3 Great Alternatives to Tampons and Pads

The feminine hygiene market is huge. Back in 2016, it was worth 35 billion dollars. That figure has now risen to around 40 billion dollars. Of course, manufacturers of tampons and sanitary pads have a captive audience for their products. Most women of childbearing age menstruate monthly, which requires them to purchase feminine hygiene products.

The average woman endures around 500 menstrual cycles in her lifetime, each lasting from five to eight days. However, some women menstruate more often, and for longer. Menstruation cannot be ignored, and even though in some cultures, women are banished to a cold hut outside the village when they menstruate, here in the west, we buy tampons and sanitary towels to mop up the flow of blood.

The problem with tampons and sanitary towels is that they are expensive. Each box of tampons costs a few dollars, which over a lifetime soon adds up. Then there is the environmental impact to consider. Tampons and sanitary towels are, for the most part, non-recyclable. Each tampon you use comes with a huge carbon footprint.

Luckily, there are some eco-friendlier alternatives out there, which will also cost you less over time. Let’s take a look at the best alternatives to tampons and sanitary towels, plus their pros and cons.

Period Panties

Yes, period panties are a thing. No, they not your old, gray panties you wear during your heaviest flow, the ones you don’t much care about.

Period panties are designed to be super absorbent. They are worn in place of a sanitary towel or tampon. There are several types of period panties. Some are for light days or the aftermath of your period when you don’t need heavy absorbency. Others can replace tampons completely, no matter how heavy your menstrual flow is.

You should probably learn more about them and read some period panty reviews as of 2019 (there are many brands available), but here’s a quick overview of how this amazing technology works.

Brands of period panties like THINX use multiple layers of fabric to wick moisture aware from the skin and lock it in to prevent leaks and odors. They claim to hold around three teaspoons of liquid in at any one time, which is enough for most women. Each manufacturer uses a different combination of materials to get the job done, but the great thing about period panties is that they can be washed and reused. They also look like regular underwear, so you don’t have to suffer the embarrassment of a bulky pad or errant tampon string.

If you want sexy underwear that replaces a tampon or pad, period panties do a great job.

Menstrual Cups

Menstrual cups are an alternative to period panties — and just as popular with modern women. Unlike period panties, menstrual cups are used internally. Made from medical-grade latex, menstrual cups are gently inserted into the vagina. The muscular walls of the vagina hold the cup in place, where it collects menstrual blood.

Like tampons, menstrual cups can’t be put in place for too long, but because there is a much lower risk of toxic shock syndrome, it’s perfectly safe to use a menstrual cup for up to 12 hours. This means you can use a menstrual cup overnight, or all day while you get on with your life.

It can take a bit of getting used to, but once you get the hang of inserting and removing a menstrual cup, you’ll wonder why you didn’t invest sooner. As long as the cup is correctly positioned, it won’t leak.

When you are ready, remove the cup, empty it, and rinse it out in clean water, then reinsert. If you don’t have access to water, use bottled water or just reinsert. Your menstrual blood makes a great fertilizer, so use to nourish your plants!

Menstrual cups last for 2-3 years, on average, which makes them a lot cheaper than buying tampons and pads every month.

You will need to sterilize your menstrual cup once a month, to keep it nice and clean, but this is not a huge chore.

There are several well-known brands of menstrual cup, including Moon Cup and Diva Cup. Read the reviews before you buy.

Sea Sponges

Sea sponges are a naturally occurring material. They are, as the name suggests, highly absorbent. Brands like “Sea Pearls” are marketed as eco-friendly alternatives to tampons and sanitary pads. Like tampons and other feminine hygiene products, you can purchase sea sponges in different sizes, according to your flow rate and intimate geography.

Period sea sponges are inserted into the vaginal canal, where they soak up menstrual blood. As often as you need, remove the sea sponge and rinse it out in a sink. Each sea sponge lasts up to six months, which makes it a cost-effective alternative to tampons and sanitary pads.

The downside to using sea sponges is that they can feel a bit strange when first inserted and cleaning them out is a messy process (a little bit of menstrual blood goes a long way!). Like menstrual cups, a period sponge must be regularly cleaned using soap or similar, to prevent smells and bacterial growth.


Any of the above products are a great alternative to tampons and sanitary pads. Give them a try and tell us how you got on.


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Written by HealthStatus Crew
Medical Writer & Editor

HealthStatus teams with authors from organizations to share interesting ideas, products and new health information to our readers.

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