Sustainability efforts have made their way into many aspects of the modern lifestyle, including that less-than-enjoyable biological function, menstruation. Global Citizen, a collective action organization aimed at reducing world poverty, reported that single-use menstrual products are responsible for more than 200,000 tons of metric waste annually.
Conversely, a recent study conducted by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that people who have periods heavily lean toward switching to reusable period products like menstrual cups, discs and period panties rather than using pads and tampons.
Jasmine Pedroso, a board-certified OB-GYN at Kindbody fertility clinic in San Francisco, told HuffPost that she thinks the reason for this shift is largely attributed to the fact that there are more brand and sizing options among reusable products than ever before. Additionally, younger generations are more eco-conscious and people are becoming aware of how cost-effective reusable period products are compared to single-use options (one menstrual cup, for example, can last up to six years).
This also means that caring for these long-term use products has become part of the conversation. Pedroso said there are potential risks associated with incorrectly disinfecting and storing reusable menstrual products, which are often made of body-safe yet porous silicones.
″Washing the cup or disc with harsh chemicals may break down or degrade the material it’s made of, rendering it less effective, and furthermore may irritate and change the acidity of the vagina in ways that may increase your risk of getting a vaginal bacterial or yeast infection,” she said.
Instead, many people sanitize their cups or discs by boiling them in a pot of water for about five to 10 minutes. However, this can lead to scorched outcomes when boiling cups are accidentally left unattended for too long.
“Steamers and sanitizers made specifically for reusable menstrual cups or discs can make the sanitizing process easier, but they are not 100% necessary,” Pedroso said.
Automated steamers and sanitizers are a “set it and forget it” option. They work by holding a small amount of water in the basin, then generating a high temperature steam to disinfect period products without affecting the integrity of silicone. There are also ultraviolet light versions available on the market.
“At the completion of each cycle and after sanitization, it is usually recommended that you store [the cup or disc] in a secure, clean, dry place until your next cycle,” Pedroso added. This is another added benefit of automated sanitizers, as many of them double as a clean storage place for cups and discs.
If you want a way to effectively care for, disinfect and store your reusable period products, check out the list of sanitizers below.