They are comfy, worn-out, faded, and probably have a stain or two. The elastic bands have lost their grip, and they probably have a couple more holes than you are willing to admit. So, is there a time frame for replacing your undies?
As a healthcare professional, Tembi Henisi from Gardens Cape Town who recently relocated to England, says that she keeps her underwear for six months and discards them when they are no longer in an acceptable condition.
“I believe that everyone should bath twice a day, in the morning and evening, to maintain cleanliness and freshness. We are all familiar with the discomfort caused by urine and perspiration, particularly when it is hot.”
For others, wearing underwear is optional.
An anonymous artist from Cape Town tells Health For Mzansi that there is nothing more liberating than the ability to not wear underwear, particularly when you’re at home.
If she is wearing undies, she too will replace her underwear every six months.
Hygiene is important
There are different reasons for wearing underwear.
According to Dr Manduleli Bikitsha from Khayelitsha, the primary function of underwear is to protect the genitalia from germs and damage, and to hold sanitary towels in place during menstruation.
“Therefore, modifying and retaining them, or changing them, relies on what specifically prompted one to do so.”
A microbiology professor at the New York University, Phillip Tierno, tells Refinery29 that as long as you are washing your undies after use, then there is no expiration date for undies. If the elastics have given up though, then you should give up on those knickers.
“As long as you’re washing and disinfecting your underwear, and they’re mechanically functional, with no holes, and they’re not soiled, you can keep those,” Tierno says. “When they become frayed or the elastic stops working, you’ll know to replace them.”
How often do you have to wash your undies?
While a lifespan of six months may be the general rule of thumb, it does not mean that you are gross for keeping your undies over this period. Washing is the best way to prevent germs.
Babalwa Yose, a book publisher from Pietermaritzburg, says that when she heard that washing underwear in warm water and letting them dry in the sun is the most effective way to eradicate germs, she stuck to that as a norm.
While Henisi says that changing her underwear twice a day is beneficial, she has always done so to prevent conditions that might be caused by the quality of the clothing we wear every day.
“I prefer latex-free undergarments, and when I go to bed, I wash and sleep without them. I don’t feel comfortable until I have to use a pad during my period.”
To go commando or not?
Bikitsha believes that changing underwear twice a day is sufficient for health reasons. He says torn or not, owners may keep their underwear for as long as they like.
“An allergy to the textile materials, such as silk, spandex or cotton is one of the most important reasons why individuals constantly change their underwear,” he says.
“These difficulties drive some to change their underwear more often each day because they may cause itch, feelings of discomfort, or even inflammatory sensations.”
Bikitsha suggests that people should choose which undergarment best complements their physique. And there is no need to establish a timeframe for purchasing new underwear, he says; it is not obligatory.