You've (Probably) Been Washing Your Underwear Wrong Your Entire Life

Do you wash at 30ºC or 40ºC? Your pants could be full of faecal matter.

When hygiene experts gave us their views on how often you should wash your clothes, one particular comment shook us to the core.

Dr Lisa Ackerley, aka The Hygiene Doctor, told us washing at 30ºC or 40ºC could leave your knickers (or boxers) a pooey, bacteria-filled mess.

“With knickers and pants, anything under 60 degrees won’t kill bacteria,” she said. “Don’t put the knickers in with the tea towels on a low wash, because you might have faecal contamination in your knickers and you wouldn’t want that near your kitchen.”

Sorry, what? We’ve been throwing underwear in with the rest of our clothes since the dawn of time! Or when it comes to fancy lace, washing by hand.

If you’re unable to put your underwear on a hot wash, particularly with delicate lingerie, Dr Ackerley recommended washing on a cooler setting and adding a laundry sanitiser, which can be bought from the supermarket.

Getty/HuffPost UK

Naturally, we wanted a second opinion on this revelation, but things seemed to get even worse. Immunologist Dr Jenna Macciochi, from the University of Sussex, told us if hygiene is your top priority, washing at 60ºC might not even be enough.

“60°C cannot really be relied upon to kill all bacteria, especially if the machine only reaches this temperature for a short time – most don’t maintain this temperature for the entire cycle,” she said.

But here’s a curveball: if the environment is your top priority, Julian Kirby, plastics campaigner at Friends of the Earth, urges you to keep washing at a low temperature.

“As much as two thirds of our clothes contain plastics – like polyester, nylon and acrylic – which shed millions of micro-fibres, when they are washed,” he explained. “These fibres can pass through treatment plants and into our seas.

“They eventually end up in our food chain when they are swallowed by small ocean creatures. Turning the temperature down can help cut down on this pollution.” It’ll also save energy consumption and lower your bills, he said.

So, what now? Choose between the environment or... clean pants?

To be honest, hygiene whizzes might not approve of our current, low energy washes – but we’re yet to experience death by knickers. Maybe we’ve mastered the art of wiping, or perhaps a little faecal matter never hurt anyone.

The jury is out.