Have we been doing panties wrong?
Should those of us with vaginas be tossing out our underwear after a few months of wear?
Last week a TikTok claiming that women should toss out underwear every six to nine months to maintain a healthy vagina went viral, causing a ripple effect of responses. The first wave was of course shock and concern; this was news to most people who have been living their lives blissfully unaware that a silent threat lurked in their underwear drawers. Most responses were from folks admitting that they did no such thing, which I found reassuring as the owner of underwear old enough to vote.
Next were the experts, who responded with a resounding "huh?"
In her response to the original TikTok, which itself has nearly fifty thousand views at the time of writing, Dr. Jennifer Garner, OB/GYN, author of The Vagina Bible and The Menopause Manifesto explains "that’s simply not the case," and that "when people tell you that you need to do really special things with your underwear that's just an extension of purity culture, that's the idea that the vagina and vula is delicate, and sort of the harbinger of an infectious apocalypse and you have to do all this sort of special maintenance, it's not true at all."
In the coming days more experts would express the same sentiment- this 'rule' was no more than a myth, and one that perpetuated harmful misconceptions about the vagina and vulva that can themselves lead to health problems.
So what was the deal with the original TikTok that started the discussion (I won't link it, because the more it is viewed the more it will be recommended to TikTok users)? As some suggested, maybe it was a marketing ploy by big underwear. Maybe it was just the user trying to share something they thought was important information. It may have also been a successful attempt to create a controversial video that would prompt a lot of engagement.
What should you be doing with your underwear? Probably what you have always done. Wash it regularly, ideally with warm or hot water and detergent- gentle or unscented if you or your body prefer. Cotton is best for day-to-day wear because it breaths better than synthetic materials.
Occasionally clothes including underwear can take on smells that linger even after washing, especially if they are left in a gym bag or hamper for a while. Soaking them in vinegar or a baking soda solution before washing can help. If it doesn't, it may be time to toss them for your nose's sake, not so much for your health.
As far as replacing underwear goes, do it as frequently (or infrequently) as you like. Our habits should be informed by our preferences, and not weird TikTok myths.