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Frequently asked questions

Plastic-free periods

We totally understand that making the move from disposable period products to reusable ones can feel daunting. And you probably have a few plastic-free period product questions. So, we’ve put our heads together to try and answer the most commonly asked questions so hopefully you’ll find everything you need right here. If not, ping us an email and we’ll make sure it makes the list!

Menstrual cups

Period pants

Reusable pads

Reusable applicator

Organic tampons and pads

General FAQs

what disposable products can i use that are better for the environment?

Go for 100% organic cotton and if using a tampon make sure that you change it at least every 6 hours. Use an organic menstrual pad at night to help reduce the chances of toxic shock syndrome. Avoid tampons made from rayon, a rayon cotton mix, or anything fragranced.

NOTE: Even organic and biodegradable products should not be flushed down the loo! They may take months to break down, blocking pipes and polluting marine environment until they do so.

Check out Mondays subscription box – organic cotton and plastic free tampons, pads and panty liners delivered straight through your letter box every month. Use the code F33L for 33% off your first box. Other plastic-free brands include Natracare, TOTM and Grace and Green.

Why are reusable products better than biodegradable/organic products?

An ‘average woman’ throws away 115 – 135kg of pads, tampons and applicators away in her lifetime. Menstrual products that are properly disposed of (not flushed!) create 200,000 tonnes of landfilled waste every year in the UK. The break-down of these products in landfill contributes to the production of greenhouse gases, just like other bio-waste.

In addition, over your lifetime you can expect to save up to 94% of what you would have spent on disposables, by switching to reusables!

We do acknowledge that there are certain times and occasions where people may need to use throwaway products and we totally recognise and support this. On those occasions, opt for organic products instead of those that contain plastic, bleach and other undivulged chemicals.

Is it okay to use conventional products alongside reusables?

Of course! Just as some people use a combination of disposable pads and tampons and use different products as their flow changes, some people use a combination of disposable / reusable products in the same way. Many people use multiple products during heavy flow, or switch to disposable organic products when they’re at festivals, etc.

NB: it won’t work using a pad on top of period pants – the tech will be cancelled out!

What do I do if i'm going camping or to a festival?

Reusables can actually be more practical when you’re living outdoors, because you don’t have to worry about finding a bin for your disposables. However, they can pose new challenges in the type of washing facilities that are available!

If you’re using a cup make sure your hands are clean and bring a reusable water bottle into the toilet with you so you can rinse your cup off even if there’s no sink. You can also buy cup wipes or use a sterilising tablet (like what you’d use for a baby bottle) in a foldable cup.

Reusable pads and period pants can be folded and stored in a bag until you to a washing machine, or you can wash them by hand!

We do acknowledge that there are certain times and occasions where people may need to use throwaway products and we totally recognise and support this. On those occasions, opt for organic products instead of those that contain plastic, bleach and other un-divulged chemicals.

I suffer from secondary dysmenorrhea, will reusables work for me?

Everyone’s period is different but for many people – yes!

Reusable pads are often preferred over disposable pads by people with painful periods because of the high level of comfort in their materials.

Period pants and reusable pads come with differing levels of absorbency, so you can find something appropriate if you have very heavy periods.

Janet on switching to Lunapads Performa Pads:

“Using soft, black cloth pads makes endometriosis less dramatic. I’m a very visual person, so blood stains and clots on a black surface is less dramatic. You can’t really see it that much. Having something less irritating (goodbye disposable pad rashes!) comfy and soft close to my body is much more comforting when I am already in pain and discomfort. It’s nice to have products that calms the drama rather than adds to the already intense uncomfortable time I have with endo. I was worried that I would bleed through it all but I don’t. It works perfectly. I changed pads as often as I would with regular pads.”

What options are available that aren't messy?

Period pants are potentially the least messy option because they stay in place and no fiddling around is required. However, although the menstrual cup can be messy when you start learning to use it, once you’ve mastered the technique you can avoid any leaks or spills. By changing a reusable pad at the appropriate time you can also avoid leaks.

Many people use the menstrual cup in combination with period pants or reusable pads, for extra security and peace of mind on heavy days.

What if my partner thinks that reusables are weird?

How you manage your flow is your choice! Let your partner/ friends/ family know that this is your body and your decision. No one should make you feel ashamed for choosing a menstrual product that is better for your health and for the environment.

The more we talk about periods and period products the more ‘normal’ and accepted the subject will become.

How much money will I save switching to reusable period products?

Over your lifetime you can expect to save up to 94% of what you would have spent on disposables, by switching to reusables! Don’t let the initial financial investment put you off –  it more than makes up for itself over time.

Based on a 4-5 day cycle the average woman spends around £100-150 per year on disposable products.

Menstrual cups cost £9 – £24.90 and will last you up to 10 years.
A set of reusable pads will cost you about £10 – £35 and some can last up to 10 years.
A pair of period pants will cost you between £23 – £31 and each pair will last you at least 2 years.

These timelines are all dependent on you properly looking after your products so be sure to read the washing/ maintenance instructions that come with whatever product you opt for!

The exact amount of money you save will depend on what and how many products you decide to use, and what throwaway products you move away from.

Which reusable period products are the most comfortable?

This is very much a personal preference. Many people find reusables more comfortable than disposable products – no squeaky, expanded pads or tampons that dry you out.

Some people say that they can forget all about their period when they’re using a menstrual cup because they can’t feel a thing. Reusable pads can be made of super soft cotton and bamboo which feels like a luxurious rug in your pants! Period pants don’t move or shift in your underwear and sit comfortably without requiring you to fiddle around or insert anything internally.

Are reusable period products hygienic?

Absolutely! Reusable products can be even more hygienic than disposables because you’re able to wash them yourself and ensure that they’re clean. Just as when you purchase underwear at the store you should always wash your reusable product before you use it simply because most factories are dusty, etc.

Disposable products with layers and layers of packaging aren’t treated as medical products here in the UK so they’re not required to be kept sterile. They’re made in factories and are not required to follow any food grade factory standards, including divulging information about what exactly is in their products.

Where can I find plastic-free products? + Discount codes

Organic Mondays – Organic cotton and plastic-free disposables. Use code F33L for 33% off your first subscription box.

Lunette Cups – 15% discount using code  CITYTOSEA15.

Cheeky Wipes – use code citytosea for 25% discount on all reusable period pads.

Cheeky Wipes – use code citytosea for 25% discount on all reusable period pants.

DAME – use code CLEANOCEAN15 for 15% off reusable applicator set.

Menstrual cups

What is a menstrual cup?

Menstrual cups are soft, flexible cups made of silicone or latex rubber, that you fold and then insert just like a tampon. Instead of absorbing your blood, like a tampon or pad, the cup catches it and you can empty it down the toilet. Menstrual cups hold more blood than your average tampon so you shouldn’t need to empty it as regularly as you would change a tampon.  A menstrual cup should last you about 5 years and is perfect for travelling (who wants to carry boxes of tampons and pads around whilst on the move?).

91% of women who tried the menstrual cup said that they would continue to use the cup and recommend it to a friend. Menstrual cups cost £9 – £24.90 and will last you 5-10 years.

Where can I go for advice on using my menstrual cup?

Mooncup have an advice line run by qualified medical health professionals – they’re happy to answer any questions/ work through problems with usage: [email protected] or +44(0) 1273 673 845

Lunette: Lunette has a very good and responsive customer service so you can email them anytime at i[email protected].

There are also lots of useful information in their FAQs and blog. There are also loads of blogs, youtube videos and forums on this topic so google your question!

Is there any risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS) from wearing a menstrual cup?

Like with any internal period product, there is a risk of TSS. But a clean, properly used menstrual cup means the chances are very small. Take good care of personal hygiene and always choose a trusted brand.

TSS is an infection caused by bacteria entering through wounds or mucous membrane. It is an extremely rare, potentially fatal disease occurring in those with or without a uterus, and children. TSS is usually connected with absorbent tampons.

SYMPTOMS INCLUDE:

  • sudden high fever
  • sore throat
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • dizziness
  • a rash resembling sunburn
  • muscle aches
  • fainting or blackouts

Early recognition and cure is vital, so if you have some of the symptoms mentioned above, remove the menstrual cup immediately, contact your doctor and express your concerns about the possibility of TSS.

Can teenagers use menstrual cups?

Yes! Because menstrual cups don’t dry you out like tampons you can even do a ‘dry-run’ before your period starts if you like!

Here’s some tips from Lunette about first time use: https://www.lunette.com/blogs/news/teens-menstrual-cups-tips-for-first-time-use?p64=4

What is the shelf-life of a menstrual cup? Should I still replace it if it looks in good condition?

This will vary from brand to brand and depends on how well you take care of the cup. Some people will use their cup for up to 10 years and others prefer to change it yearly. Some discolouration is normal because blood is quite strong, but with good cleaning you can minimize this.

If I am travelling/on the move for extended periods of time, do I have to boil my menstrual cup between every period?

Yes you should properly disinfect your cup before and after your period starts.

If you’re unable to boil your cup (some brands don’t recommend boiling anyway) then a sterilising tablet in a foldable cup (or any other cup/bowl) will do the job just as well:
https://www.nomoretaboo.org/store/RubyCup-Foldable-Steriliser-Cup-p60272081

Are there any negatives to having silicon inside the body with regards to hormone disruption?

Silicon is fairly inert and not associated with hormone disruption, unlike the additives in plastic and other chemicals and residues found in mainstream pads and tampons.

Official advice is to opt for a silicone cup. Silicone is better than rubber because of its smooth surface which doesn’t allow Staph bacteria to build up. It’s very important that the cup is regularly and thoroughly washed using mechanical action to remove any biofilm from the surface.

Can I use a menstrual cup if I am using the IUD?

Yes, you can. If you do use an IUD, consult with your doctor about cutting the strings as short as possible and monitor their length regularly during periods. If the strings seem longer than normal, it might be a sign that your IUD has moved. We recommend taking this quiz to find out which cup might suit your flow best: www.putacupinit.com/quiz/

Can I use a menstrual cup if my uterus has an unusual tilt or i have a low cervix?

The cervix is usually high in the vagina and the menstrual cup is placed low so the cervix remains above the cup. For many people, the cervix descends after giving birth; for others, it is simply situated low in the vagina. If you have a low cervix it may enter the interior of the cup which makes it more prone to leak. In some users, the cervix fits best inside the menstrual cup but for others the cup may exert pressure on the cervix that can cause discomfort and even pain.

The best way to evaluate the position of your cervix is by observing leakage — if you have experienced leakage even when the cup has been opened, make sure that the cup is significantly lower than the cervix.

If you haven’t experienced leakage and you have not located the cervix, there’s no need to hunt for it! You’re a woman whose cervix is so deep in the vagina that it doesn’t affect the use of the menstrual cup in any way.

If you have a titled uterus the cup may also be tilted, causing it to leak a little. Here is a video from Lunette about how to make sure your cup is its place!

We recommend taking this quiz to find out which cup might suit your flow best: www.putacupinit.com/quiz/

Do menstrual cups smell?

Period blood is not smelly – it’s only when the blood oxidises and comes into contact with pads and tampons that it starts smelling.

If you’re worried about body odor, empty your cup more often. If you’re worried about cup odor wash the cup regularly.

Period blood is not smelly – it’s only when the blood oxidises and comes into contact with pads and tampons that it starts smelling.

If you’re worried about body odor, empty your cup more often. If you’re worried about cup odor wash the cup regularly.

Can I play sports / bathe / swim with my menstrual cup?

Yes absolutely!

A menstrual cup is worn internally (and you don’t have that rogue tampon string to worry about!) and holds more volume than tampon.

Some super sporty people find that firmer cups stay in place better in their stronger pelvic muscles. Firmer cups include: Hello Cup, MeLuna Sport, Yuuki, or Lena.

Can I have sex whilst using the menstrual cup?

No!

Can a menstrual cup leak?

If your flow is very heavy or your cervix hangs very low when you’re menstruating you may find that the cup leaks a little. Leaks are more frequent for women whose cervix’ move lower during menstruation or if the cup has been inserted too high in the vagina, next to the cervix, or above it.

Remember to make sure the suction air holes are clear before reinserting your cup each time. Rotating the cup a couple of times will make sure that the cup has unfolded inside you.

To catch any small leaks you might want to wear a reusable pad or period pants in conjunction with the cup, especially when you’re trying it for the first few months and you’re still learning about your flow.

Is the menstrual cup messy?

Cups can be messy when you start learning to use them, but once you’ve mastered the technique and worked out what’s best for you you can avoid any leaks or spills.

If your flow is heavy, you may find that blood pools in the bottom of the loo when you empty your cup, even after you’ve flushed. Use a toilet brush and flush again, and the red water should go!

How do I clean my cup in a public toilet?

Make sure your hands are clean and bring a reusable water bottle into the toilet with you so you can rinse your cup off if there’s no sink. You can also buy cup wipes but it’s not advised to use normal soap.

If you’re out for a shorter period of time wipe your cup clean with toilet paper or use a special disinfectant wipe like these: https://store.lunette.com/products/lunette-cupwipes.

Properly disinfect your cup before and after your period starts.

How do I clean my cup when I'm at home?

Menstrual cups should be cleaned before and after your cycle as well as rinsed after emptying.

Read the instructions that come with your cup – some will suggest boiling in a saucepan for between 5-10 minutes whereas others advise using sterilising tablets or cup cleanser.

Using normal soap is not advised because of the pH, the oils and the lack of a thorough clean in the nooks and crannies of the cup.

How often should I empty my menstrual cup?

When you first start using the cup empty it every few hours and you’ll soon get an idea of how heavy your flow is and how often you’ll need to empty it. If your flow is very heavy you may need to empty it every couple of hours. If your flow is lighter, you may find you can go as long as 6-8 hours.

The capacity of a menstrual cup is usually 25 ml or 30 ml whereas the absorbing capacity of a tampon is 6-18 g.

How do I remove a menstrual cup and can it get lost?

Don’t worry! You’re not getting anything stuck in there. Removing your menstrual cup can be tricky at first, but we promise it will come naturally after a few tries.

Relax. Use your pelvic floor muscles to push down until you can get a firm grip on the stem of the cup.

Break the seal by pinching the bottom part of the cup until you feel or hear the suction release. Then, gently rock the cup from side to side while pulling down. Make sure that you do not pull the cup out by the tab alone!

You can also try sliding your finger up the side of the cup (your finger between the cup and vaginal wall) and bend your finger when you reach the rim.

Does it hurt to insert or wear a menstrual cup?

This is totally dependent on the individual and whether you have secondary dysmenorrhea or similar. For many people, menstrual cups have to be changed much less regularly than tampons, so there is less faffing around in your sensitive area.

Some people take a few cycles to get used to the menstrual cup and work out how it works best for them. When a cup is property inserted (and the stem is appropriately trimmed!) you shouldn’t feel the cup inside you at all.

Sometimes the cup doesn’t unfold which might feel uncomfortable – rotating it a couple of times inside you should open it up.

If you have a low cervix or a cervix that moves particularly low during menstruation, the cup may exert pressure on the cervix and cause discomfort and even pain.

You don’t need to wait for your period to start before you can try out your menstrual cup – it’s perfectly OK to do a “dry-run” since menstrual cups wont dry you out in the same way that tampons do.

What is the best way to insert a reusable cup?

There are various ways to insert a cup – try them out and see what works for you.

You may not be able to get the menstrual cup to fit right the first time, but with a bit of practice you will be able to insert the cup like an expert. Make sure you read the instructions and try to relax as much as possible!

Here’s a Lunette video demonstrating 3 different folding styles:

  1. C-fold/heart fold
  2. Punch down fold/shell fold
  3. 7-fold or triangle fold

Spinning the cup a quarter turn once it’s inserted may help to make sure that the seal is good.

You may find it easier to put your legs wide apart whilst siting on the loo (if you’re wearing tights or trousers, pull them right down to your ankles!)

Do menstrual cups come in different sizes?

Most cups come in 2 sizes: a smaller one suitable for those aged under 25 or 30 who have never been pregnant, or a larger one suitable for those aged 25 or 30, or those who have been pregnant. You can also use the larger size if you have a heavier flow.

We recommend taking this quiz to find out which cup might suit your flow best: www.putacupinit.com/quiz/ 

What are menstrual cups made of?

Most menstrual cups are made from medical grade silicone, latex or TPE. Official advice is to opt for a silicone cup. Silicone is better than rubber because its smooth surface which doesn’t allow Staph bacteria to build up.

All are menstrual cups the same? How do I pick the right one for me?

All cup brands are different so you should do your research and work out the best option for you.

You want to make sure that your cup is made of medical grade silicone and is latex and BPA-free. Cups that do not mention it in their packaging probably include some nasties, including plastic!

Give this quiz a go to find out which cup might suit your flow and body best: https://putacupinit.com/quiz/

s.

Where can I empty it and how full will it get?

The blood is simply poured into the toilet. The cup can contain more liquid than three super tampons. 

According to the NHSyoull lose 5 to 12 teaspoons of blood during an average period, so you might be surprised by how little you bleed. 

Can I use a cup if i'm a virgin?

Yes, if you are a virgin, you can use a menstrual cup, although you should be aware that inserting the cup may rupture the hymen. However, by medical standards, virginity is not defined by the state of the hymen; you remain a virgin until you participate in sexual intercourse. Read more about virginity, the hymen and using a menstrual cup. 

Can I go to the toilet whilst wearing the cup?

Yes, no problem! Unlike tampons, which have a string that can end up soaking up unwanted fluids, with a cup you can go to the bathroom without a worry. 

period pants

The gusset is thin. Do they really work?

Period pants have varying absorbency from half a tampon to four tampons worth of blood, so they are best used alongside a menstrual cup or a tampon on heavier days or overnight. 

The pants use layers of natural and manmade fabrics that work in different ways to absorb, as well as creating a wicking and breathable layer so there is no wet feeling.   

How do they not end up being stained?

As with the above care advice for reusable pads, period pants are best rinsed in cold water immediately to get out any blood; they can then be washed at 30 degrees along with the rest of your laundry. 

At £9–25, aren’t these quite an expensive option if you must have multiple pants per period?

Yes, this is true. But if they are used again and again, they still save money on buying 100s of disposables.

How many pairs will I need?

This depends on how heavy your flow is and how often you want to do laundry! For a cycle of 4–5 days, 3–5 pairs are recommended. Of course, if you wash them more regularly you can buy fewer pairs and rotate them quickly! Some pants are compatible with removable absorbent inserts that you can replace like you would a pad, which means you can change them less often. 

Can I use period pants as a swimsuit?

Swimming during your period can be tricky. Period pants arent ideal for swimming because they will absorb any water they come into contact with – leaving limited room to absorb your period. Plus, any menstrual flow already in your undies could seep out into the pool when you get in. 

What do I do with my period pants if I am changing away from home?

Period pants can be folded and stored in a laundry bag until you get home/to a washing machine. You can always rinse them whilst youre away if you wont be able to put them in a washing machine for a few days.

How long will a pair last?

One pair of WUKA lasts up to 25 washes.
THINX pants should last two years. 

Of course, these all depend on you taking good care of your period pants and reading the instructions! 

Are there different types available?

Yes, there are many types of period pants! Almost all period pants currently on the market hold 12 tampons worth of flow, except WUKA pants which hold 4 tampons worth. 

Most brands will have a variety of designs, absorbencies and sizes, so browse a few sites before you buy. 

Reusable pads

They look like they will leak. How do they work?

Like disposable pads, reusables have layers of natural and synthetic materials that absorb blood and hold it within the pad. Although, as with all products, if a period is heavy and a product isnt changed regularly, there is always a chance of leaking.

They look like they would be sweaty and smelly; are they?

No. In fact, because they are made with breathable fabrics, they are less sweaty and smelly than a disposable pad. 

What happens if they need to be changed at school or out and about?

Its recommended that you have a wet bag (a waterproof bag) or a soap bag to put used pads in. At the end of your cycle, all the pads can be washed in the washing machine on a cool wash. 

Aren’t they stained with blood after the first use?

Blood comes out of any fabric if it is soaked in cold water first. For heavier stains a stain remover can be used, such as BunchaFarmers stain remover. 

Isn’t washing clothes in with period blood disgusting?

Period blood doesnt need to be considered disgusting; it is no different to any other blood from the body. 

Washing machines clean things thoroughly so other garments wont end up with blood on them, especially if pads are soaked first. 

There are a wide variety of mesh sacks that you can put the pads in for washingif you wish to be discreet. 

How long will cloth pads last?

Most pads are designed to last around 10 years. Ultimately, it will depend on how well you look after them. For example, if you handwash your pads they wont last as long as if you machine wash them, but they will still last several years. 

Is there any risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) from wearing reusable period pads?

No, TSS only occurs with internal products.

Are reusable pads recommended for pregnant women?

Throughout pregnancy you may experience an increased amount of discharge and during postpartum bleeding you may have a tender perineum. Reusable pads are recommended for pregnant women and also for postpartum bleeding.

How do the reusable pads attach to my pants?

Reusable pads have poppers on the wings which connect around your underwear to hold them in place. As long as your underwear is also snug fitting you shouldn’t have any issues.

How many re-usable pads should I buy?

This will depend on how heavy your flow is and how often you want to wash them. There is no set amount for the number of pads you need but we would recommend starting with around 5. You can also wash your pads part way through your cycle, which will cut down on the number of pads you’ll need to get through a period.

Some pads come with inserts that you can swap rather than changing the whole pad. In this case you’ll need 1 pad per day, and about as many inserts to match the number of times you would normally change your disposable pad each day.

You can buy different sizes and absorbencies and some will come in their own washbag. To find out which size of pad you need, measure what you’re using now and choose a comparable size.

Reusable tampon applicators

reusable tampon applicators

Millions of us prefer to use applicators for comfort, convenience and hygiene, but unfortunately most are single-use, made of plastic and can’t be recycled. Every year in the UK we throw away 1.3 billion applicators, many of which get flushed onto our beaches and into our oceans. DAME’s reusable tampon applicator offers you all the comfort, but none of the waste. By switching to DAME’s reusable applicator, you’ll save around 12,000 single use applicators over your lifetime.

How long does a reusable tampon applicator last?

DAME is a consumer goods company that believes in less consumption. This is why their reusable applicator is built for the long run. If treated well, it should last for up to 10 years. DAME will replace any part for free should it become worn or damaged.

How do I clean a reusable applicator?

DAME’s reusable applicator meets the highest levels of safety and hygiene. It is made from medical grade Mediprene with inbuilt antimicrobial properties to keep it actively clean. This means caring for your applicator is easy. After each use, simply rinse under the cold tap and wipe with a tissue or a towel, ensuring it’s completely dry. In between uses, keep the lid on and store a DAME cotton zip wallet or bathroom storage tin.

The antimicrobial elements in the applicator are called Sanipolymers. The Sanipolymers leverage the trace element zinc which naturally staves off bacteria, germs and microbes by at least 99.9%. So without you doing anything at all, the Sanipoymers are continuously working to keep the applicator clean. It’s been run through rigorous, independent scientific tests to prove its effectiveness (ISO 22196 and KIS Z2801)

The Sanipolymers are inbuilt throughout the whole applicator not just on its surface. So there’s no need to worry about them rubbing off but please remember that antimicrobial Mediprene wasn’t made for dishwashers, boiling water or harsh chemical treatment. These will shorten the lifespan of the tampon applicator and compromise its antimicrobial properties.

How do I use a reusable applicator?

The DAME reusable applicator is designed to be easy and intuitive. Like all new things, it might take a few goes to find what works best for you, but you’ll soon find your flow.

First of all, we recommend getting to know your applicator. It’s made up of three parts: The Lid + The Applicator + The Plunger.

When you’re ready to insert your tampon, wash your hands, remove the applicator lid, unwrap your tampon and unravel the string.

The applicator works with any standard tampon and there are three different ways of inserting your tampon into the applicator – depending on the size of your tampons, you might want to try a few different ways.

  • The String Lock – Load the tampon from the back, threading the tampon string through the small side hole. Make sure the knot on the tampon is pulled tight first.
  • The Top Loader – Peel back the applicator petal with your index finger and load the tampon from the top. Works especially well for larger tampons
  • The Stuffer – Push the tampon into the back of the applicator, followed by all the string.

Once your tampon is loaded, insert the applicator into your vagina, with the plunger resting behind the tampon. Push the plunger until the tampon is fully inserted, then gently remove the applicator and plunger, leaving the tampon inside your vagina.

organic

What is the difference between organic and non-organic?

The difference is in the materials they are made from. Organic means the materials have been produced without chemicals and pesticides. It also means the materials are unbleached with chlorine and there are no synthetic, plastic-based materials in the products. Organic pads are not perfumed, either. 

Why is that better?

People choose to use organic menstrual products because they don’t want chemicals, plastic and chlorine close to their skin. Many people report problems from using non-organic menstrual products, such as itchiness or thrush. This is believed to be caused by the synthetic materials and the chemicals upsetting the pH balance of the vagina.

If they are biodegradable and compostable, what does this mean?

This means that in the right conditions they would break down, because they have no plastic in them. The right conditions are not present in landfill as landfill sites are too compacted for anything to break down (aerobic digestion requires air). They cant go in the food waste bin either, as this anaerobic digestion process is shorter than is required for menstrual products to break down (any plastic materials that end up in a food waste bin will be pulled out and burned).  

So, if you want to compost them, it is best to do this in a home composter and anticipate it will take 1824 months. At present, compost facilities available to process biodegradable or compostable plastics do not exist commercially, but this could change in the future, if there is a bigger move away from oil-based plastics. 

So, if they don’t biodegrade in landfill, should they be flushed down toilet?

No. While they are made from natural materials, they still don’t break down like toilet paper and could cause blockages that may lead to ocean pollution.

Tampons

How old can you be to use a tampon?

As soon as you start having your period, youre old enough to use tampons. Pads are advisable for the first period, which will help gauge heavy and lighter days. 

Are tampons painful?

It can take a bit of getting used to, but once inserted correctly (high-enough up in the vagina) then there should be no discomfort and you should not feel the tampon. Some people experience vaginal dryness from using tampons as they absorb natural lubrication. 

How often should a tampon be changed?

Depending on flow, a tampon should be changed every 4–8 hours. Tampons must not be left in any longer than eight hours as there is a risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome. 

What is Toxic Shock Syndrome?

According to NHS UK, Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a rare but life-threatening condition caused by bacteria getting into the body and releasing harmful toxins. 

Its often associated with tampon use in young women, but it can affect anyone of any age – including men and children. 

TSS gets worse very quickly and can be fatal if not treated promptly. But if its diagnosed and treated early on, most people make a full recovery. 

Why are there different tampon sizes?

Different sizes absorb different flows. If a tampon becomes saturated within an hour or two, look to use a higher absorbency tampon. On the other hand, if you remove the tampon and it feels stuck or dry, try a lighter absorbency. 

What should I do if I leak?

It is perfectly normal to leak during a period and there is no need to feel ashamed. It generally means you need a higher absorbency tampon, or you could wear a panty liner, pad or period pants. The best way to get blood out of underwear is to rinse or soak in cold water. 

What is the difference between applicators and non-applicators?

Applicators are available in plastic and cardboard options. The applicators push the tampon inside the vagina and must be disposed of in the bin after use. Non-applicator tampons have a fine coat of polyester (plastic) which helps insertion, using a finger. These are called digital tampons. 

Are tampons suitable for sleeping?

Yes, tampons be worn for up to hours during the night, although if it is a heavy day, it may be worth using a panty liner, pad or period pants. If you sleep for longer than eight hours, a pad is recommended. 

Are tampons suitable for exercise or swimming?

Yes. 

How should tampons be disposed of?

All components – wrappers, applicators and used tampons – must be placed in a bin unless they specify that they can go into your home-composter. Tampons must not be flushed as they can cause sewer blockages that pollute rivers, beaches and the sea. 

Disposable pads

How often should a pad be changed?

It is recommended that you change your pad every 46 hours. If a pad becomes damp on the outside, it is an indication that it needs changing as it has reached full absorbency. 

Can pads be used for swimming or exercise?

Not for swimming, but yes for exercise. There are very thin options available which are better suited for this. 

How should pads be disposed of?

Wrap the pad up and place it in a bin. Pads must not be flushed as they can cause sewer blockages that pollute rivers, beaches and the sea. 

Additional FAQs

Why are reusable products better than biodegradable/organic products?

An average woman throws away 115–135kg of pads, tampons and applicators in her lifetime. Menstrual products that are properly disposed of (not flushed!) create 200,000 tonnes of landfilled waste every year in the UK. The breakdown of these products in landfill contributes to the production of greenhouse gases, just like other bio-waste. 

In addition, over your lifetime you can expect to save up to 94% of what you would have spent on disposables, by switching to reusables! 

Of course, there are certain times and occasions where people may need to use throwaway products. On those occasions, consider opting for organic products instead of those that contain plastic, bleach and other undivulged chemicals. 

Is it OK to use conventional products alongside reusables?

Of course! Just as some people use a combination of disposable pads and tampons and use different products as their flow changes, some people use a combination of disposable and reusable products in the same way. Many people use multiple products during heavy flow, or switch to disposable organic products when theyre at festivals, etc. 

NB: using a pad on top of period pants won’t work – the tech will be cancelled out! 

What do I do if I am going camping or to a festival?

Reusables can be more practical when youre living outdoors, because you dont have to worry about finding a bin for your disposables. However, they can pose new challenges in the type of washing facilities that are available! 

If youre using a cup, make sure your hands are clean and bring a reusable water bottle into the toilet with you so you can rinse your cup off even if theres no sink. You can also buy cup wipes or use a sterilising tablet (like those youd use for a baby bottle) in a foldable cup. 

Reusable pads and period pants can be folded and stored in a bag until you get to a washing machine, or you can wash them by hand! 

What if my partner or friends think that using reusables is weird?

How you manage your flow is your choice! Let your partner/friends/family know that this is your body and your decision. No one should make you feel ashamed for choosing a menstrual product that is better for your health and for the environment. 

The more we talk about periods and period products the more normal and accepted the subject will become. 

How much money will I save by switching to reusable products?

Over your lifetime you can expect to save up to 94% of what you would have spent on disposables, by switching to reusables! Dont let the initial financial investment put you off – it more than makes up for itself over time. 

Based on a 45 day cycle, the average woman spends around £100150 per year on disposable products. 

Menstrual cups cost £9–25 and will last you up to 10 years.
A set of reusable pads will cost you £10–35 and some can last up to 10 years.
A pair of period pants will cost you between £23 and £31, and each pair will last you at least two years. 

These timelines are all dependent on you properly looking after your products, so be sure to read the washing/maintenance instructions that come with whatever product you opt for! 

The exact amount of money you save will depend on what and how many products you decide to use, and what throwaway products you move away from. 

Which reusable period products are the most comfortable?

This is very much a personal preference. Many people find reusables more comfortable than disposable products – no squeaky, expanded pads or tampons that dry you out. 

Some people say that they can forget all about their period when theyre using a menstrual cup because they cant feel a thing. Reusable pads can be made of super soft cotton and bamboo, which feel like a luxurious rug in your pants! Period pants dont move or shift in your underwear and sit comfortably without requiring you to fiddle around or insert anything internally. 

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