Healthy Habits for Underwear Hygiene

by Kristin T.

August 4, 2023

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Love it or hate it, and whether you think about it or not, underwear most likely plays a role in your daily life. It’s important, then, to choose underwear that won’t ruin your quality of life! August 5th is National Underwear Day. We’re celebrating by giving you some healthy habits for underwear hygiene.

Pretty much everyone (hopefully) knows you should wear clean underwear every day, but do you think about why that is, or about the fact that there is more to “clean underwear” than we may think? Underwear does a lot to protect our clothing from our body stuff, but it also works especially hard to keep our most sensitive body parts safe from the outside stuff. How we take care of our underwear matters almost as much as how often we change it. Especially in the hot, sweaty summer months, it’s important to know how to truly care for our underwear and our downstairs!

Penis or vulva? While your underwear style choices may be different, its function is the same, so everyone should keep reading! Most of these tidbits are generally good advice which are applicable regardless of what bits you have below the belt. Now without further ado, lets get to some timely tips for taking care of your “down there” by taking care of your underwear!

Choose it well:

Considering not many people see it, underwear might actually be the clothing item we need to put the most thought into selecting. Sure, we want our outfits to look flattering and feel good, but you can cope with an itchy sweater or a slightly-too-snug dress for a few hours once in a while. Undies, on the other hand, take more consideration. If your underthings are uncomfortable, it can literally ruin your whole day…and they can also cause various health problems. Since underwear touch your body closely all day, every day, here are “the three F’s” of things you should look for when you choose your underoos:

Fit:

You never want to wear underwear that fits too tightly. When trying a new brand or style for the first time, you may want to buy the size you think you’ll wear, and the next size up. Try on the ones you usually wear first, and if they work, great…return the bigger ones! If they’re even slightly too small, opt for the bigger ones – they’ll probably shrink a bit after you wash & dry them, too, so that should make them perfect!

It’s important not to always wear super-tight pants over your underwear, too, as these can trap moisture and cause chafing and even loss of blood flow! Guys, wearing your undies too tight over your junk may even lessen your circulation & your body’s natural ability to keep your testicles cool enough…and therefore lower your sperm count, so buy your boxers a hair bigger.

Fabric:

Cotton is the #1 ideal choice of fabric when it comes to underwear. This natural fiber is soft, breathable, quick drying, and moisture-wicking, all of which are important when it comes to keeping your genitals clean, dry, and odor- and infection-free. Even if the majority of your panties are made from a different material, if they at least have a cotton crotch gusset, they’re better than choices that don’t.

Naturally-based, cotton-adjacent specialty fibers like Tencel, Lyocell, and Supima, and even bamboo-based fibers are also great choices. These maintain most of the important functions of pure cotton, while offering a little more stretch and softness.

Purely synthetic fabrics like nylon, polyester, spandex & Lycra, and satin are the least ideal for undies, but they’re also stretchy and sexy. Lots of underwear, especially ladies’ panties & thongs, are made from these materials, and they are okay to wear occasionally. While we are obviously proponents of all things lacy, satiny, and sexy, maybe keep the special ones for special occasions, and choose a more natural, breathable fabric for your “all day, everyday” wear.

Fashion:

Weirdly, one of the reasons we wear underwear is solely for the function of fashion. Sure, it can help prevent the dreaded camel toe or saggy scrotum look, but it can boost your confidence, too. Throwing on a cute pair of lace panties or some super-soft boxers that beg to be touched can make you look great and feel great about yourself! Keeping the fit & fabric aspects held in greater importance, it’s still key to choose a style of underwear that you feel awesome about wearing.

Different cuts, colors, prints, and brands of underwear can all help us express our inner selves on the outside, and help us feel cool and confident as we move throughout our day. It’s also important that our underwear looks good (and stays hidden) under the outerwear fashions we choose; here’s hoping the early 2000’s trend of wearing your thong straps to show above your low-rider pants or overall side buttons will never return! When you find a brand of underwear that fits you perfectly and you love how it looks, I always suggest buying lots of pairs in case they ever stop making it!

Change it often:

You know you should at least wear a fresh pair of underwear every day, but some days, you just might need to change them more than that, and that’s fine. The weather, your clothing, your daily activities, bladder leakage, or a surprise visit from Aunt Flo can all render your undies less than dry & fresh. When a workout or a freak rainstorm warrants changing your underwear in the middle of the day or before bed (more on that later), go ahead and change it. It is healthier not to keep all that wetness, sweat, and odor-causing bacteria** trapped down there.

That’s why I (and most other people I know) always severely overpack underwear when traveling. There’s nothing worse than going on a sweaty day trip, then returning to your hotel room for a refreshing shower before dinner or a night out on the town, only to have to slip back into the same drenched, smelly undies! It may generate more laundry than you love, but changing your underwear whenever you need to will result in healthier genitals & a more confident feeling. And overpacking is much better than trying to scrub your scanties in the hotel sink and dry them over the wall of the bathtub because you’ve run out of clean ones mid-trip!

Consider sleeping without it:

Many people can’t or don’t want to go underwear-free during the day. It does serve some important purposes, after all. At night, though, it may be an ideal time to go commando. Sleeping without underwear can give your genitals and your skin a chance to “breathe”, which is healthy for maintaining your natural pH balance and necessary microflora down there. If you’re prone to yeast infections, sleeping sans skivvies may help keep things dry enough so they stop reoccurring as frequently. Not to mention, it’s just comfier…and may make it even easier to have a morning quickie! If you do prefer to wear underwear at night, especially perhaps when you are menstruating, put on a fresh, dry pair before bed…even better if they’re looser than your daytime styles.

Some studies have shown that sleeping skivvy-free may actually help reduce stress! Your body produces healthy relaxation hormones when you sleep, but they may be inhibited if any part of your body feels constricted. Basically, having undies on may make your brain think you’re still in daytime “go mode” and it can’t fully relax.

Wash & dry it gently:

Underwear is one of those things you can’t toss on the chair to re-wear; they need to be washed every time you wear them. This can seem like a major chore, but it can be kept fairly simple, especially if you sort your laundry and just do loads of all your underwear at once. This way, they’re all getting the same treatment, and not getting lost with all your larger articles of clothing (has anyone ever pulled a pair of panties out of the leg of your jeans after putting them on? No? Just me?). You can wash, dry, fold, and put away quickly and easily, because it’s all underwear! Easy!

Cleaning your underwear well is obviously of utmost importance. You need to cleanly wash away all the “body stuff” they are holding onto from being worn. It’s ideal to use a “Free & Clear” detergent on your underwear. The artificial dyes and fragrances in most detergents may irritate your skin, exacerbate infections, or even make your natural body odors smell worse from the interaction with the perfumes. Don’t use fabric softener on your undies – it’s unnecessary, and can cause many of the same problems as scented detergents.

If you machine dry your undies, always do so on the Low temperature setting. Dryer sheets are okay to use, but make sure they’re the unscented, “free & clear” variety, too. If you have to (or prefer to) flat dry or line dry your undies, do so outside whenever you can, space & weather permitting. Sunlight acts as a natural anti-microbial treatment, which will help to further eliminate germs and odors as they dry in the sunshine. Drying them in the sunshine and breeze will also help them dry more quickly and feel softer, so you don’t get the “crunchy” feel you might from an indoor air dry. If this happens, though, tossing them in the dryer on low with a damp towel to “fluff” for a few minutes is never a bad idea, and shouldn’t hurt most materials.

Don’t overstuff the washing machine when laundering your underwear. Separate any that may be bunched up or stuck together, and load them loosely. Set the washer for one load size larger than the load actually is. Additionally, if your underwear look like the picture below when they come off your body (I know mine do!), take the time to unroll them before washing or they won’t get truly clean.

While you can follow the (usually easier) washing and drying instructions on your everyday underwear, many fancy, frilly panties call for handwashing, which can be done in a washtub or utility sink. Use just a tiny bit of a gentle detergent like Woolite, and a soft-bristled brush for working out any stains. Dawn dish soap is great for removing menstrual blood stains, and so is hydrogen peroxide, though this may bleach your colored undies. If your opinion of handwashing your underwear is like mine, which is “ain’t nobody got time for that”, you can opt for machine washing. Cold water on the gentle/delicate cycle should be safe for most styles, and definitely put just a few pairs each in a mesh lingerie bag for laundering. Following the washing instructions on your particular undies, though, can help make them last longer. Which brings us to…

Toss it when it’s had enough:

When your underwear starts to develop thin spots or holes, fray around the edges, or the elastic is stretched out or shot, it’s time to throw it out. Permanently stained skivvies are also never sexy, so send them to the bin when they get like that. Underwear in bad condition not only looks less than cute when it counts, but the fit is compromised, too. This can cause sagging, bunching, falling down, or tearing further while you’re wearing it, which is never fun.

Since used underwear (thankfully) can’t be donated to most places who accept other clothing donations, the garbage is usually the easiest place for it. If you can’t stand the thought of wasting all that material, used underwear, as long as they’re clean and dry, can usually be donated to textile recycling programs like Retold Recycling, so see if anything like that is available where you live. They’ll also take those pit-stained old tees and bras with underwires jutting out, so fill a bag and free your closet from the clutter!

**A Note on “Swamp Ass”:

This post topic was partially prompted when I watched (in horror) as these men & women on this news show talked about “gooch grease” (excuse me while I go throw up based on that name alone) and how men are apparently now wearing maxi pads to prevent it. Gooch grease *gags*, or as I’ve always heard it called, “swamp ass”, is nothing new, and it can happen to both men and women. It’s simply a buildup of sweat & tiny particles of lingering fecal matter that accumulates in your butt crack and, exacerbated by heat and friction, may make your booty crack feel…and smell…kind of squishy and swampy. Here’s the thing though: wearing a maxi pad to “soak up” your swampiness will actually make it WORSE!

Maxi pads are made from synthetic, non-breathable materials including plastic, which, while absorbing most loose fluids, will actually make your butt sweat more, and cause that sweat to get more trapped in there! The best ways to truly prevent swamp ass are simply:

A) Keep yourself clean. Pay special attention to washing your entire groin area. It’s necessary to hand-scrub your butt crack and perineum – the area between your penis/vulva and your anus, and rinse it well when you shower or bathe every day. Most soaps and shower gels, including antibacterial body soaps, are perfectly safe for use on and around your genitals and anus; just try not to get the soap IN your orifices. Make sure you towel-dry yourself well in all the nooks and crannies of your groin area, too; trapping wetness will just cause things to get funky faster.

B) Wipe well. Part of the odor generated by an overly moist behind comes from fecal matter left behind after pooping. Make sure to wipe your butt, front to back, until the toilet paper comes out clean. Single use wipes (often marketed as flushable but usually not great for pipes and sewer systems) or even non-pipe-clogging refreshing toilet paper sprays may be an option at home or on the go if you need help getting things extra clean!

C) Keep things dry. Sweat and moisture is the main culprit in swamp ass/gooch grease/monkey butt, so the last thing you want to do is trap it there by wearing maxi pads. Prevent it by following the underwear hygiene tips above – sticking to breathable cotton undies and changing them whenever necessary. Talc-free, absorbent, and anti-chafing Anti Monkey Butt powder – which comes in a variety for men and one for women (though I think the main difference is just the fragrance) – is another great choice for keeping that region fresh and dry, even on the hottest, sweatiest days.

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