Are vermin eating my underwear?
December 2, 2006 1:41 PM   Subscribe

Mysterious holes are appearing in my dirty underwear where there are, ahem, juices. This is probably not lunch-safe.

I have noticed holes appearing in my dirty underwear exactly where my girl-juices dry (I'm a fairly juicy girl). These holes are very specific--if the stains dry on the inner layer around the crotch (women's underwear typically has two layers of cloth in the crotch region), the holes will only be in the inner layer where the protein stains used to be, not the outer layer.

What could be causing this? Am I so acidic that I'm eating holes in my underwear? Or (and this is seriously gross) are bugs/mice supplementing their protein intake? I consider the latter because we do have cockroach/bug/mice problems, and there appears to be direct correlation between the appearance of holes and whether the underwear is on the floor and how long it's been sitting there.
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I doubt mice/bugs would limit their eating to only the stained areas. Since you say there is a correlation between how long the underwear remains on the floor and the appearance of holes I think it's most likely microorganism growth that's deteriorating the cloth which then fully breaks up in the laundry. I would do an experiment where I laundered some underwear quickly and regularly, allowed some to sit on the floor and allowed some to sit just as long in an area I knew mice/bugs could not get to.

But then I'm a nerd and a guy, so you should probably just be a little more regular with your laundry.
posted by Science! at 1:57 PM on December 2, 2006

Not sure if this would help, but when I saw that my panties were suddenly turning "holey", I launched a full scale investigation.

The culprit? My chihuahua, Bru.

So I'm thinking that yeah, it's the mice.
posted by damnjezebel at 2:01 PM on December 2, 2006

Oh yeah, animals love them some dirty underwear. Another vote for mice.
posted by Keane at 2:04 PM on December 2, 2006

Experiment: Place one pair of worn underwear on the floor. Place one pair of worn underwear in a sealed ziploc. Watch for holes.

According to a quick Google, mucus ranges in pH from 3-4. Vinegar has a pH of about 3. Would vinegar eat holes in underwear? I don't know, but probably, if you left them in contact long enough.

Also, what do the holes look like? If you suspect mice, I'd think bite marks around the edges would be visible.
posted by booksandlibretti at 2:05 PM on December 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Girl! Pick up those used undies and put them in a laundry basket! When they're clean, put them in a drawer.

I really doubt that you're contributing to the bug problem... one thing to take account of is that using pads that stick to underwear will shorten the life of your clothing; every time you pull a pad off, fibre goes with it. Eventually, holes will emerge. Also, check the quality of the fabric; cheaper fabrics don't last as long.

It might be possible that you have a low level yeast infection or something else that causes you to have discharge-- have you checked with a doctor?
posted by jokeefe at 2:14 PM on December 2, 2006

booksandlibretti is right on the money. Do the experiment!
posted by rolypolyman at 2:19 PM on December 2, 2006

Thirding or fourthing the bugs/mice issue: some raccoons broke into a house I used to live in and ate the crotches out of all my dirty underwear! I don't think they ate anything else in the house except some ramen stored near the floor and some potted ferns! Thus dirty unders = top of the line delicacy!
posted by soviet sleepover at 2:27 PM on December 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

FWIW, I had a few pairs that would get holey in that spot. They were different, cheaper brands likely made with different fabric. Those pairs were the only pairs that did that. My more expensive goodies stayed intact. I use a hamper. Do you tend to throw your cheap undies on the floor and your nice ones in a basket?
posted by sian at 2:30 PM on December 2, 2006

Are your undies synthetic or cotton? If natural it could be moths.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 2:40 PM on December 2, 2006

Uh, me and my mom (the only women whose underwear I ever laundered) both get this... eventually... from juiciness down there. Cheap cotton panties most of all, like Hanes or whatnot. I find the idea of mice laughable, but if you know you have rodents, it could be. I always thought it was just natural deterioration of the cotton over time and repeated exposure to acid and detergent.

Oh, and here's an addition: when they're black or dark cotton it bleaches them.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:43 PM on December 2, 2006

I'm with Ambrosia Voyeur. It happens. (And I keep my laundry in a laundry basket, and don't have mouse or bug problems.)
posted by nevers at 2:53 PM on December 2, 2006

It could be rodents.

There is a frat across the street from my house. In the summer they rent the rooms out to summer students. One year some girls who were there called the cops because they thought some maniac was breaking in and cutting the crotch out of their dirty underwear. Ended up it was rats ...

Maybe try putting them into a sealable laundry basket, or using bungee cords to keep it shut?
posted by zaphod at 3:45 PM on December 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

we do have cockroach/bug/mice problems

Holes in your underwear are the least of your concerns. Roaches, mice and bugs carry diseases of all kinds. I mean, there's a reason we see a roach and go "ewww."

Whatever decision you make about the underthings, you should also declare all-out war with the non-humans in the house.
posted by frogan at 4:25 PM on December 2, 2006

Like damnjezebel, I too investigated when this was happening to my underwear, and it was my dogs. So I'm guessing it's probably mice or something as well. Hey, at least you have an excuse to treat yourself to new underwear!
posted by folara at 5:51 PM on December 2, 2006

Funny you should ask. (And second on the bleaching phenomenon.)

Don't worry about vermin; it's the kitty that's doing the chewing.
posted by ottereroticist at 6:06 PM on December 2, 2006

My first (male) partner had similar problems caused by precum drip (he was one horny dude). It was the low quality shorts he was wearing.
posted by Goofyy at 9:02 PM on December 2, 2006

If you're going to do the experiment, put the control undies in something more stout than a plastic bag. Mice can chew through plastic fairly easily. Maybe a coffee can or leftover tub.

Probably the easiest way to find out if you have mice to set mouse traps. Set a couple traps like these along the baseboard of your room and you should be able to figure out if there are mice in a few days.
posted by plinth at 6:01 AM on December 3, 2006

I used to have this problem, and I too blamed acidity. However, the problem went away when I switched to cloth pads. Turns out it was the adhesive on the disposable pads that slowly weakens the fabric by pulling out very small threads every time you remove one.
posted by carmen at 8:30 AM on December 3, 2006

It is not bugs or mice. It's the natural acidity of a woman's vaginal discharge (3.8 to 4.2, in paragraph beginning 'In women of reproductive age'). Apparently a rising (more neutral) PH is an important factor in diagnosing some infections. I've had this happen to me for years - on high and low quality underwear. It may be embarasing, but it's not something to worry about.
posted by youngergirl44 at 1:45 PM on December 3, 2006

Totally mice - my friend went to Thailand once and one morning work up to the sound of little choppers....she looked over and found a mouse eating the crotch of her thong, and after she shooed it away realized the little bugger had done it to 3 pair of her underwear! She theorized it was the salinity that attracted the mice.
posted by tristeza at 2:00 PM on December 3, 2006

Can we avoid the discussion of "high and low quality underpants" and instead mention the materials they are made of? In particular natural vs. synthetic?

Bugs such as moth larvae and others will eat natural fibers (cotton, silk, linen, wool, hemp), but they are mostly attracted to them when they are seasoned with some needed salts or minerals that a person's body accidentily adds to them by sweating or other crotch products. I once had the crotch of a very nice pair of wool pants mostly consumed by moths - they left the rest alone.

While cotton may be low quality and silk high, both are vunerable to this problem unless promptly washed.

PS. does anybody know where to get underpants (for either sex) in linen, hemp, or wool? These fabrics used to be the norm.

PPS. I can't stand polyester. To my nose it traps and accumulates a funky body oder that can't be removed by washing. Numerous times I've sat next to somebody (man, woman, or child) and my nose says they are wearing polyester. A neighbor once gifted me with some of his old clothing because he had radically changed weight and I had to gift them to the Salvation Army because they were polyester and already smelled bad.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 5:22 PM on December 3, 2006

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