Period underwear can sound daunting — maybe even a little messy. Their multiple-layered designs, however, make them absorbent, anti-odor, anti-microbial, and anti-bacterial, and their cleaning process is actually quite simple. Not to mention, they are also a much more sustainable option compared to tampons and pads, which makes them a great product for women looking for an alternative.

Whether you’re new to period underwear or have been using them for a while and need a refresh, we’ve got you covered! Follow along for a step-by-step guide to cleaning and maintaining the quality of your period underwear.  

three pairs of period underwear line drying

How to wash period underwear, step-by-step: 

1. Rinse in cold water

As with any stain, cold water is key. You never want to use hot water when trying to get something out of your clothing, and the same goes for period underwear. Rinse them under cold running water until the water runs clear. This will not only prevent stains but excess build-up as well. 

2. Choose a delicate cycle

If you're planning to use a washing machine, be sure to follow the instructions on your underwear’s manufacturer’s tag. In general, however, intimate items are almost always recommended to be washed on a gentle or delicate cycle.

Period underwear is made of several layers of different fabrics designed to absorb, wick, and hold liquids, aka your menstrual blood. The fabric of these layers will vary from product to product, but to maintain their condition, it’s best to wash them in a delicate cycle. 

3. Keep it cool

Just like the water you pre-rinsed them in, use cold water in your washing machine to clean your period underwear. Some might even recommend using a garment bag to prevent any snags. 

4. Fighting stains

If you have stubborn stains that won’t lift in the wash, you can pre-treat them before going in the machine.

Using a stain-fighting liquid detergent, you can apply a small amount of the detergent directly to the stain and scrub it with a soft-bristled toothbrush.

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Wait 5-10 minutes, and then run it in the washing machine with a cold, delicate cycle.

woman putting a laundry detergent pod in the washing machine

5. Line dry

Air drying will be the best option to maintain the quality and uphold the longevity of your period underwear, as dryer heat can damage the fabrics and compromise their effectiveness. If you are in a crunch and need to use a dryer, use the lowest possible heat setting, but try to avoid making this a regular part of your washing routine. 

As with any products you purchase, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. Some period underwear might vary in care instructions, such as using a garment bag, hand wash only, types of detergents to use, etc. In general, however, most are the same when it comes to the essentials: rinse in cold, wash in cold, pre-treat stains if needed, and line dry. Simple steps for a simple, yet sustainable menstrual care option for women!

Brighid Flynn is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia where she lives with her husband and puppy. She is just beginning her journey toward motherhood.