Making the switch to reusable period products can be scary so it’s natural to have questions and concerns. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to answer all of your FAQs.

And there are so many great reasons to give reusable period products a go. As well as being better for the environment, reusables can save you money too. Yes, there is an upfront cost, but over the course of months and years, there will be major savings. Plus many people find that their periods become less heavy and painful by using reusables. The products are much more comfortable to use and avoid any allergic reactions that might occur when using mainstream disposable products. 

So whether you’re just curious about this eco-friendly alternative or you’re ready to make the switch, keep reading for everything you need to know about reusable period products.


What’s a menstrual cup?

Cost: £10-£20
Usage: 8 – 12 hrs
Materials: mostly silicone but can be rubber

Menstrual cups, sometimes called a Mooncup are bell-shaped silicone or rubber cups that are inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual blood. There are now over 100 different menstrual cups on the market. They all vary slightly in colour and shape.

Menstrual cups can be worn for up to 12 hours, (do check the manufacturer guidelines) depending on menstrual flow, and can hold more blood than tampons or pads, reducing the need for frequent changes. 

During your period, cups are emptied, rinsed with clean cool water and then reinserted. 

Cups can be used for approximately 10 years and work out at approximately 20p per period. You can also buy small waffle pots or cups to help sterilise your menstrual cup.  

It may take a few goes to get used to how to insert and remove a menstrual cup. They are roughly the same size as a tampon when folded to insert. There are lots of great videos to look at that will help you. But once you get the hang of it, you won’t look back!



How do I use and care for my menstrual cup?

  1. During your period, you will need to empty your cup every 3-7 hours, depending on your flow – or longer if leaving it in overnight. 
  2. After removing your menstrual cup, empty its contents into the toilet.
  3. Rinse your cup with clean cool water before reinserting. This is easy to do if you are at home or have access to a bathroom with a basin.
  4. If you do not want to do this in a public bathroom, 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.
  5. At the end of your period, you will need to sterilize your menstrual cup so it is ready to use for your next period. This can be done by boiling it in a saucepan for a few minutes or putting it in the microwave. 
  6. Store the cup in a breathable cloth pouch until your next period.



What are menstrual discs?

Cost: £30 – £50
Materials: Silicone


Menstrual discs are reusable silicone discs that can be used just like menstrual cups. Unlike menstrual cups, discs don’t use suction to be kept in place. The front part of the disc is tucked behind the pubic bone which will keep it in place.  You fold longways to insert, it’s about the side of a tampon and placed inside the vagina. They are more expensive than cups but as the disc sits higher up in the vagina fornix than a cup, it makes for a better option if you have a lower cervix. The disc will sit at a slight diagonal angle when positioned correctly.

How do I use and care for my disc?

  • Before first use and between each period you sterilise your menstrual disc by boiling it in water for 3-5 min. 
  • You can wear them for 10-12 hours and even leave them in during sex. 
  • They can last up to 5 years and come in a variety of sizes.
  • They can collect more blood than cups or single-use disposables. 
  • They can be easier to insert and remove than cups. 


Resources: https://www.instagram.com/reel/CsEjIJJrpKd/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading



What are period pants?

Cost: £20-£30
Usage: ~12 hrs
Materials: A variety of materials some used only in the gusset to absorb blood – cotton, polycotton, Tencel, recycled nylon, modal, polyester, and ultra-high-absorbency fabric sewn into the gusset. 

Period pants are essentially leakproof knickers, so you technically won’t need to wear a pad, a tampon or a menstrual cup if you wear them during your period. A standard thickness for a pair of period pants is around 3mm, and they usually hold around two standard tampons’ worth of menstrual blood, lasting up to 12 hours. You probably need to buy a few pairs initially if you plan to use them for your whole period.

Although period underwear can be worn alone or as a backup with other reusable period products if you have particularly heavy periods.

You can now buy period pants in a large range of styles, colours and patterns. Some can unfasten at the side to remove making them ideal for festivals or when travelling. You can even buy period swimwear.

Period pants will last approximately 2-5 years and can cost from about £20.


How do I use and care for my period pants?

  1. If you need to change whilst away from home, you can seal them in a waterproof wash bag. Make sure to take a new pair of period pants with you to change into.
  2. Just like washable period pads, period pants are very absorbent. On a very heavy day, you can add in a washable pad to give extra absorbency.
  3. To wash, you can soak or rinse in cool water, then put in your normal clothes wash or put them straight into the wash.
  4. Wash with a gentle detergent (eco and fragrance-free if possible), no fabric conditioner at 30 or 40 degrees.
  5. Avoid using fabric conditioners and bleach as this can harm the absorbency. Hang or lay flat to dry or use a low-heat dryer setting.
  6. They may take a little longer to dry than regular pants as the gussets are thicker, so it is worth buying a couple of pairs to be worn during your period.
  7. Avoid pants with additives such as antimicrobials or anti-odour additives which can harm the delicate skin of the vulva and also damage the environment. 


What are washable period pads?

Cost: £6-£10/per pad

Usage: 3-4 hours depending on your flow 

Materials: cotton, bamboo, and fleece, but can have synthetic layers or coatings (do check).

Reusable or washable period pads are cloth pads that can be attached to underwear and used in place of disposable pads. They are made from soft and breathable materials and come in a variety of sizes, absorbencies, and designs. 

A set of 5 reusable pads will cost you about £35- £40 and can last between 3- 10 years. You will need about 5 to start with. They can be made from 100% natural cotton, flannel, fleece or bamboo. Some contain polyester which is a type of plastic that is commonly found in clothing.


washable pads

How do I use and care for my washable pads?

  1. Washable pads are super easy to use and very absorbent. You can use these in the same way as you would disposable pads.
  2. If you need to change whilst away from home, you can seal them in a waterproof wash bag.
  3. At home, it is a good idea to have a bowl with cold water in which you can put your used pads to soak. You can buy nappy buckets that would work well too. You can also just let the pads dry out and then add them to the washing machine. 
  4. You can use the water you used to soak the pads in to water your plants – it’s an excellent fertiliser!
  5. Once you have a few ready to be washed, these can be added to your regular laundry load on a long cycle (30º-40º). You can also hand-wash them. But don’t use fabric softener/conditioner or bleach, as this can affect their absorbency.
  6. Try to use a mild or eco-friendly laundry detergent or eco-laundry egg – to protect the delicate skin of the vulva.
  7. Pads can be air-dried and will be ready to go!







Can reusable period products cause discomfort?

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. Some trial and error may be necessary to find the right fit and level of comfort. If you experience discomfort, it may be helpful to try different sizes or styles or consult with a healthcare professional for guidance.

Are reusable period products safe to use?

Yes, reusable period products are safe to use when used correctly and maintained properly. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and care to ensure optimal hygiene and effectiveness. By properly cleaning and storing your reusable products, you can minimize the risk of infections and maintain your health.

I’m worried that period pants and pads will be bulky and uncomfortable, is that right?

About as bulky as single-use disposables. Period pants fit like regular knickers and the blood is collected in an absorbent layer, not in direct contact with the skin. It is much more comfortable than a regular single-use disposable which can have a plastic layer directly against the delicate skin of your vulva, which can irritate some. 

I have a disability, should I use reusable products?

We all experience menstruation and our periods differently, but what if you have a disability which makes you less mobile or a cognitive, mental, neurodiverse or developmental condition or impairment? This can affect the use and choice of your period product.

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





Will using an internal period product affect my virginity?

Virginity means lots of different things to different people. We have to agree there are many different ways to have sex or be sexually intimate with someone, including but not exclusively penetrative or vaginal sex. The important issue is that it is consensual and enjoyable. Virginity historically and culturally has become associated with purity and strongly associated with penetrative sex. But for cultural, religious, and economic reasons the subject of virginity is problematic. While many don’t agree with the idea of virginity anymore, these ideas can still affect people’s perceptions of sex and relationships.If you are worried, it might be good to know that whether you’re a virgin or not is not determined by an intact hymen (the piece of tissue covering or surrounding part of your vaginal opening). If you’re curious, have a look with a mirror. Your hymen can rupture through playing sports, horse riding or even through masturbating or inserting a period product. There is more information here and here about all things hymen. 


Isn't Toxic Shock Syndrome associated with using internal period products like tampons?

Yes, there is a risk of TSS from using tampons and a very small risk from using menstrual cups or discs. That’s why it’s important to keep period products clean and wash hands before inserting or removing them. 

TSS was initially associated with high absorbency tampons and cases have gotten much rarer but 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. 



Can reusable period products leak?

Like any menstrual product, reusable period products can leak if not properly positioned or changed as needed. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and ensure a secure fit to prevent leaks. Some trial and error may be necessary to find the right technique or size that works best for you. Additionally, using a washable period pad can provide added peace of mind.

How long will my reusable period products last?

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. Depending on the type and brand, manufacturers typically recommend replacing menstrual cups every 5 years – but cups can last up to 10 years. Reusable pads or period underwear every 2-5 years and washable pads for up to 10 years. Over time, the products may experience wear and tear, affecting their performance.

Are reusable period products as effective as disposable ones?

Reusable period products can be 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.

How can I use reusable period products when I’m out and about?

When emptying your menstrual cup, just tip 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. 

What if I have a lower cervix or if my cup seems to leak a lot?

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 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, it can also move a bit during your cycle 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 you will find one to suit you. 

Can I swim when using reusable period products?

Yes, you can! Cups and discs are fine to swim with and you can get period pants designed specifically to swim in.


I’m worried about seeing and touching menstrual blood

Once you decide which period product to use, you will find the best ways to manage them whilst you are at home and out and about. You will see and perhaps touch your menstrual blood, but you will be fully equipped to deal with this – for instance, bringing a waterproof bag with you to carry your period pads home. 

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. This can contribute to a sense of empowerment and self-acceptance, breaking the societal taboos and stigmas surrounding menstruation. 

How will I get used to seeing my menstrual blood?

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. This is a positive thing, as you will get to know your flow and equate it to how you are feeling on certain days of your period. Keeping track of your cycle and periods can be a very good indicator of your overall health. If you notice anything that’s not normal for you do go to see your doctor. 



Won’t my laundry get stained from my period pants and pads?

In a word no! Your washing machine will clean everything in your washing machine – 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. 


I’m going to be out all day so will be carrying my used period pants in my bag. Won’t they smell?

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.

I’m in a student house. Where do I soak my period pants before washing them?

You can leave your period pants or pads in a small bucket with a lid – keeping it in your bedroom. And then when you are ready to do a full load, 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. 

How do I dry my period pads and pants when I don’t have a garden or outside access?

You can line-dry your period pad and pants on a drying rack or near a radiator. Do not place directly on a rad 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 what sources it’s too hot to place pants or pads on to dry. 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. 

Do period pants or pads smell?

Ever cut your finger and bleed on your clothes, does the blood smell? Neither will period blood. Pads and pants are made to be breathable unlike single-use disposables, they also contain less plastic and no additives which can give off a bad chemical smell.

Rinse your pants or pads well in cold water before washing until the water runs clear. Hanging in direct sunlight to dry will help. Blood can smell
slightly metallic but if your period blood strongly smells off or fishy then do go to see a GP. 

How can I use reusable period products when I’m out and about?

When emptying your menstrual cup, just tip 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. 

Are reusable products hygienic?

Yes, they are, even more so than traditional single-use disposables as you can make sure they are clean yourself. Do wash all new items before you wear though.

Single-use disposable products like tampons and pads are not sterile and some have been found to contain a cocktail of toxic chemicals. 


I haven’t used a tampon before, can I use a menstrual cup?

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.  Check on the resources above for video guidance and practice does really help. 

How come I haven't heard about reusable period products before?

Ever wonder why you haven’t heard of reusable period products? We only have to think about who pays for most of the period product advertising. It’s mostly the single-use disposable manufacturers.

Even in schools where we think we should hear more about menstruation and the wide range of products available, 94% of young women surveyed said their education should have been better. While just 2% were taught about sustainable and reusable period products compared to 85% who heard about single use disposable pads and tampons. To learn more about how our education system can step up check out the work of Poppy Taylor.

There is a lot of info on social media but not all of it translates into girls, women and those who menstruate using reusable period products. If you’re a menstrual activist or campaigner or an organisation that wants to use social media to discuss periods take a look at the guidance compiled Maria Tomlinson’s research.



I’m on a budget, how many reusable period products will I need to buy?

It depends on what type you decide to use ie you only need one menstrual cup but generally need about 5 period pads or pants to start with. It’s worth checking if your school or council has any scheme going to give free or discounted products. Also, you can use Wen’s discount codes. 



I am concerned about the environment, surely my choice of period products can't be having an impact?

They absolutely can! Every girl, woman or person who menstruates can use 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.

This can either go to landfill from our rubbish collection or be burned in an incineration. Or it can end up in our waterways or oceans from flushing down the loo. None of this is ok. 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. 

Is it okay to flush period products down the loo?

Nope, nein, non, nah, lah, just plain no. It’s thought that about 2 million menstrual items are flushed each year in the UK.

The 2022 Marine Conservation Society’s annual beach clean found a 77% increase in wet wipes and period products especially in Scotland. Sewage related debris, which contains used period products, made up almost 3% of all rubbish collected form English beaches. 


What are disposable period products made of?

Single-use disposable pads can be made from up to 90% plastic although manufacturers aim to reduce this. Tampons can also have plastic coatings, applicators and string so do check if you are concerned.

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

Don't period products break down in the environment?

No not if they contain plastic or synthetic materials. Even items classed as biodegradable or compostable can take 5 years to break down needing certain conditions and temperatures not found in nature. 

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


Want to give reusable period products a go?  We have some discount codes for menstrual cups, washable pads, period pants and menstrual pads and tampons.

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