in the market for a new water bottle, Food Network recommends choosing one that’s stainless steel with a wide mouth that isn’t a challenge to open. This variety is easy to clean and requires less handling that could contaminate it. Wash your water bottle daily, preferably in the dishwasher if possible. You also can use soap and water or a weak vinegar solution with a bottle brush to scrub the inside. Turn the bottle upside-down to dry completely before replacing the cap.

8. Spreading germs while sick

A sick woman is sneezing right next to her colleage.Credit: PeopleImages/Getty Images

So you’re coughing a bit and feeling achy, but you don’t want to — or can’t — stay home from work or other obligations. We’ve all had those days. But most of us also would agree that if it were another contagious person, we’d want them to stay home. You think you feel well enough to go out when you’re mildly sick, but it still might not be the healthiest choice for you. And spreading those germs could spell some serious consequences — especially for at-risk groups, such as children, seniors and people with compromised immune systems.

What to do: Take inventory of your symptoms when deciding whether you should stay home. “If you’re really coughing and sneezing or you feel generally miserable, do stay home,” according to Healthline. And remember you still might be able to spread germs for several days as your symptoms subside. For instance, a cold might take two weeks from when you were exposed to the virus for you not to be contagious anymore. For the duration of your illness, wash your hands often and thoroughly. Be conscientious about where you go and what you touch. And warn others you’re sick, so they can take precautions. After all, you would hope another contagious person would be that diligent about their hygiene habits, as well.

Main image credit: PeopleImages/Getty Images


Sarah A
Sarah A5 days ago

thank you

Christophe B
Christophe Bazin23 days ago

Thank you.

Maria P
Martha Pabout a month ago

Thank you.

Melanie S

Thank you for sharing.

Jan S
Jan S1 months ago


Louise A
Louise A1 months ago

thanks very much

Kevin B
Kevin B2 months ago

Thank you for sharing

Paula A
Past Member 2 months ago

Thank you for sharing

Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan Hill2 months ago


Mia B
Melisa B2 months ago

thank you