TikTok underwear 'rule' sparks major confusion

Kristine Tarbert
·Features and Health Editor
·4-min read

A viral TikTok video that suggests people should bin their undergarments every six to nine months has sparked a huge reaction online, leaving plenty of people confused by what the actual rule is – or if there even is one?

In the clip, posted by user Kitty Chemist, a woman asks: “How often should you throw out underwear? Six months? Once a year?” Her answer: “6-9 months".

How often should you replace your underwear? (Photo: Getty Images)
How often should you replace your underwear? Photo: Getty Images

"Not all bacteria, pathogens and fibres can be removed during washing!" she explained further in the clip, in which she explained her experience from suffering a yeast infection, which was eventually put down to her underwear.

"For the longest time I did not know this at all until I had to find out for myself," she said, adding that five years ago, she got “recurring infections” for which she saw a gynaecologist who inquired about the material of her underwear.

According to Kitty Chemist, the cotton strip on her lace underwear carried traces of vaginal bacteria and the texture irritated her skin.

But many viewers were unconvinced by the claim.

“I definitely don’t do that. I think I have underwear that’s probably a decade old. And … Am I the only one? Did anyone know this nine month rule?," one person asked.

"I still have underwear I got in eighth grade and I'm 22," another echoed the same sentiment.

“I cannot afford that," was another response, while a fourth person flagged: "Don’t do this. Wasteful. Bad for the environment."

tik tok underwear 6-9months throw away
A woman claimed one should throw underwear out regularly. Photo: Tik Tok

In another video, the woman responded to comments that her claims were untrue, pointing to a 2019 article published in Essence.

“Never keep panties for more than 6-9 months,” Dr. Tosha Rogers, an Atlanta-based OBGYN, wrote in the article.

“There is a reason that they are $5 ladies: they are not meant to be held as family heirlooms. Buy 4 or 5 new undies every six months and simultaneously toss out 4 or 5 old ones.”

Dr Rogers explained "discharge happens as a natural occurrence" and is "not always malodorous or infected"

"With that being said, your panties are the receptors of all the discharge. You remove your panties at the end of the day and toss them in the wash, which is typically done every week or so. Until laundry day, the discharge is soaked into the cotton crotch of the panties, creating a layer of bacteria (as in vaginitis), yeast and mould. Yes, mould. Unfortunately, conventional (natural or not) detergents are not designed specifically to remove these particular pathogens and mould.”

The clip however sparked an incredulous reaction from other doctors.

“Somehow at six to nine months your underwear magically becomes some type of infectious catastrophe and that’s simply not the case,” Dr. Jen Gunter, author of The Vagina Bible, said in her own TikTok.

“When people tell you that you need to do really special things with your underwear, that is just an extension of purity culture. OK? It’s this idea that the vagina and vulva are delicate and the harbinger of sort of an infectious apocalypse and there’s all this sort of special maintenance. It’s not true at all."

She also added that "vaginal discharge bleaching dark underwear at the crotch is normal".

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So do you need to throw out your underwear every 6-9 months?

Jennifer Meyers, a certified nurse midwife and Mayo Clinic spokesperson, tells Yahoo while there may be some truth to the idea that bacteria can linger on freshly laundered underwear, tossing it within a specific time frame is not a “hard-and-fast rule.”

“Any article of clothing that can be laundered thoroughly doesn’t necessarily need to be discarded,” she says.

“Additionally, a woman’s own vaginal fluid is rarely harmful to her own body.”

Jennifer advises washing underwear (and any other garment in direct contact with the armpit or genitals) with warm or hot soapy water after each use.

It's good advice for those who participated in a 2019 survey by clothing retailer Tommy John, which found that 45 percent of people reported wearing the same pair of underwear for two days or longer and 13 percent to wearing the same pair for a week or longer. Male participants were two-and-half times more likely than women to skip laundry day.

Additional reporting Elise Solé.

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