France (and Britain's) Dirty Little Secret

France (and Britain's) Dirty Little Secret

Why you should care

Because someone you know is probably doing this.

“Wear clean underwear,” my grandmother used to instruct me. “You never know when you might get hit by a car.”

Spoiler: Nobody gets hit by a car in this article. There’s no such dramatic twist, no grandmother-dreamed-up handsome paramedic put off by anyone’s final, unhygienic indignity. If someone gets hit by a car, presumably there’s more to worry about than whether the victim donned clean underwear that day. But the next paragraph just may induce a full-body shudder:

27 percent of French men say they sometimes wear their underwear several times before washing it.

I’ll let that sink in and fester a little bit — after all, you can’t put your brain in a washing machine. And before you get up in arms about national stereotypes, 18 percent of British men say the same. The problem is not France. The problem is men. It gets worse: 4 percent of French men say they wear a pair of underwear six times or more before tossing it in the wash.

“Guys’ behavior and their perception of things are very different from women,” says Mike Eaton, founder of Hero Clean, a company that makes cleaning products aimed specifically at men. “These guys are probably picking up their underwear, giving them a whiff and thinking, ‘Eh, I’ll wear ’em again.’ ” Eaton points out that as men and women approach a 50-50 split on housework, men are pitching in with the laundry more than 60 percent of the time, a phenomenon he attributes to laundry being considered an “attractive” chore because a machine does almost all of the work. The practice of wearing underwear inside out rather than washing it is well-known enough to appear in the Cards Against Humanity deck — despite the fact that 96 percent of French households have a washing machine, and 97 percent of British households do.

Meanwhile, 91 percent of French women (and 93 percent of British women) always wear clean underwear. Bras, not so much: Most women wear them three to five times before washing, which is considered acceptable by cleaning advocates (if not Taco the Cat) as overwashing can damage bras.

Underwear, however, is a different story. Here’s a PSA to those of you reading this who don’t always wear clean skivvies: Stop it. The best-case scenario stinks (literally), and the worst-case scenario has your grandmother finding out — after you get hit by a car — that you didn’t follow her advice.


Numbers and factoids --- fodder for your next cocktail party.