Sustainable Periods

September 21, 2017

Simplicity and sustainability areΒ two concepts that are never far from my mind. In recent years I’ve applied them to one area of my life I’d rather not think about – my period.

I’ll pause here – if you are of the portion of our population that does not experience menstruation each month (ahem, men) – now is a great time to bow out, because things are about to get personal.

This November marks two years since I switched from tampons to a menstrual cup. It’s made my life simpler (no need to pack around ‘supplies’), and I feel good that I’m not flushing a bunch of tampons and tossing dozens applicators into the trash each month. I have been tampon-free since that time and have felt better for it. No more worrying about toxic shock syndrome, no more inserting bleached cotton in places it shouldn’t go, no more struggling with tampons on light days, and no more dropping $$ each month on supplies. The course of my period has even changed, it is a little bit shorter than it used to be (though arguably faster).

Over time I have streamlined my cup-using process and I wanted to share it with you guys. If you’re like me, you might be holding out on making the switch because the logistics seem daunting.

Getting Started

I purchased a Meluna cup on the recommendation of a reader here. After a month or two with my first cup I realized it was the wrong size, because it would either leak or I could feel it sitting too low. I bought a second one, which to do this day has been very, very functional for me. If you’re unsure of which size to get, I highly recommend using this size calculator.

I bought one with a ball on the end (affiliate link) because I find it helpful for removal, which, in all honesty, can be a bit slippery at times. I’ll never forget when I read another blogger’s take on trying to use a cup, and she said after she had inserted it, she looked like she had just performed surgery. I still laugh when I think about that, because it’s true. But I’ve definitely gotten a lot better, and now that’s not usually the case for me.

My Process

It took me about a cycle or two to feel completely comfortable with the process of using a cup instead of tampons, especially getting it into place. Now it’s old hat, just like using tampons once was. I use my cup the same way I used tampons in the past, always with a pad or liner on backup. On the first few days of my period I empty the cup frequently and on the latter days I can go the entire day without pulling out the cup. Those days I almost forget that I’m on my period!

At the start of each period I take my cup out of storage and boil it in water for 5 minutes to sanitize it. I do this every single month to make sure I am not introducing anything into my body (i.e., bacteria) that I don’t want there.

Before I insert/withdraw my cup I always wash my hands, even though it seems a little odd to wash up before heading into the bathroom. I’ve found the best method to get the cup in place is to fold it in half and insert it like you would a tampon without an applicator. Then give it a quick turn so it pops open.Β Fold and insert. Turn + pop open.

I sleep with mine in at night and in the mornings wash it with soap and water in the shower before re-inserting for the day. This really helps cut down on mess.

Dumping the Cup

This was the scariest concept to me before I actually tried it. However, it’s not so bad. It’s similar to removing a tampon, I do it the same way (while sitting), and then gently tip it into the toilet bowl. I carefully reach over to the sink (or tub) and give it a rinse, before putting it back into place.

When I am out in public I do everything the same, except I don’t rinse the cup. I just dump and put it back in place. It’s not my favorite thing to do, but it’s infrequent, usually only on the first day or two of my period. The other days I can go a lot longer before I need to empty the cup.


As I mentioned above, I always use my cup in conjunction with a pad/liner for backup. I’ve considered the Thinx option, but it just doesn’t interest me a ton. I’m all ears if you have a more sustainable pad option (rather than disposables) that works for you.


Who has them? I know I had a million before I got started, so let me know!

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  • Christine September 21, 2017 at 7:39 am

    I use lunapads’ pantyliners with my cup the first couple days of my period and it works great! I don’t usually get any leakage so they are there just in case and I don’t need to have very many on hand. Then I just toss them into a delicates bag with the rest of my laundry and done! No more disposables!

    • Andrea September 21, 2017 at 10:36 pm

      Love it! I’m definitely going to try some reusable pads ASAP.

      • Alicia September 22, 2017 at 4:01 pm

        Cups are so great. I wish more people used them. I used Lunapads before (I bought a bunch for postpartum), but have been slowly switching over to Thinx. Much more comfortable and even less that I have to think about.

  • Sarah Mikaela September 21, 2017 at 8:05 am

    I use Glad Rags as a sustainable pad alternative. They’re cotton so they’re softer and more breathable than plastic liners. I just throw them in the wash after I use them and they’re good to go for next time. They do feel a little bulkier than a conventional liner, but the tradeoff is worth it for me.

    • Andrea September 21, 2017 at 10:37 pm

      That name is cracking me up! I just ordered a sample from Party in My Pants (another crazy name!), they’re supposed to be nice and thin…

  • Leah September 21, 2017 at 8:19 am

    I never liked tampons, so I’ve avoided the cup, but I LOVE my cloth pads. I’m on birth control, though, so I have a 2 day period. I’m not sure how the process would be for me if I had a week long one.

    • Andrea September 21, 2017 at 10:37 pm

      I’m so impressed with all the women who are using cloth pads! I just ordered a sample from Party In My Pants!

  • Christina September 21, 2017 at 8:59 am

    I have been using the Diva Cup for about 2 years and LOVE it. It feels so much better than using tampons and I don’t feel weird about putting it in a little early when I think I might start to avoid accidents. I don’t actually use backup and have only had a couple of leaks when I get lazy about dumping it before bed.

    • Andrea September 21, 2017 at 10:38 pm

      It’s such a game-changer, right?!

  • Jen September 21, 2017 at 9:07 am

    I *just* use my mooncup, no backup. I don’t have a super heavy period, though, so don’t need to empty very frequently! I’ve been using it about 6 months and I love it, especially not having extra waste/not having to buy stuff every month, and just having the cup, in it’s bag, in my handbag when I don’t need it which takes up very little room!

    • Andrea September 21, 2017 at 10:38 pm

      Yes, I love that about a cup, no more packing bulky supplies around! I remember on my heavy days I used to have to load up on pads and tampons, but now I just have my cup and one backup pad. That’s it!

  • Katy September 21, 2017 at 9:07 am

    I also discovered the world of menstral cups a couple years ago and I have loved the change. I do use thinx with the cup instead of liners and it has been a great combination for me that provides ample peace of mind against leaks, especially while traveling. I only wish I would have discovered these alternative products sooner, as I am about to have a hysterectomy next month and won’t have to worry anymore about a monthly visit from Aunt Flo. πŸ˜πŸ™ŒπŸ½

    • Andrea September 21, 2017 at 10:40 pm

      Whoa Katy – big news! I hope it goes well for you. You seem so young to have to do that. No Aunt Flo sounds pretty darn amazing though!!!

  • Anna September 21, 2017 at 9:10 am

    I’ve been doing a menstrual cup + Thinx underwear for over a year (menstrual cup for over two) and I have worry-free, completely dry periods. I WILL NEVER GO BACK. I’m never out and about feeling leaky and uncomfortable. Plus I’m saving money and space in my bathroom (YAY no disposable tampons and pads!). I’m a major fan of Thinx for everyday use as well because laughing, sneezing, dancing, etc. You get the picture.

    • Anna September 21, 2017 at 9:38 am

      Also, ladies with moderate-light periods, I dump mine usually twice a cycle. Once after the first day, once when it’s all over. SO EASY.

      • Andrea September 21, 2017 at 10:40 pm

        Whoa! I had no idea you could go that long! I just assumed it had to be done all the time. Good to know!

        • Anna September 25, 2017 at 6:23 am

          I’d be interested in knowing if someone has some insight on if this is somehow unhealthy, but I’ve never suffered any adverse effects from it.

          • Andrea September 25, 2017 at 9:01 pm

            I feel like I read somewhere that you’re supposed to dump it at least every 12 hours, but I could be wrong??

          • Anna September 27, 2017 at 10:50 am

            Nope, it looks like you’re right Andrea. Some quick google searching says most manufacturers recommend emptying and cleaning it once every 10-12 hours, which is probably the safe route to go.

            I’ve had zero bad things happen yet for having mine in for 24 hours or longer, so that’s probably not going to kill you. At least not right away. TBD on ten years from now. But don’t be like me – follow instructions and wash it regularly!

  • Heather E. September 21, 2017 at 9:16 am

    I ditched disposable everything about six months ago, and I couldn’t be happier. And it’s all so much EASIER now too!! I will never ever go back!

    • Andrea September 21, 2017 at 10:41 pm

      Yesssss! I just ordered a sample reusable pad, excited to make the switch there too!

  • Anna G. September 21, 2017 at 9:33 am

    The amount of plastic in conventional pads and tampons is outrageous. As graphic as this is, it really became clear to me when I started backpacking and had to “pack it out”. Additionally, as an environmental consultant I have visited waste water treatment plants and was blown away by the literal mountains of plastic tampon applicators– these were just the ones that were flushed down the toilet (who even does that?!). I believe that conventional tampons and pads should be banned like plastic bags. I got a diva cup for heavy days and organic luna pads for lighter days. I don’t boil the cup because it can break down the silicone, allowing bacteria to actually increase in the imperfections in the surface. I have sensitive skin prone to yeast infections, and the diva cup botanical wash is useful in maintaining a healthy pH. I wash it thoroughly between insertions and at the end of my period. That being said, I only use the wash at home. When I am out and about, I have found a water bottle to be helpful to rinse between insertions in a public restroom stall.

    • Andrea September 21, 2017 at 10:44 pm

      Good stuff here Anna, I didn’t know that about the boiling. And gosh, the mental pictures I’m getting right now about the mountains of plastic tampon applicators – SO SAD (yeah, who does that?!). I’ll have to look into that botanical wash!

  • Skylar September 21, 2017 at 9:58 am

    I used a Diva Cup for two years before I had my baby, one year of which was backpacking around the world in homestays and hostels. I cannot recommend the cup more for traveling! Now that I’ve had my baby I’m waiting for my period to come back and wondering if logistically things will be the same. I’ve never leaked with the Diva Cup, but I know they sell a post-baby bigger size. Does anyone have experience with this?

    • Amanda September 21, 2017 at 11:53 am

      I used the Diva after two babies and never leaked!

    • Andrea September 21, 2017 at 10:45 pm

      I don’t know if I’m the best to answer, but after having kids i had to size up in tampons. But maybe not so much with just one birth? I imagine you’ll know soon enough! Hope your period stays away for awhile longer though. ;)

  • Amanda September 21, 2017 at 10:42 am

    The diva cup gave me horrible cramps for the full length of my cycle!! I got pregnant after my third month using it (due in December), and haven’t decided if I will try a different brand when my period returns. Has anyone else had this experience with the Diva/had better luck with another brand?

    • Andrea September 21, 2017 at 10:46 pm

      I’ve never used Diva, but I know there are a lot of brands out there!

  • Rebecca N September 21, 2017 at 11:10 am

    I need to try a different brand of cup. I used the Diva cup for years, but the last year it hasn’t been comfortable, so I’ve gone back to tampons. Fortunately my period is only heavy on day 1 so I only use tampons on my first day. I use cloth pads from Etsy as back up and alone for day 2 and 3. My cloth pads are on year 5 and still going strong!

    • Andrea September 21, 2017 at 10:46 pm

      Five years is impressive!! Maybe you need a different shape of cup? I found that I needed the shorty-style because the others were too long for me.

  • natalie September 21, 2017 at 11:10 am

    Very interesting. I will have to test this out once my period returns postpartum. Thanks for the detail… it’s success stories like this that give me confidence that I can in fact do this thing!

    • Andrea September 21, 2017 at 10:48 pm

      You bet friend! I knew this would be up your alley! Also, I just ordered a free (except shipping) sample pad from Party In My Pants (LOL that name!). After reading through their website, they’re nifty little offerings seem pretty awesome.

  • Madeleine September 21, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    Super post! Thank you. I’ve been using reusable pads from Luci Daum Design/Party in My Pants for about 3.5 years now. Cloth pads are the best investment I’ve made – so much better for the environment and overall less expensive. I really appreciate your insight on using a cup. I think I’ll consider it! :)

  • Becca September 21, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    I have a Diva and a Pixie cup. Love them both and like to be able to rotate. I wear knixwear undies or Thinx as backup (I like the knixwear better, but had the Thinx first and won’t get rid of them because $$$$). Love it and love not having pads or tampons (tampons haven’t worked for me since I had my kids anyway, and actually that was the reason I tried the cup in the first place).

  • Monica September 21, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    @Skylar I use the Diva cup and I only started using one after the birth of my children. The Diva comes in two sizes and one is specially labelled for those who have been pregnant. I think whether is leaks can be a for a huge range of reasons. Using the larger Diva size, I can get leaks though I suspect it’s because my periods are very heavy on just the first day. If I’m mindful of dumping a few times on the 1st day, I’m usually good to go for just a morning and night dump for the rest of the days in the cycle.

    I once read a piece on women in prisons and how terrible it is for them each month. They basically have to approach the guards for each pad they need during the course of their cycle. This leads to major imbalance of power etc. On the flip side the prison authority states that the supplies are often used for other reason if they are left out. I often wonder why they don’t just issue each person a menstrual cup? Sorry, WAY off topic, but food for thought no?

    Back on topic. I love using the cup and will never go back.

    • Andrea September 21, 2017 at 10:19 pm

      Super intersting Monica! Something I’d never thought about before, but how awful. I like your cup issuing idea!

    • Skylar September 25, 2017 at 8:19 pm

      Thank you Monica! As Andrea said, I’m hoping my period will stay away a little longer lol But now I know I’m prepared for when it comes back! :-)

  • Shelbi September 21, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    This is funny, because I’ve been thinking about switching to a menstrual cup for a few months now, but I’m afraid I’m going to pull it out and dump it all over myself. I guess I just need to get over my fears and give it a go already. I’ve done all the research and have decided on a Ruby Cup, so I’m crossing my fingers it all works out.

    • Andrea September 21, 2017 at 10:50 pm

      It’s truly not so bad!

  • Chelci September 21, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    I’m not going to lie, I bought the Diva cup many months ago and still haven’t used it. Your post was very informative and helpful. I think I’m ready to give it a go. Thank you so much.

    • Andrea September 21, 2017 at 10:20 pm

      Yay! You’ve got this! Seriously, ask away if you run into any questions!

  • Linda September 21, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    Thanks so much for writing about this! I’ve been thinking about Thinx for a while and will let you know if I go for it!

  • Shane September 21, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    So, I have never tried a diva cup, but have been using cloth pads for most of the past 18 years. Sometimes I buy the unbleached organic tampons but that’s only once a year, maybe. Anyway, I have heard of the diva cup for the majority of that time but never got up the nerve to try one. I have used sea pearls in the past- do they even make those anymore ? And I thought they were great but found they were hard to clean. I started using the cloth pads for myself because I used cloth diapers on my kids, and it all seemed like the logical thing to do. I think it’s fantastic that so many more people are using non-disposable earth friendly items now- especially for feminine hygiene! Let’s keep up the conversation and keep informing others! Now to cut our plastic straws! There is so much more we can do for our environment! Thanks for sharing your experience and advice! I’m thinking of finally diving into research on my proper size for a cup!

    • Andrea September 21, 2017 at 10:21 pm

      Agreed, plastic straws are terrible! I shudder to think about how much they are mindlessly used in eat-in restaurants.

      Glad I could share, good luck finding your proper size, I think that is key!

  • Lena September 21, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    Just wanted to point out that there are plenty of people who don’t have periods who identify as women!

    • Andrea September 21, 2017 at 6:07 pm

      Good point!! Thanks Lena!

  • Marina September 21, 2017 at 6:10 pm

    I have used a menstrual cup for years, love it. I had better luck with Lena than with Diva, in case that works well for anyone else!

  • Em September 21, 2017 at 9:41 pm

    Hi, I’ve been using a menstrual cup since 2011 and hated that I had to use disposable liners along with it. I finally found a easy to use, machine washable liner (…the brand name definitely isn’t great but I swear they are worth a try. I got my first one over a year ago and I won’t go back to disposable. I tried thinx but always ended up feeling like I was wearing a diaper and after using two different pairs for less than a year I had to throw them out because they ended up smelling weird even after washing them (sorry, TMI but I have to be honest!) I also disliked that I couldn’t just throw them in the washer and dryer but these liners can be machine washed and dried! You can try out your first one for free (just pay for shipping). It’s worth it!

    • Andrea September 21, 2017 at 10:31 pm

      I just ordered the sample Em, thanks for the tip!! Excited to try it out!

  • Alissa September 22, 2017 at 6:03 am

    I have been using the diva cup for two years now, wearing it with disposable pantiliners the first couple of days. But I just recently bought a two-pack of lunapads pantiliners. Is it weird that I can’t wait for my next period to try them out? ;-) Safe to say I will never go back to tampons/pads.

  • Lindsay September 28, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    Thank you for this post! I have been wondering for years about switching from tampons to a cup, and you’ve encouraged me to make the leap. Better for the world and environment in many ways. (P.S. Just found your blog and love it.)

    • Andrea September 30, 2017 at 3:03 pm

      So glad to have you Lindsay!!