My Favorite Reusable & Sustainable Menstrual Products - For Your Wallet & The Planet!
Oh where do I even begin!
I’m sure most of us grew up being given disposable pads and tampons to use - there’s no shame in the fact that it’s what is normalized by modern society as the only options. We are taught that our blood is unclean, so re-using products often brings up the question of “is it safe” or “seems like it would smell” or “it’s expensive”. Well I’m here to debunk all those myths!
Often from a young age we are taught to trust and use tampons and pads regularly, but little are we informed about what toxins are actually in them. Organic pads are one option, but an expensive one that also factors in waste and more production energy.
Reusable menstrual products have changed my life while also helping out my wallet and the planet. It's so nice to not have to worry about being stocked or running to the store to spend money each month when I bleed. Instead, over time I have accumulated a small collection of my favorite menstrual products. While the up front costs may be a bit higher, it is well worth the small investment and saves a TON of money in the long-run.
Let’s start with a few reasons on
why you should switch to sustainable/reusable menstrual products. It...
saves you money, for real
saves you time & trips to the market
reduces waste - you’re helping the planet!
no toxic chemicals
many of these companies are smaller women-owned businesses instead of male-dominated corporations
Let’s dive in!
Cost & Waste Reduction
I’ve been using reusable menstrual products for a handful of years now, and the only differences it’s made personally are positive ones - I spend little to nothing each month instead of $10-20+ on tampons and pads. I create wayyyy less waste. And I feel way more comfy! I’ll talk more below about the costs & savings of each type of product!
The disposable products we’ve been taught to use are unsafe, have a negative environmental impact, and are helping male-owned companies get rich!
Disposal of single use menstrual products - tampons, pads and applicators generates 200,000 tons of waste per year. (Source: https://www.knowaste.com)
Despite changes in bleaching practices to purify the wood pulp – one of raw materials used to make menstrual products – chlorine and dioxin (one of the most toxic substances known to humankind) can still be found in menstrual pads and tampons.
Menstrual health products represent a $5.9 billion industry in the United States and $35.4 billion one worldwide. That number is expected to top $40 billion around the world in the next three years, according to Global Industry Analysts.
Confronting Cleanliness & Public Shame
Some may feel that there is a burden of cleaning and drying the reusable products. There can also be shame around this when it’s done in a public restroom or if we leave our products out to dry and guests come over. It takes time to get over this ingrained reaction to hide that we are bleeding and be embarrassed if everyone finds out. I went from hiding pads in my pockets or bag on the way to the bathroom, to carrying them openly in my hand, to leaving them out to dry no matter who comes over!
The thing is, we are no dirty, we are normal. Bleeding monthly is a birthright, a natural trait and the reason everyone living on the planet exists today. If anyone ever gives you trouble for it or tries to make you feel bad, don’t even give them the time of day, because you are not in the wrong for taking care of your cycle and self.
The time commitment to cleaning reusable products is very minimal. It takes me about 30-90 seconds per pad, 20-40 seconds per cup to scrub with soap, wash, wring out, and hang up. Yes I timed myself before I wrote this. I often think of these “chores” as little self-care rituals. I am cleansing my body, I am taking care of me, I am flowing with my cycle. I leave my menstrual cups to dry on a sunny window sill, and I hang my pads to dry on a drying rack, shower curtain bar or towel bar.
I use Dr. Bronner’s castile soap because a little goes a long way and it works great. Sometimes I even bring my used products in the shower with me and clean them while I’m in there and have the water running.
If it helps, transition from disposables into reusables slowly. I started with 1 menstrual cup and 1 pad. Keep a few disposables on you as well. I still keep a few around for those who need them or if I’m going to be on a plane or in a car for a super long time. If I’m traveling, I usually keep a zipped wet-bag for my disposable products, just like you would for a baby! If anyone says this is gross, they are wrong, because you could say the same about a baby’s diaper bag, but no one does, because we respect the natural process of babies. So why don’t we also respect the natural process that comes before and can create babies (if we choose to)?
Now I have a big enough collection to last me my whole cycle, and it’s not much - 2 menstrual cups, 3 cloth pads, 2 liners, and 1 pair of period underwear. Only 1 cup is really necessary since you can wash/rinse it and re-insert it immediately. I have a few pads because they need to dry in-between uses. I’d love to have another pair of period underwear for lazy days (plus because the ones I use from ModiBodi are made of bamboo and are comfier than any underwear I own), but between those 8 products I already have more than enough to last me the 4~ days my bleed usually lasts.
I bought my products over time to spread out the costs and make sure I liked what I was using. All together I probably spent $150-180 for my collection, which seems like a lot, but spread out over time it wasn’t and I literally never have to buy products for a while. No more monthly spending and no more last minute trips to the convenience store. It’s definitely saving me money in the long-run, as the average person spends over $200 yearly on their menstrual products.
Menstrual cups can last up to 12+ years since they’re made of medical grade silicone. Pads I’d say can last anywhere from 2-8 years depending on their quality and usage.
So where do you buy & where do you start?
I recommend starting with one of each; a menstrual cup, a cloth pad, & a pair of period underwear!
Period underwear is the comfiest and easiest, cloth pads are the cheapest, and menstrual cups have the longest-lasting wear time and are totally worth it if you’re patient with the process of finding the right one and learning how to insert and remove it (it’s not hard, just takes a little practice and experimentation!)
I love cloth pads for overnight or days where I don't feel like wearing a cup. They're comfy, very affordable and easy to clean. They’re basically the same as having a cotton disposable pad, only it’s a one time payment and it’s cozier and traps less smell! They range from $6-15 depending on size, pattern, etc.
I recommend: Gladrags & Etsy makers
Gladrags has such a great range of products and I like how their larger pads have insertable parts so you can choose how many you need based on your flow! They come in many styles and sizes.
There are also plenty of great hand-made pads on Etsy that are still high quality. Just do a quick search!
Menstrual cups are amazing tampon replacements. Once they’re properly in you forget it’s there! It's great that you can wear them for 12 hours, and unlike tampons you don’t have to worry about TSS (toxic shock syndrome) because there are no chemicals that cause that! They’re made of medical grade silicone which is safe and anti-bacterial.
While I will admit it took me a little bit of time to get used to insertion and removal, I feel comfortable now and have gotten used to it. There are plenty of tutorials online for different methods of insertion and removal to try until you find the one that works best for you.
They're also great for blood collection if you're into using yours for magic, ritual, painting, fertilizing plants, and other endless possibilities~
They’re so easy to clean, just use water and soap. Re-insert right away or leave it on a window sill to dry.
Most cups are between $25-40, which is more up front but broken down over time is just cents per cycle. These cups can be used for over 12 years! Also, I was just fine with a single cup, washing and reusing the same one each time. But the more the merrier if you want!
All cups come in two sizes, a smaller and a larger. The smaller ones are for light-medium flows, those with smaller canals, and first-time users. The larger sizes are for deeper canals, heavier flows, or those who have given birth. Make sure to research sizes per cup, since they all vary a bit. Some even recommend you measure your cervical height (basically the length of your vaginal canal) to find out what you need!
Cups come in many shapes and sizes so it may take some time to find the right one. Luckily many companies have trade or exchange policies!
Flex cup is a game-changer for beginners, I even use it now for days I just want ease! It has a pull-tab that’s easy to access instead of the usual flat stem cups have. Instead of trying to grip, it’s already taken care of and it breaks the suction of the cup between you walls!
RubyCup is a great option for a standard cup in my opinion, plus for every cup you buy a cup is given to someone in need!
Other great cups I’ve been recommended to by friends are Organicup, Lena, Keepers & Lunette.
It's almost too good to be true - the comfortability, the sustainability and the protection.
While likely the most expensive of the options ranging from $30-45, they are SO worth it. Having a pair or two to wear on days you just want to be extra comfy is the vest. Wearing these feels natural and free. No complaints here about mine!
It’s hard to believe they work, but think of it as a cloth pad built into your underwear. There’s a bit of extra material surrounding the crotch of the underwear, but it’s hardly noticeable. This absorbs the blood and retains it until you wash it - which is the same as how you’d wash a cloth pad - rise, scrub with soap, wash, wring, hang dry. You can throw it in the wash after you wring it out if you want, but I often don’t at least until I’ve used them a few times. Just make sure to hang dry instead!
I recommend: ModiBodi
My favorite pair I have tried so far is made by ModiBodi, an amazing women-owned company that is all about sustainability, comfort and body positivity! Their period-underwear feels AMAZING and you wouldn't believe its functionality for how cute & comfy they are.
Made from organic bamboo, they are SO comfortable I even wear them when I'm not bleeding. I seriously walk around in just these and a t-shirt so often. I've worn them for full 10+ hour days and am amazed that I don't leak or smell! No one would ever know that they were period underwear - not that I’m trying to hide it, but it’s cool that they’re subtle!
I haven’t tried these yet but I plan to soon and I LOVE the idea of them.
I love that this is a natural product from mother Earth - no production required & totally biodegradable! What could be better.
Sea sponges are naturally anti-bacterial & anti-fungal since they are porous and magical like all things nature creates. They don’t retain bad smells like our synthetic kitchen sponges often do because of this.
I’m not sure of the lifespan of these - I’ll update this post once I do try them, hopefully soon! Stay tuned~
What menstrual products do you use? Do you have a favorite reusable product? Or are you struggling to switch over? Share here in the comments, or join our Facebook support group to discuss more!