Getting started with reusable period products

Rebecca Wilson, passionate about recycling across South Yorkshire
Rebecca Wilson
1 Jun 2021

Anyone who has had a period knows how much single-use plastic there is in sanitary products. In fact, the average women will go through 11,000 disposable menstrual products throughout their lifetime! One way we can help cut down on waste is to switch to reusable alternatives.

These may not be for everyone and that’s fine! If you do choose to try them, we have put together some information and advice below.

Reusable sanitary towels

Personal choice

The first thing that I need to stress is that it is important to find the right period product for you, and only you can know what that is. Your period can be stressful enough so don’t add more to it.

These products also come with a bit of trial and error, so it may be best to give them a test when you are in your home (just like when you first started with tampons or pads.)



Reusable pads/ cloth sanitary towels

These types of pads are made from cloth and sit on the underwear just like a disposable pad but are secured with a popper or button on wings that fasten together.

These are a great way to start on your reusable journey. Although the initial cost is higher than the disposable ones, the savings soon add up. They can also be more absorbent than disposables, which is great for overnight protection.

Some downsides to these we have found are that they can feel a little bulkier than disposables at first but you soon get used to it. Also, as there is no adhesive to secure them to your underwear, they can move especially during physical activities such as running, circuits or hiking. This can be reduced by different styles of pants or you could try a different reusable product or use disposables when doing these activities .



Period pants

These are essentially underwear that you wear on your period! They are made of thicker materials that can absorb any fluids for up to 12 hours depending on your flow, meaning they can be worn overnight. The initial cost of these are high but they can last a long time when cared for properly. There are many shapes and varieties available, so you can find the type of underwear you are most comfortable in.

Unlike the pads, they can provide more flexibility when moving, meaning that they can be worn during exercise.  We think these would be especially good for young people when they start having periods as they start to understand their flow and frequency.

If you have a heavy flow you may need to change these during the day so it’s worth considering if there will be somewhere suitable for you to rinse them out and what you will do with the pair you take off.  You can buy waterproof carry bags for this.



Menstrual cups

These are a small flexible cup usually made from silicone that can be inserted into the vagina to collect any fluids. You can wear a menstrual cup for up to 8 hours, depending on whether or not you have a heavy flow. Like the other reusable period products, they do have a high first cost but can last 6 months to 10 years with proper care.

Some of the downsides we have found are the first time you insert them, it can be a little bit intimidating! However, it gets a lot easier with practice. Also, when out and about it can be difficult to use them as they have to be cleaned after emptying, which can be difficult in public bathrooms.



Final tips

  • Do your research as there are many products available and you are not going to like everything you try
  • Consider your flow when choosing. Some brands/ types of products can handle more blood than others.
  • Before buying, see if there are any reviews and see what others have experienced while using them
  • Start small. Buy one or two to start with, and if you like them expand your reusable collection and reduce the disposable ones
  • Rinse out pads and pants as soon as you take them off to help prevent staining
  • Even if you only use them a few times each period it will make a huge difference to your waste, so give them a try!

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