Lifestyle

Reusable Feminine Hygiene Products vs. Disposables: What Comes Out Ahead?

Reusable Feminine Hygiene Products vs. Disposables- What Comes Out Ahead?
Jackie Bolen
Written by Jackie Bolen

These days, there are a lot of great options for feminine hygiene products, but they can mainly be divided into two categories—disposables and reusables. You probably know about the disposable options (pads and tampons) and I’m sure have used them at some point in your life. The reusable menstrual options (cloth pads, menstrual cups, and period panties) are less well known, but are becoming more and more popular these days.

Let’s check out the pros and cons of each, in order to see which might work better. Here we go!

Disposable Feminine Hygiene Products

Pros

One huge advantage of pads and tampons is how easy they are to use. It’s actually quite difficult to insert a tampon incorrectly (after your initial experience of course), or to put a pad in the wrong place!

Another thing that disposables have going for them is that they work well. Tampons rarely leak, unless you don’t change them often enough. Disposable pads are very good at soaking up menstrual fluid.

regular cotton tampon how sustainable is it?

Credit: Pixabay

Finally, disposal is very easy because we just have to throw them in the trash and not have a second thought about it. It’s easy to carry a spare tampon or pad in your bag.

Cons

However, it’s not all glitter and gold with disposables! There are some serious cons, including environmental considerations, cost, and potential harm to our health.

Most people use an average of one box of tampons or pads each month, at an average cost of $5 USD. This number can increase significantly with a heavy and/or long period. This adds up over the course of a year, and will reach into the thousands of dollars over our lifetimes.

Disposable tampons and menstrual pads

Disposable tampons and pads. Credit: Aaron Fulkerson

According to The Guardian, the average woman uses 11,000 tampons during her lifetime. Then there are also things like pads and pantyliners. Many of these products are at least partly made from plastic and are therefore non-biodegradable; those tampon applicators will still be here in thousands of years from now! Finally, there are some health concerns associated with disposable feminine hygiene products. Tampons and pads contain chemicals from the manufacturing process, and pesticides from the cotton that’s in them. Tampons, especially the jumbo ones also come with the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). To compound the problem, in most countries, manufacturers aren’t required to disclose what’s in these products.

Reusable Feminine Hygiene Products

Pros

Let’s get into the reusable products such as menstrual cups, reusable cloth pads, and period panties. There are many advantages to them, which is why more and more people are making the switch.

Lena menstrual cup - sustainable periods options

Lena menstrual cup $19

As you read in the previous section, the cost of disposables, in terms of money and environmental impact is quite high. However, menstrual cups usually last for a minimum of five years, and up to 10 years with proper care and cleaning. Cloth pads are similar. And there’s more good news! Menstrual cups can often be recycled, depending on where you live, and cloth pads are biodegradable.

A top-quality menstrual cup (avoid the cheap nasty ones from China), costs about $30 USD, while a cloth pad is $5. Most people find that 5-6 pads is enough to get them through their cycle. When compared to disposables, the upfront costs of reusables are recouped in about half a year. Sure, it’s a bit more money up-front, but then it’s years of savings to look forward to!

Hannahpads reusable organic cotton pantyliners

Hannahpad Reusable Pads $16.45 – $38.50

Finally, let’s talk about health benefits. The top-quality menstrual cups are made from medical grade silicone, which is approved by the FDA. Wash them before use to make sure they’re free of any residue from manufacturing, and then you’ll have a chemical-free period experience! Cloth pads (go organic if possible) are similar—wash them before use and you’ll significantly reduce the amount of chemicals your body is exposed to. You might even find that you have less skin irritation and rashes, if you have sensitive skin or allergies.

ecopads australia reusable menstrual pads - sustainable

ecopads australia reusable pads starter kit $50

Cons

There are very few cons to reusables when compared to disposables. However, there is a bit of a learning curve to using them, which can deter some people. It takes most women 3-4 cycles to really get the hang of menstrual cups. It can also be a bit tricky to find one that works because vaginal canal diameter and length vary. However, menstrual cups do have the added advantage of a capacity up to four times more than a jumbo tampon, which means way four times less hassle.

Lunette reusable menstrual cup - sustainable feminine hygiene products

Lunette Reusable Menstrual cup Starter Kit $42.99

Reusable pads, although quite absorbent are not as good as the disposable options. They can slip around quite a bit, especially during exercise. This is because of the leakproof backing that many of them have.

Finally, there is the cleaning aspect of these two products. They do require time and care to keep them in good shape. It doesn’t really take a lot of time, but it’s something to consider if you’re busy and time poor.

So… which option is best?

It really is up to you as each woman’s needs varies—if you’re super busy and want an easy, hassle-free period experience, disposable might make a better choice for you although this is also the most unsustainable options. However, consider using organic cotton tampons to reduce your environmental footprint and avoid exposing yourself to the toxic chemicals found in the regular cotton ones.

TOM organic cotton regular tampons - eco friendly feminine hygiene options

Credit: TOM Organic

If you want to save a bit of money, are trying to lighten your ecological footprint, or are looking at ways to reduce your exposure to chemicals and pesticides, then consider reusables. For help in finding the right menstrual cup and cloth pads for you, check out: www.reusablemenstrualcup.com.

Title image credit: menstruationstasse.net

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About the author

Jackie Bolen

Jackie Bolen

Jackie Bolen is a friend of the Earth who can often be found on top of a mountain, drinking organic coffee, or working on her website, Reusable Menstrual Cups. Her hope is that one day, a reusable feminine hygiene product will be found in the hands of every single menstruating person in the world.

3 Comments

  • I bought a reusable menstrual cup and I tried it for like 2 or 3 menstrual periods, I can’t remember. Anyway, I really really really want to be eco-friendly and that’s why I bought it but maybe I’m not doing it right but I had a horrible UTI feeling 🙁 and I’m afraid of trying it again.

    Good to know about organic cotton tampons, I’m going to try those out!

    Great post 🙂

    • Menstrual Cups don’t work for everybody, for whatever reason. Some people get cramps. Others get more yeast infections, etc. Most people that try them, really like them though so perhaps give them another chance?

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