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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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