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When Should You Replace Underwear, Make-Up, Bedding, Washcloths & Towels?

If this was a quiz, how well would you do?

Life & Travel

I collect panties. Next to lip gloss, it is almost an obsession of mine. I mean, I have so many that I could wear one a day, for about nine months, before ever running out. But as I've gotten older and more intentional about taking care of what I encourage all of my love nieces to call "their treasure box", as much as I hate it—because some of my drawers are super cute—I've been letting my underwear go at a faster pace than I used to. Why? Because as much as I sometimes don't want to accept the fact, just about everything has an expiration date—bras, panties and some of the other things that I'm about to share with you are not excluded from this very fact.

We spend a lot of time on this site sharing things that you can do to be a healthier you. But I'm gonna be real with you, sis—if you've got panties that you've owned since this time three years ago or an entire bathroom drawer that's full of make-up that has the writing missing from it, now is the time to set aside a couple of hours this weekend to do some tossing and replacing. In just a sec, you're gonna see just why I said that and how much better you'll be treating your body if you do.

Bras

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I recently read somewhere that you can go two weeks before washing your bra. I kind of found that to be interesting since they are on 6-to-whenever hours a day. Personally, I was thinking that once a week made more sense. Anyway, since a bra is designed to give our girls support for hours on end, it makes sense that they would need to be replaced. How often? According to lingerie experts, you can rotate 4-6 of 'em for about a year before it's time to get some more.

Signs that you need a new one? If your bra hikes up your back, if the outline of it shows through your tees (that usually means that the fabric has stretched out), if your breasts don't look as "perky" as they used to, if your breasts are sweating more (a good bra will minimize that), or if you continuously have to readjust your bra, put a budget aside (because good bras ain't cheap, chile). It's time for a new set.

Panties

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Just think about what panties go through on a daily basis. Our vaginas are self-cleaning, so panties are catching discharge. Pubic hair sheds, so there's that. Even the best menstrual cups can cause leakage if we're not careful. Whether we choose to admit it or not, all of us, as my grandmother used to put it, "break wind", 10-20 times a day (which leaves tiny particles of fecal matter behind). So yeah, if ANYTHING needs to be replaced fairly regularly, panties would be it!

How regularly? Although I laughed when one gynecologist said that we probably wouldn't die if we wore them until they practically fell off, the general consensus that I saw was it's time to get new ones every six months. Of course, if they don't fit well, the elastic wears out or they carry a stench (even after washing them) before then, get some new ones sooner.

One more thing, since there is "a tenth of a gram of poop in the average pair of underwear" and "about 100 million E. coli in the wash water" of a washing machine that can easily transfer over into your new load of laundry, this is one reason to strongly consider washing your panties by hand. Just something to think about. Hard.

Mascara

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Our eyes are precious. That's why we need to be extremely careful about what we put near or on them. As far as mascara goes, the FDA says that each tube of mascara should only be used for three months before tossing it out. And, definitely don't keep any mascara around if it has dried out and/or you're spitting on the wand in order to "make it work" again. Whether you realize it or not, you're practically begging for bacteria to get into your eyes and that could lead to a big ole' infection.

(By the way, pencil eyeliners should be replaced every 6-9 months, and liquid eyeliner should be replaced every three months, for reasons similar to mascara. Eyeshadows are cool for two years, so long as you keep the lids on them securely closed after every use.)

Lipstick

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It's not like you only apply lipstick right after your brush your teeth and exfoliate your lips, right? This means that every time you reapply, some sort of bacteria is going onto the tube. After months of that, coffee cups, water bottles and kisses, germs can really start to pile up. Plus, lipstick is at its best when it's stored in a cool dry place; our purses and glove compartment aren't always that. For all of these reasons, it's best that you replace your lipsticks once a year.

Foundation

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Whether it's liquid or cream, foundation is not built to last forever. After about 10 months or so, the color and consistency are not as good as they were when you first purchased it. That's why it's best to cop some new foundation every 12 months or so; sooner if it cakes up or looks "weird" in natural light.

Oh, and for the health of your skin, try and avoid applying foundation with your fingers as much as possible. There's no tellin' how much bacteria is on your hands and nails. You can reduce the risk of breakouts by applying it with a make-up brush instead.

Make-Up Brushes

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Speaking of make-up brushes, if you wash yours once a week and you spent more than a couple of bucks when you bought them, they should be able to last you a good five years. The key is to gently wash them, let them air dry (they should be hanging down so that the water doesn't drip all over the handle), and to look for signs that they are wearing out—like not feeling full and soft or the handle showing clear signs of wear and tear.

Hairbrushes

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Something that I recall doing every couple of weeks was washing my hairbrushes in some liquid castile soap. It makes sense since brushes not only help to style our hair, but they also remove debris, dandruff, residue from hair products and all sorts of other random crap from our heads.

If you get a quality brush (especially if it contains natural bristles), its shelf life can last a few years. But that's only if you wash it regularly, remove hair from it every time that you use it and you store it properly. Still, with the wear and tear that brushes take, it's still a good idea to replace yours every 3-4 years.

Bed Sheets

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When I was growing up, it was a given that every Friday, bedding was going to be changed. Most of us probably just do it out of habit, but if you stop and think all of what you're laying down on after say, day five, you might want to change your sheets more than that! First, we all shed 30,000 dead skin cells a day and 6-10 hours' worth of those are in bed. Then there's the fungus and bacteria that we naturally carry, along with, again, the tiny particles of fecal matter that land on our sheets, every time we pass gas (if you sleep naked or with someone who sleeps naked). Not to mention the drooling, hair products and hair shedding that happens to our pillowcases.

Yeah, bedding takes quite the beating. That's why you should wash your sheets and pillowcases no less than once a week (some experts say pillowcases should be washed 2-3 times a week), and you should replace your bedding entirely every 2-3 years.

Washcloths

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If anything takes a regular lickin', it's our washcloths (if you want to know just how much, check out "The Truth About Washcloths"). So much in fact that, I don't know about you, but I use two different ones—one for my face and one for everywhere else. Since it is a main "tool" that is used to remove all of the "gunk" that our body accumulates throughout the day—and/or night, depending on how many times that you shower—it's a good idea to use a new set of washcloths a couple of times a week.

As far as when you should replace them altogether, it all depends on how often you use them. The fancy stuff that is mostly reserved for guests, since you're probably only using them a few times a year, they can last for five years or so. But the ones that you use on a regular basis? 1-2 years top is how long you should keep them around.

Towels

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Just because towels are (mostly) used to dry ourselves off after washing up, that doesn't mean they aren't a breeding ground for bacteria too. That's why they need to be washed, along with your bedding, every week. As far as getting new ones go, because they tend to be more durable than washcloths, so long as they aren't fraying or sucking on the absorbency tip, you should be able to keep the ones you've currently got for 3-4 years. Not bad, huh?

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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