OK, it’s time to come clean. If you live in isolation, you may not feel the need to change your clothes every day. Or at all. And if that’s the case, you’re probably wearing a pair of underwear due for a wash. But what if you wore that same underwear every day for a year?
Would your groin become infected? How much medication would your body need? And could your underwear even survive an entire year?
With the comforts of the outside world available at the press of a virtual button, our daily cleaning routines may have changed slightly. And even before we went into lock-down for COVID-19, some people just wouldn’t change their undies. In 2019, a survey by clothing retailer Tommy John found that 45% of people wore their underwear for more than two days in a row.
I mean, if you didn’t have to see anyone in person, maybe you would feel less obligated to change your underwear. But if you broke this unspoken social contract, how soon would you develop a skin condition?
First off, if you were going to wear the same underwear for 365 days straight, you’d need to pick something that would provide comfort and protection. So leave the thongs and boxers in the drawer. Try to pick underwear made from cotton, which naturally wicks away moisture. And believe me, that’ll be important later. Polyester or silk might do the job as well, but if you’re allergic to these fabrics, you’re going to have a rough year.
Since you won’t be washing your underwear in this experiment, you won’t have to worry about getting contaminated by bacteria from other people’s laundry. After all, your underwear would collect enough bacteria on its own. But not washing your undergarments with your housemates’ laundry would cut down on cross-contamination.
And about 40% of “sterile” clothes still contain fecal matter when washed in a non-bleach laundry detergent. But what about the bacteria living in your unwashed underwear?
As the days go on, your unmentionables would collect moisture and fecal matter. Every trip to the bathroom and every drop of sweat would stay in this fabric prison around your groin. According to Dr. Charles Gerba, every used undergarment contains 0.10 g (0.003 oz) of fecal matter. That means you would be exposed to E.coli and maybe even get a staph infection.
After only two days, you would notice the excess moisture, and the smells would begin building up. And everyone unfortunate enough to be around you would smell it too. The hairs here would trap stains and secretions, letting bacteria enter even further into your body.
The excess bacteria living on the fabric would rub against your skin and could give you a yeast infection or jock itch. And you can forget about using over-the-counter creams to treat this rash. Over time, this skin condition would get so bad that you would have to resort to prescription antibiotics. And if left untreated, the bacteria could travel up into your body, giving you a urinary tract infection.
Your skin would develop pimples around the infected area. Ingrown hairs would begin to pop up, and you would be itchy almost every moment of the day. The filth and the fluids building up in your underwear would break down the fabric. Fecal matter from the back would move to the front.
And after all this abuse, the moisture might cause your undergarments to break down and disintegrate before the year ends. With so much of your health on the line in such a thin layer of clothing, wearing one dirty pair of underwear every day could do more than damage your relationships. You could destroy your body from the outside in. But if your goal were to keep people at arm’s length, you could try something less damaging to your private parts. Like, what if you didn’t wash your hands for a year?
- “Have There Ever Been Deaths From Boric Acid Suppositories?“. 2021. Healthline.
- “I Spent All Day Trying To Boost My Sleep—These Are The Products That Helped Me Do It“. 2021. Well+Good.
- “Your Dirty Underwear Is Contaminating Your Fresh Laundry“.Bogart, Nicole. 2019. Ctvnews.
- “Four Unpleasant Things That Can Happen If You Don’t Wash Your Undies Enough.”.Donnelly, Keryn, and Keryn Donnelly. 2017. Mamamia.
- “6 Gross & Dangerous Things That Happen If You Wear The Same Underwear Two Days In A Row“. 2017. Bustle.