I am so happy to see that reusable menstrual products are increasingly being celebrated! More and more good-hearted companies produce and sell menstruation cups, reusable period pads and period panties. I personally have been using these for many years. As I have noticed that reviews often come too soon, here I share my experiences from over 5 years of testing!
First I will discuss the different products that are available and that I have tried and tested. I naturally used the order in which I started using the products, so that’s why it may be counter-intuitive for you. I finish up with a note on taking care of the products ánd of yourself. Enjoy!
If you wish to skip ahead, here goes: cup / pads / panties / care / conclusion
The menstrual cup
First and foremost, I love my menstrual cup! I already wrote about it six years ago – and my opinion hasn’t changed. However, in the meantime I did have some additional interesting experiences.
In short, menstrual cups are little cups made from silicone and you wear them in your vagina while bleeding. You don’t wear ’em as high as you would a tampon, but you can wear ’em near the entrance/exit of the vagina, so down low.
The cups end in a stick-like handle which can be of help in taking it out (see picture below). When wearing, this handle would/could be in between the lips. If it annoys you and you don’t need it, you can just cut it off! This is what I did too.
My first menstrual cup was from the brand Mooncup, which was one of the pioneers in the menstrual cup world. I got myself the small size, since I had not given birth and was also still in my early twenties. The larger sized cup is adviced for women who have given birth and/or are over 30 years of age. So the choice was a no brainer for me.
First it worked, then it didn’t
And it worked great! Easy to insert, no irritation, no leaking. Great! Until it didn’t. It changed because I got a (copper) IUD for birth control, and this drastically altered my period and apparently the workings of the cup.
With the IUD, my period changed from light to very heavy flow and the cup couldn’t capture and/or hold it all. I don’t know what exactly did not work, but I experienced lots of leaking and that is exactly what you do not want!
This was my pink LadyCup when I first got it (so unused!). The juice is, well, juice.
Trying a different brand worked wonders
This problem was fixed by me getting a different menstrual cup! Without knowing that it would work, I tried out a cup of LadyCup. I went for this one because I liked how they have cups with different colours, instead of the colourless one of Mooncup*.
(* Not coloring the cups is a selling point for some menstrual cup companies, because this minimalises the amount of chemicals in your vagina. Colouring requires extra steps in the production process and an extra use of chemicals or whatever is used, so there is someting to say for not colouring.)
And it just worked! Same procedure, better results. So I happily switched to my pink LadyCup and did not leak back (pun intended!).
The two cups have a slightly different design, which is noticable if you compare them, but I doubt it influences their effectiveness.
In my case, I attribute the difference in succes to the sizes I chose: with my new heavy flow, the slightly larger LadyCup was better suited for the job than the smaller Mooncup. I could also have chosen to try the large Mooncup, but I fell for the hot pink LadyCup because I loved the feminine feel it gave me.
Later, when I got rid of the IUD (because it caused me heavier periods in all senses) I stayed with the LadyCup.
More honest observations
Since this is an honest review, I should include some of the less appealing details. So here goes!
One observation is that the colorless cup indeed changes color with use. As explained by company Mooncup, this coloring occurs when using the method of boiling the cup for sterilizing. They say that this would not happen if you use chemical sterilization instead. This is something to be aware of, and to not freak out about. Blood is red and has the ability to color objects, including menstrual cups. No biggie really.
Another one is that the cup, while wearing it, can be in the way of excreting other bodily excretions. I guess this can change per person due to slight differences in anatomy and bodily fuctions. But in my case sometimes I take the cup out so I can pee and/or poo more easily. This can be a little annoying, but it is only logical since the cup just takes up space, so I accept it.
I love & highly recommend trying the menstrual cup
In conclusion, I love using menstrual cups because it feels easy, light and clean because of the good fit and the smooth surface. It pops in and out easily (at my will only!) and it does not leak. Also, I like being able to see how much blood the cup captured and I trust that boiling the cup in water cleans it.
Some women report that for them the menstrual cup doesn’t work well or isn’t comfortable. Maybe the fit wasn’t right or the cup caused irritation. However, I still recommend any wom(b)en to at least give it a try. Chances are that it isn’t your thing, true, but then at least you know. Then you know you have tried it.
And if it is your thing, it can change your period experience for the better and it can improve your relationship with your body. On top of that it can save you lots of money and lots of waste. So please, give it a try!
The reusable menstrual pad
Next on the show is the reusable pad! This one is made of cotton and/or bamboo and it likely has a leak-proof layer on the back-side. It has ‘wings’ to fold under your undies nad that can be connected through studs.
It is used instead of one-time-use disposable pads that are sold en masse in supermarkets and drug stores – and that, after a few hours of use, are tossed in the bin in equal amounts. So I want to say something about those ones first.
Plastic period pads just don’t scream self-love
I have to tell you, once you switch to reusable products, you will detest the amount of shelf space that is used to display disposable tampons and period pads. The amount of plastic that is sold and disposed is innumerable.
It makes me wonder:
How one can love oneself when using these products. How are we supposed to love our bleeding bodies when all we get to use are plastic-wrapped, sticky, uncomfortable and ‘trashy’ ‘feminine hygiene products’ that are displayed in huge amounts in super markets, but that we are culturally supposed to hide for everyone but ourselves?
How can we ever feel good when buying these products that are supposed to be there for us but are instead wrapped in such shame?
Here they certainly did their best to project ‘self love’. What do you think, did it work?
Photo by Irina Ilina via Pixabay.
I don’t believe these companies really have our backs. They have had our money for a long time, that’s for sure.
Well, not anymore! Here comes the reusable cotton pad!
The more lovable cute cotton pads
I have been using these for over five years as well. Mine are from EcoFemme and they look and feel pretty nice. They have nice colors and they feel soft. So that is the main reason I love them! Sustainability reasons aside.
Using them even feels luxurious. Whereas the plastic ones tend to stick to the body parts they touch, the cotton ones are just very soft and pampering.
So yes, my pussy prefers the luxury of cotton menstrual pads.
Also, I love that in my period pads, which are colored blue and purple, I can actually see the amount of blood. This helps me to keep track of how it’s going. (I’m also partly biologist and/so I am very interested! And it can help you decide when to change pads.)
These are my new ones from Eco Period (so still unused). I like how happy they look. Making periods fun again!
I usually wear them in combination with the cup, as a back-up, and on their own on light flow days. Generally I am very positive, allthough I have some experiences that need mentioning as well.
Take care not to bleed alongside the pads
As well as with the plastic ones, with the cotton ones you have to pay attention that the pad doesn’t fold in the middle, allowing the blood to run past it. I have experienced this with cotton pads too – if I remember correctly.
An additional problem is that the pad can ‘slide’ forwards in your panties, allowing you to leak behind it.
All cotton pads I know, are fastened with press studs. The pads are wrapped around the panties and are clipped. Whereas disposable pads stick to the panties, the cotton ones do not. And since the body moves, alternates among other things standing, walking and sitting, the pads can be pushed/pulled forward. This is not desirable.
So, you can spot me subtly readjusting my menstrual pad in public. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.
I think the trick is to mind which pair of panties to wear, namely panties which have a good width for the pads. If the undies are too narrow, it doesn’t work, because the pads will move and turn, yes, turn around even so the press studs are facing your vulva instead of the other way.
Noteworthy in the comparison is that I experienced similar problems with disposable pads. I did not have them make a 180° turn, but I did experience, the sticky wings loosening and folding over the top (sticky side up!), allowing the blood to stream past it. Also, as mentioned, the wing-less ones can just fold in the middle with the same result.
So the reusable ones still win!
Worth mentioning is that when using cotton pads you need to take care of them. Recommended is to rinse them with cold water straight after use, so the majority of the blood comes out. Then you can let them dry and machine wash or hand wash them later. To me this works great.
Although I have to mention that in my case ultimately not all blood comes off. So some blood stains remain. I think this is no big deal, since blood just stains, but I do doubt about it. To my knowing there are no clear recommendations on how you can know whether the pads are good to use again or when to finally toss them out completely. I am not worried about it, but it is an interesting gap of knowledge.
The newest kid on the block is the period panty! This one was popularized by the brand THINX a few years back. They made a great name for themselves.
The concept is simple: the period panty is able to capture your blood and does not leak. Different designs hold differend amounts of blood which is expressed in number of tampons worth of blood. These panties are great for any time, especially for sports.
This ‘scarlet’ period panty was a limited edition from Thinx. I only have a black one, but I promoted this one before because I love the color.
Picture from Thinx!
The website of THINX has many pages, including very interesting feminist blog posts (at least in the early days). It easily convinces one of the benefits of period panties and of their performance in terms of dry feel and not leaking. You see, the panties have multiple layers of fabric which have different properties. This makes the blood sink in, into the middle I depict, while the upper layer remains dry-feeling and the lowest layer prevents leaking.
Cleaning them is the elephant in the room
That sounds great, but I just cannot help myself and have to ask the inevitable question: If these panties are good in keeping the blood in, how do we know if the blood also comes out in the washing machine?
THINX’ washing instructions tell you to wash them with the rest of your clothes, using a ‘delicate cycle’ or by hand, cold or lukewarm.
I am not afraid of periods being unsanitary, but I do doubt this procedure, especially because you cannot see the blood and whether it is gone after washing or not, because of all the layers and the blackcolor of the panties. Also, the different layers serve to capture the blood really well, so I can imagine that this same mechanism prevents the blood from coming out in the washing machine.
So this leaves me with some questions.
I actually reached out to the customer service with the question of how they know for sure the panties get clean in the washing machine. I am curious whether and how they tested this! I got an answer but to a different question:
‘The best way to ensure your undies are *extra* clean is by rinsing them them out completely until the water runs clear immediately after use. From there, either machine wash right away, or leave them to dry completely and machine wash on laundry day. An occasional white vinegar soak is a great help as well, soak your undies in 1 part white vinegar and 1 part water for about 15 minutes after rinsing out completely and before machine washing. I hope this helps!’
So a white vinegar soak should help cleaning them. That is good to know!
How I love to use them
So I only use period panties very occasionally. I mostly love them on days when I expect to start my period, as extra protection in combination with the cup, and on days in which my access to toilets is limited (due to traveling/commuting for example). I love that I can feel totally secure then.
However I wouldn’t like to bleed up to 5 tampons worth of blood into them. (Yes that’s possible! Depending on the style you choose.) So I just wear them as a back-up to catch little amounts of blood. That works fine.
I have one period panty from THINX, which I love because of the great fit. It stays in place really well, so I feel very secure wearing it. I recently got a second one of another company, which I haven’t worn often yet. I do think that one reminds me more of a diaper, which is fine. 😉
Taking good care of you and your reusable products
One big thing that should not be overlooked is that reusable products do need some taking care of them. I think that the companies selling them may not stress this enough on their website, and pretend that it’s just really logical and easy.
For example, for the pads and panties, it is recommended to soak them in cold water right after use. Cold water helps the blood come off, whereas warm water makes the blood attach. Recently I read the recommendation somewhere to ‘just’ have a bucket of cold water in your house to throw your pads and panties in.
I think this is too easy to state. I mean, I don’t naturally have a bucket of cold water living in my house. I can, but does that also mean that I should buy a new bucket to use especially for this purpose?
I totally choose taking good care of my period products over using disposable ones, but let’s not take it too lightly either. We have to be honest about the care that is required to make sure your period products get clean after use.
So we have to have this bucket of cold water ready to go any (moon) time. For the cup, we need proper detergent and/or a (dedicated?) pan to boil it in. And then we have to trust that it all goes well and that it’s sanitary.
So I want to be real about it. Having to clean the menstrual products does require my attention and care. That is fine, but sometimes it can be too much to deal with it, on top of all the other things we have to deal with on a daily basis, and while menstruating specifically.
This may say more about the pressures of our performance society than about menstruating, but it is relevant to mention – and I haven’t seen one company acknowledging this.
Using reusable products as an act of self love
Here we circle back to self love. In addition to my positive (already mentioned) ‘user experiences’, there are other upsides too that are worth mentioning and experiencing.
Having reusable products in your home means that you don’t have to think about buying new products in time for your period, and that you don’t have to regularly spend money on it. And, to go further, you don’t need to have a bin in your bathroom for pads and tampons, that you need to remember to take out to the trash.
So, this can also clear some headspace! Ah, I feel relieved already.
And taking care of my own menstrual products feels good too. It feels like a good way to connect with my body and her cycles, through these products. It feels like a little ritual, maybe even sacred: A sacred monthly feminine ritual.
Also, of course, this way no one else has to do it for me: to produce them in large numbers, to process them when in the trash…
So I love that having and using the reusable products allows for more ownership. I have all the means to take care of me and my body during my period and to clean up after. Doing so is an act of self love.
I celebrate reusable menstruation products
All in all, I am a firm believer of reusable period products! They are great in terms of world problems like pollution and climate change and also accessability of period products for women all over the world. They can help women save many euros and thereby improve accessability of period products for women all over the world. On top of that, for me using these products feels more luxurious and in tune with my body and the natural world. Thus, I feel more natural and taken care of, even though I get to lovingly take care of the products myself.
Top photo by Paweł Czerwiński via Unsplash.