Choosing Sanitary Products-What are the Options?

Choosing Sanitary Products – What are the Options?

When choosing sanitary products disposable pads and tampons seem to be the norm. They are cheap to buy and readily available but did you know that you have other options? Until I started using cloth nappies with ragamuffin, I had no idea that there were other methods of sanitary protection available.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be looking into the different types of sanitary products available and what to consider when choosing sanitary products that are right for you. This week I’m giving an overview of all the options available. Next week I’ll be talking in more detail about cloth sanitary pads.

Disposable Methods



Easily available in shops – you’ll find them piled high on shelves in almost every supermarket and chemist. They come individually wrapped and the wrapper is used to help dispose of them.

Convenient – once you’re done with your pad you wrap it up, throw it away, then on to your next one.

Cheaper upfront cost – recently in the UK, some shops have decided to absorb (excuse the pun) the cost of VAT (because periods are a luxury, right?) off the price of pads and tampons making them even cheaper.


Environmental Impact – it’s estimated that one woman (person biologically born female) can go throw away up to 250 – 300 pounds of disposable pads, tampons and applicators in their lifetime. That’s a lot of landfill.

Higher costs over time – even though they’re cheaper to buy upfront, you do need to keep buying them.

Chemicals – according to The Women’s Environmental Network disposable menstrual products are bleached white. This process produces a chemical called “dioxin, which is linked to immune system suppression, reproductive issues and cancer.”

Image of a tampon on a white background - Choosing Sanitary Products - What are your Options?



Easily available in shops -they are available in most supermarkets and chemists.

Convenient – they are thrown away after a single use making them really convenient.

Cheaper upfront cost – they are cheap to buy especially with some retailers absorbing the cost of VAT on them too.


Potential risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) – according to The Women’s Environmental Network tampons can leave microscopic fibres in vaginal tissue which can encourage the growth of bacteria which can lead to TSS.

Vaginal dryness – tampons are made from absorbant material meaning that they absorb all moisture. This can also lead to vaginal dryness which can be itchy and uncomfortable.

Environmental Impact – a woman (person biologically born female) can use a high number of disposable tampons in a lifetime, which contributes to waste sent to landfill.

Higher costs over time – disposable tampons are cheap to buy upfront, however you do need to replace them every month.

Chemicals – as with disposable pads, chemicals linked to some illnesses are created as a by-product of the whitening process.

Reusable Pads


Cheaper in the long term – once you have bought a reusable pad, they can last up to 5 years. So once you have bought enough pads to last a single cycle, you don’t need to buy any more for a few years.

Better for the Environment – using reusable pads means that you’re not sending any disposables to landfill. They also don’t contain harmful toxic chemicals that disposables do.

Huge choice – my favourite thing about reusable pads is the range of fabrics available to choose from. My own stash includes Game of Thrones, Nightmare Before Christmas and rainbow fabric backed pads. Not only this but there is a huge choice of pad shapes and absorbency out there meaning that you can find a great fit.

Less irritating – cloth pads tend to made from breathable fabrics which makes them more comfortable than plastic disposables.


Higher upfront cost – cloth pads do cost more per pad than disposables. So it often takes a while for to build up a stash with enough pads to last a full cycle.

Will need to carry used ones with you when out and about – you’ll need to carry a wet-bag to store used ones when you change them when out of the house.

They need to be washed – reusable pads need to be washed after every use, so they’ll add another load to your washing every month.

It could take time to find the right shape, length and absorbency – because of the huge choice available, it can take some time to find the right length, shape and absorbency to suit your needs.

Image of 5 cloth sanitary pads against a white marble-effect background. Each pad slightly overlaps the previous pad. The left-most pad is a solid blue fabric, the next is black fabric with a Game of Thrones motif, the next is pink fabric with a Nightmare Before Christmas print, the next is purple fabric with a Cruella DeVil print and the last is a rainbow print fabric. Choosing Sanitary Products - What are your Options?


Menstrual Sponges


Comfort – as with most things comfort is subjective, having not tried one I can’t say for myself, but I have read that others find them to be very comfortable.

Better for environment – they reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill. Menstrual sponges are completely natural so they can be composted at the end of their life span.

No chemicals – menstrual sponges are harvested from the sea so are completely natural. They are not bleached and therefore don’t harbour the toxic chemicals created during the bleaching process of disposable pads and tampons.


Need cleaning between uses – menstrual sponges need to be cleaned between uses and so can be a bit awkward to use in public toilets. You could carry extra sponges so that used ones can be stored then cleaned once you get home.

Can leak on removal – as they are sponges if you squeeze them they may leak and blood could get on to your clothes.

No applicator – menstrual sponges don’t come with applicators so you’ll need to use your fingers to get them in place.

Menstrual Cups

Menstrual cups aren’t something I’ve personally considered when choosing sanitary products. I’ve never been a fan of tampons as I find them a bit fiddly so menstrual cups haven’t appealed to me. However, during my research for this post some of the opinions I’ve read are very positive, so I may try them in future.


Lower cost long term – some menstrual cups can last 10 years which, makes them the best value of all the reusable products available.

Environmentally friendly – due to their long life, they mean that there is less waste sent to landfill.

Some find them more comfortable – because they catch blood as it leaves the body, it’s not exposed to air. This makes the blood smell less than it would if you were using other sanitary products. They are also not absorbant meaning that they don’t cause uncomfortable vaginal dryness.

Chemicals – menstrual cups are usually made from medical grade silicon and so don’t contain harmful chemicals.

Reduced risk of TSS – menstrual cups don’t leave fibres in vaginal tissue for potentially TSS causing bacteria to grow.


Takes practice to insert and remove – menstrual cups are very different to other sanitary products in shape and function. Most sanitary products aim to absorb blood but menstrual cups look to catch it. Getting your cup in the right place is key and, as with most things, takes some practice. The same goes for removing it too.

Can take time to find one that fits – women (anyone biologically born female) come in all shapes and sizes as do their genitals and so it might take some time to find one that is the right size and shape for you.

Cleaning can be inconvenient when using while out and about – in between uses cups need to be cleaned, which means they may be a bit awkward to empty and clean in a public toilet.

Period Pants

Period pants are a relatively new option when it comes to choosing sanitary products. I myself haven’t tried them but I am curious to see what they’re like.


Comfort – if you get a pair in the right size they feel like any other pair of knickers.

Good Coverage – as they are panties you get full coverage from front to back.


Expensive – period panties can be quite expensive, retailing anywhere between £12 and £40.

Intended as backup – they are intended to be worn with other sanitary products and are intended to stop leaks rather than replace other sanitary products.

Changing while out and about – if you need to change them while you’re out of the house you’ll need to have a spare pair of underwear with you, which might not be the most discreet option available.

Choosing Sanitary Products

So there you have it, there is a huge selection of options available when it comes to choosing sanitary products. From disposable pads and tampons to reusable pads, sponges and cups, to absorbant panties, there is something for everyone.

When it comes to choosing sanitary products what factors matter most to you? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Sanitary Products What Are Your Options infor graphic summarising the key points of this post


You may also enjoy:

What is Period Poverty?

What can we do to Help those in Period Poverty?

How to get Started with Cloth Sanitary Pads

Using a Menstrual Cup

Me, Being Mummy

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