It’s generally not a good idea to share intimates, even with a trusted friend or family member. The main concern is hygiene. Not only is it gross, but it’s possible that viruses or diseases can be transferred by sharing clothing that touches your private parts. For some reason, sharing a swimsuit doesn’t seem as bad as, say, sharing a toothbrush, but it has its share of risks.
A real-life scenario of this playing out goes something like this: a group of friends/family members plan a beach day. The day of, one member of that group forgets to bring their swimsuit. Someone else in the group happened to bring a spare swimsuit, and offered it to the forgetful person. As nice and well-intentioned as this act is, is it okay to accept?
Generally speaking, you should not share swimsuits with someone. Swimsuit tops might be okay, but definitely not swimsuit bottoms or a one piece if you want to stay safe. Bacteria can grow in wet bathing suits and STDs/STIs can also be transferred, both of which can cause nasty infections. If you forget to bring your swimsuit, consider buying a new one at a local swimwear store or just sitting out for the day.
Now, you may have already read a handful of articles that say the same thing we just said. The general consensus is a resounding “Don’t do it”. So for this article, I want to go against the grain. I actually think there is a fairly good counter-argument in favor of buying used or wearing a friend/family member’s swimsuit in a pinch. I’m not advocating that you should, but that you reasonably could without fear of getting an STD. The next time you are put in this predicament, consider these arguments.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, and you follow this advice at your own risk.
Should you wear someone else’s swimsuit?
Despite the consensus warning against sharing a swimsuit, I was intrigued by the other side. After researching and critically thinking about the risks involved (and how to avoid them), I realized it’s actually not so clear cut whether wearing someone else’s swimsuit is as bad as claimed.
First, a second hand market for swimsuits would not exist if swimsuits could not be shared. Are these buyers geniuses for getting name brand swimwear at bargain prices, or are they playing Russian roulette when it comes to staying STD-free? What do they know that the general public doesn’t?
Second, have you ever tried on a swimsuit in a dressing room? Did you actually follow the sign that warns you to keep your panties on when trying the swimsuit? If not, then you have already exposed yourself to the same risks as wearing someone else’s swimsuit, and yet you are fine. At least with your friend/family member, you can trust that they are more hygienic than strangers.
Third, how long do viruses and diseases survive outside of a human host? Some of the most common STDs found on clothing (swimwear included) are Trichomoniasis (“trich”), pubic lice, hepatitis B, scabies, and Molluscum Contagiosum.
Trichomoniasis can only survive outside of the human body for a few hours, pubic lice for a couple of days, scabies, Molluscum Contagiosum and hepatitis B for up to a week. If your friend’s spare swimsuit was thoroughly washed, fully air dried, and then stored for over a week, it’s likely any viruses or infectious organisms have long since died.
With this information in mind, should you wear someone else’s swimsuit? Even knowing that viruses can die within hours of leaving a human host, you are still taking a risk if it’s one of the more resilient ones, so the logical and safest conclusion is to say no, it’s not worth the risk.
Is it ever okay to be wearing someone else’s swimsuit?
Why won’t I let this argument die? Look, I’m a critical thinker (and annoying devil’s advocate) and I’m just not fully convinced this debate is done and dusted. I think there are ways to make this work, and I do not like the dismissive attitude many people have with regards to this argument.
The ocean is full of plenty of bacteria that can give you nasty infections, yet we still leisurely enjoy it. The ocean is full of sharks, yet we don’t avoid the ocean in fear of a potential shark attack. Instead of swimming from the tallest waves, we literally paddle towards it so we can surf it. Even driving to the beach, you could have gotten into a fatal car accident, yet you drove there anyways.
We do these things because we are not paranoid and know that it is reasonably safe. We have safety measures in place to ensure we are safe. Plus, the benefits outweigh the risks. I believe the same attitude should be applied to old/used swimwear. Like with the previous examples, just know that you are taking on some risk if you do decide to wear someone else’s swimsuit.
So here are some more reasons why I think it’s okay to share swimsuits.
You trust your friend/family member
It may be okay to wear your friend/family member’s swimsuit if you really trust them. I’m talking on multiple levels, and it makes things easier if you trust your friend with your life.
You also need to trust that they have very high standards. If they are sexually active, does your friend/family member only have a single partner? Do you trust their partner? Do you trust that your friend gets tested for STDs regularly? Do they use condoms when they have intercourse?
Also, do you trust that your friend is extremely hygienic? Is your friend someone who takes showers regularly and does laundry on a regular basis? Have you seen them thoroughly wash their swimsuit before, and trust that their cleaning process is effective?
These are a lot of common sense questions to ask, and if you answer yes to all of them, then you can be reasonably sure that you can safely wear any swimsuit they offer you because: 1) they are probably clean, and 2) they probably thoroughly cleaned the swimsuit recently, so you can feel safer sharing a swimsuit with them.
The swimsuit hasn’t been worn in over a week
Since most viruses die after leaving a human host within a week, then a swimsuit that has been unworn for the past week is reasonably safe to wear because the infectious viruses have died by then.
There is also an element of trust needed to accept that your friend is telling the truth and that they have done a good job cleaning it before storing it away.
You are okay with sacrificing a panty
Dressing room signs tell you to leave your panties on when trying on new clothes. That thin piece of fabric is literally what keeps you safe from STDs when shopping for clothes, and you know what, it works. So it can work here too, but you’ll effectively be sacrificing that pair because chlorine or saltwater would absolutely ruin it.
The aftermath would also be kind of uncomfortable, wearing a soaking wet panty for the rest of the day, so hopefully you brought spare panties with you as a backup for situations just like this. Otherwise, a wet panty is the price to pay for forgetting to bring your swimsuit.
You can always wash the swimsuit before wearing it
Do you doubt your friend’s claim that s/he thoroughly washed the bathing suit s/he is lending you? I know beggars can’t be choosers, so hopefully your friend/family member takes no offense, but you should also wash the swimsuit yourself before you wear it. Be very liberal with the swimsuit cleaner and scrub thoroughly.
Assuming that you plan to go into the water anyways, then there’s no harm wearing a freshly washed wet bathing suit since you’ll just be soaked at some point anyways. Plus, swimsuits are designed to dry quickly, so either way it’s not a problem.
The “ST” in STDs stands for sexually transmitted, meaning that intercourse or intimate contact with a person is the most common way it is transmitted.
Since most STDs can’t be transferred through clothing, and the few that do don’t live for very long outside of a human host, it’s actually not that unbelievable that you can wear clothing that other people have worn.
If this were not true, then you would not be able to try on intimates in changing rooms, nor would you be able to buy used swimwear, because people would make a huge fuss about how dangerous it is. There is still a risk, but there are also steps you can take to drastically minimize that risk.
I am not saying you should make it a habit to wear someone else’s swimsuit, but that if you follow certain precautions, you trust that person you’re borrowing from, and you understand the risk you’re taking, then that sounds like a logical decision that will probably turn out for the best.