You're Definitely Not Throwing Away Your Tools Often Enough

Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
One day, I stepped into my shower and found my roommate's orange loofah speckled with mold. Somehow, she did not notice this, but I did — and I shuddered to think how long she'd been rubbing it on her body like that. Needless to say, into the garbage it went.

It turns out, a whole year had passed since that loofah had been changed. Way too long. Still, it's tricky to know what the expiration date is on a tool that doesn't come with one, so I reached out to the experts. Ahead, the not-so-pretty truths about the everyday items in your bathroom that are collecting more bacteria, mold, and fungus than you'd like to believe. If you need inspiration to do some pre-winter cleaning and start fresh, this is it.
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Pumice Stone

The Possibility: Bacterial Growth
Rubbing your feet with this rough stone leads to an accumulation of bacteria on the actual tool. "Common organisms found on the feet can grow within a pumice stone and cause harm to the user," explains Jason S. Ahuero, MD, a specialist in orthopedic foot and ankle surgery. If not tossed or washed regularly, he says the potential issues could include athlete's foot (nail fungus), staph bacteria, and pseudomonas, a bacteria frequently found in warm, moist environments such as shoes.

The Solution: Scrub It
The process is a bit intensive, but according to Dr. Ahuero, it's well worth it. He says to clean your stone after every use with bleach, which will kill the bacteria and wash away the dead skin you just sloughed off. First, scrub it with soap and water with a rough brush or tool. Then, let it soak in a mixture of four cups water and three tablespoons of bleach for 10 minutes. Remove and rinse with warm water. Make sure to let it air-dry in a space with good ventilation because wet and moist environments are prime for bacterial growth. Don't want to whip out the bleach? You can also boil the stone in water for about 10 minutes.
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Shower Loofah

The Possibility: Inflamed Or Infected Hair Follicles
Loofahs may look cute and harmless, but they're breeding grounds for bacteria and fungus. Whether yours hangs inside the shower or somewhere else in your bathroom, it's constantly surrounded by moisture and damp air. In other words, it's most likely growing some kind of funky bacteria. Dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD, explains: "Loofahs have porous structures and contain nooks and crannies, which can become filled with germs, fungus, and bacteria, which can be transferred to the skin, potentially causing infections." Bet you'll think twice next time before you shave your legs, then run your pouf over 'em.

The Solution: Shake It Out
After every use, Dr. Bowe recommends shaking out the loofah and letting it air-dry outside of the bathroom. Other than that, replace it every three to four weeks. Buy a three-pack and throw 'em out once they hit the one-month mark. If you lose track — or are too lazy — check out the tool's core for growth.
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Body Brush

The Possibility:
Red Bumps
I've certainly made the mistake of rubbing my red bumps with a body brush, thinking it would be a quick-fix, but I was actually being counterproductive. Dr. Bowe says scrubbing with a dirty brush can make these minor inflammations even worse. If you have an open cut, small wound, or mild irritation, don't exfoliate it away. Tools like this can also retain some of the soap from your previous wash, as well as dead skin. "If you have broken skin...using these products aggressively can force the bacteria into your wound, making it more prone to becoming infected and causing even further damage to the skin barrier," explains Dr. Bowe.

The Solution: Swap It For Something Natural
She recommends using something with natural fibers or bristles. Synthetic ones can have too many hiding places for fungus and bacteria, and are often too abrasive.
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Eyelash Curler

The Possibility: Eye Infections
When you don't replace your eyelash curler, or even just the rubber cushion inside, bacteria can grow on it and lead to eye infections. Not cute.

The Solution: Boil It
Yes, seriously, you can boil your eyelash curler, says Cover FX Global Ambassador and makeup artist Derek Selby. While makeup wipes and alcohol pads can work, too, if your curler is really gross, wipe it down and then toss it into a pot of boiling water for a few minutes. Still, Selby suggests replacing the curler pads every three to six months to avoid any infection-related concerns.
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Shower Cap

The Possibility: Mold
This is another tool a lot of people tend to store in their bathrooms. Damp air + moist cap = bad news for your hair. Dr. Bowe explains, "Water can pool in the crevices of the plastic, or even grow on the elastic band, and create dangerous mold."

The Solution: Hang It Up
Take your shower cap with you when you walk out of the bathroom. Out of habit you might hang it inside the bathroom, but wear it back to your room and hang it in a drier spot. Pat down any excess water, and pay attention to mold that could be growing.
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Tanning Mitt

The Possibility
: Streaky Application
If you let your tanning mitt build up with oil or mousse, the end result will look anything but smooth. And within months, it could fall apart, says St. Tropez Skin Finishing Expert Sophie Evans.

The Solution: Rinse It
After every self-tan application, make sure to clean your mitt by hand-washing it with soap and warm water. Evans' pro tip? Place your damp mitt on top of your bottle so it air-dries evenly and doesn't stain your counters.
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