When’s the last time you stopped to think about your underwear? They’re always there, supporting you throughout your day. There’s such a wide variety of underwear styles out there, and although you hear people touting the perks of their particular favorite, there’s really no one-size-fits-all solution.
One-size-fits-all underwear is a lie. Don’t buy it. They won’t fit right and you’ll hate them.
No matter what your personal underwear style is, you’re probably treating your underwear badly. It’s not exactly your fault, either – proper undies care isn’t really taught anywhere (as far as I know). And, most of the time, if you do hear about “proper rules” for your underwear, it’s probably things like how to reduce your visible panty lines or camel toe or something else entirely shallow. I’m not saying you shouldn’t also look and feel good in your underwear, but it really shouldn’t be your primary concern.
Here are 9 things you’re probably getting all wrong.
1. You’re washing them wrong.
I’m pretty sure that every modern washing machine has a “delicate” setting on it. This setting is meant for your underwear, and a few other things. Even if you wear boxers and sports bras and basically the opposite of delicate “delicates”, you should probably wash them on the delicate cycle. Even the most masculine underwear has fragile elastic and relatively thin material. Skip the dryer, too, unless you absolutely need those undies dried ASAP – this cooks the elastic and makes them wear out much faster.
You should also be using hypoallergenic detergent when you wash them. While detergent sensitivities are really common already, even non-allergic people can have a reaction when it comes to their sensitive bits. There are a number of hypoallergenic soap options on the market now, and many of them are quite inexpensive, so there’s no excuse to cause extra irritation – go with a vagina-safe detergent and you can thank me later.
2. You’re storing them wrong, too.
If you’re anything like most people, you toss your bras and underwear all together in the same drawer and hope for the best. While that might make the most use of the storage space you have, bra hooks can do some serious damage to elastic and lace – causing them to wear out much faster than they would if you stored them separately. If you only wear sports bras, or you store your underwear in their own spot, this part doesn’t really pertain to you – but you might still be storing them wrong.
Most people’s underwear drawer lacks any type of organization. While I’m definitely not saying you need to “retail fold” your undies and sort them by color, you should at least have some system to even out the wear and tear. Tossing your just-worn-and-washed ones at the front of the drawer all the time is going to cause those ones to wear out faster than the rest, and you might not even notice when they start to wear out. Make a point of getting rid of the old ones when you buy new ones, and never be stuck with your “laundry day back-ups” again. And, on that note…
3. You keep them way longer than you should.
My girlfriend has a really hard time parting with her underwear. I find myself regularly “sneaking out” the ones that have totally exposed elastic, holes in the butt cheeks, and bleach and/or period stains on them. While I fully support the idea of designated “period panties”, you probably don’t need to hang onto every old pair you have for those few days a month you don’t want to ruin your good ones.
These old, worn-out underwear are not only ugly, but they’re also basically worthless. If you can see the elastic, the elastic is probably also digging into your skin. If they’ve got holes in them (especially in the crotch), they’re not really doing any good, and they may be rubbing against you and causing unnecessary irritation.
4. You’re not changing them often enough.
Most people know that you’re supposed to change your underwear every day. The type of underwear you wear may make a difference in how long you can wear them without changing, but you should change them after every shower and every work out – no exceptions. If it’s a particularly hot and sweaty day, or you’re on your period and you’ve gotten blood on them, you might need to change them more often.
It should also go without saying that putting dirty underwear back on once you’ve taken them off is a bad idea, but just in case I need to say it… Once you take your underwear off, don’t put the same ones back on. That’s a pretty good reason to have a big underwear selection, if you ask me.
5. You wear underwear every day.
Many people (mistakenly) think that wearing underwear is more hygienic than not wearing underwear. That’s not really true, though. Underwear was originally invented as a way to keep from washing clothing more often. Since water was a precious commodity that had to be carried in from the closest water source, it was a lot easier to wash five pairs of underwear than it was to wash one pair of pants, five times. In menstrual women, this underwear served double-duty since feminine hygiene products were entirely non-existent.
In the age of modern convenience, though, wearing underwear isn’t really necessary. In fact, if you’re wearing loose pants, long skirts, or basketball shorts (that fit), wearing underwear is 100% optional. Your vagina needs time to breathe, and if you keep it locked inside close-fitting materials all the time, it’s going to build up stronger odors and possibly even bacterial infections.
6. You never wear underwear.
Okay, I know I just said that underwear is not necessary – but if you wear tight-fitting pants, going commando is a bad idea. The seam of your jeans can rub uncomfortably against what is literally the most sensitive part of your body, causing a rash, and possibly even open sores (if the pants are too tight).
Likewise, short skirts or saggy pants need underwear to provide a sense of modesty. While not everyone feels like being modest all the time, you can get into trouble with the law if you’re showing more than what’s deemed appropriate in your region. Different types of underwear have very specific purposes, so it’s best to get some that do what you hope to accomplish.
7. You have all the same type of underwear.
Remember when we (just) said that different types of underwear serve different purposes? This means that there is no such thing as an “every occasion” underwear – unless your clothing style is very consistent from day to day. Boxers and boxer briefs are great for breathability and maximum coverage; boy shorts, hipsters, and thongs are best for reducing visible panty lines; and cotton briefs are a great go-to for situations when both coverage and VPL are non-issues.
That being said, it’s normal to have a favorite type of underwear. I’m pretty sure we all have our go-to’s, actually. But just because you have a favorite, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also have other types of underwear. No matter what your preferences are, you should have at least a few pairs in other styles just in case you want to wear something that makes your normal style unreasonable. (Boxers under leggings? I think not.)
8. You wear them to bed.
Some people prefer sleeping naked. Other people prefer the security of sleeping with clothes on, especially sexual abuse survivors (in my experience). No matter what your personal preferences happen to be, from a scientific standpoint, the closer to naked, the better. Like we said in #5, your vagina needs to breathe, and just the time you spend in the shower every day is probably not enough.
If you must wear underwear to bed – whether for your personal security, or because you don’t live alone – opt for something in breathable cotton. Personally, I like sleeping in boxers, since everything stays covered and still gets plenty of airflow. So-called “granny panties” are also a good choice – just make sure they’re actually cotton, and not some synthetic blend. Synthetic materials are nowhere near as breathable, and they can cause irritation if they move around while you’re sleeping.
9. They don’t fit right.
Lastly, the most common thing that’s wrong with underwear is that they’re the wrong size. Underwear that is too tight can cause a muffin top, camel toe, or a major wedgie – not to mention more serious complications like yeast or bacterial infections. Most importantly, though, ill-fitted underwear is uncomfortable, and that discomfort can actually translate to less self-confidence and poor performance in the rest of your life. Who knew your underwear were that important?!
However, wearing underwear that is too loose isn’t good, either. These underwear are more likely to show through your clothing (which, while minor, is still irritating). They can also fall down, causing some major embarrassment. Mostly, though, too-big underwear is probably not doing what it’s supposed to do – and you might as well not be wearing any. (In fact, it’s usually better to go without than to wear underwear that doesn’t fit.)