Making the switch to reusable period products can be quite daunting. This is everything you've been wondering, answered: How to clean period undies, how they work, and finding the right style for you.
Image credit: ModiBodi
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The impact that disposable sanitary items has on our environment is well-documented and alarming — the vast majority of disposable products end up in landfills, where they take 300 to 500 years to decompose (if they decompose at all, that is).
But disposable products can also be bothersome for the user; from draining your wallet to causing irritation and discomfort, single-use period products definitely have their drawbacks.
But what’s the alternative?
More sustainable options that are seeing a huge rise in popularity are menstrual cups and period underwear.
If you’ve used tampons and pads all your life, the switch to reusable can seem daunting. Perhaps friends and family members are embracing reusable period wear, but you can’t quite get your head around it.
When we considered making the switch, we had a lot of questions: How do you clean period undies? Will they leak? Are period undies even hygienic? How often do you change them? All the questions.
They can take a little time to get used to and they do require some extra care to ensure they last as long as possible. The key to their longevity is a good wash routine. They’re comfy, easy to wear, and reusable, so they’re a win-win for you and the environment.
So, how do you clean period undies? Below, we unpack everything you need to know about period undies.
This is your complete guide to period undies.
Period panties are underwear designed to be worn during your period in replacement of a reusable menstrual cup or disposable menstrual products like pads and tampons.
Period underwear features several layers that expertly absorb moisture and prevent leakage to keep you feeling comfortable during the day.
They’re made to look and feel like regular underwear (read: not like a nappy), so you’ll no longer have to compromise on comfort during your bleed.
Say goodbye to the days of awkwardly shifting in your chair to reposition your pad, or heading back to the bathroom yet again to get that tampon placement just right.
We’ve all been there, and it’s not a good time.
While they can be worn on their own during your period, many people prefer to use them as a back-up (in addition to a cup, pad, or tampon) on heavy-flow days, as their sole protection on lighter-flow days, and as a safety net on those not-so-sure days.
Most period panties are designed to hold one to two tampons worth of blood, but this will vary between styles and absorbency levels.
They are typically made up of at least three layers:
+ The Inner Layer — This is the layer closest to your skin. It’s knitted and is designed to wick moisture away from the body.
It has a finish on it that makes it water repellent, with channels that allow moisture to move through it and away from your body. This helps to keep you dry.
+ The Middle Layer — The middle layer is super absorbent. It’s crafted from water-obsessed material that holds onto fluid and prevents leakage.
+ The Outer Layer — This layer, furthest from your skin, is water-impermeable. This means it stops fluid from seeping out onto your clothing.
Each layer is breathable, which gives the undies extra comfort points. They are usually made from a mix of bamboo, cotton, merino wool, or synthetic fibres (bamboo and organic cotton are the most earth-friendly options).
These fibres contain hydroxyl and amyl, which are ‘groups’ that chemically interact with the menstrual blood and hold onto it.
Generally, more fabric = more protection from leaks, but it’s important to read the label to determine whether the undies are designed for light or heavy-flow days.
Take care to pick the right size, too. Keeping them snug will prevent leakage, but anything too tight will be uncomfortable and may not hold a heavy flow.
If you’re used to your disposable products, the idea of a reusable menstrual product might seem a little daunting.
However, many people find that period underwear is actually easier to use (and comfier) than pads, tampons, or menstrual cups. And as we mentioned earlier, they’re better for the planet.
Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of opting for period undies.
Wash them, re-wear them, and wash them again.
Period undies are reusable, which immediately bumps them up a few pegs on the environmentally-friendly scale.
People who have periods use anywhere from 5000 to 15,000 tampons and pads during their lifetime (including the wrappers and applicators). Unfortunately, most of these disposable items will end up in landfills or our waterways.
90% of the components in menstrual pads contain plastic, which means these products may take hundreds of years to break down, or may not break down at all.
While they sit in landfills and oceans, they have the potential to leach toxins that are harmful to the surrounding environment and wildlife.
Period underwear, on the other hand, is designed to last for two to five years. Many varieties are made from sustainable and recycled materials, too!
You may even be able to recycle them at the end of their useful life and keep them out of landfills altogether.
Pop them on and you’re good to go!
It may take a bit of time to get used to your period undies, but once you do, the convenience certainly won’t be lost on you.
You won’t have to worry about changing them when you’re out and about, nor will you have to make a late-night supermarket run when your period unexpectedly knocks on the door.
Your period undies are right there, ready to go!
The average person can spend up to $18,000 on traditional, disposable period products over their lifetime.
While they’re more expensive up-front, period undies are much more effective long-term. Just a few pairs of period undies will last you a good five years.
Comfort is priority one during your period.
We know tampons can cause irritation, and rarely, Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). Unlike tampons, period undies are worn externally, so you eliminate this risk altogether. This makes them a safer and comfier option.
Period undies also feel more like wearing pants than a nappy. Sadly, the same can’t be said for pads.
Even though they contain multiple layers, period undies are made to fit close to the skin and feel lightweight, just like your regular pair of undies.
If you’ve been picturing period undies as huge abdomen-to-thigh undies so far, you’ll be relieved to know that they actually come in a range of sleek styles.
From bikini cuts and lacy varieties to full-coverage designs, period undies are really just like your everyday undies — just with added protection.
They also come in a range of colours and styles (we do love a classic black pair — sexy, chic, and long-lasting).
Here are some of our favourite styles from Modibodi...
Seriously pretty - and seriously comfortable - the Sensual Hi-Waist Bikini combines stellar leak-proof protection with a soft, luxe lace waistband and sexy high leg cut.
Crafted from sleek, smooth recycled fabric with scientifically proven protection from periods and pee, this cheeky cut design will keep you safe from leaks and VPL (Visible Panty Line).
It’s the perfect pair to wear under gym gear, bodycon outfits, or for dance.
Love a high cut leg and luxe lace to feel sexy as well as safe? Then the high-waisted Sensual French Cut is the silhouette for you.
The Moderate-Heavy absorbency is perfect to keep you protected on medium period days, or for light to moderate bladder leaks - without sacrificing on style...or comfort.
Super light absorbency
The Classic Thong sits on the hip and offers a ‘No Visible Panty Line’ finish, making it the ideal go-to for sneaky drips, period spotting, or light discharge.
The ideal cheeky style for bodycon outfits, but with backup protection.
A good washing routine is integral to getting the most out of your period undies. Washing them properly will keep them fresh and ensure they last as long as intended.
Be sure to read the specific washing instructions for your particular pair, but you can follow the below steps as a general guide.
For washing, you’ll need a sink or bucket for soaking, a washable mesh bag, a washing machine or sink, and some detergent.
First, rinse the undies in cold water until the water runs clear. Then, pop them into a sink or bucket with cold water and let them soak for about 30 minutes.
After soaking, throw the undies in a washable mesh bag and then into a cold machine to wash on a gentle or delicate cycle. Alternatively, hand wash them with some washing powder in a bucket. Avoid using fabric softeners, as they tend to break down the natural fibres.
Hang the undies out to dry. They may take up to 48 hours to dry, so make sure you have a few pairs to see you through your cycle.
If you’re worried about any stains or smells, soak the undies in vinegar and water prior to washing. This will help to eliminate odours and loosen any staining.
Yep, period undies are an incredibly hygienic option!
They actually include anti-bacterial agents that make them safer for your skin and more hygienic.
Concerned about the smell? No need. The scent shouldn’t permeate through, as period undies contain an antimicrobial additive.
Damp conditions caused by liquids (i.e. your menstrual blood) can lead to the growth of fungi or bacteria. It is these fungi and bacteria that cause the smell, rather than the blood itself. If this happens, the antimicrobial agent will be released to kill the bacteria and keep any odours at bay.
Of course, the key to avoiding smells long-term is washing your period undies regularly, and rinsing them ASAP after use.
Generally, we recommend cleaning your period undies at least every 12 hours.
So, your undies should see you through from 9 to 5 with ease, provided you choose the right pair for your flow.
If you have a particularly heavy flow, you could use a menstrual cup in addition to your period undies. On lighter days, your undies should last you all day. Leakage panic is now a thing of the past!