Starting February 2011, 2nd hand knickers are banned from being sold.. in Ghana. And some people are not happy about it.

Cynthia, another market trader, defended the business.
"Second-hand underwear and other clothes we sell here at Kantamanto Market are better quality than new undies in the stores," she said.
She admitted that some of the imported underwear was stained but said customers rummage through the piles and inspect goods before buying.
"No matter how poor the person is, they will not chose stained ones and we throw them away," she said.
One trader insisted that all the goods she sold had been disinfected.
It appears they are doing this because "the Ghana Standards Board, used pants - and other second-hand goods like handkerchiefs and mattresses - are unhygienic and could pose a health hazard".
flickr/cc - xavi talleda
When bed bugs were making the news about the infestation in New York and they were spreading down the the east coast and moving westward, people were freaking out. Yet no one called for a ban on used mattresses. The reason we don't have a ban on second hand items here in the states is because of (1.) it's financial impact on the poor, (2.) as long as second hand items have value, they will continue to be sold and there is no specific way sanitize some items, like mattresses and finally, (3.) the money to regulate it would not be cost-effective.

I am not someone to buy a used mattress or underwear, but I can understand the financial impact to those who don't have the means to purchase new. And if we wash our clothes thoroughly with hot water and bleach (like we do with cloth diapers) then our undergarments should be clean enough for anyone to wear or are we doubting our cleaning supplies abilities?

Initially when I read this I thought a ban would be a good idea here in the states as well, but have come to the conclusion that personal decision making is the best way to go, if enough people don't want the 2nd hand item, it won't be available and the old saying is always true: Buyer Beware

Back to the Ghana ban on 2nd hand undergarments, "If the government really wants to meet the demands of poor people, it should offer support to micro-finance and small industries who are able to produce undergarments at subsidized rates," said Angela Wauye, a programme coordinator with ActionAid Kenya, who deals with trade issues.

But I liked the comment mentioned in a forum: I never wear used underwear until I sterilize it in a pit of fire first. The fire gets rid of any bed bugs or other insects that might be living in the underwear. Unfortunately, the skivvies seldom survive the fire, either.

What are your thoughts on buying 2nd hand undergarments?

A couple government resources for bed bugs:
2nd Hand Matresses:
Bedbug prevention and cleaning
resources from the CDC

12 Comments

  1. Miriam // Monday, November 29, 2010 7:59:00 AM  

    I believe it's illegal to sell used underwear- at least I was told it was in Virginia. Goodwill flatly refused to accept undies, and freecycle had a policy against them too. I don't care about panties too much- they're plenty cheap and frequently soiled- but I definitely wish I could buy bras at goodwill. Some of the best bras I've had were secondhand from friends. As a 40G I can't buy a bra for less than $25- and a good bra will be upwards of $45!

    About mattresses, I always put mine in water- and bug-proof plastic, so I wouldn't mind buying used, and mine could be passed on with no worries. But bedbugs do creep me out. When my husband moved from his last apartment we found a bedbug and ditched the mattress & boxspring at the dumpster. We drew big drawings on bugs on them first, haha. We debugged everything we could and that's when I started wrapping my mattresses..

  2. Annie // Monday, November 29, 2010 11:26:00 AM  

    I can't say I've ever purchased 2nd hand undergarments, but I have acquired a lot of second-hand ones from family and friends who share my size and pass on their "old" ones when they change style. They are in good shape, have been worn by someone I trust, and can easily be cleaned and sanitized for added safety. I see no issue with it provided you make sure they are "really" clean before you use them!

  3. Dawn // Monday, November 29, 2010 11:53:00 AM  

    Very timely topic for me! I am the Chairman of my church's charity thrift and, until recently, the shop had always sold used underwear. It was never our biggest seller by any means but many who bought these items were taking them back to their communities and giving them to those who could not afford otherwise. We just last week voted to discontinue selling them as we felt it was not worth the effort and the potential image it might give to cutomers. I was unable to find any information indicating it is illegal to sell them in my home state of NC and our local Goodwill does sell them. We have simply made a choice to sell only new underwear in the package but will continue selling used bras as they are big sellers. Thanks for the post!

  4. Anonymous // Monday, November 29, 2010 12:41:00 PM  

    When I read this article the other day I also thought the ban made sense. At the time I wondered why all of a sudden this became an issue. For all the financial assistance that has poured into these countries the standard of living is still abysmal.

    Very good point about creating a factory to manufacture undergarments. I wonder if missionaries have requested such items for distribution?

  5. Keira // Monday, November 29, 2010 1:25:00 PM  

    Used undergarments aren't illegal in TX or MI, the only two states I've lived in in the U.S. I am an avid thrift shopper and see used items of both at the resale shops all the time. I've never bought used undergarments, but would if I found cute stuff in my size and it wasn't stained.

  6. Dawn // Monday, November 29, 2010 6:13:00 PM  

    @Miriam & Keira
    I would have to agree that bras are quite expensive and getting them at thrift stores is a plus when you find a size that works for you.

    @Anon
    Ghana did have the law in place back in 1994 but weren't enforcing it, but now they feel they need to do to the fear factor (or maybe they got complaints from people who did get sick or from competitors).

    @Annie
    It would seem taking "friendly" undergarments are more appealing than "stranger" undergarments for you. I personally would rather not know the person who wore them before me.

    Isn't it strange how our minds work with this type of thing?

    @Dawn
    That is wonderful your churches charity offers those to others, locally and to send overseas. God bless in your charity work.

  7. Sharon // Monday, November 29, 2010 6:44:00 PM  

    I would have to be pretty hard up to wear used underwear but some people are that hard up. I would never buy a used mattress. I'm very careful with mine and my family (those nieces and nephews who are starting out) stand in line to get my used mattresses. - We change mattresses every 10 yrs. - But I wouldn't sell it to some stranger because I can't imagine someone wanting a used mattress (other than family who know me and my ways). I'm even getting leery of buying any used upholstered pieces due to bed bugs. When I've bought them in the past, they have to be very clean and in good condition and then I put them on the porch and hose them off. I use a mild detergent and hot water and scrub it on with a soft brush. Then hose it off again and suck it dry with my Rainbow vacuum cleaner and let it dry thoroughly. Then I spray it down with Scotch Guard. I do this with all my upholstered furniture during Spring Cleaning.

  8. Anonymous // Tuesday, November 30, 2010 10:35:00 AM  

    I have not bought used panties, but I HAVE bought and worn used longjohns. I figured that the dude (they were mens) who wore them probably wore undies and there were no stains. I also took them home and washed them in hot water with bleach (which I almost never use) and some borax in the first rinse. I also always wear undies with them.

    Even when you buy used jeans you don't know if the previous owner "went commando" or wore undies or maybe had a poopoo accident so what the heck.

    I've seen a few websites with descriptions of how to make undies out of old t-shirts which might be something the thrift store folks could look into.

  9. Anonymous // Tuesday, November 30, 2010 12:44:00 PM  

    I just can't see how people would turn their nose at underwear when there's such a brisk trade in shoes--sure I've bought some gently used sandals and sanitized the crap out of them, but think about how much YUCK and germs are contained in things like tennis shoes and boots.

    I'm willing to go dumpster diving but when my high end resort workplace gave out old comforters for free I watched in shock as people dragged them away--we had been in the paper several times with bedbug stories.

    So it's all relative, I guess.

  10. Sharon // Wednesday, December 01, 2010 8:14:00 AM  

    I, too, have bought gently used clothes and shoes and have washed them and sanitized the shoes carefully. But used underwear just seems icky to me. And I don't buy things that are too dirty or worn, what's the use? But I even wash and sanitize brand new clothes and shoes because who knows where they came from or where they sat in a warehouse somewhere or who has tried them on previously. Bugs and rats in warehouses can walk in and out of boxes. I guess it's like the banana question. You peel a banana to eat it so do you have to wash it before you peel it? I do considering flies and bugs could travel over it in warehouses and transit and I don't want that on my hands as I eat my denuded banana. But some people don't have a problem with it and don't wash it before and, why should you if you don't touch the raw banana with your hands but it's habit with me.

  11. sweetvictorya // Wednesday, December 01, 2010 3:10:00 PM  

    I wouldn't buy used undergarments, but I wouldn't mind wearing ones I get from relatives (like my mom, for example.)
    I too have to buy expensive bras, but take good care of them so they last longer.. Forget about the replace a bra every 6 months rule!!

  12. Hammy // Friday, December 03, 2010 6:47:00 AM  

    You can't imagine a pair of Victoria's Secret panties being bought secondhand, can you?