When it comes to your vaginal health, a menstrual cup or disc gives you peace of mind against infections compared to tampons, but the risk is not zero. That’s why it’s important to sanitize your reusable internal period products every month. Here are five simple ways for sanitizing menstrual cups and discs, whether you are at home or on the go, with supplies you already have or things you can purchase to make life a little easier.
Sanitization Tips for Reusable Period Products
It’s recommended to sanitize your period products once a month, but don’t get too hung up on that fact. If you forget a month here and there that’s ok. If you don’t like planning ahead try sanitizing when your period ends. Then just store your cup or disc in a breathable pouch until the next cycle. When your period begins next month you’re already sanitized and ready to go.
During your cycle you do not need to sanitize the cup after each use. Simply remove, wash with water or wash with water and a cup-safe soap, and put the product back in. If you’re in public you can even skip the wash and just empty the contents, put the cup back in, and wash it when you’re back home. See our other resource for how to clean your menstrual cup in public. It’s easier than you’d think!
How to Sanitize a Menstrual Cup or Disc With Boiling Water on the Stove
If you’re looking for an effective and free way to sanitize a menstrual cup, boiling is the method for you. All you need is one small or medium sized kitchen pot and water.
- To boil your menstrual cup or disc fill a small pot with water and bring to a rolling boil.
- Boil for 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat, let the product cool, then remove.
Optional: You can place your cup or disc inside of a whisk to prevent it from getting scorched in the event that you forget it.
Pro tip: Some people prefer to purchase a small pot just for their cup; the thrift store is a great place to find one and it certainly doesn’t need to be shiny and new- just functional.
The Pros and Cons of Sanitizing Menstrual Cups with Boiling Water
- Pros: It’s free and doesn’t require the purchase of additional items.
- Cons: Time-consuming to wait for water to boil (often takes 10 minutes unless you have an induction stove). And you can burn the cup if you are forgetful and walk away for a long period of time. Finally, it might be uncomfortable for other members of your household especially if they are roommates and not family.
The stigma surrounding menstrual products and menstrual blood does mean that many people perceive using the kitchen cookware for this task as “dirty.” To this I respond that the foods you cook, especially if you eat chicken, pork, or red meat, goes into your cookware way “dirtier” than your already clean cup or disc. It’s only because the item has been in the vagina and in contact with menstrual blood that people take issue. Logic doesn’t always win these arguments, however, so if you feel more comfortable sanitizing privately away from other family or roommates keep reading for more options.
How to Sanitize Your Menstrual Cup or Disc In The Microwave
Can you use a microwave to sanitize your menstrual cup? Yes, if you have the right tools with you. For people living in smaller spaces such as dorms, camper vans, or who are traveling and in a hotel, the microwave is another accessible option.
To use a microwave to sanitize your cup or disc you need one of three items. Either a coffee mug that is microwave safe, or a compact cup sanitizer sold just for this purpose. The third option is a plastic steam bag often sold for sanitizing breast pump parts (follow the bag’s directions.)
- Fill the cup or compact sanitizer with water about 3/4 of the way. Your compact sanitizer may have a fill line marked. Place the cup or disc inside. You can leave the lid off the compact sanitizer or if you want to leave it on, leave it partially vented.
- Microwave on high (full power) for 3 minutes or follow your sanitizer’s instructions.
- Let rest for 2 minutes before removing. The coffee mug (if used) may still be very hot so remove it carefully or let it sit until cool.
- Pros: Microwaves are fairly common even when stoves are not, it takes less time than boiling, free.
- Cons: Never sure if it’s as effective as boiling, might not have a cup or compact sanitizer on hand.
How to Sanitize Your Menstrual Cup or Disc in a Cup/Disc Steamer
Is there a faster way to sanitize your menstrual cup than boiling? For the ultimate in convenience (and let’s face it, laziness and luxury) there are menstrual cup steamers designed to sanitize the product fast – no waiting and watching the pot boil. A sanitizing cycle is done in less than 6 minutes from start to finish.
- To use a steamer it’s super easy. You’ll add water where instructed to the fill line, place the product in the steamer (Saalt instructs each product sit over the water reservoir rim down).
- Close the lid.
- Hit start. Grab a sip of water and when you’re done with that it’s practically time to grab your cup or disc!
The Pros and Cons of Using a Steamer to Sanitize Menstrual Cups
- Pros: It’s fast – your product is done in 4-6 minutes total and it can be done in any room with access to a wall plug including your bedroom/bathroom.
- Cons: Price – it varies by brand but usually menstrual cup steamers can run about $20-40. Plus it’s an additional “thing” to buy made of plastic, not as portable as the compact sanitizers and it could break if dropped or malfunction over time since it’s an electronic device.
Unlike boiling on your stovetop or in a microwave, a steamer device makes it pretty easy to sanitize your product as soon as your period begins if you’re at home, a plus for many who are forgetful or who don’t track their cycles and sanitize a day or two before.
It’s a luxury device but I have to admit since I received one to test I do find it much more convenient to use than boiling. However, before owning a steamer I would always just boil my products and find something to work on in the kitchen while I waited, like putting away dishes or wiping the counters down. I fully admit that I’ve always said “why buy a steamer when your pot and stove are free?” but also, dang, they are fast and convenient.
Saalt’s Cup + Disc Steamer is also just super pretty which doesn’t hurt.
Sanitize Your Menstrual Cup or Disc Without Water Using Cup Wipes
All of the methods above require water and some sort of cup, pot, or device. What if you have neither? Bring isopropyl alcohol single-use menstrual cup wipes on your adventure.
- To sanitize your cup or disc with alcohol wipes make sure the wipe is still fresh and moist – the wetting of the product is essential to killing bacteria. A dried out old wipe won’t be as effective.The packages are sealed but if there is any tiny puncture from traveling in your bag for years that could result in a dry wipe.
- Take the wipe and rub down the cup or disc fully inside and out making sure the product is fully wet on every surface.
- Allow to air dry (this will take just milliseconds since it’s alcohol) before inserting the product.
There are specific menstrual cup wipes available including the Organiwipes shown in the video. These have more material than most other cheaper single use alcohol wipes that are primarily used to clean glasses or disinfect a cut. Wipes are also handy to have around when you are traveling out of the house and can be used to clean cups in public restroom stalls; this isn’t required, but some like that extra clean feeling.
The Pros and Cons of Menstrual Cup Sanitizing Wipes
- Pros: Compact, no water or vessel needed, inexpensive.
- Cons: Not a long-term sanitizing solution (you still want a solid boil/steam regularly) but good in a pinch.
Mix and Match Your Sanitizing Menstrual Cup Options
There is no rule to say you need to pick one method of menstrual cup sanitizing and stick to it. Use any of these options that fit your lifestyle best or work best that month. When traveling you might only be able to use menstrual cup wipes, but at home boiling might be the way that works best for you. If the convenience of a menstrual cup steamer works for your busy schedule then it’s well worth the investment. And, if we are being honest, skipping a month here and there is ok. You don’t have to switch to pads or tampons if you start your period and don’t have time to sanitize right that minute.
You can find our favorite menstrual cup cleaning and sanitizing accessories at Period.Shop.
Need more menstrual cup and disc cleaning advice? Find all of our helpful cleaning articles on everything from stains, cleaning cups in public, and washing your cup at home in one spot.