Health & Beauty, Life & Style

Eco-Friendly Period Products: The Ultimate Guide for Beginners

eco period products

Green your time of the month, with this ultimate guide to eco-friendly period products – from washable pants to pads, to moon cups, sponges, organic tampons and towels and more.

I’d like to talk about something that I feel isn’t talked about enough – periods.  And specifically, eco-friendly period products.

Before you roll your eyes and click off the page, I want to make it clear that when it comes to periods (and most aspects of life to be honest) I’m firm in the belief that people with periods should do whatever works best for them. There is no judgement at all in this post if none of these eco-friendly products work for you or for your period.  I just wanted to put some ideas out there that you may or may not have heard of with no expectation that you have to give them a go, and with no shame if these options don’t work for you or your circumstances.

I’ve also put together another post on accessible eco-friendly period products for those that struggle with conventional alternatives.

The Ultimate Guide to Eco-Friendly Period Products

Image of white knickers on a yellow background with a blue text box that says the ultimate guide to eco-friendly period products

In this guide, I’ve tried to cover as many sustainable and eco-friendly period products options as possible. I’ve tried a few different options and it’s definitely a case of trial and error. Hopefully, you can find something that works for you. If not, there’s no shame in using disposable products if none of these work for you or are suitable for your circumstances.

To help support the running costs of the blog any links marked with a * after them are affiliate links.  These don’t affect the price you pay for items or your consumer rights, such as your right to return items.  It just means that I get a very tiny percentage of the sale price if you buy anything via the link.  This helps cover the blog’s running costs, such as my web hosting.

Menstrual Cups

reusable menstrual cup

Menstrual cups are probably the first thing your brain defaults to when it comes to eco-friendly period products. However, to be honest, and perhaps to your surprise, I was never really on board with the idea of a menstrual cup.  I would go as far as to say I was a bit grossed out by the idea.  So I understand if you are too.  It wasn’t until after I had my first child that I became a lot more relaxed about the idea.

It does take a bit of practice.  First to insert and remove a menstrual cup properly.  And also to start to feel comfortable using it (much like the learning curve when you first start to use tampons).  However, once it’s in the cup can stay there for 12 hours.  Therefore, for the most part, there’s no need to take it out when you’re not at home.  It’s easily cleaned, and there’s no risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome, even if you forget to take it out.

There are quite a few suppliers of menstrual cups in the UK.  The most popular one is Moon Cup*.  Moon Cup comes in two sizes – one if you’re under 30, and one if you’re over 30 and/or have had a child (which makes you feel really good about yourself and your body!).  However, there are heaps of other eco-friendly period product brands available at &Keep*, including cups from TOTM and Nudie.

Period Pants

eco-friendly period products

Period Pants are essentially absorbent pants that you wear during your period, without the need for any other sanitary protection.   You then pop in the wash and re-use time and again.

I have a pair of period pants from Wuka*, which I love.  I was worried they might feel like wearing a nappy.  However, they aren’t at all bulky, so it feels like you are wearing regular pants.  In fact, you can pop them on and almost forget that you have your period. I love wearing mine at nighttime, it’s so much more comfortable than wearing a sanitary towel.

Want to know more? I’ve written a full guide on everything you need to know about period pants, including the questions you might be afraid to ask.

Whilst I really love my period pants, and honestly wouldn’t be without them, I would say that there are a couple of drawbacks to period pants. 

Firstly, it can be slightly awkward or annoying having to remove trousers or tights in order to change your pants, especially when you’re not at home.  For that reason, I prefer to wear mine at night or on lighter flow days. 

The second is the cost aspect. Period pants are not the cheapest eco-friendly period products option – coming in at around £12 a pair. This means it may get expensive having to buy multiple pairs of pants. I’ve built my collection up slowly over time, buying a pair of pants here and there whenever I’ve been able to do so.

Washable Sanitary Towels

washable sanitary towels

Washable sanitary towels are exactly as the name implies.  If you’re akin with washable nappies then these will be a walk in the park for you.  You just need to carry around a wet bag* with you to place your towels in when you’re done using them and then pop them in the washing machine.

I’ve got a full beginner’s guide to reusable sanitary pads if you want to know the full ins and outs of using washable pads.

I would say there is not much of a learning curve to reusable menstrual pads – just pop them in your pants and you are good to go.

I think the main drawback for some will be the need to carry used ones around with you. Personally, because of having kids, I’m used to carrying soiled/wet washable nappies in a zipped wet bag in my nappy bag. As such, I don’t have a problem with carrying washable sanitary towels in a similar fashion.  However, I know not everyone is into the idea. If you are not comfortable with this idea, then I would try some of the other eco-friendly period products options suggested.

UK stockists of washable sanitary towels include &Keep*, Ethical Superstore*, and Amazon*.

Meanwhile, there are more sellers on Etsy*  than you could shake a stick at.  My favourite is LilahPads*, pictured above.  I’ve bought a few reusable sanitary towels from here over the last few years, and love them. Mine are lined with white fabric. However, if you are bothered by staining then I would opt for pads that have dark coloured lining as these will not show any stains.

Sea Sponges

sponges eco-friendly products

Sea sponges are essentially a natural tampon.  In our modern world, this is probably considered the most ‘out-there’ option in terms of eco-friendly period products.  It’s also not one that I’ve tried.  However, I’m keen to hear from readers who have tried or do use sea sponges about their experiences with them.

From what I’ve read sponges are fairly straightforward.  Simply wet the sponge and insert, like you would with a tampon.  You’ll know when they need changing when you feel it drop down a bit.  Here, you can just remove, rinse in clean water, and re-insert.  At the end of your period, your sponge can be washed in the washing machine and then stored for the following month.  With care, it should last roughly a year.

The drawback with sea sponges is that you would need to rinse them on a regular basis (as much as you would need to change a tampon or a pad).  Therefore, it may be difficult to use when you’re not at home.  And as they are natural sponge rather than synthetic then if you’re vegan, sea sponge probably isn’t for you.

If you’re interested in sea sponges there are a few UK stockists.  The rather ethereal-sounding Moon Sponges; the rather cringe-worthy named Jam Sponge; and the fun-sounding Tom&Pat*.

Disposable Yet Eco-Friendly Period Products

natracare eco-friendly sanitary towels

If you’re not convinced by any of the options above, or can’t find an option that will work for you, then an alternative eco-friendly period product option would be switching to organic tampons or sanitary towels.

Conventional tampons are typically bleached with chlorine, and conventional tampons and sanitary towels have been reported to contain traces of pesticides and insecticides.

If you are looking for organic alternatives try Natracare* or Eco by Naty* – both available at Ethical Superstore. I’ve used both, and really rate them.

I’d be interested to hear about your experiences with eco-friendly period products.  What have you tried and what do you swear by?  And what pain relief methods do you use?  I’m a hot water kind of person myself!  You can also check out my guide on how to reduce plastic in the bathroom.

Health & Beauty, Life & Style

Accessible Eco-Friendly Period Products | AD

This post on accessible eco-friendly period products is paid-for content in association with Natracare.

Conventional period products harbour a dirty secret.  Did you know that the average sanitary towel is 90% plastic?  This equates to the plastic equivalent of a shocking five plastic bags per packet of sanitary towels.  If you consider that the average person who has a period uses over 11,000 disposable menstrual products in their lifetime, then this adds up to a whole lot of plastic.  Many of these products wrongly get flushed down the toilet. Ultimately these end up damaging our oceans and the creatures that inhabit our seas.  

Dirty Secrets

When it comes to tampons, it also turns out that even ‘plant-based’ applicators, often sold by organic brands are not actually biodegradable. These applicators, therefore, act exactly the same as regular oil-based plastics would after use. 

What’s more, most conventional period products are packed with chemicals and fragrances that are unkind to our skin, especially in the most sensitive areas. 

With all of these issues, it’s understandable and also great news that interest in eco-friendly period products is growing.  I’m personally a big fan of reusable period products. I’ve written before about eco-friendly period options, and encourage the use of reusables where possible.  However, I’m also painfully aware that many reusable period options are not accessible to all – through cost aspects, limited sizing, lack of washing facilities, and through mobility and/or dexterity impairments.

The Accessibility Issue When It Comes to Reusable Period Products

Today I wanted to look at some of the accessibility problems of the most common reusable period protection options. Then I’ll look at what you can do if reusable options aren’t accessible to you, but you are still concerned about the environment.

Menstrual Cups

Menstrual cups aren’t suitable for everyone – particularly those with motor-skills impairment, as insertion and removal can be tricky. At around £20+ per cup, a cup can be a steep upfront investment for some, particularly if there is more than one householder requiring a cup. 

Cleaning can be tricky. Many people aren’t comfortable washing out their cups in public bathrooms.  In order to keep your cup hygienic, you also have to boil it every month. This could be tricky in a shared household, let alone for those who don’t have access to basic facilities. 

Cloth Sanitary Towels

Having a cloth sanitary towel stash can be expensive, with pads varying between around £5 and £12 per pad.  I personally find having around 8 pads to be the optimum amount of pads required to comfortably see you through a cycle. That upfront investment could be prohibitive. 

Period Pants  

Period pants are expensive.  At around £30 a pair, the initial investment in purchasing multiple pairs could be cost-prohibitive.  Price aside, period pants are available in limited styles, colours, and crucially limited sizes. Whilst new options and sizes are arriving as period pants are catching on, it’s still limited in comparison to standard underwear.

And moving away from price – having to change your pants in public toilets can also be problematic, particularly for those with reduced mobility levels.  Remember you will have to remove your trousers/tights and shoes to be able to remove your pants, before getting dressed again in a small cubicle. 

What If Reusable Period Products Are Inaccessible to Me?

natracare plastic-free period products

If reusable period options aren’t accessible to you for whatever reason, then be assured that eco-friendly disposable period products (that aren’t greenwashing you) do exist!  A good environmentally friendly option would be to choose a disposable brand that is certified organic, vegan, plastic-free, and compostable, like Natracare.  

Natracare’s period products are all plastic, perfume, dye, pesticide, and chlorine-free.  Made from soft, breathable, natural materials, their pads, liners, and tampons are kind to you and kind to the environment.  What’s more, their products are not tested on animals either for extra peace of mind.

Natracare is widely available on Amazon, Ocado, Waitrose, and in health food shops.  Expecting to pay more for their products compared to their plastic counterparts?  You’d be wrong: Natracare’s prices are comparable with big-name sanitary protection brands. A box of 14 sanitary towels costs around £2.

The only plastic I could find was on the plastic wrapping of Natracare’s non-applicator tampons.  I asked Natracare and they told me this is made from BPA-free, recyclable plastic. They use this to meet legal requirements as tampons are considered a medical device. Some other brands have begun switching to paper wrappings. However, until Natracare is confident this is a safe and more sustainable option, they will keep using their current packaging. 

eco-friendly accessible period products

How Does Natracare’s Period Products Perform?

I personally tested a few different products from the Natracare range out – their ultra super period pads and curved panty liners – and found their period products very comfortable and highly absorbent. Crucially they stayed in place too, which is always very important!

Beyond the basics, I felt reassured by the fact that Natracare’s products contain no nasties, such as chlorine and perfumes. Particularly in the very place where you don’t want anything nasty. The lack of plastic is a huge plus point too. Don’t just take my word for it – Ethical Consumer also recommend Natracare in the disposable tampons and pads category. Definitely one to check out!