Also because I’m stuck in bed with the worst menstrual cramps ever, but mainly because I care about you.
I care about you feeling confident in your ability to make it through the depths of hell while creating as little waste as possible.
Now I know what you’re thinking, that this is going to be a one-sided conversation where I do nothing but rave about menstrual cups, but you’re wrong.
While the menstrual cup is my go to, and you will definitely see me talk about it a little later, that’s not really what I’m here for.
I’m here so we can talk about all of the ways in which you can address your period a la zero waste.
I feel like the zero waste community speaks so heavily about menstrual cups and every now and then cloth pads, but no, there’s more…
I’m an affiliate for Amazon, so all links to Amazon are affiliate links. The rest I won’t get compensated for, but they link to really good stuff, so of course, I added them! What is an affiliate link, you ask? Click here.
WHAT ARE PERIOD PANTIES
Okay, so period panties are this whole new Thinx. See what I did there? Pun definitely intended. No, but seriously, they are this cool new thing. They’re what you would have if you were to combine a reusable menstrual pad and a pair of panties. They’re panties…with a built-in menstrual pad.
Basically, they’re a pair of panties with a bit of padding in the crotch. From what I’ve read, they absorb just as well as pads do, and you can buy different styles with different absorbency levels.
The downside is that you can’t switch them out as easily as you can some of the other methods I mention later. You have to take off the whole panty. The. Whole. Panty. Imagine that in a public restroom.
For this reason, I think they’re great as a backup method. You know, if you need a little extra protection. They may also work well if you don’t have plans to be out of the house for too long. Maybe even towards the end of your period when your flow is lighter. I’m just not sure I’d trust them in a situation where I’d be away from home all day with a heavy flow.
HOW TO CLEAN PERIOD PANTIES
Cleaning and maintenance of period panties should not be too bad. There are a ton of methods people use to create the perfect wash routine, but I’ll go over my favorite. When you’re done using them, just rinse them with cold water and store them all in a wet bag until you’re ready to wash the load.
WHERE TO BUY PERIOD PANTIES
Thinx has made a name for themselves in the period panty industry. I’d argue that they’re the most well-known brand out there. Their panties are cute and fashionable, and they come in a few styles which is nice. But you know what else they have? A ridiculously high price point.
Yes, one pair of hip hugger panties cost $34.
#IAin’tGotTime for one pair of $34 panties.
If you feel the same way, Amazon has period panties too, but for a much more reasonable price. There’s a brand called Yoyi, and they have pretty good reviews. Also, you can get three pairs for less than the price of one pair of Thinx.
WHAT ARE CLOTH PADS
Cloth pads are the reusable version of menstrual product classic. Pads are the OGs of menstrual products. The only problem is that traditional pads aren’t very zero waste friendly because they come with a bunch of plastic.
This is where reusable cloth pads come into play. They do the exact same thing as the disposable pads. They just don’t have the added plastic that makes it sound as though you’re wearing a diaper with every step you take. Since cloth pads are made of soft fabric, they tend to be really breathable. This might make them a better option if disposable pads give you a rash (cringing at the memories).
The cool thing about cloth pads is that you can get them in an array of different sizes, shapes, and absorbencies. They also come in a ton of different fabrics, prints, and ways to adhere them to your undies. And if you’re wondering, yes, you can get them with wings.
HOW TO CLEAN CLOTH PADS
Cleaning cloth pads is pretty much the same as cleaning period panties. The only difference is that with cloth pads, you have the option to easily change them while on the go. This is where wet bags come in handy.
When you’re in a situation where you need to change your pad and you’re away from home, wet bags make for easy storage until you can get there. Some even opt for a wet/ dry bag so they can store both used and unused pads in the same place.
When you’re home, the process would follow as it does with period panties. Rinse with water, and store in a larger wet bag until you’re ready to wash the load. To see all the different methods people use to wash their pads, I suggest heading over to YouTube.
WHERE TO BUY CLOTH PADS
If you’re handy and can sew, you can make your own. That’s what I did when I wanted to test one out. I followed Amy Nix’s YouTube tutorial and found it to be very helpful.
Check out Etsy if you want really cute prints. Also, check out Etsy if you want to support small handmade businesses. There are a ton of sellers there, and many of them offer organic fabrics.
If Amazon is bae, then you’re in luck, because Amazon has a decent selection of cute prints and organic fabrics. Plus, if you’re a prime member, you can make use of the two-day shipping.
You can check out buy/ sell/ trade Facebook groups that cater specifically to reusable menstrual products (RUMPS). If this freaks you out, remember that these are made out of cloth that can be washed, boiled, and sanitized, so you don’t have to worry about transferring bodily fluids.
WHAT ARE CLOTH TAMPONS
Tampons are another classic. Usually, they’re what we go to when we decide it’s time to upgrade to something more advanced. Tampons are the little vagina rockets that have your back when you want to swim during your period. And now, a reusable, plastic-free version exists.
Cloth tampons are basically tiny crocheted squares with a string attached. They roll up into the same shape as a conventional tampon, and all you do is insert it like normal and go on about your day. The only thing about these is that they don’t have an applicator, so the experience would be more like using an o.b. tampon.
As with disposable tampons, There are different levels of absorbencies. On particular Etsy seller even sells cloth tampon inserts. This makes the absorbency completely customizable.
HOW TO CLEAN CLOTH TAMPONS
Cleaning is the same as with period panties and cloth pads. If you’re out and about, store the used tampons in a wet bag until you get home. When at home, rinse the used tampons with cold water, and store them in a larger wet bag until you’re ready to wash all of them.
WHERE TO BUY CLOTH TAMPONS
So far, Etsy is the only place I’ve found to buy cloth tampons. There’s a good selection to choose from, and all the tampons are pretty inexpensive. They’re like a couple of dollars each tampon.
WHAT ARE SEA SPONGES
The idea of a sea sponge freaked me out in the beginning, I’m not going to lie. Falling down a youtube black hole where all I did was watch videos about sea sponges and periods helped normalize the idea, and now they seem completely normal.
While I was in the sunken place (the sea sponge black hole), I found out that you can do something with a sea sponge that you can’t do with any other reusable menstrual product. If you want to know what that is, you’re gonna have to keep reading.
First, if you’ve never heard of them before, they are exactly what they sound like. They’re sponges from the ocean that you insert into your vagine to soak up menstrual blood.
If you order sea sponges, they will arrive looking like large, hard rocks, and this is normal. They’re supposed to be large so they can soak up all the menstrual fluids, and they will soften up once wet with water. Think of a beauty blender. The good thing about sea sponges is that they have the ability to be trimmed if they feel uncomfortable.
The downside to sea sponges is that they can’t be reused indefinitely. They only hold up for about six months, but since they’re from nature, they can be composted.
HOW TO CLEAN SEA SPONGES
You know how if you fill a sponge with water, the only way to get the water out is by squeezing it? The same is true with a sea sponge. When it’s time to change your sponge, remove it and squeeze out the blood. From there you can rinse it out and reinsert it.
This process can be kind of messy. If you’re in public, you can carry a water bottle and rinse out the sponge over the toilet. Alternatively, you can take a wet bag and backup sponges.
Sea sponges do need to be sanitized before the first use and once a day during use. They also need to to be sanitized before storage at the end of your period. To figure out how to sanitize your sponges and for thorough usage instructions, check out this article on Femally where they go into all the details regarding the sponges.
Now for the fun part. I said that you can do something with a sea sponge that you can’t do with any other reusable menstrual product, and here it is…
You can have sex.
Yes, you read that right. Mess-free period sex, you’re welcome.
Since the sponge is soft, squishy, and absorbent, your partner shouldn’t feel it, and it will absorb your blood while not making a mess. Of course, It would probably be a good idea to trim it down to a size small enough not to be an interference but large enough to get the job done on your end.
WHERE TO BUY SEA SPONGES
There are a bunch of Etsy sellers who sell them. If you’re going to go the Etsy route, I suggest searching “sea sponge tampons,” so you avoid all the big, giant ones expected to be used as shower loofahs.
You can get them from Amazon, but honestly, if I were buying them, I’d get them from Femally. That’s the site I linked to that has all the care instructions. There’s something comforting about a site that offers a lot of information and knowledge about their products, so for that reason alone, I’d go there.
WHAT ARE MENSTRUAL CUPS
If you’re new to the idea of menstrual cups and don’t know what they are, let me give you the run down.
It’s a flexible silicone cup that you fold an insert into your vagina. Once it’s in there, it will open and suction around your cervix. Then you leave it there until it needs to be emptied. How often it needs to be emptied will depend on the heaviness of your flow and the size of your cup.
When you need to remove the cup, there’s a little stem that you can pull on. This will cause the menstrual cup to slide down. After that, you pinch the base of the cup to break the suction and pull it the rest of the way out. If you’re like me and end up trimming the stem all the way off, all you have to do is stick your fingers in there, and pinch the base of the cup. This will break the suction, and you can then just pull it out.
HOW TO CLEAN MENSTRUAL CUPS
Cleaning menstrual cups is insanely easy, and is primarily the reason that they’re the GOAT. Well, at least for me anyway…
Honestly, you can really just wash your menstrual cup with a gentle soap between each use. If you want to be a bit extra and take it a step further, you can boil it for 5 minutes.
In between uses, however, all you really need to do is rinse it and insert it.
If you’re out in public, you can carry a water bottle so you can rinse your cup out over the toilet. Some people even take wipes, but to cut down on waste, I would suggest maybe a towel and some water if you want to wipe the cup down. Luckily, since they hold quite a bit of fluid, there’s a good chance that you may not even have to bother with your cup in public. Of course, everybody is different, so it will depend on your flow.
Once your period is over you can give it a wash with gentle soap and/ or boil it before storing it away. After heavy use, menstrual cups have a tendency to stain. It doesn’t mean they’re dirty. It just means they’re stained. I noticed mine started to pick up stains after about a year.
Although you don’t have to treat the stains, there is a way to do so. You can soak your cup in hydrogen peroxide overnight, and by morning your cup should look brand new.
Here’s a video where I demo how to remove stains from your menstrual cup. It took two attempts before my cup was completely free of stains, but someone in the comments suggested putting a lid over the container. This could help keep the oxygen in the H2O2 from leaving the container and creating a weaker solution.
WHERE TO BUY MENSTRUAL CUPS
There are tons of different options for menstrual cups, and they each fit a certain way. Some work well for people’s bodies, and others are a complete bust. Before buying your first cup, here’s a website where you can take a quiz to find out which option would be best for you.
When you’re ready to buy, hands down go to Amazon. They have the best selection. I believe they have all of them, but if not they come extremely close. Also, if you’re expecting your period close to the day you want to order, you can get it in two days if you’re a prime member.
Like with the cloth pads, you can check out buy/sell/trade groups on Facebook groups. A lot of times they may have only used their menstrual cup once or gave it a test run during a nonmenstruating day and realized it wasn’t a good fit for them. If you’re lucky, you might come across one that hasn’t even been used.
If the idea of this grosses you out, keep in mind that the menstrual cups are made out of medical grade silicone (if you get a decent, non-janky one) and can be boiled and/ or sanitized
Menstrual products are a necessity for a lot of people. Because of this, most can’t really go without them and end up using a lifetime of disposable products that end up in the landfill. That’s no fault of the user if that’s all that’s available to them or if they have no idea reusable options exist. I hope this was able to help or inspire you to limit your waste and manage a zero waste period.
Have you switched to a reusable menstrual product yet? If so, which one, and hows it going?