Biocides: our opinion and keeping your period underwear clean
When creating our dais period underwear and bladder leak underwear, we decided not to use biocides- in all honesty, the decision wasn’t easy, so I wanted to walk you through the decision-making process and share the information we have collected.
What are biocides and how are they used on period or leak underwear?
Biocides are used to protect people from bacteria, viruses, and fungi through a chemical or biological action1. An example of a biocide would be a hand sanitiser. Biocides can also be implanted into textiles, allowing viruses and bacteria to be fought off whilst wearing the item of clothing. There are many different clothing items that have this technology integrated into it, such as sports clothing or underwear. Most commonly, silver chloride is used to treat clothing or underwear because it can be easily integrated into the clothing, does not come at a great cost in manufacturing and is effective at fighting bacteria and viruses. They are additionally great odour neutralisers which is an added benefit for sports clothing and underwear in particular.
My experience with biocides and how it affected our decision making
Both Eva and I were involved in the topic of biocides in our previous jobs where we were able to generate our individual opinions. In general, I live by the “strong opinions, loosely held” mantra, and therefore am always open to understanding both sides of arguments and debating the issue. In this case however, the information out there does make it really difficult to form a decision because quite frankly, it is vague. On the one hand, periods are not unhygienic- they are a naturally occurring bodily function. By this premise, if you do not have a problem with your normal underwear on a daily basis, why should you have a problem with absorbent underwear? Then again, normal underwear should be washed hygienically as bacteria build up could result in infections and/or odour concerns and as dais underwear cannot be washed hot, it did make us feel concerned.
On the other hand, there was the option to use silver chloride like most other brands do. This however concerned me personally- if my period and my vaginal fluids in general are not unhygienic, then why do I permanently need to be fighting all the bacteria whilst wearing my underwear? I also was not comfortable with the idea that there would be no control of whether the underwear was only fighting the “bad” bacteria or if it would also be working against my good bio-flora which I know is vital to my health downstairs. I also knew that silver chloride washes out over time: making the underwear less effective but also allowing the biocides to seep into the water systems2.
Having worked with biocides in the past, we knew that there were no official studies or recommendations by government bodies indicating whether biocides could have negative impacts on the body, and in particular the intimate area. What we did know though, is that the Federal Environment Ministry of Germany warns of possible consequences of biocides such as allergic reactions, impairment in the natural bacterial flora and the development of resistance in pathogens. This alone was enough to make our decision: silver chloride is a NO, biocides are a NO, clever washing instructions are a YES and that we want to spend more time in the future investigating and learning so that we can make the right decision for our brand and products.
Our recommendations for effective cleaning of dais underwear
We recommend washing our dais underwear at 40 degrees maximum. This is to ensure that the garment lasts the 2-3 years that we designed it to, but also to maintain the layers that are inside. These layers are pivotal to the product function and because they are a mix of various materials, we need to ensure none of them shrink or misshape in the wash. In general, modern detergents are pretty effective at lower temperatures, we recommend using liquid ones as powders sometimes struggle to dissolve at lower temperatures which makes them less effective.3 We also recommend washing out the underwear in the sink with cold water before throwing them in the wash. Cold water is much more effective at removing blood from fabric than warm or hot water4.
If you want to be 100% sure that your underwear is disinfected, you can buy laundry disinfectant at your local drugstore or supermarket. It is very cost effective and in one cold wash cycle can guarantee a 99% cull of bacteria and viruses5. Please be cautious to use one without bleach as this can discolour the underwear. Another, more natural option is to add 1 cup of 5% white vinegar to your wash6. You might think this would cause a vinegar smell but actually, it is odour neutralising and is a natural anti-bacterial agent.
What’s to come in the future?
We do not claim to be experts, we are just trying to learn and explore the options to bring you a product that works the best for your needs. If we find something that we believe offers effective disinfection without risking any of the negative side effects, you can bet that we will begin using it. However, until then, we are happy to recommend simple and easy tips to allow you to safely treat your underwear to ensure they last for a long time and look after your body.