ATTENTION MEN: TMI warning. If you wish to NOT be disturbed, here’s your fair warning: stop reading NOW!
Women decide to use eco-friendly monthly friend products for various reasons. Many do so because it’s better for the planet as it doesn’t overload the landfills with wasted products. Some do it because they don’t want the bleach and other chemicals that are used in the manufacturing of pads and tampons to touch their skin or enter their bodies. Others do so because reusable menstrual products are cheaper. And yet others do it just because the eco-friendly products are more comfortable.
Whatever the reason (or combination of reasons), if you would like to learn more about those green monthly friend products you are already using or if you are new to green monthly friend products, then this mini guide is for you! In today’s post (or guide) I’ll be going over the following:
- kinds of reusable menstrual products
- how to use them
- how to care for them
- how to store them
Also known as mama cloth, cloth pads are simply cloth that is worn to catch menstrual flow. Unlike the crude cloth they used in the olden days, these cloth pads are much nicer–more modern, more comfortable, and more user friendly.
Most are constructed of several layers of soft cloth such as cotton, minky, or bamboo velour and often have a waterproof layer to protect panties. They also come with wings that have snaps so that they can be wrapped around underwear.
How to Use a Cloth Pad
- Wash the cloth pad before its first use (follow the cleaning directions below).
- To use most cloth pads, you simply place it on your panties, wrap the wings around to the underside, and snap the wings together.
How to Care for Cloth Pads
- Immediately after you’re done using a cloth pad, rinse off the excess blood with cold water. Cold water is important because warm water can cause it to stain faster.
- Store the cloth pad in a wet bag. If you cloth diaper a wee one, you can just throw it in with the dirty diapers. Be sure to leave the wet bag at least somewhat open so air can circulate around the cloth pads to prevent them from getting stinky.
- Wash the cloth pads within 3 or 4 days after use. To wash, put in the washing machine and wash on the warm (not hot) or cold setting with cloth diaper or cloth pad safe detergent (such as my Homemade All-Natural Cloth Diaper Detergent). If you cloth diaper, simply wash the cloth pads with the cloth diapers; if you don’t cloth diaper, toss the cloth pads in with your towels.
- Tumble dry on the warm or cool setting or hang dry.
- AVOID: non-cloth pad/cloth diaper safe detergents, soaps with lye, bleach, vinegar, or extra hot/sanitizing water washer settings.
How to Store Cloth Pads
- Keep in a basket or container that is open to the air to encourage air circulation. Avoid storing in anything airtight.
- You can store your cloth pads flat or fold them up into compact squares and hold them together with their snaps.
- If you’re not using the cloth pads for an extended period of time (say you’re pregnant or nursing and don’t need them at the moment), store them in a cloth bag like a pillowcase. Make sure they can still get some air to them. Avoid storing them in anything airtight.
- Before using pads that have been in storage for a long time (like 3 months or more), wash them first.
Menstrual cups have really taken center stage lately as the ultimate replacement for tampons. They’re awesome–easy to use, easy to care for, and safe to use. They cannot cause toxic shock syndrome. And they don’t introduce any harmful chemicals into the body like tampons do.
Menstrual cups typically come in two different sizes. The smaller size is for women who are under the age of 30 and who have never given birth to a child. The larger size is for women who are age 30 or older or who have given birth to a child (either vaginally or via C-section). However, because every woman’s body is different, this basic guideline may not always be accurate. I, for example, have had children and yet still fare better with the smaller size. As I get older, this may or may not change.
How to Use a Menstrual Cup
- Fold the menstrual cup for easier insertion (see the image below for two ways to fold it).
- While sitting down or squatting (pick whatever position is most comfortable), insert the folded cup like you would a tampon.
- Release it so it unfolds.
- Twist the cup to ensure a secure seal.
- After some time has passed (don’t keep a cup in for any longer than 12 hours), remove the cup with clean hands and empty into the toilet. Wash in the sink with cold water and a menstrual cup safe cleaner (such as my Homemade Menstrual Cup Wash) prior to re-inserting.
- If you’re in a public place, remove the cup with clean hands, empty into the toilet, then wipe it out with clean toilet paper prior to re-inserting (give it a wash next time you remove it at home).
Some things to note:
- The menstrual cup will probably take some practice to insert properly. When it is inserted properly, you shouldn’t be able to feel it.
- Some menstrual cups have longer “tails”. This is so women who prefer a longer one have it. If, however, you don’t need that length and it is uncomfortable when inserted, snip the tail off a little bit at a time (only a little bit–you don’t want to accidentally cut off too much) until it is comfortable (or you can’t feel it at all).
- You don’t want to use any lubricant when inserting the cup. The oils and ingredients in lubricant can cause the cup to deteriorate.
- Be sure to use a menstrual cup approved cleanser to wash the cup each time it’s removed if you can. DO NOT use dish soap, anti-bacterial hand soap, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, or rubbing alcohol as these can cause the silicone to deteriorate.
- Do not use the cup during a miscarriage or while experiencing post-partum bleeding.
- The above illustrated ways to fold the cup are just two common methods. See this post for several other ways (plus more detailed folding instructions).
How to Care for a Menstrual Cup
- Before your first use of the cup and after your period has ended, you’ll need to give the cup a thorough wash. To do this, bring a couple quarts of water to boil in a saucepan. Throw the rinsed off menstrual cup into the boiling water and allow to boil for about 5 minutes. Remove with tongs, place on a towel, and allow to air dry.
- Right after emptying the cup and before you re-insert it, quickly wash the cup with cold water and a menstrual cup-safe cleaner.
- If the menstrual cup begins to discolor (which eventually happens and isn’t necessarily a bad thing), try boiling it as described in the step before this. If that doesn’t work, try setting it in the sunlight (such as in a windowsill) to allow the sun to work its magic to naturally bleach it. Or scrub it with a paste of baking soda and water.
How to Store a Menstrual Cup
- Most menstrual cups come with a cloth drawstring bag. Store the cup in this. Never store it in anything plastic or airtight. It is important to keep it exposed to the air to prevent smells and deterioration.
- If you’re not going to use the cup for an extended period of time (such as while pregnant or nursing), just keep it stored in its drawstring bag. Before using it again, boil it for 5 minutes.
Sea Sponge Tampons
Jade & Pearl sells a unique natural tampon replacement. It’s simply a cleaned up sea sponge. If you discover that menstrual cups aren’t your thing, then you might find sea sponge tampons to be much friendlier. They insert more like a disposable tampon and are very comfortable.
How to Use a Sea Sponge Tampon
- Clean as explained below before first use.
- Moisten the sea sponge tampon with warm water and squeeze out the excess.
- Insert like a tampon. Wear for up to 6 hours.
- Remove the sea sponge and rinse it with cold water, squeezing out all the blood and water. Once clean, squeeze out the excess water and re-insert.
- Do not use the sea sponge tampon during a miscarriage or while experiencing post-partum bleeding.
How to Care for a Sea Sponge Tampon
- Get new sea sponge tampons every 6 months.
- To clean the sea sponge tampon after your period, soak it in a solution of 1 cup filtered cold water and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (or hydrogen peroxide if you’re comfortable with it) for about an hour. This should also help get rid of any discoloration. Rinse thoroughly after soaking.
- Allow to air dry on towel (preferably in the sun, such as on a window sill).
- AVOID: soaps or solutions of any kind (other than the water/lemon juice mixture just mentioned).
How to Store a Sea Sponge Tampon
- The Jade & Pearl sea sponge tampons come with a cloth drawstring bag. Store the sponge in this between uses. It is important for air to circulate around it, so never store it in anything plastic or air tight.
- If storing the sea sponge tampon for an extended period of time (such as while pregnant or nursing), just store it in its drawstring bag. Before using it again, wash it in the water/lemon juice mixture as described above.
On the Go
If you use eco-friendly monthly friend products when you’re on the go (such as out doing errands), the easiest to do is probably a menstrual cup. But you can use cloth pads as well. Cloth pads fold up into compact little squares that can be tucked inside your purse and you can bring along a small wet bag to store used ones in until you get home.
A Few Final Thoughts
- If you have heavy flow, wear a cloth pad in addition to the inserted menstrual cup or sea sponge tampon. This way, it’ll catch anything that escapes.
- Experiment with different brands, products, and sizes so you learn what suits you best.