Have you ever noticed small patches in your underwear have changed colour, or bleached slightly like this? Has this ever worried you or freaked you out?
Simply put, this is called bleaching, and it's completely normal. In fact, if you noticed discoloured patches on your panties and thought something was wrong with you, then you can relax because it is actually a good sign.
A bleached patch in your underwear means that your vagina is healthy. A healthy vagina has a natural pH value between 3.5 and 4.5, which means it is largely acidic, especially if your vagina is lower on the acidity scale, the acidity can then bleach natural fibres over time being exposed to the vaginal discharge.
WHY IS MY UNDERWEAR BLEACHING?
As I said, a healthy vagina is acidic. Over the course of your monthly cycle your vagina can produce large amounts of discharge, this is part of its healthy self-cleaning cycle. Sometimes, the pH levels can fluctuate because of a range of factors, including your hormones, sex life as well as your periods.
The pH scale is from 0 to 14 or 1 to 14, depending on your source. Either way, pure tap water falls in the middle at 7. Anything with a pH below 7 is acidic, including lemon juice (pH of 2), black coffee (pH of 5), urine (pH of 6), and...vaginal discharge!
The vagina has good bacteria called lactobacilli which keep your vagina healthy by maintaining these optimum acidity levels and preventing bad bacteria from developing or growing, causing infection. This discharge generally increases when you ovulate, which you may notice during your cycle, as well as during pregnancy. When this discharge is exposed to the air, it can cause this bleaching affect and produce a yellow or orange colour stain on your underwear due to oxidation.
Remember that the vagina produces approximately 4ml of discharge every day, and that’s a healthy amount. It is part of your vagina’s self-cleaning process!
If you feel that there’s more, and an excessive amount of discharge is being produced, then make sure to consult your doctor or gynaecologist.
It’s also completely normal if your underwear isn’t bleaching. There’s no need to worry if you’ve never spotted this colour change. The natural acidity of a healthy vagina can range from pH 3.5 to 4.5. If your vaginal discharge is closer to the 3.8 end of the scale, you’re more likely to see the bleaching occurring. However, if you’re closer to the 4.5, then it’s possible you won’t notice any bleaching, or if you do it’ll be after you’ve had a pair of undies for a few years!
Everyone’s vaginas are different, just because it’s not doing the same as everyone else’s, there’s no need to panic. However, if you feel something isn’t quite right, always check with a health care professional.
WHY DOES SOME OF MY UNDERWEAR BLEACH AND NOT OTHERS?
Great question. The more natural the fibres are the easier it is for them to bleach. Like Rosaseven period underwear, which is made entirely from natural fibres, the acidity in your discharge can bleach the fibres more easily, as opposed to the synthetic fibres of some underwear & period underwear brands, which don’t bleach easily or at all depending on the fibre content.
Bleaching is also more likely to be noticeable on your darker underwear than your lighter pairs which may still be bleaching; it’s just not as easy to spot.
HOW CAN I PREVENT MY UNDERWEAR FROM BLEACHING?
Now, whilst remembering that the bleaching that can happen is completely normal and healthy, it’s understandable that we may not want our underwear to stain this way, especially on those darker colours.
If you notice that you are producing more discharge around certain times of the month, you could try wearing period underwear at that time. This absorbs the discharge more than your regular lingerie and is more comfortable for you anyway, as well as then keeping your fancy panties less in contact with your heavier days of discharge.
Equally you can also rinse your underwear right after wearing it before it goes in the wash, removing most of the discharge; because if after you’ve taken them off, they sit in your laundry basket until your next load, then it’s more likely to develop the bleaching stains due to oxidation.
WHY DIDN’T I KNOW ABOUT UNDERWEAR BLEACHING BEFORE?
You are not alone in wondering this, as more information is becoming available, and people are starting to talk more openly about the vagina and anatomy, it appears it's a gap in people's education that needs correcting. Women of all ages are either seeing it for the first time as their discharge is changing through their reproductive years or having worn synthetic underwear for many years, they’re now seeing bleaching on natural fibre underwear for the first time.
"In a world where vaginas aren't talked about much, it's no surprise nobody passes on this information in school or at home, because many educators, parents and even healthcare professionals don't know these facts either," Zoe Williams of the Vagina Museum said.
"The gynaecological anatomy is overlooked regularly, in research as much as society. For example, the first detailed anatomical study of the internal clitoris – an organ which is 10cm long! – wasn't published until 1998. People at all levels don't talk about vaginas and vulvas, due to a climate of shame and stigma. This means people can't gain a full understanding of their own anatomy and allows myths and misconceptions to flourish."
So, now that you do know that it’s completely normal and a sign of a good & healthy vagina, you don’t need to worry, and we can keep on talking about our bodies and further educating generations to come.
You can also read more about vaginal discharge on our other blog article.