5 Things To Know About How Reusable Tampons Work & If They're Actually Worth It
by Julia Guerra

You probably never thought that whole “reduce, reuse, recycle” slogan that parents and teachers relentlessly drilled into your prepubescent brain could one day be applied to your feminine products, but hey, here we are. If you’re unsure about how reusable tampons work, or what they even are to begin with, you’re not alone. There's not a lot of information readily available on the subject, but with menstrual cups progressively becoming more mainstream, reusable feminine products in general have captured women’s attention, as evidence shows they’re better for our bodies, and they’re pretty great for the environment, too. With such powerful, positive claims to back up these products, why wouldn’t you give them a try?

Look, these days, I’m all about my period. I want to know why my female parts do what they do, and how to make bleeding feel like less of a burden because, honestly, our menstrual cycles are interesting AF, and the more strategies available to help us deal during this time, the better. That is, of course, if these products are actually safe to use and not just another social media gimmick someone thought up to accrue 15 minutes of Insta-fame. That being said, let’s begin with the basics, like what a reusable tampon even is.

Instead of buying a pack of disposable tampons, reusable tampons are, like the menstrual cup, a one-time purchase. According to Natural Parents Network, these products are a “sort of hybrid between a tampon and pad.” Though they can be difficult to find pre-made on the market (you can purchase them on Etsy, via UK brand Honor Your Flow, and Thinx sells a reusable tampon applicator), you can also DIY a few for yourself to cut costs and the headache of tracking down a brand that actually makes them.

Granted, it’s not a lot to go by, but the fact that the product is environmentally friendly, saves you an extra few bucks every month, and it's potentially an overall healthier option to aid your flow, could all be reason enough to give these feminine products a try. Before you commit to forgoing throwaway options entirely, though, you may want to consider the following facts.

You Can Make A Reusable Tampon At Home

I like to think I'm pretty crafty, but personally, I wouldn't trust myself to create something I'd actually stick up my vagina. But, if you're someone who's heavily into DIY, stringing together a reusable tampon to save on a box of disposable ones might be something to consider.

According to the blog Cloth Pads, three of the most common ways to DIY reusable tampons are by sewing, knitting, or crocheting the rolled up material:

A square or rectangle knit in “stocking” stitch will naturally want to roll. This rolling action makes it easy for the knitted tampon to stay rolled for easier insertion/removal.
Crochet tampons sometimes have a flat roll up section, with a curved top to give the tampon a rounded end for more comfortable insertion.

Even if you're not super crafty, though, some women skip the process of making their own altogether, and roll up cotton baby socks to insert when Mother Nature comes knocking instead. Whether that's super clever or just plain creepy, I'll let you decide.

But You Can Still Get Bacteria Build-Up Down There

Just because something is organically made doesn't mean it's 100 percent safe to use, nor does it mean it grants you immunity from potentially harmful side affects.

Strong as they are, vaginas are super fragile when it comes to bacteria, and the issue with reusable tampons is that none are mass-produced by name brand companies, so it's up in the air whether or not the products themselves are of a high quality.

Raquel Dardik, M.D., an OB/GYN for Langone Medical Center in New York City, told that, because of this, "there's no way to make sure there's not a huge nest of bacteria growing [on the reusable tampon]," and that anything left inside the vagina for long periods of time "has a potential risk for infection."

It's Hard To Sterilize Them

One of the perks of disposable tampons is that there's no upkeep involved. You put it in, take it out, and toss it in the trash.

Switching throwaways guarantees you're at least putting something that's never been used before into your vagina, whereas with reusable tampons, being on top of cleaning your product after every use is vital to your health.

Unfortunately, you can't be too sure your method of washing and drying will completely sterilize the tool. According to Dardik, the average washing machine won't get hot enough to properly sterilize reusable tampons, and hand-washing isn't exactly sanitary either.

On The Plus Side, They're Cheaper Than Menstrual Cups

I've actually considered giving menstrual cups a try, but, at least for me, $30 is a good chunk of cash to throw down on a product I'm not even sure I'll actually use.

Reusable tampons, however, are a cheaper investment. Sets of multiple reusable tampons on Etsy can start as low as five bucks with zero tampon tax (because that's a real thing), and even if you opt to make them yourself, I can guarantee the cost of materials will come out to less than one DivaCup.

Reusable Tampons Are Very Eco-Friendly

TreeHugger reports that roughly "20 billion pads and tampons are discarded each year in North America alone," and that the plastics in these products could take up to "hundreds of years to decompose."

Considering these statistics, the obvious solution is to cut down on plastic usage. And how do we do that? By taking advantage of these reusable feminine products.

There's obviously a strong lack of scientific evidence to support the notion that reusable tampons are 100 percent safe, but if you properly care for these products and use them mindfully, they could prove to be a brilliant option for both your body and the environment.