Everything you need to know about period sponges
We’re so lucky to have access to many alternative period care products that allow us to have a more comfortable period - reusable cloth pads, menstrual cups, period underwear and even period sponges!
They’re a less common option that is raved about by many who love the way that sponges allow them to exercise, continue their lifting routine during their period, and have non-messy period sex.
How does a period sponge work?
Period sponges (or menstrual sponges) are an alternative to tampons, worn inside the body to absorb menstrual flow. You can choose bleached or unbleached natural, reusable fine silk sea sponges or single-use, disposable synthetic sponges. Many people choose to use period sponges because they cannot be seen from outside the body (no tampon strings) and can be worn during sex.
Sponges can also be used to support the pelvic organs if you are dealing with prolapse.
How long can you wear a menstrual sponge?
You should change your sponge every 8 hours, or sooner if you have a heavy flow. This is a similar amount of time to other internal period products like menstrual cups and tampons.
Natural sea sponges vs. synthetic sponges
When it comes to menstrual sponges, you have two options;
Option 1: Reusable Menstrual Sea Sponges
If you prefer an environmentally friendly option for your period, you may wish to choose a natural menstrual sea sponge. Menstrual sponges are sustainably harvested and are naturally absorbent. They are available in natural (unbleached) and bleached versions. Like tampons, the larger the sponge, the more absorbent it is however because they are a natural product, they aren't uniform in size but can be easily trimmed to size. They can be cleaned and reused for 3-6 months, then composted at the end of their life so are an eco-friendly option.
They are easy to use; simply wet the sponge, then squeeze it out (so it is softened) then insert it as you would a tampon. It will absorb your menstrual flow and should be rinsed before being reinserted. For more detailed instructions, read our blog on How to Use a Menstrual Sea Sponge.
Option 2: Disposable Menstrual Sponges
Another reusable option is a synthetic, disposable single-use sponge, like the Beppy or JoyDivision sponges. They work in a similar way to natural sea sponge but are generally a little less absorbent. They are individually wrapped and some are pre-lubricated and have a slit cut in them which act as a finger grip to assist with removal.
Synthetic period sponges are popular for use during period sex, or while exercising as an alternative to tampons. Remember single-use sponges should be discarded after use and should never be reused.
Are natural menstrual sponges sustainable?
We only stock sea sponges that have been sustainably and ethically harvested from the Mediterranean Sea. This is done by carefully monitoring the areas where harvesting has taken place and allowing time for the sponges to re-grow before any re-harvesting occurs. When the sponges are harvested, they are trimmed in such a way that it doesn’t damage the ‘stem’ or the sea sponge, which allows them to grow back. Kind of like pruning a tree or trimming your grass!
Should I choose a bleached or unbleached natural sponge?
It really comes down to personal preference. Unbleached menstrual sea sponges are light brown in colour and are a good choice for those who want a completely natural option for their period, whereas some prefer the ‘clean’, more yellow appearance of a bleached sponge. Natural unbleached sponges will generally deteriorate at a slower rate than bleached sponges.
How do you clean a menstrual sponge?
If you choose a reusable period sponge, it’s important to clean it properly. It will need to be sanitised before the first use, and then in between your periods.
There are a few different ways to clean your menstrual sponge:
- Wash it with a mild soap under clean, warm water (try using a menstrual cup wash)
- Soak for 10 minutes in a cup of 1:10 water: vinegar mixture
- Soak for 10 minutes in a cup of water with 1 tbsp baking soda
Whichever way you choose to clean your sponge, make sure it’s completely dry before storing it away in its storage pouch.
What to avoid when cleaning your menstrual sponge:
- Avoid harsh soaps or chemicals that can harm the delicate fibres of the sponge. Residual chemicals left on the sponge may also upset pH levels or cause skin irritation. This is why we recommend a menstrual cup wash to clean your period sponge.
- Boiling your sponges – this will cause them to toughen and shrink
- Avoid leaving your sponges to soak any longer than the recommended time as this can cause them to deteriorate.
What’s the best period sponge?
It’s all down to personal preference, and what you want to use the sponge for.
For periods: we recommend choosing a natural sea sponge like the Fine Silk Sponge, Natural Intimacy IntimateCare Menstrual Sea Sponges (available in Bleached and Unbleached), or Jade & Pearl's Ultra Soft Sea Pearls.
For prolapse: it’s best to ask your doctor what will be best for your individual condition. In most cases, a large, dense and firm sponge is best for prolapse, like the natural Jade & Pearl Reusable Sea Pearls XL + Firm sponge, or the synthetic Jade & Pearl Reusable Pink Pearls Plus Extra Dense + Firm sponge.