Many of us have grown up hearing the slogan “Reduce, reuse, and recycle.” But did you know it can also be applied to period products? Period products have a measurable environmental impact, and choosing reusable products instead of disposable ones can make a difference to our environment and perhaps our health as well.
Often made of plastic, inorganic pads take a long time to decompose, between 500 and 800 years. A cotton tampon, by comparison, takes roughly six months. At the same time, the wrappers for cotton tampons are often nonbiodegradable, made of plastic. Some applicators are also made of plastic. To top it off, more than 45 billion period products are left to decompose every year.
A cross between a tampon and a pad, reusable tampons are meant to be worn multiple times. This means they are not only more environmentally friendly, but can also save you some money. And while only a few companies sell them, they can also be made at home.
It’s important to know that reusable tampons do have their drawbacks, including the fact that there is still little known about their effectiveness. At the same time, they are a viable option for those seeking a way to make less of an environmental impact through their choice of period supplies.
Typically, reusable tampons are made of 100 percent organic cotton, making them free from chemicals. They are often OEKO-TEX certified, meaning they have been certified to be chemical-free.
Unlike disposable tampons, which can be made from a combination of cotton, polyethylene, polypropylene, and fiber-like rayon, reusable tampons are made from organic cotton.
Reusable tampons are also made differently than disposable tampons. The OEKO-TEX certification of reusable tampons means they use organic cotton and don’t contain even trace amounts of chemicals such as dioxins or glyphosate. Disposable tampons, on the other hand, can contain trace amounts of both according to the FDA, which regulates their manufacturing process. While these ingredients can only cause harm in high amounts, certified organic cotton reusable tampons won’t contain any.
Although not widely available, you can also purchase reusable tampon applicators that can make inserting tampons easier.
Although menstrual blood is in no way unhygienic, it’s important to use clean products during your period. In the United States, we often take for granted that we have access to clean, safe period supplies. But across the globe, there are thousands of women living in rural areas of developing countries and communities who don’t have access to clean, safe, and reliable period products or menstrual education.
For instance, over 80 percent of women and girls living in rural India still rely on newspaper, dried leaves, rags, or cloth for their menstruation needs. This can have both an immediate and a long-lasting impact on health. For this reason, Flo has launched a charity campaign to raise money to supply Indian women and girls with much-needed period products and education about maintaining hygiene during periods.
Reusable tampons are a much better choice for the environment, and although no studies have shown that the chemicals used in disposable tampons cause harm, some women would rather avoid these chemicals. The major disadvantage of reusable tampons is that they can be difficult to sterilize. Although boiling them before and after use is an effective option, it is also a time-consuming extra step.
Menstrual cups are a good alternative, but they can be more expensive initially than reusable tampons. Still, considering that a menstrual cup can last several years, it can cost less in the long run.
Keep in mind that disposable tampons can be a hygienic and convenient option for times when another method such as a menstrual cup or reusable tampon doesn’t work for you.
To begin, always wash your tampon and boil it for 10 minutes to sanitize it before use. Wash your hands as well. Begin by rolling the tampon, starting with the side without the string attached to it. Roll it tightly, securing it with the string by wrapping it around one end. Before inserting the tampon, make sure it’s secure by pulling on the string. Then relax, inserting the tampon as far up into your vagina as it can go without causing any discomfort. The cord should hang out of the vagina for later removal.
Remember to use cold water in your washing machine; hot water doesn’t work on bloodstains. You can wash the tampon with your regular laundry, and soaking is optional but not necessary. To keep the tampon from getting wrapped up with other clothing in the cycle, use a laundry bag. Afterwards, you can let the tampon tumble dry or air dry. If you’re concerned about bacteria, you can boil the tampon for about 10 minutes after washing it and before drying.
This depends somewhat on how heavy your flow is and the size of your tampon, but generally speaking, reusable tampons should be changed every four to six hours. For this reason, it’s not a good idea to wear a reusable tampon overnight. Also consider using different sizes for different days, such as thicker, larger tampons for heavier flow days and smaller tampons for lighter flow days. And always remember to remove your tampon before inserting a new one.
Reusable tampons are one of several new eco-friendly alternatives to disposable tampons and pads. With proper use and care, they can have a long lifespan, save you money, and reduce landfill waste.