Reusable Menstrual Products

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Ever wonder what your grandmother, great-grandmother, and all the preceding generations of women used during their monthly cycles? Surely, with no 24-hour convenience stores, no mega-stores with endless aisles, and, if you can imagine this, no internet, buying disposable, single use menstrual products 24/7 was not an option for these ladies.

In fact, disposable, commercially manufactured disposable feminine protection products as we more or less know them - menstrual pads discarded after use and flushable tampons - only came to market in the 1920s and 1930s. And it was not until the 1960s that pads came backed with an adhesive; before that, belts were primarily used to keep them in place.

What then, was used? Everything from papyrus by the Ancient Egyptians, wool by the Romans, rolls of grass by the Equatorial Africans, vegetable fibers by Indonesians, and rags (hence the expression "on the rag") in the United States. Some of these, such as knitted or crocheted wool pads and rags, were reusable: washed and ready for the next cycle; while others were likely disposed of after use, such as make-shift tampons wherein softened paper was wrapped around wood.

Aha! Now it makes sense - where the expression "on the rag" comes from!

60% of women surveyed were not aware of today's reusable menstrual products. News Flash: they exist, they exist!

Fast forward to today. Do reusable products exist and are they being used? When we posed this question in a recent MyMonthlyCycles poll (see below), 60% of those taking the survey indicated that they did not know reusables exist.

Reusable menstrual products are absolutely available today, having made a resurgence in the 1980s. There are several alternative feminine protection menstrual products that may well be of interest to you during your menstrual years: reusable cloth pads, and reusable menstrual cups.

Do you use reusable menstrual products?
Yes, all the time6%
Yes, for part of my cycle 2%
No, I prefer disposable32%
No, I did not know they existed60%

Poll previously run on Total votes: 3,503.

Types of Reusable Menstrual Products

Reusable Cloth Pads

Cloth pads are similar in concept to disposable menstrual pads, in that they attach to your underwear, either via velcro or wings that fold over and are snapped. Liners are inserted into this outer casing, and absorb the menstrual flow. Pad fabric varies per vendor, some being made of cotton, flannel, or fleece.

After several hours, or as needed due to flow level, you change the pad. However, you don't dispose of them. Instead, you wash the pad - most manufacturers recommend soaking in cold water first, then laundering. What to do with the used pad if you are out of the house (e.g. at work)? Most Manufacturers offer carrying cases to easily transport the used pads back home.

Pads typically are sold in a variety of sizes and thicknesses for light to heavy days. With some brands, you stack multiple liners to accommodate different flow levels: light flow, one liner; heavy flow, two or more liners.

Reusable Menstrual Cups

Like a tampon, a menstrual cup is inserted internally, but the similarity ends here. A tampon absorbs the menstrual flow, whereas a menstrual cup catches the blood. Bell-shaped, and made of rubber or silicone, the cups can usually hold about 1 oz of fluid, so you'll need to remove the cup periodically during the day to empty it and clean it before re-insertion.

Menstrual tidbit! The typical flow during one's menstrual period is 2 to 4 ounces.

Next: Why use reusables? Where to buy?