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What Are Period Underwear? Your Ultimate Guide

Last Updated: February 22, 2022

If you’ve stumbled across the term “period pants” or “period underwear” lately, you might be wondering what in the world these are and why period-havers are using them. 

Period underwear has become one of the most popular menstrual products around and they are continuing to grow as people try them out. Keep reading our ultimate guide to what period panties are and why you should try a pair, pronto. 

What Are Period Underwear?

Period panties are exactly as they sound: a reusable, washable pair of underwear designed to capture your period blood. They look and feel like regular underwear, with plenty of layers using highly absorbent, moisture-wicking fabric that soaks up menstrual blood. 

Most brands advertise different amounts of holding power. For example, Thinx offers pairs from half a tampon all the way up to 5 tampons worth. Similar to pads, you’re able to shop period underwear based on how much holding power you’d prefer. 

When washed correctly, period underwear can last 2–5 years. That’s a lot of menstrual products that don’t end up in landfills, not to mention the money saved since the average person spends around $150 per year on menstrual products. 

How to Wash Period Underwear

This is the part you’re probably worried about. It sounds gross to throw a soaked pair of underwear in the washing machine, especially since some pairs can hold up to 5 tampons worth – that’s a lot of blood. 

To wash your period underwear, you will typically rinse it out thoroughly in the sink to get most of the liquid out, then throw it in the washing machine or hand wash them. For best results, use a mesh washing bag to keep your panties safe. 

Note: Most brands specify not to put them in the dryer as they will fall apart more quickly.

Do Period Underwear Actually Work?

Having tried many pairs of period underwear as well as almost every other type of menstrual product, I’ve become a huge advocate for period panties for the following reasons:

  • Most pairs last longer than tampons and even pads.
  • They are ultra-comfortable.
  • They’re easy to wash.
  • They aren’t messy like menstrual cups.
  • They’re beyond easy to use.
  • They’re a more sustainable option than disposable products.
  • They save money in the long run

I was using menstrual cups or tampons before switching to period panties – believe me when I tell you these babies are so much better

What about the downsides? One of the only downsides I’ve experienced with period panties is the initial cost investment. I wanted enough pairs to last my entire cycle without needing to worry about running out, so I purchased around 7 pairs. 

Depending on the brand and styles you pick, seven pairs can run you $100–$200. That said, you don’t need this many pairs, you can get away with as little as three pairs. Just hand wash them once you’re done using them, let them dry, and they’ll be ready for next time. 

I also recommend browsing through sale sections for better deals (check out Thinx last call) and buying from brands with bundle deals. Thinx, for example, offers 10% off – 20% off when you buy in bundles. 

There are also some brands coming out with more affordable period panties, such as Victoria’s Secret new line of period underwear that cost less than $20 a piece. I have yet to try these, so I can’t speak to the quality. 

Despite period undies being a bit of an investment, they will last up to 5 years with proper care, so you’re actually saving money in the long run.

Aside from this one downside, some higher absorbency pairs do feel a bit similar to a diaper. I have a pair of Sleep Shorts from Thinx that do feel like a little diaper-like, but they the entire night on my heaviest flows. And to be honest, the diaper feeling isn’t too bad – they’re so comfortable, I don’t even notice after a few minutes.

One other note – I do avoid these larger absorbency pairs when I want to wear tight pants. Bulkier pairs tend to show some serious underwear lines, but more lightweight pairs are typically fine.  

Bottom Line

Overall, period panties are here to stay. The convenient design paired with comfort and sustainability makes them a game-changer for menstrual products. There are very few downsides – I highly recommend anyone that bleeds once a month to try out a pair for themselves. 

The only real downside is the initial investment, especially if you want to have enough pairs for your entire cycle without worrying about laundry. That said, many brands do offer bundle deals and you can find some great sales. Also, some high-absorbency pairs feel slightly similar to a diaper and have large underwear lines that are hard to hide in tight pants, so I always make sure to stock up on medium or low absorbency options as well. 

In my opinion (and thousands of others’ opinions), the upsides of period underwear are far more significant than these small downsides. 

If you’re sold on period underwear and ready to stock up for your next shark week, here are a few top brands to shop from: 

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