Frequently Asked Questions

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If you’re considering switching to reusable period products, you probably have a lot of questions. There are many types of reusables and they may be quite different to what you’re used to, so it’s natural to want to learn more before you get started.

The FAQs cover topics like comfort, cost and hygiene, so you can choose the right product for your body. 

We think there should be no stigma attached to talking about periods, so we are addressing these questions head-on.

FAQs

Find answers to common questions about reusable period products.

Using reusable period products

Yes, reusable period products are safe to use. It’s important to follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning and care, which will keep your products clean and working well. By properly cleaning and storing your reusable products, you can minimise the risk of infections and maintain your health.

Reusable period products, such as menstrual cups, pads, or period underwear, are designed with comfort in mind. However, it is important to find the product that suits your body and preferences. You might need to try a few different products to find the one that’s right for you, with the right fit and level of comfort. If you find a product is uncomfortable, it may be helpful to try different sizes or styles or ask your GP for help.

They’re very similar in size to a single-use disposable pad. Period pants fit like regular knickers and the blood is collected in an absorbent layer not in direct contact with your skin. Some people find it more comfortable than a regular single-use disposable which can have a plastic layer directly against the delicate skin of your vulva, which can be irritating. 

We all experience our periods differently, but if you have a disability which makes you less mobile, if you’re neurodiverse or if you have a developmental condition, this might affect your choice of period product.  

There is no inherent reason why you shouldn’t use reusable period products, but it’s important you do what feels right for your body.  

It's good to find your community and take some guidance from what works for them. There are many differently abled people talking out this issue now, especially on social media. City to Sea also held an interesting webinar to highlight the issues.  

Resources

There is a risk of getting TSS from using tampons and a very small risk of getting it from using menstrual cups or discs. That's why it's important to keep period products clean and wash your hands thoroughly before inserting or removing them.  

TSS was initially associated with high absorbency tampons and cases have gotten much rarer, but it can be a fatal disease. It's good to be aware and never leave tampons or other internal period products in longer than the manufacturer recommends. Check the NHS website for more info. 

We have discount codes for you! By attending one of our workshops or using our calculator to discover how much waste, money and carbon you could save by making the switch to reusables, you can get access to great discounts with trusted reusable period product providers. 

Alternatively, if your school is part of the English government's free period products scheme, you can get some free reusable products to try from your school. If you live in Scotland, most councils have free period products to try as part of the Scottish government's free period product initiative.

When emptying your menstrual cup, just tip it into the loo. If you don’t have access to water, to rinse the cup, you can take a small bottle of water with you and do this over the toilet in the cubicle. You can wipe your hands with toilet paper or bring a cloth with you to do this. For period pants and pads, it’s a good idea to bring a waterproof bag to put used pants or pads in. 

Yes you can, depending on which product you use. Cups and discs are fine to swim with and you can get period pants designed specifically to swim in.

You don’t have to have used a tampon to use a menstrual cup.  It’s best to start with a smaller menstrual cup until you get the hang of inserting it and removing it.  Try to take deep breaths so that you are relaxed and calm when inserting and removing your menstrual cup.  Have a look at our how-to videos below, and practice does really help. 

Effectiveness

Reusable period products are just as effective as disposable ones, if not more so. They are designed to provide reliable protection and absorbency, and many people find that they offer superior comfort and performance compared to disposable options. They can work especially well if you have a skin reaction to a single-use disposable or have issues with pelvic pain like vulvodynia. With proper care and maintenance, reusable period products can last for many years, making them a healthy, cost-effective and environmentally friendly choice. 

Like any period product, reusable period products can leak if not properly positioned or changed as needed. It is important to follow the manufacturer's instructions and fit the product securely to prevent leaks.  You might need to try a few different products to find the one that’s right for you. You might also choose to use additional layers of protection, such as panty liners or backup products, to give you greater peace of mind. 

If your cup leaks a lot but you feel you’ve inserted it correctly, it might be you need to try a different style of cup or perhaps a menstrual disc. Some women and people who menstruate have a cervix which sits lower in the vagina than others or have a tilted uterus. The cervix also descends after giving birth, and it can also move a bit during your period or during sex.  

It's all to do with the positioning of the cup, which normally is underneath the cervix. Those with lower cervixes may find this causes the cup to leak as it touches the edge. The good news is there are so many styles of cups and now discs designed specifically for this, so you will find one to suit you.

While reusable period products can last for several years with proper care, it is important to regularly assess their condition and replace them when necessary. For example, depending on the type and brand, manufacturers typically recommend replacing menstrual cups every five years - but they can last up to 10 years. Like any product, over time reusable period products may become worn, affecting their performance.

Cleaning and hygiene

In a word, no! Your washing machine will clean everything inside it - period blood will not stain anything else in the wash. It will be diluted in the water in the drum and will be pumped out before being rinsed with more water and then spun. Think about how well your machine washes muddy or dirty clothing. 

No, they won’t smell if you use a waterproof wet bag designed to store used period pants or cloth nappies. The blood itself can smell slightly metallic but it will only begin to smell if exposed to the air or soaked in water too long. 

You can leave your period pants or pads in a small bucket with a lid, which you can keep anywhere you like, including your bedroom. When you are ready to do a load of washing, just take the bucket to the washing machine and place the period pants and pads directly into the washing machine.

You could alternatively let them dry naturally and then just add them to your normal wash. 

You can line-dry your period pad and pants on a drying rack or near a radiator. Do not place directly on a radiator or in a tumble dryer as high heat may damage the absorbency layer of the pants or pads. A rule of thumb is if it's too hot to place your hand on, it's too hot to place pants or pads on to dry. 

No! Reusable period products are just as effective (and some people find even more effective!) than single-use products at preventing any odours. They also won’t hold any smell if they are cleaned correctly - rinse your pants or pads well in cold water before washing until the water runs clear. Hanging in direct sunlight to dry will help. 

Yes, they are. And because you are in control of cleaning and maintaining the products, you can have confidence that they meet your own standards for hygiene and cleanliness.  

Do wash all new items before you wear them though. And always make sure your hands are washed thoroughly before handling your reusable period products to maintain hygiene. This helps prevent the transfer of bacteria to the products and reduces the risk of infections.

Once you decide which period products to use, you will find the best ways to manage them when you are at home and out and about. You will see and perhaps touch your period blood, but you can prepare yourself to deal with this, for example by bringing a waterproof bag with you to carry your period pads home.  Blood may seem different when using reusables as you may see it collected in a cup or on reusable pads. You could see clots, which could be darker or lighter in colour.

If you ensure you are practicing good hygiene by washing your hands and keeping your reusable products clean, there is nothing unsafe or unhealthy about seeing or touching your period blood.  

Using reusable period products can help promote a positive relationship with your body and menstruation. By being more involved in the process of managing your period, you gain a deeper understanding of your own body and its natural rhythms.

Environment and waste

Absolutely! Every girl, woman or person who menstruates uses about 11,000 period products and applicators in their lifetime, which adds up to 200kg per person. It is estimated this collectively generates 28,114 tonnes of waste per year in the UK. That’s about two Eiffel towers worth of waste.  

If this goes to waste, it will either go to landfill or be burned in an incinerator. Or it can end up in our waterways or oceans from being flushed down the loo.  Conventional period products can also contain additives, trace amounts of potentially harmful chemicals and pesticides which can leach into our waterways and oceans and affect wildlife.  

No. It’s thought that about 2 million menstrual items are flushed each year in the UK, blocking sewage pipes and making their way into our waterways. The 2022 Marine Conservation Society’s annual beach clean found a 77% increase in wet wipes and period products. Sewage-related debris, which contains used period products, made up almost 3% of all rubbish collected form English beaches.  

Single-use disposable pads can be made from up to 90% plastic. Tampons can also have plastic coatings, applicators and string. Products like single-use tampons can contain microplastics which you can’t see with the naked eye. Researchers have found tampons can shed up to 17 billion microscopic pieces of plastic per tampon - during use and afterwards. We know that microplastics are contaminating our environment and wildlife, and us!

There have been calls for better regulation and transparency around what is in our period products. Additives such as fragrances, antimicrobials and anti-odour or ‘stay fresh’ additives, and residues of other chemicals derived from fossil fuels have been found in period products. They can also irritate the delicate skin of the vulva and further contaminate the environment when the items are washed or disposed of. 

No, not if they contain plastic or synthetic materials. Even items classed as biodegradable or compostable can take five years to break down, needing certain conditions and temperatures not found in nature to do so.

Plastic never really goes away; it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. These can leach additives and make their way into our soil and oceans. Acting like sponges, microplastics can absorb other harmful chemicals from the sea water onto their surface.  This makes a very toxic morsel for fish, sea mammals, and the humans who ultimately eat them.

Still have questions to ask? Check out our upcoming workshops and drop into a free session to get answers – and other tips and tricks – face-to-face.

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