What with home working and curfews, we’ve been pretty much living in our pants for the last wee while.
But for 22% of men, those pants aren’t even fresh out of the drawer.
A survey by OnBuy found that one in five men don’t change their underwear every day – and women aren’t much better at 18%.
The research – for which the company surveyed 2,790 people – found that 1 in 20 men re-wear their underwear more than five times before washing them.
Additionally, OnBuy found that most repeat wearers have a particular method of sorting dirty clothing. 25% of men and 20% of women decide to re-wear items if they don’t smell dirty, with a further 29% of men and 30% of women doing so if they’re not visibly dirty.
Of course it’s normal to recoil in horror at this, even if you yourself have reworn a pair at a festival once or sat in the same pair during a hungover weekend as a schlubby student.
But these habitual pant re-wearers do walk among us, and you probably work with and are friends with them.
Also, there are myriad reasons why someone might choose (or be forced to) not to change underwear daily – whether it’s due to lack of washing facilities or for environmental reasons.
Turning your knickers inside out is unlikely to cause you serious issues, but there’s a reason why people are advised to change their pants specifically every day.
Dr Nichola Cosgrove, skincare specialist at Natura Emporium tells Metro.co.uk: ‘We have naturally occurring bacteria in our genitals that will happily stay at their normal levels as long as we use the correct hygiene products and correctly fitting underwear, wash ourselves after a particularly sweating activity etc.
‘Obviously bacteria transfers throughout the day onto our underwear, through natural sweating and also if you don’t clean yourself correctly or sufficiently after going to the toilet, normal bodily secretions and just general faecal matter transfers from breaking gas – disgusting to think about it, but very true.
‘Underwear in a way acts as a barrier to protect our clothes, as it’s easier to wash our underwear regularly then our clothes. By not changing your underwear every day you will start to have an accumulation of bacteria like Escherichia coli, staphylococcus, streptococcus and many others that are perfectly normal and useful when they remain at their required levels.
‘However because they thrive in a warm and humid environment, they will start to multiply out of control. The effects of these can be as simple as a bad odour, a rash, excess itching, to full on yeast infections, urinary tract infections and potentially life threatening staph infections.’
Dr Nichola recommends ironing underwear if you’re really concerned about bacteria. The high heat from the steam should kill off anything dangerous that the washing cycle doesn’t.
Kal Bulbul, founder and chief formulator of R¹⁰ Labs Skincare specialises in the skin’s microbiome tells Metro.co.uk that these trillions of bacteria (‘the newest organ modern science has showed as being essential to health’) are great in standard numbers, but can be dangerous when they get into high levels..
He says: ‘Our body relies on beneficial microbes to help keep us healthy as well.
‘When garments are in close contact with our skin, especially underwear, which is in constant close contact with our intimate areas, can end up harbouring pathogenic microbes which are harmful to human health.’
When we wash clothes – regardless of which detergent we use – there’s still some bacteria left.
But, as Kal continues: ‘Thankfully, the combination of our skin, immune system and our healthy skin microbiomes will keep the pathogenic microbes in check.
‘However, with any system, if the pathogenic microbes are in sufficiently high numbers, or our immune or microbiome is compromised, this can lead to microbial infections and causing various illnesses such as inflammation, abscesses, and urinary tract infections to name a few.
‘In the medical world, prevention is always better than the cure. To help our natural barriers against infection, we should ensure garments are washed using gentle products which do not irritate the skin, skincare products which do not disrupt the delicate skin microbiome balance and of course, regular washing of garments to remove pathogenic microbes..’
The crux of the issue is that our genitals provide a warm area for bacteria – some of which we need and some of which we don’t.
Although there are reasons why people might re-wear their underwear, even hand washing garments with hot water and antibacterial detergent (rather than using the machine) and leaving to air dry is still better than not changing.
From social issues like the smell to more pressing worries like UTIs, habitual pant re-wearing can have consequences, so if you can change and wash you really should.
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