Also in Reuse Sub menu
Did you know that women can use over 11,000 disposable menstrual products in their lifetime? In the UK, the disposal of menstrual products, such as pads, tampons and their applicators generate about 200,000 tonnes of waste per year, it’s hard to comprehend what 200,000 tonnes of waste even looks like! To reduce the amount of waste, reusable menstrual products offer a sustainable alternative to disposables and are becoming easier and more comfortable to use.
Disposable period products don’t only create a lot of waste, they can also be costly. You can use this Periodic Calculator to find out how much you might spend on disposable period products in your lifetime.
Reusable period products such as the ones mentioned below are widely available to buy online and are becoming more widely available to buy in supermarkets in the period products section.
There are now lots of reusable alternatives to choose from, which is great as we all want and need something different when it comes to our period. We have some information below on some of the options, however this is only a small number from an ever-growing market, so keep your eyes peeled for other options if the ones below don’t appeal.
A menstrual cup is a small flexible cup which is most often made of silicone which is then folded and will sit below your cervix; if you are used to inserting tampons, this may be an easy switch for you to make. Menstrual cups are safe to use for up to 8 hours, however the nature of your flow may mean you change more regularly.
We recommend following the instructions that come with your cup, tips for inserting and cleaning should be included as part of the instructions. However, cleaning before your first use is often recommended; letting the cup bathe for a few minutes in some boiling water before taking out, drying, and letting cool before use. Cups can be washed at the end of the day using soap and water and it is recommended that you wash with boiling water between periods, although always check the instructions leaflet for a more detailed review of how to clean your specific cup.
Reusable Sanitary Pads
Reusable sanitary pads are pretty much the same as disposable ones, they come in different sizes and levels of absorbency, except they are made from layers or cloth or flannelled material, which can be more comfortable for day-to-day wear then disposable ones. They are often handmade; you can always give making them yourself a go with there being many tutorials online to guide you.
Many pads have poppers or small Velcro tabs to clasp them into place on the underneath of your underwear. Usually, the patterned side of the pad will face down and the fleece side will face upwards. If you are out and about, you may want to bring a waterproof bag to store your used pad in until you get home.
You can now get period pants that feel pretty much the same as wearing normal underwear, in principle they are essentially the same as period pads, except the pad part is built into a pair of pants. They come in varying sizes and absorbencies and are often leak proof, making them a great option for night-time use.
Perimenopause, Pregnancy, and Incontinence
Reusable period products can also be used during perimenopause, pregnancy and for those experiencing incontinence.
During perimenopause, the time before menopause, your periods may become unpredictable, with many experiencing a variety of heavier, lighter, longer, and shorter periods. Although perimenopause can be difficult to navigate, the variety of reusable period products available may be able to help you navigate your changing periods. If you want to track how much you bleed, which could be useful information for your doctor to have, menstrual cups let you see and measure how much you bleed over a certain amount of time.
Reusable period pads may be similar to the reusable maternity pads you can buy. Similarly, to reusable period pads, they come in a variety of different absorbency and a wide variety of sizes to fit whatever your pregnancy or post-partum needs. Many women freeze their reusable pads before using them for a soothing post-partum wear.
Incontinence is a common problem thought to affect millions of people, reusable period products could be a great way to protect you from light leaks throughout the day, which may be a more comfortable alternative to the disposable options available. If you experience heavier leaks, there are incontinence-specific pads and pants available to buy.
Are reusable alternatives safe to use?
Yes! If you change your products and clean them regularly, they will be safe to use.
How long do reusable products last?
A menstrual cup can last up to 10 years, which is a great option for reducing your waste and saving you money, cups can now be brought for as little as £10; although it may feel like a bit of investment, think that is only about £1 a year.
Pads and pants last about 5 years if they are taken care of, just follow the wash instructions.
How many reusable pads or pants will I need?
This depends on how heavy your period is and how often you change your period products. You’ll want to have some for a couple of days wear so that you have a chance to wash them. Think about how many pads you use during the first two/three days of your period and that should be sufficient! A dozen pads should be more than enough. Remember you can always buy one pad or pair of pants to get an idea of how long they last you and if you like them before buying more.
How often should I change my reusable pad or pants?
As with any product, the amount you change it will depend on how heavy your flow is. However, whether you are using disposables or reusable pads and pants, it is recommended that you change them every 4-6 hours to avoid irritation or the uncomfortable feeling of wetness. You can get ones specifically for night-time use which will be safe to wear for longer periods of time.
How do I wash my period pads and pants?
It is recommended to clean them before use by popping them in the wash on your normal 400C cycle. It is also recommended that you do not use fabric conditioner/ softener as this could affect the pads absorbency. If you have used the pad/pants, just rinse with cold water until they ring clean before putting them in the wash. Let them air dry.