Don’t make the same mistake that I did.
My mistake was not knowing about reusable feminine hygiene products until I was in my early 30’s. I wasted a ton of money, exposed myself to more chemicals than necessary, and created a lot of waste that went to the landfill.
How did I not figure this out sooner? I’m not sure, but I hope that you can avoid this same mistake.
There are better ways in the world of feminine hygiene. Let’s look at some options.
Feminine hygiene option #1: disposable pads or tampons
Disposable pads and tampons are the feminine hygiene products that most people know and that the large majority of women use. They do come with many advantages, especially being easy to use. However, they havea number of disadvantages including cost, harm to the environment, and potentially toxic chemicals in them.
Another option in this category are organic pads and tampons. Although they are more expensive than the regular ones, they don’t contain any chemicals, and are a bit more friendly to the environment, because they usually don’t contain plastic. The higher cost may indeed be worth it to you.
Feminine hygiene option #2: menstrual cups
Menstrual cups are bell-shaped cylinders that replace tampons. The good news is that they’re reusable, and can last for up to 10 years. They cost significantly less than disposable pads or tampons over the medium to long term.
There is a learning curve to using them, and it takes most women at least 4-5 cycles to really get the hang of how to insert them so that they don’t leak. The key is to not give up on them too quickly. Put on a pad (cloth ones are best) and keep trying.
Feminine hygiene option #3: reusable cloth pads and period underwear
The last option for feminine hygiene products are reusable pads and period panties. Reusable cloth pads are similar to their disposable counterparts, but they can be washed with your normal laundry and used for 5-10 years.
Period underwear are very similar—they replace panty-liners. Have a look on Amazon and you’ll see a wide array of options for both of these products. Prices are quite reasonable, and you’ll have your money back in only a few months when compared to using disposables.
Reusables vs disposables: which option is best?
Plastic going to the landfill is a big problem, and many companies as well as individuals are actively trying to reduce this kind of waste. Disposable pads and tampons contain plastic that is not biodegradable. Even OB tampons, without an applicator are wrapped in plastic. This means that these things will still be hanging around the landfill in hundreds of years from now. Due to the nature of these products, they are not recyclable. [Editor’s note: one British company does recycle them!]
However, reusable products like menstrual cups and cloth pads are a much better option for the environment. Menstrual cups, made from medical grade silicone, replace hundreds of pads or tampons over a period of years, and can be recycled, depending on where you live.
Cloth menstrual pads are made from natural products, last for a similar period of time, and will biodegrade once thrown into the landfill.
Reusable feminine hygiene products come out ahead in this category.
Although there is a higher upfront cost with reusable products like cloth pads, or menstrual cups, in just a few months, they’ll be cheaper than disposables. A top-quality menstrual cup (avoid the cheap ones from China) costs around $30 USD, while a cloth pad is about $5.
Compare to this to the $5-10 per month you probably spend on disposables like pads or tampons. It’s clear that you can save thousands of dollars over a lifetime by making the switch to cloth pads, menstrual cups, or period panties.
Reusable feminine hygiene products for the win, except in the very short-term.
Ease of use and effectiveness
Disposable feminine hygiene products are extremely effective. It’s quite difficult to insert a tampon incorrectly. The only time it might leak is if you don’t change it frequently enough. Disposable pads are very effective at staying in place well, and not leaking. It’s also very easy to dispose of these products when your period is done by throwing them into the trash and not having a second thought about it.
Of course, it’s not easy on our Earth!
The reusable options are not as user-friendly. Menstrual cups take a few cycles to get the hang of and it can be difficult to find the correct size. Cloth pads shift around, especially when exercising and are slightly less absorbent than disposables.
You also have to deal with keeping these reusable options clean and sanitary. It doesn’t take that much time, but it’s a bit more hassle than just throwing something into the garbage
However, there is some good news about reusables! The average menstrual cup, with a capacity of around 30 ml, is three times more than even a jumbo tampon. High-capacity cups hold up to 40 ml, making them a great option for someone with a heavy period.
The slight edge goes to disposables in this category.
The final category we’ll examine is health benefits. Pads and tampons contain pesticides used to grow the cotton, as well as chemicals from the manufacturing process. You can avoid these with organics, however they are more expensive. To date, there are no long-term studies about the harmful effects of these chemicals, but it’s thought that repeated exposure might have some serious health consequences, including cancer.
A way to avoid exposure to chemicals during your period is to use a menstrual cup. The top-quality ones are made from medical grade silicone that don’t leach chemicals into your body. Cloth menstrual pads, after washing contain almost no chemical residue.
If you’re serious about reducing your exposure to chemicals, then it’s a clear win for the reusables.
Imagine the possibilities
Imagine if every menstruating woman in the world had a menstrual cup or reusable cloth pad? It would most certainly be a cleaner place.
I hope that you’ll be inspired to make the switch in your life!
Bio: Jackie Bolen is a tree-hugging, friend of the Earth who can usually be found drinking organic coffee, on top of a mountain, or paddling the rivers around Vancouver, Canada. This is of course, when she’s not working on her website.