1. Your cycle
  2. Lifestyle
  3. Hygiene and beauty

Flo Fact-Checking Standards

Every piece of content at Flo Health adheres to the highest editorial standards for language, style, and medical accuracy. To learn what we do to deliver the best health and lifestyle insights to you, check out our content review principles.

Menstrual Sponge: What Is It and How to Use It

As people become more aware of the effects their choices can have on the environment, many have started to reconsider their choice when it comes to period products, looking for options that are reusable or sustainable, rather than disposable.

Menstrual sea sponges are marketed as an eco-friendly alternative to other products, but are they safe? 

A menstrual sponge is a sea sponge, which is an aquatic organism made of a substance called spongin. Sea sponges are living organisms that attach to underwater surfaces and continuously filter sea water to support their organic functions.

Sea sponges are incredibly absorbent, and they expand to retain the liquid inside of them. Some companies market sea sponges as a natural alternative to other period products. These companies claim that menstrual sea sponges can be used similarly to a tampon, rinsed, and reused for six to twelve months. 

People who use sea sponges for their periods may have concerns about the effects of disposable period products on the environment. After all, a single person can generate 250–300 pounds of waste by using disposable tampons or pads.

The majority of waste produced by disposable period products ends up in landfills or even the ocean, since most parts of pads and tampons can’t be recycled. 

One person can generate 250–300 pounds of waste by using disposable tampons or pads.

As a result, many people have started seeking out “greener” period products that can be reused and don’t have such a negative impact on the planet. But does that automatically mean that period sea sponges are a better choice for you? 

Medical experts have been outspoken about their concerns regarding sea sponges for periods. Research has found that sea sponges can contain particles of yeast, sand, grit, mold, and even the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, which is one of the most common causes of toxic shock syndrome (TSS). 

Menstrual sea sponges have also been shown to increase vaginal colonization rates of other types of bacteria, such as Escherichia coli and Enterobacter sp

Even if the sponge is washed or boiled, these methods can’t ensure that the sponge will be free of pathogens.

There are also concerns regarding how to clean a sea sponge. Even if the sponge is washed or boiled, these methods can’t ensure that the sponge will be free of pathogens and sanitary enough for vaginal use.

Additionally, the texture of a sea sponge could cause microtrauma when it’s removed. These tiny wounds to the vaginal mucosa could provide an easy point of access for bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens, further increasing the risk of infection.

Undiluted essential oils can cause irritation and even chemical burns if they come into contact with skin.

Certain companies and sponge providers have claimed that menstrual sponges can be sanitized with essential oils, or that oils can be used as lubricants during insertion. It’s very important to note that essential oils haven’t been scientifically tested for this purpose, and undiluted essential oils can cause irritation and even chemical burns if they come into contact with your skin.

If you’re looking for a period product that is reusable and effective, the menstrual cup is a great option. There are many brands, models, and sizes available.

Learning how to use a menstrual cup can seem a bit difficult at first, but with some practice, they’re generally pretty easy to use. Reusable menstrual pads and applicator-free, organic tampons are also more eco-friendly options.

Some people choose free bleeding as an alternative, which is simply making the choice to skip period products entirely during menstruation. Some people practice free bleeding all the time, whereas others may only do so during certain situations — for example, when they go to bed.

Choosing the best reusable period product for you will depend on several factors, including whether you lead an active lifestyle, how often you’ll be able to change your product, and others.

Period underwear are also available. These undergarments feature absorbent pads that can hold a significant amount of menstrual blood and can be washed in a washing machine. A person who uses period underwear can go about their usual routine and simply take off the underwear and wash it at the end of the day.

Choosing the best reusable period product for you will depend on several factors, including whether you lead an active lifestyle, how often you’ll be able to change your product, or the amount of blood you lose during your period.

Although some companies are currently marketing sea sponges as a safe alternative to other menstrual hygiene products, you should keep in mind that menstrual sea sponges aren’t recommended by medical professionals or regulating agencies. 

In fact, menstrual sponges are currently being sold as cosmetic products rather than personal hygiene products, indicating the fact that they haven’t been approved for such use. Healthcare professionals have expressed concern regarding the use of menstrual sea sponges.

If you want to switch to a reusable, eco-friendly period product, other alternatives such as the menstrual cup or reusable menstrual pads are a better choice. These products are friendly to the environment and safe for you.

https://www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/cpg-sec-345300-menstrual-sponges

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29678918

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29967393

Read this next