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Alternative Menstrual Products – Ditch the Disposables

by Tiffany in Beauty

Natural Menstrual Products -

A blog reader pointed out to me recently that I never mention alternative and more eco friendly menstrual products. I think I may have mentioned them briefly in the past but I agree I do not mention them nearly enough. Since the time I developed a need for them until my mid twenties I was using what is considered mainstream for menstrual products…disposable pads and tampons. I never really liked either of these options but I wasn’t really aware of alternatives. No, I take that back. I had heard of cloth pads but I didn’t think that was something women in “developed” countries used…sounds kinda snobbish huh? But I went through quite a few transformations when I had my second child. I started using cloth diapers when she came into my life and I quickly found that many cloth diapering mamas were also quite fond of mama cloth. I ordered some from a friend of mine that made them and the rest is history. After I tried reusable cloth menstrual pads one time I knew I would not use paper and plastic disposables ever again. I won’t go into details here but it was like finding silk after a life filled with sandpaper. I never knew I had sandpaper until I found the silk. But even better than finding the ultimate comfort is finding an eco friendly and less wasteful alternative.

Environmentally-friendly menstrual products provide clean and healthy choices for women seeking alternatives to the synthetic products that can harm the body and harm the environment.  Disposable pads and tampons are just like disposable diapers…they are loaded with chemicals and they end up in our landfills. They don’t allow our skin to breathe, they can harbor bacteria, and they are really NOT all that comfortable. I am going to discuss some of the alternatives below.

Safer Disposables

In the safe disposable category are non-chlorine bleached all-cotton pads and tampons.  These products are not as environmentally friendly as reusable products but they are chemical free.  It is, however possible to find pesticides in 100% all natural cotton products.  To reduce this exposure it is suggested that you choose a brand made with organic cotton. I used some of these that I got at Whole Foods and I didn’t care for them but if the options below aren’t your thing these are safer than conventional. Her are some organic tampons and here are some organic pads…both disposable.

Cloth Menstrual Pads

Reusable and pads are just like disposable pads except that instead of throwing them out after use they can be washed out and reused.  Reusable pads usually consist of two parts: a liner and a liner holder. Although there are AIO or All-In-One options to. The liner fits into the holder which has wings that snap around the crotch portion of underwear to remain secure. On those days where the flow is lighter, the liner holder can be used alone; on heavy days, two or more liners can be used with one holder. This product is more expensive than traditional disposal pads but will result in significant savings over the long run since they will last for many years.

Here are my favorites:

Sckoon Organic Cotton Menstrual Pads– These are a favorite. They have quite a few great prints and they are made of 100% Organic Egyptian cotton; the rarest, softest, and the most luxurious cotton in the world. It has super absorbability, incredible breathability and silky softness. I love how comfortable and colorful they are.

GladRags– You can get these made from regular cotton or organic cotton and in several different earthy colors. They have a liner and holder as explained above and overall they make for a very sturdy cloth pad. I have had some of these on hand for several years now. They also have daytime and nighttime sizes.

LunaPads– These are very pretty pads a bit more on the luxurious side. They have some really fun colors and designs and even some panties with a pad built in. They have organic and non as well and some really nice panty liners too.

Sorella Luna Organic Pads – These are an All-in-One where the absorbent material is built into the pad with wings, so it is one piece. They are super soft and comfortable and one of my faves. You can get super and regular and a carrying bag too for your purse.

Caring for them is pretty easy. You can keep them in a container to soak until wash day or you can dry store and them give them a good soak in cold water and then wash. If stains bother you than soaking them right away might be best. I don’t particularly care about stains myself.

Natural Tampons

Sea sponges can be used as an alternative to tampons.  These are the same sponges that are found on the ocean floor.  The benefit of using sponges is that they are all natural.  As far durability goes, one sponge will last for about 6 months. Are you trying to imagine how to use a sponge? It is very straight forward.  Upon being moistened with water and squeezed the sponge can then be fairly easily inserted just like a tampon. After about 3 hours the sponge will have to be removed and rinsed out before reuse.  At the end of the cycle the sponge must be cleaned and air dried.

These were never my thing but if you to give them a try I recommend Jade and Pearl Sea Sponges.

Menstrual Cups

And we come to my all time favorites! Menstrual cups are popular with many all natural menstrual cupsalternative users.  Menstrual cups are small, rubber or silicone cups that are inserted into the vagina where they are positioned to catch menstrual flow.

The Keeper is a menstrual cup that is made of natural gum rubber (from trees).  This cup is placed inside like a tampon and can be worn for 6 to 12 hours depending on the flow after which time it can then be simply emptied, rinsed with soap and water and reinserted.  It can also be worn overnight. There are two sizes. Size A is for those who have had a vaginal birth and size B is for those that have not. I LOVE my Keeper. I find that I forget that it is even THAT time of month when I use one and unlike when I used tampons I need no back-up pad protection. The Keeper has a 90 day money back guarantee and it lasts up to ten years, potentially saving over $800.

For women with latex allergies there is the DivaCup.  This product is made of silicone.  The DivaCup can be worn and managed just like The Keeper and has two sizes as well. In comparison I like the sturdy nature and darker color of The Keeper better than the clear DivaCup which gets dingy after many uses. But The Keeper has a longer stem which some women find uncomfortable but you can cut the stem on either cup to a comfortable level. Both products cost between $25 to $35 dollars each.  But again, they will save money over time as they can last for years. I have had both of mine for over 3 years now. Most women need about 2-3 months to get used to menstrual cups.

Reusable menstrual products are healthier to use and infinitely more comfortable.  They may take some adjustment as some women/girls may be uncomfortable dealing with menstrual blood because of years of using disposable, traditional products. I will admit that I am not squeamish in that regard. Caring for them is pretty easy too. So what do you think? Do you already use one or more of these products or were you thinking about it?

Alternative Menstrual Products

  • rachel

    I’ve had a Diva Cup for a couple of years now, and I can’t imagine using anything else. So convenient and cost-efficient, though the real reason I switched was because I was tired of the monthly waste from wrappers, boxes, etc. My Diva Cup hasn’t gotten grimy, and I actually think that lighter-colored products are more likely to be kept very clean…

    rachel’s last blog post..36/37 weeks

  • Stretch Mark Mama

    Thanks for this post! I’ve wanted to make the switch for a while, but can’t seem to push myself towards the initial expense.

    • Jaime

      Are you kidding? How much does a jumbo box of tampons cost now days? And how long does just one box last you?

  • lovelilacs

    I just started using the brand you recommended in disposables. I had always used mainstream and didn’t even know there was an alternative until recently. I’m a little hesitant to try the cloth or diva cup, I think my husband would freak out. Anyhow, thanks for the informative post :)

  • I LOVE my Diva Cup :)

    Beckie’s last blog post..I LOVE this list :)

  • I’ve recently become interested in a menstrual cup but haven’t tried it yet as I’m currently pregnant. I’m wondering, though, how soon they can be used after a birth. Can you use one right after the birth or do you have to wait until the first real cycle?

    Kansas Mom’s last blog post..Christmas in April

    • Jaime

      Just like tampons, you can’t use cups right after birth. Your doctor will tell you when you can start using tampons again, that will double for your menstrual cup.

  • Brooke

    I just wrote a blog about this myself. I have been using my diva cup since my first cycle after I had my daughter and so far it’s awesome. I guess I am one of the rare women who had success with my diva cup from the very start. I did have some issues with the stem, but I cut it and it solved the problem. Then last month I had some issues with leaking, but realized that my cervix was hiding below the cup. I’ve also used cloth pads for my postpartum period and like them also, but the diva is just more convenient. I’m considering also trying out sea sponges, because they are cheap and I could use them as a backup at work where it seems like my period always starts.

  • Angi

    You know, I oddly really enjoyed this post! I say “oddly” because the whole concept in general is not something that typically brings a smile to my face :) but…yeah, this could be a good and easy change for me. I’m currently 6.5 months post-partum with baby #4 (uh, do those cups come in a size made for Mama’s whose girly-bits have been around the block a time or four??) and since am still exclusively nursing, no cycle yet. But I think I may give these a chance…I love the idea of the cup and the sponge. Thanks for giving this issue some blog-worthy attention!

    Angi’s last blog post..Must It Be This Difficult? I Mean, Really.

  • Michelle Rotter

    I have used a cup for about a year now. It does take time to get used to, but it is worth it in the end. Tampons wern’t an option for me due to having a septic system, and I didn’t want them in the trash can stinking the whole place up.

    I have just started (two weeks ago) making my own pantiliners to go with the cup. I haven’t tried them yet, but am excited. Who would have thought I would be excited for that! The fun part isusing the fun flannel material I had left over from making PJ pants this past Christmas. I can honestly say I will never look at Strawberry Shortcake the same way again :-)

    • Goin’Green

      Can you post instructions for making your own panty liners? I’m very curious. I’m going to try the cup and since I have a very heavy flow for a day or two, I’m skeptical that the cup will contain all of it. Using homemade (read:you know what’s in it) panty liners sounds like a great idea.

      • Goin’Green if you search for Cloth Pantyliner patterns I am sure you could find some. Also you can take a disposable and use it as a pattern.. just adding a 1/4 of an inch around for a seam allowance.

  • Kansas Mom,

    I am unsure about using them for postpartum. As things are kinds bent outta shape so to speak they might not fit that well and end up leaking. I would ask your Doctor too.

  • I’ve used a mooncup (I’m in the UK) for 3 years now and once I got the hang on it I never looked back. They are FAB, and really money-saving too. I know they do two different sizes – one for before you’ve ever given birth, and one for after. (Though maybe not immediately after!)

    Lucia’s last blog post..Friday Foughts

  • Love “mama cloth” I started using them before I got preggo when I was researching cloth diapers. I have found that WHAM made ones are my favorite with bamboo or cotton velour tops. So comfy!
    I also recently started using a Diva cup which is a wonderful alternative to tampons. Again, more comfortable and not irratating like tampons are.

    mama k’s last blog post..Frugal Friday: Buying Produce

  • I just used my Diva Cup for the first time and after a few poor insertions I got the hang of it. It is WONDERFUL. I just love it.

  • I love the diva’s cup and use it every month for about 2 years now. I just came back from the swimming pool and I didn’t even think about it once. I wear mine 24h, wash it and wear it again. So convenient and so much cleaner. The blood doesn’t degrade and never smells bad as on napkins. I love it and no more napkins in this house. I love it.

    texmex’s last blog post..Graines germées: le broccoli

  • Kelly

    Tiffany- I loved this post. Am I always gushing or what? But you are so educational to me! I cloth diaper, but admit I have never thought about my own needs. The Diva sounds cool, and I think I will be ordering one.

    Kelly’s last blog post..My experience with cloth diapering!

  • mary

    I’m looking at that cup and wondering how it fits in you. I’m having a problem with tampons (environmental damage being the first priority) and the feeling that’s it’s falling out of me. I also don’t like paying $$$ for cotton on a string. It can’t hurt to try the cup. thanks.

  • Mary,

    The cup folds inward for insertion. The size you see in the picture is what it looks like when opened inside…it is smaller going in though.

  • Stacy S

    I use Lunapads (great Canadian company started by a few women – I’m in Canada myself). I am not a big fan of tampons so I went the pads route instead of the cup route (unlike everyone else here it seems). I would never go back, they’re so comfy (I used to get so itchy from disposable pads) and best of all there’s no waste. Love them!

  • tessa

    hi, I am one of your readers and love your blog. You are helping me help my family. We are on the right path for eating and cleaning, and now I want to start to recycle, but I don’t know what to recycle or what to do with it? I feel guilty every time I throw something away that might could be recycled. And then there is that thought will it just pile up in my garage, does someone pick it up with the trash? please help.

  • This is something I have struggled with investing in. I am interested in the Keeper of Diva Cup but since my history has shown that I have one pp cycle then am pregnant again I hesitate buying them. If you use them once or twice then don’t need them again for 2 years would they still be good?

    Autumn Beck

    Autumn Beck’s last blog post..Contest For an Ultimate Guide to Cloth Diapers

    • Jaime

      Yes, I’ve had a DivaCup for years & years now. The silicone is really durable. Plus you can boil it to sanitize it in between uses. However, I think that the natural rubber (is it latex?) that The Keeper is made out of needs to be replaced every so often.

  • Autumn, The Keeper will last up to ten years of actual use. So I think you’d be in the clear.

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  • Jodi

    A few years ago my hubby and I went through an extremely rough financial spell, and in desperation I made my own cloth pads out of old towels and a pattern I found on Hillbilly Housewife ( I have never looked back. I LOVE them! They are easy to make out of whatever suitable material I have floating around the house if one is lost or damaged (by pets or laundry machine mishaps). My daughters, who have not yet started menstruating, are actually planning out their own sets, with pretty fabric and all, and the oldest has begun sewing hers in anticipation of the big day – read my blog post “Adultery:”
    Now I have temporary custody of my toddler niece and she has been cloth diapered the entire time she’s been with us.

    I have discovered that I am annoyed with the thought of buying garbage – that I am purchasing something with the intent of throwing it away immediately. Yuck! What’s a little extra work and a whole lot of extra comfort?

    However, it did get a little awkward when my NOT like-minded mother-in-law moved in downstairs and discovered my “secret” when she did the laundry … “Are these what I think they are??? EWWW!” Now she won’t touch my laundry – It’s a good way to keep her chemical-laden laundry products out of my family’s clothing!

  • Jodi, reading your comment in my email made me laugh so I had to come back and let you know! I get nervous when I wash cloth diapers at my mother in laws that she’ll go to put them in the dryer for me and see the bits of raisins and beans that are left behind *blush*

    Our dirty little secrets LOL

    Autumn Becks last blog post..3 Reasons Why I Chose To Cloth Diaper

  • Rachel

    I considered all the options and ended up purchasing one GladRag at my local health food store. Although I have NEVER used pads, and hated them, I loved my GladRag. It’s just like wearing underwear. A friend who sews made up some copies for me out of old flannerl shirts, so my whole collection was practically free. Love it! Haven’t tried the diva yet, but when my tampons run out (like in 2 years!) I will!

  • Rachel

    let’s see if this works…

    Rachels last blog post..Five Favorite “Green” Tips

  • Helena

    I had a boxful of pads and tampons that I had been holding onto just in case. They were useful to me for awhile until I got a lot better with the Keeper. I find I get excited at my period now, because it’s the time where I get to play with my special toy (is that silly?). The extra pads and tampons I gave away to my roommates, one of whom asked me why I was doing this, saying “Do you not want to be a woman anymore?” I show her the Keeper, it grosses her out, and she continues telling that I don’t want to be a woman anymore. This bothered me, my other roommate at least had the decency to say, “it doesn’t suit me” without adding any opinion on what she thought I was. But the “you’re not a woman” roommate really frustrated me. I’ve never felt so happy to be a woman before! And I never said anything on how absolutely skeevy I thought her pads were (they disgust me nowadays). Does anyone have tips on how to not be so frustrated with my disposable-pad-wearing, plastic-bag-using roommate?

  • Now that my flow has returned, I’ve ordered a Diva Cup! Thanks for this post all over again! It’s stuck in my mind over the past months!

  • Marilyn

    This is the first time I have seen alternative products, which is great! In your description of how to use the product you have said the Keeper or Diva can be worn 6-12 hours, depending on flow then emptied. This I can understand; however, when I took a look at the product on the product description read: “…The Keeper holds up to an ounce of fluid and should be emptied several times a day; simply rinse and reinsert. (See: for description)

    Can you please clarify the discrepancy? I might try this alternative but I want to know what to expect from this product.

    Thanks so much

    • Allie

      I actually use both the Diva cup and “wasteful” tampons.

      I’m a college student and I live in the dorms.
      I find that if I need to empty my cup during the day it’s very hard to take it out, leave the stall, rinse it out, head back to the stall, and put it back in. That’s where the tampons come in, they are a little more discrete.

      However, the Diva is GREAT on the weekends when I go home and have the privacy of the toilet and sink behind the same door. It’s also wonderful on lighter days… you only have to empty it twice in 24 hours. The Diva is also more comfortable, it doesn’t start to slip down like tampons do.

      So my advice is to try the Diva and see if it works with your lifestyle–using both is okay too though.

    • Jaime

      You can leave it in for as long as you wish, as long as it’s not full or overflowing! How long you go in between emptying is completely dependent on how heavy your flow is. For example, when I first start I have a light flow for the first 12 hrs. I will leave the cup in for the entire time. Then for the next 2-3 days it becomes very heavy and I have to empty it about every 2-3 hours. During this time I can not sleep with it in, at least not without some serious backup. I think this maybe outside of the norm, like I said it can be extremely heavy. Then for the last day or two it becomes lighter & lighter. I’ve gone 24 hours easily towards the end. Which is really nice because you never get surprised with anything accidents after you thought you were all done!

  • Marilyn,

    I do change mine throughout the day a few times but at night…I keep it in…no way I am going to wake up and change it in the middle of the might, LOL. I have never had any problems.

  • I don’t have a particularly heavy flow, so most days I empty my Diva once in the morning and then again in the evening. On high flow days, I might empty it a third time, but rarely do I do that, and it has never been full. :)

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  • Connie

    Oh my this is GREAT! I’ve seen the Diva Cup at Whole Foods and was instantly intrigued by it. I’m on my cycle now and it just happens you posted this blog and I’m totally eating it up. I even read all of this to my husband and looked at both of the cups and the washable pads. My husband gave me the go ahead to buy them if I wanted. Needless to say, I can hardly wait for my next period to try them out! :) Thank you for clearing up several misconceptions about feminine products. We shouldn’t be ashamed, periods are a normal part of being a woman and we should all embrace it.

  • Still loving my Diva Cup! I will never go back!

  • deb

    had my keeper since 1999, would never be without it again!

  • Wendy

    Dear Tiffany,
    Hello! I’ve been reading this blog many times. I’m currently a high school senior about to go to college. This means of course that the diva cup is not ideal for my physical condition. However, I’ve been researching into these gladrags you always mention quite a bit. I was just wondering for the sake of this specific article: How do you deal with your gladrags when not at home? I know when there are heavier periods of flow, things can get pretty messy pretty quickly. Is there a way you store used rags when away from the convenience of the home faucet?

    Thank you for such a great post!

  • Wendy,
    You can keep used cloth pads in a wetbag like this one: when your out of the house. Cloth pads absorb really well so the menstrual flow pretty much stays put in the cloth until you can get home to rinse them out and wash.

    and for Marilyn,
    The average woman only bleeds 2 to 4 ounces through her entire period so the DivaCup or Keeper can hold enough fluid to be left in for up to 12 hours.
    Hope that helps!

  • Prima Soriano

    Everyone is going green these days and it’s hard to come up with a product that’s unique and fills a much needed niche.

    With our own daughters as inspiration, we created an eco-friendly “emergency girl pack” called tomkit (time of month) so girls will always be prepared when that unexpected period arrives. It’s compact, discrete, and easily fits in backpacks, purses, duffels.

    Please check out our “emergency girl pack” at

    We have been featured on such diverse sites as Gorgeously Green, Cool Mom Picks and Alternative Consumer. We also have been favorably reviewed by Teens for Safe Cosmetics.

    Mila Marburg and Diane Wieder
    a division of Prima Soriano

  • Very interesting. I never really thought about using reusable products for this though. That still seems strange to me.

  • jenna

    I would like to share what I use it is called winalite it is a sanitary pad free of chemicals and synthetic materials. It is unique in that is has an anion strip embedded in every pad it is antibacterial and has numerous benefits. These pads are quite different than what is out there today not to mention they are not bulky and still offer great protection. I recommend checking out the site it is full of beneficial information you wont be disappointed.

  • I purchased a Diva Cup today, after hearing about them a year or so ago. I wasn’t pregnant at the time, so I only got around to doing the research yesterday. After about an hour, I was convinced, and spent the rest of the time doing price and brand comparisons.
    In addition to all of the reasons listed above, I think it will also be easier for me when I travel (which is fairly often). I won’t have to worry about packing pads and such, or disposing of them. I’m hopeful that it goes well (and that the cup arrives before my next trip).
    Also, I got it from iherb, and it was only $21.20 including shipping. Go to and order it, and you can enter the code BAT047 to get $5 off the price (24.70). Not a lot, but every little bit helps!

  • Oopps, I WAS pregnant at the time. Hehe. Must be bedtime.

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  • Donna

    So excited to read this! After years of horribly heavy periods and changing tampons every hour, I look forward to another option. Haven’t started periods yet since having baby #5 7 months ago, but will definitely be purchasing one of these products as an alternative to tampons. Still hate pads all the way around, but definitely very excited to see if these cups can actually hold my monsoon! Thank you so much for the info.

  • I wondered what a Divacup was. Pretty fabric pads. What a great way to be eco-friendly. thank you for the info.

  • I smile when I read your “I had heard of cloth pads but I didn’t think that was something women in “developed” countries used…”

    I live in developed countries and here cloth pads are not well known..people here are used with disposables.

    FYI, thanks to internet, I’ve switched to cloth since last year. I still use disposables when I’m traveling..or when I run out of pads because my ‘collection’ aren’t enough for the whole cycle.
    (the pads are not cheap according to my standard. Can’t spend too much at one time..)

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  • Goin’Green

    I’ve been curious about this for a long time. I just emailed a friend who mentioned to me that she used a menstrual cup, but who I never followed up with afterwards. I’m definitely going to give this cup thing a try. It sounds neat and clean, which is more appealing to me than the pad option, though I may explore that as well. Thanks for the info!

  • Ribena

    Dear Tiffany, can you please tell me if you’ve tried any natural medicine that aid in menstrual cramps?

  • Jennie

    I love my lunette cup! I needed a cup that was shorter than the diva, but still made of silicone. Thanks for writing this and spreading the news of all the amazing options we have.

  • Moem

    And I love my Ladycup. Isn’t it great that we have so many choices nowadays? A Diva cup would certainly be too long for me, but luckily it’s only one of more than ten brands that are available.

    Yay cups! I love how cheap, comfortable and convenient they are. And I love, love, love how there are no more pads and tampons in the bathroom bin!

  • Samantha

    I wish I would have known about these products before I had a hysterectomy!! I always had reactions to products, hated the way they felt, ect. I am passing on this info to all the women I can!!

  • Sue

    I LOVE the Keeper!!! I’ve had one for several years and its awesome. Saving land fills from countless bloody pads, the keeper is environmental and economically a good investment!!


    You should try it!

  • Anji

    I started using cloth pads after the birth of my second daughter. I LOVE them! I recently went out of town and had to use disposable pads (and tampons when we swam). I wish I would have had a Diva Cup! I think I will get one. Thanks for this information! :)


  • Candice

    I found the best natural (herbal) pain reliever for menstrual cramps and the PMS symptoms… it’s a life saver.  PMS Relief Herb Packet.

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  • Lindsay

    Lots of great suggestions here, thanks for taking the time to put this down in one spot. Sharing w my folks!