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Period Panties: Complete Guide (Updated 2021)

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Personally, we’re tired of setting aside a portion of our paycheck each month just to be able to buy pads and tampons. The retail costs of these necessities have been skyrocketing for years, with no end in sight. In addition, these disposable products are terrible for the environment. We’ve been silently hoping for a more environmentally and economically friendly solution for quite some time — and they’re finally here! Enter period panties.

In this article we discuss the following:

What are Period Panties?

close up shot of the hip of a woman wearing underwear

Period panties, fondly referred to as “period panteez”, are strategically designed under garments with a specially formulated type of padding in the crotch region, allowing for the catchment of period blood. 

They are intended to replace all need for pads, tampons, and menstrual cups, though their effectiveness is still being closely examined by users around the world. This aside, these panties pose a great alternative to keeping millions of discarded menstrual products out of our landfills and oceans each year. “I love that period panties are reusable and allow us to avoid thousands of single-use tampons, pads and panty liners,” says Micaela from Mindful Momma.

There are many different styles of period proof panties to choose from. If you feel more supported in full coverage briefs, there are period underwear to accommodate you. If you quite like to show some skin, even whilst on your period, there are more trendy brands for your choosing. 

Many feel that free-bleeding is the way of the future; that sending toxic tampons and silicon cups up the vagina once a month is not natural, and delivers a certain level of shock to the body. The introduction of a free-bleeding alternative to the mensuration market is a revelation! 

How do Period Panties Work?

The best period underwear look just like regular panties. They are usually made out of either nylon or lycra, and the magic happens in the part of the panty that sits between the legs. 

Here there will be a double layering of fabrics, all finished with a liquid repellent substance. The wearer of the garment will be able to bleed out a maximum of 3 teaspoons (sometimes more, sometimes less — it depends on the brand) of blood before the fabric is at full capacity. 

The blood settles in the additional layering of fabrics, and stays due to being surrounded by the aforementioned liquid repellent. It has nowhere to go, and thus won’t bother you or leak out into your regular clothing. 

More than this, these panties are also designed to give the wearer breathability, moisture-wicking, and odor masking. Even if you don’t plan on free-bleeding into these garments during your period, they still make great allies to the body during the menstrual cycle. 

Your monthly period isn’t the only time these garments come in handy. Post pregnancy, it is not uncommon for an individual to experience postpartum bleeding for a few days or weeks after the birth. These panties help one get through this experience without needing to shove anything up the already damaged canal, allowing you to heal faster. 

Why are Period Panties Better than Other Feminine Hygiene Products?

The most important reason one should consider making the switch to period panties would be the environment. 

Each year, millions upon millions of used pads and tampons are sent into our landfills, and unfortunately also into our oceans. The average person will use roughly 15,000 pads or tampons in their lifetime. The Earth can only hold so  much waste, and it’s starting to contaminate our most natural resources. 

By making the switch to period underwear, you’ll be cutting your contribution to menstrual waste by roughly two thirds. Those with extremely light periods may even be able to cut out all use of disposable menstrual products. 

Then there is the personal well-being factor. You see, pads and tampons almost always contain bleach; this is what gives them that crisp white appearance. Having bleach enter our vaginal canal once a month puts us at high risk for cervical cancer. What’s more, with tampons there is always that risk of toxic shock syndrome, whereby one can die due to bacteria in the vaginal walls. 

A period panty will reduce or eliminate your exposure to these potentially threatening products. You can start to enjoy the benefits of free-bleeding, and often users report seeing a reduction in their levels of abdominal pain during the menstrual cycle. 

two woman wearing panties holding branches of leaves

Do Period Panties Smell?

Surprisingly, no. Like anyone, our biggest concern with period panties would be an overpowering odor from which we would not be able to escape. When you think of the logistics of these garments, it seems only natural that they would harbor a potent aroma after the first few hours of wear. 

The panties collect the blood, and stow it in a layered, sealed compartment where it will wait to be washed out. Most period underwear brands have got the technology perfected, and there is no odor that escapes from the garments throughout the day. The fabrics are so breathable that it actually reduces the bacterial production, meaning smells are less likely. 

Obviously, if you remove the underwear and put your face up to the collection area, there will be that natural blood scent. The point is that said scent isn’t escaping the catchment area for the duration of wear. 

Some users report that after 6 months of use their period panties seem to become less able to ward off odor. This likely has something to do with the breaking down of fibers in the underwear with every wash, rendering them less effective at holding in the smell. 

Do Period Panties Leak?

Period panties have never claimed to be entirely leak proof; that would be impossible. They have a capacity, which is generally around 3 teaspoons of blood (or the equivalent of 2 tampons full), and after this the underwear does have the potential to start seeping out the edges if the garment isn’t changed promptly. 

You’ll notice that your panties need to be changed the minute you begin feeling moisture. Period underwear are designed so that no moisture is felt, and you don’t have to feel as though you are sitting in a wet bathing suit throughout the day. 

The second you start feeling that soggy feeling within the undies, that’s your cue for a costume change. This is usually within the first 6 to 8 hours of wear. 

Ignoring the capacity of the garment in question is a one way ticket to blood on your clothing or down your legs. People with a heavier flow may find that they get very brief use out of each pair of period underwear, and some like to instead wear them along with their usual pad, tampon or menstrual cup for an extra layer of protection, as opposed to a sole layer. 

Some users, with much lighter flow, report being able to wear their period panties for up to 24 hours with no risk of leakage. It really depends entirely on the individual in question, and their personal flow pattern. 

How Long do Period Panties Last?

The biggest advantage to period panties is that they are reusable. With tentative care, and following the instructions, one pair of panties can last up to two years before needing to be replaced. 

This, however, depends solely on the period panty brand that one invests in, as some of lesser quality will have a much shorter lifespan compared to those made with longevity in mind.

These are garments that have to be washed far more regularly, and thoroughly, compared to other pieces of clothing. The hygiene factor comes into play, and one needs to follow the stipulated care instructions unique to each brand so that they can withstand the test of time. 

Something to consider is the notion that the more period underwear you buy the less frequently each one will be sent through the wash. Period panties are an investment; you’re looking at anywhere between $14 to $40 per pair, and usually the price determines the quality. 

If you can only afford to buy two pairs of panties, you’ll use them on rotation during the week of your cycle, washing them every other day. If you can afford to splurge a bit more, you can set up a system whereby you have one pair of period underwear for each day of your cycle; this would mean purchasing seven pairs, if you tend to bleed across seven days. 

In this way, your period panties are only being washed once or twice a month, as opposed to multiple times. The fibers will retain their elasticity and, as a result, your period underwear will serve you for the foreseeable future. 

How to Clean Period Panties

There are a number of different ways one can care for their period panties. 

Firstly, always keep in mind that period undies are designed to be stain resistant. You aren’t ever going to have to use any sort of stain-removal chemicals on your garments to get the blood out. 

Secondly, it is not recommended that one ever place period underwear into a dryer. The integrity of the fabric will be greatly compromised if your garments are frequently exposed to high levels of heat. Always leave period panties hanging somewhere to dry in the sun, or somewhere flat. 

You have two options for washing your period panties. One thing to remember is that blood is not the same as dirt, and while you may consider soiled period underwear ‘dirty’, this is actually one of the easiest substances to remove from fabric. 

You have the option of washing your period panties by hand whilst you stand in the shower come day end. Simply hold them under the water and allow the blood to run out of them, wringing them out to ensure every drop is released. You can then hang them up to dry overnight, ensuring they are ready to go when the next pair are being washed. 

You can also submerge a used pair of period underwear in cold water (fill the bathroom sink) and soak them until all of the blood has found its way out. You can also add a mild detergent if you’re paranoid about hygiene.

Alternatively, you may machine wash your period undergarments. Always use the most delicate or gentle function available on your machine, and place your panties in a mesh garment bag prior to tossing it into the cycle. 

Best Period Panties

older woman wearing knix bra and knix period underwear

Knix Period Panties

Knix is a Canadian brand that has worked to create new, innovative ways for people to be “unapologetically free” when it comes to the most intimate of subjects. 

Their underwear becomes almost a second skin, and they cater to people of all shapes and sizes, including plus size.

We love their high waisted range, though they have style options for all preferences. What’s more, Knix has gone to the trouble of creating panties in all shades of skin color. 

They’re not the most affordable period panties, but they do a fantastic deal whereby if you purchase three garments you get 25% off! 

woman wearing a Thinx grey period thong

Thinx Period Panties

Thinx period panties have been the market leaders since the inception of period panties as a product category. They provide quality and versatility beyond what any other brand seems to be able to offer. In our opinion, these are the best period underwear for heavy flow, as they have options for ‘super absorbency’.

Period panties Thinx even have a range of thongs that can catch just as much blood as the full sized garments. When reading period underwear reviews on the internet, you’ll find that this brand name comes up quite frequently. 

They’re not cheap, but they are long lasting and definitely more aesthetically pleasing than some of the more generic brands out there. Thinx does offer a range of organic cotton garments for anyone who has a preference for this fabric. There is also what they refer to as their ‘saver sets’, where you can purchase sets of two or three garments for reduced prices. 

We love that Thinx has catered to dancers and created a period proof leotard for support whilst dancing or exercising. This is not a suitable substitute for a bathing suit, despite how the leotard may look. 

Save $10 off your first order with Thinx by using our referral code.

Teen Period Panties

Teens need period underwear, too, and there are a number of brands that have risen to the challenge. “I wish I had known about period panties when I first started my period in middle school. PE class would have been a breeze,” says Mandalynn Carlson.

“Most girls start their periods between 12-15 years of age, at around the same time that we see girls dropping out of sports. From personal experience, I know that the fear of period leakage and shaming strongly correlates to the drop-out rate. At 15, I experienced a traumatizing leak during a volleyball tournament that caused me to forever give up the sport I loved,” says Josephine Kwan, founder of Flow 2 Freedom Apparel Inc.

For these reasons, it’s important to find excellent period products for teenagers as well.

One of them is the aforementioned Thinx, which has a comprehensive range of options for ages 9 through 16. 

Teen period panties should always be more affordable than adult versions. Don’t be duped by brands trying to sell them off as novelty for exorbitant amounts. 

The following are three reputable brands making teen period panties that we love, as well as some reviews from Knixteen:

Knixteen Reviews

Knix was the first brand we looked at in this roundup for adult period underwear. Their teen range has done exceptionally well, and has received widespread praise from all corners of the globe. At present, you can only order their garments directly from their website, or via a quick search for ‘period panties Amazon’. 

Most of the reviews have been left by mothers to children who have been over the moon with their Knix undies. They express feelings of sheer delight over how easily their little one was able to incorporate these very unusual garments into everyday life, and not have to fuss with pads or tampons from such an early age. 

There are some petite women who seem to fit into the teen undies as well. This includes some in their late 30s who love the flexibility of the teen range compared to the more sleek adult options. Admittedly, if you can fit into teen underwear you’ll have a far more cost effective experience when it comes to period underwear. 

HappyZ Period underwear set of three

HappyZ Period Panties

HappyZ period panties are sold exclusively through Amazon, and there is little information available about this brand other than speculation that they are designed in California, but manufactured in Korea. 

HappyZ offers teen period panties in sets of 3. They are the most affordable period panty options out there for teens, which is what saw them gain such popularity within the online market. 

You can choose from a range of colors, but the design of the underwear is incredibly basic and universal. Buyers report that the panties run small, so it is recommended that one purchases a size or two up when shopping for their teen. 

The price considered, these are great quality, and the underwear does all that it claims to. For teens it is particularly important that they can wear one pair of panties per day and be covered for the duration of the day, as changing underwear whilst at school is not a fun experience. 

innersy set of three period panties

Innersy Period Panties

Innersy is another Amazon exclusive range with little known to the public about the brand in question. 

These are slightly more attractive looking undergarments for teens, featuring a more flattering cut compared to the standard brief. For under $20 you can get a full set of three period panties to be used on rotation. This is a fraction of the price compared to other big brands. 

Their bigger sizes will fit adults who qualify in the ‘petite’ bracket. 

ruby period underwear in different colors and patterns

Ruby Period Underwear

Ruby is a competitive underwear brand founded by a woman named Crystal Etienne. This was one of the first labels to offer period panties for teens, as well as period proof swimwear for all ages!

You read that correctly; up until very recently, there was no such thing as period proof swimwear, as no labels could seem to get the leak proofing quite right. 

You can swim for up to three tampons worth of blood before Ruby’s swimwear will start to leak in water. The fibers are ultra absorbent, and won’t swell at all when wet. 

Their teen range offers both regular panties and swimwear. We love that you can get a set of seven pairs for under $90. 

woman wearing grey panties

Plus Size Period Panties

Searching for period panties at Target is unlikely to be useful if you are looking for a plus size. Plus size period panties are still a bit more rare, with many brands not catering to sizing above XL. As a result, we like to give credit where it is due when labels take the initiative to cater to the entire spectrum of bodies. 

Flux period panties are the best, and most inclusive, plus size garments we’ve seen. Their range goes all the way from XXS through to 4XL. And it’s not just some of their garments that offer this variation, it’s all of them. 

As far as pricing goes, we’d consider them not too expensive but not cheap either. The average pair costs around $25, which is reasonable if you’ve looked at any other leading brands within this particular market. 

Period Panties Heavy Flow

woman wearing leggings while doing yoga

Not everyone is protected by just one pair of period underwear. Some have far heavier flow and need as many layers as possible to feel secure during their cycle. When we looked at teen period panties, we mentioned a well received brand known as Ruby. Ruby has upped the game and made some garments called period leggings.

Like period underwear, these are standard black leggings with the period absorption patch sewn into the crotch area. It allows the wearer to go about their daily life while not having to wear a pad or tampon, knowing that their underwear has a second layer of protection when their flow is at its heaviest. 

Being able to free bleed whilst doing yoga, for example, is one of the most beneficial practices one can enjoy. Yoga is already an activity that doesn’t really cater to the menstruating body, so being able to remove the burden of a tampon, and simply wear leggings, is wildly therapeutic! 

Disposable Period Panties

Believe it or not, there are disposable versions of period panties, sold and packaged just as pads and tampons are. You can buy such period panties at Walgreens, in the feminine hygiene section. 

Kotex period panties are one brand worth mentioning. Their product is designed to carry the user through the night as they sleep, allowing them to free bleed and dispose of the underwear come morning time. Of course, you are free to wear this product at any time of day, though they can feel bulky and unflattering underneath clothing. 

Their anti-leakage technology has a 360 degree radius, meaning that you won’t wake up in a pool of blood because there was a gap in the design. 

Always period panties are another great option. They come in a range of sizes and are designed for overnight usage as well. 

If the environment was your predominant reason for switching to period panties, then disposable versions are obviously not a feasible option for you. They actually contribute to more waste than pads and tampons, as their surface area is a lot larger than these alternate forms of disposable hygiene products. 

Disposable period panties are also costly. Since you’ll need a new pair every night of your period, you’re forking out both the cost of the panties and the cost of any other pads and tampons you need to use by day. 

woman measuring the size of her hips while wearing undergarments

DIY Period Panties

If you’d consider yourself a decent seamstress, and feel you could try your hand at making period panties at home, you’ve come to the right place. 

DIY period panties are a great solution for anyone who wants to reap the rewards of free-bleeding into their undies, but can’t quite justify the $30 price tag on most of the retail garments. More than this, not all brands offer period panties for plus size, or even period panties for teens, so making your own is a worthwhile challenge. 

To make period panties at home you’ll need the following:

  • Sewing equipment (you can choose between by hand or by machine)
  • Underwear elastic 
  • Four way stretch fabric for the side panels 
  • Zorb fabric, or bamboo fleece for the absorbent layer 
  • PLU fabric for the waterproof, leak proof layer
  • Athletic wicking for the fast dry layer
  • Pattern paper and a pencil 

Follow the following steps to set your period panty-making into motion: 

  1. You’ll struggle to find an existing pattern for period panties online. Making your own pattern is the easiest way forward. Use your favorite pair of regular panties and simply trace around them to form the basis of how your period panties are going to look. 
  2. Cut your choice of four way stretch fabric into the pattern shape. This will form the main surface area of the panties. 
  3. Use the underwear elastic to sew the panels together and make your underwear.
  4. Measure the center panel of the panties (the rectangular part that would fit between your legs), and cut a strip of each of the other fabrics to match. 
  5. Stack these rectangular fabrics together in the following order from bottom to top: waterproof layer, absorbent layer, fast dry layer. 
    1. Sew them neatly into the crotch area of the panties, paying close attention to neat edges and tucking wherever necessary for comfort. 

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