Does Period Underwear Actually Work?

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Knocking out tampons and pads is good for the body and the earth, which sounds nice. However, if you’re like us, the idea of sitting in your own flow all day or night, well, it doesn’t sit right. Our skeptical minds have largely been shifted after taking some out for a spin and chatting with experts about how period underwear actually works. If you’re on the fence, let us educate you about this more comfortable, more sustainable option to make that time of the month a bit easier.

How does period underwear work?

Let’s not overcomplicate things here—period underwear works essentially just as it sounds. They’re made to be worn when you’re menstruating to absorb the flow. Then you can go without tampons, pads or cups. Sara Seward, founder of ENUF Period says the brand, style and amount of absorbance varies, so it’s important to find the right one for you and your cycle.

They’re generally reusable and machine-washable making them super eco-friendly and easy to use. Most brands boast multilayer liner technology to provide protection and moisture-wicking capabilities to absorb liquid. They tend to have options accommodating everything from light to heavy flows with different levels of absorbance.

Will period underwear really work for a heavy flow?

Most brands measure the underwear by absorbency. Thinx’s highest absorbance is five tampons worth of flow. Rael’s most absorbent can soak up three tampons worth of flow. Hanes currently has a moderate option but is soon launching high-absorbency underwear. “For some customers, Thinx will last the whole day, others may need to carry an extra pair as a backup. If you feel damp or notice your flow spreading to the seams, that is an indicator you should change into a fresh pair,” advises the Thinx spokesperson.

Seward says she can attest to the period underwear’s power. “I’ve personally tested period underwear for heavy flow days, usually during the night, and have seen them work extremely well, though everyone’s body and cycle is different,” she says.

How do you wash period underwear?

Period underwear can last for years, just like regular underwear, if cared for properly, and it’s actually not that challenging. Powell recommends rinsing with cold water until the water runs clear. Once you’ve rinsed it, turn the garment inside out. Then you can wash them alongside your other laundry, so long as you don’t use fabric softener or bleach.

“Washing machines will dilute the blood almost immediately. Your other clothes will not stain if you’re washing cold,” says the Thinx spokesperson. Park advises hang drying the underwear, and since they’re a bit thicker, they have a 24-48 hour drying time. 

“If you’re using period underwear as your only form of period care, sans tampon, it can be a bit messy,” warns Seward. However, she adds that “if you’re a period-having person, I think we’re all used to it being a bit messy from time to time.”

Is period underwear healthier for our bodies than tampons, pads and cups?

Sorah Park, chief marketing officer at Rael, says, “period underwear can be looked at as a safer alternative to tampons and menstrual cups as there is no risk of toxic shock syndrome or injury.” She adds that those with sensitive skin may also prefer to opt for period underwear since there is less risk of irritation since they’re similar to everyday underwear.

Seward notes that if you’re still not on board with organic cotton tampons, period underwear is certainly a healthier option. A spokesperson for Thinx says the brand “was founded to provide safe, comfortable, and sustainable options for people with periods and bladder leaks.” All of their products are rigorously and independently tested for harmful chemicals to ensure that every component, from fabric to trim, is ecological and safe.

Period underwear is more comfortable

Why wear period underwear? Comfort, says Jaye Powell, marketing vice president of Hanes Women’s. Period underwear “is a simple alternative to helping women enjoy daily life on their most vulnerable days,” she explains. “They are uniquely designed to help you stay comfortable and confident….even when sleeping.” Rather than leaving a tampon in overnight or wearing bulky pads, opt for a thin, comfy pair of underwear. Although the washing portion of the process might get a bit messy, Seward says the “comfortability of this option outweighs the mess.”

Period underwear is more sustainable

I don’t know about you, but we go through extra toilet paper, a box of tampons and a handful of pads while on our period. Not only is it a hassle to buy all of this, but it’s also a huge waste of plastic and other materials every month. As a reusable item, period underwear could be a game-changer for the environment if more people got on board. “Reusable underwear spares our trash cans from overflowing with pads, tampons, and panty liners. Therefore significantly decreasing the number of period products that end up in landfills,” says the Thinx spokesperson.

Period underwear saves you money

Remember all those period-related products we were just talking about? You can spare your wallet those costs if you opt for period underwear. “People with periods would no longer have to restock their period product supply monthly. This saves both the planet and money over time,” points out the Thinx spokesperson. 

Prices vary across brands but tend to fall between $20 for three pairs to $50 for one pair. Although this might sound steep, remember it’s replacing all the monthly supplies, and we all know a box of tampons can run you up $15. Powell notes that period underwear allows you to have “premium period protection without the premium price tag.”

Period underwear can work alongside other products for extra protection

“Depending on your flow, it can be a total replacement for disposable products or paired with other period products for extra protection and peace of mind,” says the Thinx spokesperson. Park suggests using them as a backdrop on heavy flow days for extra insurance. Seward adds that she loves the “added feeling of protection, knowing leaking through to your clothes is less likely to happen.”

Period underwear could also be used for other liquids

The Thinx spokesperson notes that period underwear doesn’t have to stop at period care. “They can be worn for daily use to keep you dry from any unwanted liquid or sweat with its moisture-wicking technology, all in a variety of styles.” They’re an especially great option for those with occasional bladder leaks.

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