Should I microwave my underwear to help ward off yeast infections?
June 5, 2015 1:20 PM   Subscribe

I'm posting this anonymously, since I'm feeling very, very sheepish about even asking. I'm getting over yet another yeast infection and I'm doing all the things I should (probiotics, sleep, going commando regularly, etc.). When I mentioned this to my friend, she solemnly told me that I need to wash and microwave all my underwear (when it is still wet from the wash). I find this hard to believe, but at this point I'm willing to do whatever it takes, if it will help. She's a lot more hippy-dippy than I am (acupuncture, Chinese herbs, etc.), but sometimes the hippies get it right. So tell me, Mefites, should I nuke my panties?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (37 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sunshine is antibacterial. You can hang them in the sun to dry.
posted by aniola at 1:23 PM on June 5, 2015

Yeast is not bacterial
posted by Rumple at 1:25 PM on June 5, 2015 [39 favorites]

Anecdotally, I know of one person who kept getting recurring yeast infections until she ironed the crotches of all her underwear. Same concept.
posted by purple_bird at 1:27 PM on June 5, 2015

Yeasts are not bacteria, but sunlight would probably kill them.

As for the microwave bit…I'm no expert, but I'd think washing in detergent is going to be good enough, especially if you use a dryer after. All the microwave is going to do is heat them up (same as the dryer).
posted by cjorgensen at 1:27 PM on June 5, 2015

You're going to shoot your underpants elastic all to hell.

use bleach
run the rinse cycle twice to make sure all the soap is out
allow to dry completely
always wear clean underpants
maybe pack an extra pair with you to swap out in the middle of a busy (sweaty) day
posted by phunniemee at 1:28 PM on June 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

I don't have scientific facts, but I don't think this would do much of anything other than washing would. I'd just rather buy new underwear as a test.

But have you also:
1) Checked with a doctor about this issue?
2) Are you on hormonal birth control? (One of my prescriptions gave me yeast infections over and over until I switched.)
3) Do you wear thongs? (One suggestion is that they pull bacteria from your anus toward your vagina and urethra.)
4) Try washing them in super hot water?
posted by Crystalinne at 1:30 PM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Borax in your washing cycle (it's anti-fungal) along with your detergent. Borax is usually found in the laundry section of stores and comes powdered in a box. I think that the most common brand is 100 Mule Team Borax. Also, going low-carb with your diet will help quite a bit. Those yeasts really love a high carbohydrate/ high sugar diet.
posted by quince at 1:33 PM on June 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

Have you washed your washer? My washers in the last couple of decades have had "wash the washer" mode and I pour in a ton of vinegar and let it rip (I also use vinegar in place of fabric softener in all loads).

And see your doctor. Are you sure sure sure it's a yeast infection?
posted by tilde at 1:33 PM on June 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

I've microwaved my undies when I had a bad yeast infection.... One pair blew up, but the cotton ones without a lot of elastic were fine and I nuke them anytime they smell yeasty... We only wash on 30c so I don't think the wash was killing the yeast.... I've also poured fresh boiling kettle water on the crotch before I put them in the wash... But what really killed the yeast was a week of strong suppositories from the doctor. So now I'm super careful whenever I feel itchy yeasty... I change my undies twice or 3 times a day!
posted by catspajammies at 1:35 PM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Not heard of any benefits microwaving would contribute to things.

But I do have a couple of other slightly-less-woo ideas:

1. Are your undies all-cotton? Cotton is way better for your pink bits. Nylon is bad about letting air in and that causes problems.

2. Are you sure it's a yeast infection? I was having a heck of a time trying to self-medicate a persistent yeast infection until I went to my doctor and they ran a test and discovered it was something entirely different that had very, very similar symptoms. A week of the right medication and I was fine.

3. Do you use lube? If you do, try to switch to a non-glycerin lube. Glycerin is bad for people who are prone to yeast infections. I made that switch about 14 years ago and I have not had a single yeast infection ever since.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:39 PM on June 5, 2015

I went so far as to replace my underwear to help put a stop to the cycle of infection. After that, I wore pantiliners religiously any time I had issues. Topical use of coconut oil was also really helpful.

I am pretty hippy dippy. I would not microwave my underwear. (In part because my hippy dippy nature inclines me to be anti-microwave. YMMV)
posted by Michele in California at 1:40 PM on June 5, 2015

You risk melting at least the elastic if you put your underpants in the microwave. If you have a persistent or recurrent yeast infection, talk to your doctor. You might have a resistant strain of yeast - it happens! Sometimes it takes different medications or even a course of Diflucan to get the yeastie beasties under control.

Another thing to check is a compromised immune system, if you keep getting infected over and over - type II diabetes is a possibility.

If you are under a doctor's care and you have been thoroughly treated, try buying a pack or two of cheap cotton underwear and wearing only those for a week or so - if the yeasts stay gone then maybe you are re-infecting yourself via underpants. But don't microwave the suspect underpants - try ironing the crotches, or washing them in hot water with bleach or borax, then a vinegar rinse, then hanging them in the sun to thoroughly dry.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:44 PM on June 5, 2015

When I was a kid, my younger brother put some of his clothes in the microwave because they were wet. Nearly burned down the house.
posted by The World Famous at 1:54 PM on June 5, 2015 [8 favorites]

Not heard of any benefits microwaving would contribute to things.
But I do have a couple of other slightly-less-woo ideas:

For the record, it's not a 'woo' idea exactly; the idea is just that the boiling-hot steam kills off whatever yeast remains in the fabric after washing. That part makes some sense. The more relevant questions are whether there are less destructive ways of accomplishing that, or whether it's already accomplished by other standard laundry methods.
posted by dialetheia at 1:58 PM on June 5, 2015 [8 favorites]

Yikes, no, there are better ways to sterilize than to stick them in the microwave. Yeast die at 140 F, and could plausibly stick around under typical laundry conditions. At this level of desperation, I would boil a pot of water, toss in the undies, stir, and check that the temp stays well above 140 for 5-10 minutes. Or iron them.
posted by tchemgrrl at 2:00 PM on June 5, 2015 [12 favorites]

Heat can help kill yeast, but don't microwave them--that doesn't seem like the safest method. Touch the crotch of each pair with a hot iron for a few seconds instead.

Also, I have heard that some people have good luck with using boric acid capsule suppositories to treat stubborn yeast infections.
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:01 PM on June 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Since it hasn't been mentioned yet, are you sure to always wipe front to back? I am surprised how many women don't know this (as enlightened by my wife).
posted by TinWhistle at 2:04 PM on June 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Don't put your undies in the microwave. If you really want to try heat, I n-th the suggestion of using an iron on the crotch.

Is it possible that you're sensitive to whatever kind of laundry powder/laundry liquid that you're using? Make sure that you aren't using too much detergent when you wash your clothes. You could also try adding some white vinegar to you wash. Vinegar kills fungus, and I think that it could also help to neutralise the base of the detergent if the actual issue is your laundry detergent messing with your vaginal pH.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 2:11 PM on June 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you have a sex partner (or more than one), they may have an asymptomatic yeast infection and be re-infecting you. Do not microwave this partner's genitals; try OTC cream and/or suppositories for them first.
posted by amaire at 2:38 PM on June 5, 2015 [18 favorites]

Your friend's suggestion is not exactly unscientific, but it's pretty likely to do a number on your clothing items. Using the steam setting on your iron would be just as good at killing stuff.
posted by zennie at 3:01 PM on June 5, 2015

When I stopped washing my undies with socks, my YIs and BVs went down tremendously.
posted by Hermione Granger at 3:28 PM on June 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

You could also boil all your unders for 10-15 minutes. Seems easier than ironing -- that way you could do them all in one batch
posted by fancyoats at 3:35 PM on June 5, 2015

Nthing the ironing option. I tried everything when I had a reoccuring yeast infection, turns out my husband was the culprit. 3 nights of rubbing cream into his willy, a job he didn't mind at all, solved the problem. If you have a regular sex partner or use sex toys you may be reinfecting yourself.
posted by wwax at 3:52 PM on June 5, 2015

As an anecdata thing, i pranked several people in highschool with soaking wet shirts(sprinklers, supersoakers, etc) by telling them they could dry them out quick in one of the school microwaves. One shirt was burned, the other one caught on fire destroying the microwave and nearly burned down a corner of the art room.

So yea uh, don't microwave clothes. This is bed bug woo levels of silly. As in, there's some truth in the mechanics of what this would accomplish but the methodology is bad.
posted by emptythought at 4:29 PM on June 5, 2015

Oh, and another suggestion from when i was dealing with bedbugs and the heat thing was also a recommendation:

Commercial gas dryers get a LOT hotter than home electric or gas dryers. Like the big, double stacked laundromat type. It might be worth it to take your wet clothes to the laundromat and nuke them on max power in one of those for 45 minutes or an hour.

I had free access to one and at high the temp was factory set above 140f.
posted by emptythought at 4:31 PM on June 5, 2015

Panties aren't that expensive -- maybe just toss them and buy new ones?
posted by Jacqueline at 4:31 PM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

If microwaving undies worked well, you'd have heard about it long before now. Everyone would be doing it.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:02 PM on June 5, 2015

I tried this once and all the elastic in the legs melted. Do not recommend.
posted by jrobin276 at 5:08 PM on June 5, 2015

I think acupuncture and Chinese herbs would benefit you more than allowing your drawers to share space with your leftovers.

Check your probiotics. If they are the cheap ones from Wal-Mart then you are wasting your time. You need the refrigerated, live probiotics. I love from Raw Probiotics Garden of Life found at Whole Foods. There is even a variety just for your hoo ha called Vaginal Care. Takes care of everything without compromising your kitchen appliances.
posted by myselfasme at 5:13 PM on June 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah, don't microwave them. Steam them with the iron or just replace 'em.

FWIW, wiping back-to-front puts a lady at risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs), not yeast infections. The anus has plenty of bacteria that you don't want to spread around, but it's not generally a major source of yeast unless you've got a rectal yeast infection.
posted by vytae at 5:35 PM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Just in case it is something you have or have access to, some front load washers have a sanitize setting which gets the water super hot using a heating element in the unit itself rather than relying solely on the temperature of the water coming from your water heater.

The proper concentration of bleach would work fine, also, if they are white. Soak them in a bucket prior to washing rather than putting bleach in the machine so that you can be sure you are using a sufficient amount. Do not soak them in undiluted bleach unless you would like to come back to nothing but an elastic band. I learned that the hard way when I was 6 and my mom told me to bleach some underwear.
posted by wierdo at 11:33 PM on June 5, 2015

Second an allergy to the kind of laundry. It could also be an allergy to sanitary products (pads/tampons/etc.) that you're using. Switching detergents gave me a raging yeast infection when I normally don't get them.

I can only use method or ecover.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 2:55 AM on June 6, 2015

Nappy soak is my weapon of choice. I soak every pair of undies I own overnight in nappy soak once a month or so and rarely have any problems these days. Then just drain and then dump them through the washer. Easy as and a lot less mucking about than microwaving each pair individually.

I've also nuked my knickers before when damp (our dryer is a million years old and sucks power like a motherfucker, so it's emergency use only), so if you do want to try in the name of science pop them in one at a time, when damp, and hit them with ten seconds at a time. Take them out, give them a flick a few times so the steam billows out and away, then repeat if they're still damp. Haven't burned the house down and it won't melt the elastic if you stick to short bursts.
posted by Jilder at 4:07 AM on June 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would say forget microwaving. The easiest and second best thing you can do in this situation is to buy 20-30 more pairs of all cotton panties. Wear them in a sequence so that it is three weeks or month before you are back in the same pair again. Yeast absolutely will survive in a residential laundry system, and even in a commercial self-serve laundromat. The water just spreads it around. To really kill most of the yeast, you want to have the panties be clean and dry for weeks at a time. You are literally making the yeast organisms die of thirst. This may be gross, but these yeast infections are basically the same organisms that also cause athlete's foot. Here is my standard advice on treating athlete's foot. Just substitute "panties" for "boots". You may have some luck, and will save energy, by also line drying the panties in the sun, but this is not critical.

The best and hardest thing to do is to change your diet so you are consuming fewer carbohydrates and sugars. But that is a pretty difficult thing to do. If you can afford the panty experiment I would try that first. Good luck!
posted by seasparrow at 9:08 AM on June 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've put slightly moist socks in the microwave with the hopes of drying them and warming them up, and they started smoking inside and got black burn marks in just a few seconds. So your underwear would probably burn, and if there is a any plasticky elasticky material that might melt? Try ironing as people have suggested.
posted by at 11:10 AM on June 6, 2015

Ok, stay with me on this one, but have you tried garlic?

No, not eating it, but inserting it.

I had yeast infections in my first year of university and I'd take a clove of garlic, make a bunch of shallow cuts in it so the juice would come out, and stick it up there. Worked like a charm, didn't hurt enough for me to remember it now.

What I do remember is forgetting to take it out before fooling around with my partner at the time, who looked at me wide-eyed, saying "Uhhh, Devika? You have a ... lump inside you ..." Much chortling and relief ensued upon my explanation.

YMMV, I've seen mixed opinions around the internet, but I personally had a good experience.
posted by Devika at 11:38 AM on June 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Seconding the garlic clove suggestion. Works perfectly every time for me and a few other girls I know.
posted by Rapunzel1111 at 11:58 AM on June 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

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