Uncategorized Diva Cup - photo by Becky Striepe

Published on December 3rd, 2008 | by Zachary Shahan


This One’s For the Ladies

[photo by Becky Striepe]

The average woman in the U.S. uses around 16,000 tampons during her menstruating years. That equals a lot of waste. In 1988, a field study found that 6.5 billion tampons and 13.5 billion sanitary pads and their packaging end up in America’s waste stream every year. Disposable pads and tampons are wasteful, and on top of that they’re not even necessary. There are reusable alternatives to both pads and tampons. Some of these products seems a bit daunting at first glance, but with a little practice they’re as easy to use a conventional menstrual products. Gentlemen, this could be more information than you require, so you may want to avert your eyes.


Cloth Pads

Cloth pads are pretty much a no-brainer. I know, it might seem gross at first. The companies that manufacture disposable menstrual products spend millions each year on advertising to make girls and women feel like our periods are something gross and shameful. That’s just not true. Is caring for cloth pads any more disgusting than throwing disposables into the bin, where they sit until you take out the trash?

There are tons of options when it comes to cloth pads. You can find them handmade from organic materials, with wings or without. They make maxi sized ones and minis.

Whatever you choose, care is pretty simple. After use, just rinse the pad until the water runs clear. Some women soak their pads to prevent staining. Once you’ve rinsed or soaked off the majority of the blood, just toss them in the wash! Voila!


Menstrual Cups


Cloth pads are a pretty easy swap. They work just like regular pads, aside from the rinsing and washing. It seems that women find the idea of menstrual cups a little more daunting. Tampons took some getting used to, though, right? Menstrual cups have a learning curve, too, but once you get the hang of it they’re so much more convenient and less expensive than tampons! Most cups cost between $35 and $45. That’s just seven to nine boxes of tampons. Since you can keep your cup for 10 years, it pays for itself pretty early in its lifespan.

I will admit it: the idea of menstrual cups freaked me out. The shape scared me, and, to be honest, they just looked huge. What finally convinced me to give these things a go was seeing a picture of a Diva Cup next to a tampon that had been soaked in water. The cup was no bigger! There are several companies that make menstrual cups, and most offer a guarantee where you can return it to the manufacturer or store for a refund if you’re not happy. Make sure to ask when you’re picking out your cup – some women find that a particular brand works much better than another. Popular brands include the Diva Cup, The Keeper, and The Moon Cup.

The tricky part with learning to use a cup is insertion, but with a little practice it becomes just as easy as using a tampon. To insert the cup, you can use a number of different folding techniques. The C-fold is probably the simplest and is a good place to start.

Once the cup is inserted, you want to make sure it opens and gets a good seal. I have better luck getting mine to open if I open it before it’s inserted all the way. Once it’s inserted and open, give it a few turns to make sure you have a decent seal. The seal is what keeps your cup from leaking. Most cups have a little stem on them. If it’s bothering you, just trim it a bit with scissors. Trimming the stem too short might void your guarantee, though, so read the fine print before you snip too much off!

Most companies recommend emptying the cup just a few times a day. During light days, you can sometimes get away with emptying it just once! If you’re at home, it’s a good idea to rinse the cup before reinserting. Don’t worry if you have to empty it while you’re out and about, though! Just dump the contents into the toilet, reinsert, and rinse it when you get a chance later on in the day.

A lot of women can just reach up and grab the cup to remove it. If you can’t reach it, try to sort of bear down, like you’re having a bowel movement. That should push it to where you can grab it with your fingers. Give it a pinch to break the suction, and just pull it right out. Don’t try to pull it out by the stem. I promise that it won’t work, and it might even be a bit painful.

There are a variety of ways to clean your cup. The Keeper website recommends washing the cup with soap and water after each period and storing in the bag that comes with it. You can also rinse it in a vinegar and water solution. Before using it again, just wash it one more time, and you’re ready to go!




Just like learning to use tampons, you might need some support and advice when you’re transitioning to using a menstrual cup. The ladies over at Menstrualcups.org are a great resource. There is an extensive archive, where you can read about other women’s experiences. You can even ask your own questions, though you do have to get a LiveJournal account to post a question to the community.

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.

49 Responses to This One’s For the Ladies

  1. this is new and very different to me but I am open to try it.Thanks for the post.

  2. Tela says:

    I would rather use 16,000 tampons than insert a plastic, reusable cup into my vagina.

  3. Susan says:

    i am SO glad i don’t have to deal with any of this…. and seriously – i don’t think anything could be any nastier than this cup. bleh!

  4. Lara says:

    16,000 seems a little steep. Would like to see the source for that disgusting number.

  5. auntiebea1122 says:

    I’m 42 now. My mom bought us all natural sponges (sea sponges, I think). Easy insert and just pull out, rinse out, squeeze all the water out and just put back in.


  6. jenni says:

    EWWWW! Tampons win forever!

  7. Lara – The 16,000 came from this article from E Magazine. They source “A 1998 study conducted by waste consultant Franklin Associates.” I hope this helps!

    Auntie Bea – The sea sponges sound like a cool alternative, too!

    I’m sorry to see so much resistance to the idea of reusable menstrual products. If you are afraid of the cup or just grossed out by your own body, you might try the sea sponges that Auntie Bea mentions or give organic tampons a shot. They’re a bit pricier and you still have a huge amount of waste, but at least their production is a bit gentler for the environment.

  8. melissa says:

    I have been using my Diva cup for well over a year now, and it is so much cleaner than tampons ever were! I would never go back and buy into all the consumerist advertising that says we have to use bleached, unhealthy tampons or pads instead of my cup. As a bonus I have no cramps at all anymore!

  9. ElegantGoose says:

    The photo at the top sort of makes it scary… those things look like they’re the size of toilet plungers… there should be something else in the photo to show scale!

  10. That’s a good point, ElegantGoose! Let me see if I can find a less scary photo!

  11. Lizerati says:

    Jeeze guys. It’s not like they are made of razors and battery acid! They bleach tampons, so in essence, you’re saying you’d rather stick bleach up your vagina than a body-friendly alternative.

  12. radsabat says:

    You are absolutely crazy! Other than the pill, the tampon is the best invention ever! Ask some women in their 70’s what they think.

  13. radsabat says:

    Crazy, crazy, crazy!!!!

  14. Linda says:

    Thanks this seems interesting. I’m more curious about the cups, cause the cloths seem like too much work. But they both don’t seem any more disgusting than what we already have to go through.

  15. gus says:

    I am not for or against this vs disposable, and I am a guy, but some of the logic in these comments is just lazy or stupid. Lizerati: are you daft? Do you really mean to say that because something has been bleached it is the SAME AS bleach. Is wearing clothes washed with bleach “in essence” splashing bleach all over yourself?

  16. Sarah says:

    Cups are amazing. I have really heavy periods, and tampons almost always leak for me, sometimes after 2 hours, and I never have this problem with the cup. Also, it’s always there. If i go out on a night out, I don’t have to worry about taking enough tampons with me, or having change to buy some more, as you just take it out and pop it back in again. If my period stars early, my cup is always in my handbag so i’m ready for it. There has never been any cases of getting tss from it, unlike tampons, nor does it absorb all the ‘good stuff’ inside you. Theres no way i’ll be wasting more money on tampons and towels now i have one.

  17. noelle says:

    the cups are way better for your body, the planet and your wallet. as long as you aren’t disgusted by your own body, which seems like an unhealthy personal problem, they are great. low maintenance, cheap, easy, harmless periods are the way to go.

  18. Christine says:

    I’ve been using a Diva Cup for 2 years now and I LOVE it. I forgot it once when I went on a trip and I had to use tampons again for a few days and I forgot how horrible they were.
    I recommend it to any and all females who are comfortable with their bodies. They’re cleaner and safer than tampons and they make periods SO much more bearable.

  19. Christine, that same thing happened to me when I was on vacation. Going back to tampons was awful!

  20. annon says:

    I have been using cloth pads for years and LOVE THEM! I will never go back to store bought. For some reason my period even shortened by a day when I switched.

    I tried the diva cup recently but my body didn’t/doesn’t like the material it is made of so it was irritated the whole time I wore it.(I also had this reaction using nuva ring birth control)

  21. jp says:

    The cup design came and went over 30yrs ago..what a disaster. In concept it was okay, but in practice it really had drawbacks…The material was semi-soft and flexible, not difficult to insert and not at all uncomfortable or even noticeable once it was in place. There was a loop made of the same flexible material at the tip for removal. If you were lucky enough to have secure suction, then resulting problem was that the loop would stretch until it finally snapped..great..then what? You’d actually have to reach in to get hold of the tip (not an easy manuever) tug at it to break the suction hold…and when it finally gave way..well..to take a line from Cyrano D’Bergerac “When it bleeds…the red sea” It was a mess..and it was EVERYWHERE. Tampons that bloomed like flowers were the best imho. But those days are long gone for me and it seems there have been few improvements in these products..and I have to laugh at the notion they’d bring this cup design back to terrorize another generation of young women.

  22. Lindsay says:

    The cups are made of silicone and you can boil them. They’re flexible and comfortable and not gross in the least. I switch to sponges when I want to have sex on my period.

  23. I was really glad to see your posting about reusable menstrual products. In it, you point out that “in 1988, a field study found that 6.5 billion tampons and 13.5 billion sanitary pads and their packaging end up in America’s waste stream every year.”

    6.5 billion tampons and 13.5 billion sanitary pads are LARGE numbers. I don’t think women (or anyone, for that matter) can actually visualize numbers that large!!

    Your visitors/readers might like to look at a visual that graphically demonstrates the reality of how many disposable menstrual pads we actually use in our lifetimes. Keeper.com (manufacturer of The Keeper reusable latex menstrual cup) has just posted a Comparison Photo Page (See http://www.keeper.com/photographs.html), which shows — in pictures — exactly HOW MUCH WASTE the average woman who uses tampons creates in one month, one year, ten years and 40 years. (The average woman menstruates for forty years!)

    These photos are worth at least A THOUSAND WORDS, because, frankly I don’t think that women who use disposable menstrual products — which is, unfortunately, MOST women — actually like to think about the lifetime accumulation of waste they are foisting on our environment. This visual provides actual proof of the huge amount of environmental waste we women create, in this small area alone.

    And you’ll just love the photo on this Comparison Photo Page of the DUMP TRUCK, which is FILLED with 260 pounds of tampons and packaging. Believe it or not, the average woman actually uses (and tosses into the environment) that many pounds of tampons in her menstruating lifetime – and if she uses disposable menstrual pads, there would even be more waste!

    Julia Schopick
    Marketing Director
    The Keeper, Inc.

  24. Juliann says:

    Ya’ll are sissys. I use the Diva Cup, and it’s my best friend. I can’t feel it inside me, and I havent used a pad or a tampon since I’ve bought it. I am happy to no longer be a slave to the tampon and pad corporation.

  25. lola says:

    That cup is the most awesome thing ever.

    To all of you that are reluctant. First of all, it comes with, (or used to be, didn’t look) a moneyback return policy if it doesn’t work for you. They don’t leak. They are far more comfortable than any tampon that sucks every bit of moisture from your cooch, so you can use it if you’re spotting and handles even the heaviest periods.

    The biggest fear that comes with it is not having a sink near you. Fortunately, it’s far more tolerant for how often you have to replace it…oh yeah, no threat of tss.

    I’ve been using them for the last 3 years and have saved tons of cash and worry about running to the store for more “feminine hygiene products”…and no strings woooo! All I can say, is give it a try, or at least don’t slam it because it isn’t familiar.

  26. lola says:

    After reading other comments, I’d also like to add that I have NEVER had any sort of mass spillage with the Diva cup. I did, however start getting some issues with leaking, (after I turned 31) so I got the size 2 (recommended at 30) and I am again super happy with the product.

    I clean it by soaking it for a bit in some hydrogen peroxide and it looks as pristine as the day I got it (ditto on the first one).

  27. Mel says:

    May seem kind of weird (did to me at first) but I broke down, got a diva… and I’m never going back. This is AWESOME.

  28. MaxiM says:

    I can’t believe some of the women and their comments. “Eeewww, gross” – wow, and to think you are talking about your own bodies… that’s a mental problem you know. Even I could help my girlfriend to insert/reinsert or wash one of these if she had a problem with it. And no, before you accuse me, I am most definitely NOT into the “dirty stuff”, but I am THAT comfortable with her body – like you should be with yours.

  29. EMS-K says:

    As a person in the medical field (and a biologist), I find the cup a lot less hazardous and disgusting than disposable products.

    1) Cups carry an extremely low risk of TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome, a serious and often deadly infection) as opposed to tampons or pads. Tampons and pads let air reach the menstrual blood, which in turn allows bacteria to grow. This bacteria growth leads to that characteristic funky period blood odor (eww) and can lead to TSS. When using a cup, the air can’t reach the bacteria, thus cutting down/eliminating funky odor and TSS risk. If I’m going to collect blood and hold it in my vagina, I’d rather not have it start growing harmful bacteria colonies.

    2) Menstrual blood is relatively clean, so it’s not super disgusting and icky to touch. The vagina is really good at protecting against harmful bacteria. With a cup, the blood is in the cup, you don’t have to touch it. With tampons, blood can get on the string and then you’ve touched the blood.

    3) The cup seals in place, and is not absorbent. This means women with a cup can do strenuous physical activity. It also means that during swimming, nasty pool water isn’t absorbed and held in the vagina (I definitely don’t want germ infested little kid pee water in a tampon inside me that also has blood that is very good for feeding bacteria). It also means that the natural secretions the vagina makes to keep itself moist, healthy, and fight against bacteria stay in the vagina and aren’t absorbed and removed like with a tampon (which can lead to increased growth of bacteria and more funky odor).

    4) Travel. You can take it anywhere, and you only need one. No worries about how much change you have, or where the nearest drugstore is, more room in your suitcase for other things, and no guessing as to how much disposable supplies you’ll need on a vacation.

    A cup is better than disposable products because of: reduced risk of TSS, less funky odors, less harmful bacterial growth, less accidental absorption of other liquids, and it is more compact and suited for travel. It’s a little scary and daunting at first, but it is entirely worth it for your health. So if you can’t do it for the earth, do it for your health.

  30. Mare Martell says:

    We had a demonstration of product (not usage) at our Red Tent Temple meeting back in September. I was intimidated by the reusable because it seemed so unsanitary. But after having done research via the received brochures, the internet, and even asking my pharmacist, I’m going with the cup. The ease of use, the lack of attention because it works, and the fact that I don’t have to change every hour makes it a blessing.

    Thank you for a wonderful article.

  31. Rhiannon says:

    I have had my Keeper since 1998 and I would never go back! In the midst of a move once, I couldn’t find where I’d packed it and had to go out and buy tampons and after using the cup for so long, I was disgusted by them. Another fact to point out is that tampons are just not good for our bodies, besides TSS, did you know that the tubes, plastic or cardboard, can leave minute lacerations??? Also, they leave traces of cotton in your vagina that sometimes takes days or weeks for your body to expel. This means that even if you’re changing your tampons frequently, the leftover cotton can still cause TSS! No thanks!

  32. ash says:

    i cant even fit a tampon up there let alone a plastic cup.

  33. april says:

    to all those ladies who think it’s gross using the diva cup. if you had used this first before ever inserting dry bleached cotton into your vagina – maybe you would be more open to it. believe it or not it does go in and come out much easier than a tampon. i started using mine shortly after turning 40. i wish i had had the chance to try it years ago instead of wasting money and landfill space on tampons. be more open and give it a try!

  34. Terribletegs says:

    I love my Diva cup, I find it much less painful than tampons.

    Tampons always dry your vagina on contact, so inserting is often accompanied by a sort of ‘tearing, ripping’ feeling. The cup just slides in nicely.

    I almost never have to change mine during the day, but when I do, it is so simple, much better than the dreaded mid-day tampon change.

    It also doesnt leak.

    And if there is no bin in the toilet, you dont have to wrap a gross bloody tampon in toilet paper and smuggle it out of the bathroom with you.

    Diva cup is so non-fuss. I urge people to give it a try.

  35. Denisepeace says:

    I try to be environmentally responsible, but sorry…I am spoiled by a the convenience and cleanliness of a few things, including disposable diapers, baby wipes, and yes, disposable sanitary products.
    I did try a cup-type device at the recommendation of a friend; I mainly wanted it for having intercourse at that time of the month. Unfortunately, my partner was able to feel the device, so the intended purpose was not fulfilled.
    But by far the most disturbing thing about the cup was the difficulty of insertion and removal. What a mess! The phrase “axe murderer” came to mind at the time. I was not exactly entirely disgusted, but it was quite a mess.
    I avoid tampons with plastic applicators–I recall these being referred to as “beach whistles” because of the pollution issues. I try to use the correct absorbency and minimize changes to a healthy level. I applaud women who have tried these and had good luck with them, but they are not workable for me.

  36. Jenni says:

    I love my Diva cup! I will never… ever… go back to tampons.
    My periods have been much shorter since I started using the Diva cup… and I’ve already saved so much money on tampons. I’d go through a whole combo box with each period before. Now I’ve just got this cup.. and I don’t bleed nearly as much as those overly bleached tampons made me think!

    Get the menstrual cup, girls! They’re amazing!!
    (BTW, I’m 19 and actually don’t positively dread my periods anymore! I used to cry every time I’d get it.)

  37. Patti says:

    Honestly, I don’t give a crap about the environment. It’s not like the world is going to end while I’m still alive (Maybe 2010), but seriously. I’d rather use 70 billion tampons before I ever imagine sticking a silicone cup that resembles a toilet plunger into my vagina.

    Sure, if I was raised on this idea, I’d think differently.

    But I don’t. I’m not going to delicately rinse out a plunger in my sink and dry it lovingly, not leaving a single platelet of blood on it before I cram it back into me.

    I’ve been using tampons and pads since the day I got my period. No sickness. No illness. No cancer. No TSS. Nothing. I’ve been perfectly fine.

    More power to any woman who wants to use this. I give you credit. You care a whole hell of a lot more than I do.

  38. Strawberrywish says:

    I’m another vote for cups. I switched out of necessity- I was too poor to buy tampons and pads. I bought a keeper for 35 dollars plus shipping about 8 years ago. I’ve never spent another penny on pads or tampons. I love it, it’s way more comfortable for me, no leaks, I don’t have to worry about changing it every 6 hours due to TSS. I love it. I highly recommend it. It does take some getting used to, but it’s your own body and I wish more people were sensitive to that fact before saying it’s gross.

  39. Deana says:

    First of all, you women that are squeamish about your own periods make me sad. You might want to make an effort to stop being disgusted by your body, because it’s going to be there for a while. Secondly, everyone I’ve ever met who started out disgusted by the Diva Cup but worked up the nerve to try one anyway LOVES it now and never went back. Couldn’t hurt to try.

  40. m says:

    Wearing and loving a lunapad right now. My only advice to those exploring cloth pads is to wash them a few times before actually using them. The cloth softens and is far easier to clean. Cleaning is no grosser than doing your regular stinky laundry, just requires a soak before throwing them in.

  41. nicole says:

    what scares me about the cup is the leakage factor….I mean there is absolutey no absorbency going on…can anyone tell me their personal results on this? thx

  42. Nicole – I’ve only had it leak once in over a year of use, and I had accidentally left it in for way too long. Some women have problems at first while working out insertion, but once you can tell that it’s inserted properly, you shouldn’t have problems with leakage any more than with a tampon. On heavy days, you may need to empty it more frequently than on light ones, just like you’d change your tampon more often. I hope this helps!!

  43. Jennifer says:

    I found out about Diva Cups last year and I finally made the switch soon after. I was never grossed out by the thought. I have been open about my body for a long time and I thought it had to be better than jamming a dry wad of cotton in my body, not only because the FDA has NEVER regulated tampons, but because they are not comfortable and they are unnecessary waste for the environment.

    I started using my Diva Cup and loved it. I have only had it leak when it was inserted improperly. During those first few times, I wore a panty-liner or pad just in case, but now that I have perfected its use, I could not imagine going back to tampons.

    But…*dun dun dun* I misplaced my Diva Cup last time I got my period and I had to use tampons again. I was so mad and noticed such a difference with the way I felt. It made me appreciate my Diva Cup all the more. My period has become something natural as opposed to a socially-created nuisance like we’re led to believe.

    Why are so many women afraid or grossed out by touching their own bodies? I find it inconceivable that some women squirm at the thought of physical contact with their own genitals. weird…

  44. mc says:

    I made my own cloth pads. They are soft pink flannel. They are adorable and sooo comfortable. It feels like wearing flanel underwear. There are several websites with directions to make one. The thing that swayed me wasn’t just how wasteful disposables are, it’s that tampons and pads don’t have any sterility requirements in their manufacturing plants. They are going inside you and aren’t even close to being sterile!

  45. May says:

    I bought the Diva Cup at Whole Foods, and I’ve loved it. When I first opened it up and saw the diameter of the cup, I was a little scared, but I simply followed the instructions, and it was really simple after that. Give it a try, ladies! You won’t have to spend so much on tampons and pads anymore!

  46. Lizerati says:

    Gus: Yes, I’m completely daft. Way to figure that one out!

    Or, I have very sensitive skin and just because something isn’t a chemical in concentrate doesn’t mean my skin doesn’t react to it. I have to buy products as free from chemicals and additives as possible.

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  49. flying dachshund says:

    is this sheet for real?

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