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The truth about period pants

Laura Harcourt

Written byLaura Harcourt

heeral-patel-bio

Reviewed byHeeral Patel

h&b breaks the taboo on period pants
If you’re thinking of giving period pants a try but are unsure where to begin, our guide will give you all the information you need to get started.
Are you thinking of switching from pads and tampons to period pants but have some questions about it first? You’re in the right place.

Our handy guide provides you with the info you need to know about period pants before you give them a go, so you know what to expect and how to choose the right ones for you. Let’s get started.

What are period pants?

Period pants are similar to your regular underwear, but you can wear them during your period instead of a tampon, pad or cup. People may also call them menstrual underwear.

Period pants absorb your period, are completely leakproof and have no smell. They’re also washable and should last around two to three years while keeping the same level of protection, so one pair can last a long time!1

Why is everyone talking about period pants now?

Why is everyone talking about period pants now?

Recent innovation within menstrual products has offered people more choices and alternatives to traditional sanitary pads and tampons. And with more people adopting a sustainable lifestyle and advocating zero waste, period pants present a sustainable alternative to single-use feminine hygiene products.

Each year in the UK, we use around 3.3 billion units of single-use menstrual products, generating an estimated 28,114 tonnes of waste.1 Research estimates that switching to reusable underwear could reduce waste from pads by 17,062 tonnes annually.1

So, how do period pants work?

Period pants work by absorbing the blood in the same way as pads, but you don’t have to throw them away after each use – you just wear them exactly like you would your everyday underwear.

Period pants have several layers of fabric. Among these are:
  • a moisture-wicking inner layer that pulls liquid away from your skin and keeps you dry 
  • absorbent antimicrobial mid-layers that hold menstrual fluid and control odour for long-lasting freshness 
  • a leak-proof layer design to keep you feeling secure throughout the day 
  • breathable outer fabric
These layers work together to keep you protected and feeling fresh throughout the day.

Do period pants leak?

Period pants don’t usually leak due to the many layers of absorbent fabric and the waterproof layer that locks in the blood.

However, nothing is foolproof. Period pants may occasionally leak if they fit poorly, aren’t changed regularly, or when the absorbency of the pants doesn’t align with your blood flow.

How often do you need to change period pants?

Most people change their pants every four to six hours, depending on how light or heavy their period is and the absorbency of their pants.3

If you have heavy periods, you may consider using period pants with another menstrual product, such as a menstrual cup.4

If you only want to wear period underwear (with no other product), we recommend investing in a few different pairs that you can wear on rotation.

Manufacturers of period pants often recommend having seven pairs for one cycle. These can include three pairs for days with heavier flow, two for lighter days and two for moderate absorbency.1

Period pants are available in various styles and designs to match your mood and wardrobe.

Steps for washing period pants

It’s important to follow the care instructions that come with your underwear to prolong their lifespan and effectiveness.5

Generally speaking, washing period pants requires no more effort than washing your regular underwear. You can wash your period underwear using the following steps:
  • rinse: after use, rinse your underwear in cold water to remove excess blood 
  • wash: machine wash at 30 or 40 degrees – washing them with your other clothes is fine. Avoid fabric softener or harsh detergents, as they can damage the absorbent layers and affect how well your period pants work 
  • dry: air-dry your period pants. They may take longer to dry than your regular underwear due to the various layers of materials. Some manufacturers advise that it’s okay to tumble dry period pants on a low setting. However, others say to avoid tumble drying as it can degrade the materials and reduce their absorbance over time

Manufacturers design period pants to be stain-resistant and scent-free, so as long as you take proper care of your pants and change them regularly as you would with pads, they shouldn’t smell.

If you notice an unpleasant odour, this may be due to not washing them correctly or enough.

In this case, washing them and drying them in the open air should help keep them smelling fresh. You could also try soaking them in a mixture of vinegar and water before washing them.6

What types of period pants are there?

These days, period pants are available in all sorts of different styles and absorbency levels, so you can tailor them to your preferences and flow intensity.

Period pants are often available in the following absorbency types: 
  • light flow: these are appropriate for the days when you only need light protection, such as at the beginning or end of your period or when you have light spotting and discharge 
  • moderate flow: these are suitable for use during mid-period flow, absorbing the equivalent of two to three pads or tampons 
  • heavy flow: these keep you dry during your heaviest menstrual bleeds and when you have blood clots, absorbing up to four to ten pads or tampons worth of blood
Period pants come in lots of different styles too. Common styles of period pants include: 
Some brands also design period pants for use as swimwear (very handy if you’re on your period on holiday) or in the style of shorts for maximum coverage – great for everything from those heavy-flow nights to protecting you from leaks while you’re working out.

Discover comfort and confidence with our range of period pants here.

The difference between period pants, tampons, pads, and cups

Still not sure whether to stick with pads and tampons or swap to period underwear?

We’ve created the table below to highlight the key differences between each product to help you decide.
  Period pants Tampons Pads Menstrual cups
Reusable? Yes No No Yes
Internal or external use? External Internal External Internal
Different asborbencies? Yes Yes Yes Yes
When to change? 4-6 hours 4-6 hours 4-6 hours 4-6 hours
Upfront cost* £££ £ £ £££

*Reusable products cost more upfront, but they may save you money in the long run.7

Tips for using period pants

To round things off, you can try some of our top tips to maximise the effectiveness and comfort of your period pants: 
  • put your period pants in a mesh laundry bag before washing them. This will help protect the fabric, prolong the life of the pants, and help you find them more easily when drying your clothes 
  • if you have heavy bleeding, experience leaks or feel wet, you need to change your period pants more often 
  • store your period pants in a waterproof bag until you put them in the washing machine to prevent staining other clothes in your laundry basket 
  • if you feel uncertain about wearing period pants, there’s nothing wrong with also wearing a tampon, pad, or menstrual cup for extra protection until you’re ready. Similarly, you could wear them at home for the first time until you get used to them 
  • match the absorbency level of the period pants to your current flow to avoid leakage 
  • choose a style based on what you’re wearing or your daily activities. Many brands have options for use during various sports and even have seamless ‘no VPL’ versions for wearing under more figure-hugging clothing

The final say

The final say

Period pants offer a comfortable, convenient and sustainable option for managing menstrual flow. Their innovative design and eco-friendly materials provide a reusable alternative to traditional pads and tampons.

Switching to period pants can be daunting if you’ve always used pads or tampons. However, it can be beneficial. Not only are they available in various sizes, styles, designs and absorbency levels, but they’re also comfortable and help reduce waste from single-use menstrual products.

If you’re ready to give period pants a go, make sure you follow the guidelines on the packaging and choose the right size and absorbency for you.

Discover more women’s health articles on the Health Hub.

Sources

1. Blair LAG, et al. An exploratory study of the impact and potential of menstrual hygiene management waste in the UK. Cleaner Engineering and Technology. 2022;7:100435. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clet.2022.100435
2. VanLeeuwen C, et al. Exploring menstrual practices and potential acceptability of reusable menstrual underwear among a Middle Eastern population living in a refugee setting. International Journal of Women’s Health. 2018;Volume 10:349–60. https://doi.org/10.2147/IJWH.S152483
4. Liberty A, et al. Menstrual technology innovations and the implications for heavy menstrual bleeding. Obstetrics & Gynecology [Internet]. 2023;141(4):666–73. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10026971
5. CDC. Menstrual Hygiene [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 26]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/hygiene/personal-hygiene/menstrual.html
6. NHS. Period products [Internet]. Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust. [cited 2024 Feb 27]. Available from: https://www.gosh.nhs.uk/conditions-and-treatments/general-health-advice/period-products
7. Studman A. Can switching to period pants save you money? - Which? News [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 27]. Available from: https://www.which.co.uk/news/article/can-switching-to-period-pants-save-you-money-anvED2W1XKSg
 
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