Switching to reusables means you will need to know how to clean menstrual cups in a daily sense, and how to sterilize your cups. Today’s video will cover basic daily washing procedures, what soaps to use, how to clean menstrual cups in public bathrooms, sanitizing options, and how to remove menstrual cup stains. I’ll even be sharing how easy it is (or not) to use a bidet to rinse your cup!
I will be the first to admit that I am not particularly careful about how I clean my cup. I’ve boiled my cups just once or twice and probably only for filming for these posts. Most of the time I skip using cup wash and stick to hot water. I recommend checking the brand’s guidelines for how to wash your cup for any special instructions they provide.
Menstrual cups and discs are all made from medical grade materials, either silicone or TPE. This means they’re less likely to harbor bacteria, a recent study found that menstrual cups are as safe to wear as tampons, but washing them is still needed.
How to Wash Your Cup – The Daily Routine
During your cycle when you remove your cup you should at the bare minimum, wash it with hot water before putting it back in.It’s best to wash it with a cup safe cleanser every 12 hours. For changes in between the 12 hours you can rinse with water. If you have reacted to soaps or know that you’re very sensitive, you can skip the cup washes and simply rinse well with water. Just be sure to boil your menstrual cups once a month.
For cups with suction holes that get clogged simply fill the cup to the top with water, place your hand over the top, flip the cup and squeeze. This pushes any debris out of the holes.
There’s no need to dry the cup before putting back in, in fact, you might find it easier to insert your cup when it’s wet.
Which Soaps are Safe to Use With Menstrual Cups?
Use gentle soaps that are free of dyes, fragrances, and oils. Hand soaps are fine, so is castille soap. If you don’t want to scour the ingredients list and prefer to know the soap is safe just buy menstrual cup safe washes designed to be gentle on skin and safe for silicone.
Can You Wash Your Cup with a Bidet?
We installed a bidet a few months ago (The Bio Bidet BB2000) and I couldn’t wait to see if a bidet would make using cups easier. I had mixed results. Mine has two spray positions, one for a front wash and one for the back wash. I like the bidet for rinsing discs, they tend to be covered on the inside and outside with blood. I was able to dunk the disc between my legs and get most things off. Cups, due to their shape, were less easy to rinse. I ended up getting bloody water everywhere. Rinsing my disc has been a bonus of the bidet but I don’t attempt it with cups anymore. The bidet is fantastic for other reasons, especially if you suffer from frequent and/or loose bowels: period poops are a real thing.
The Pants Down Sink Shuffle
What about the less talked about issue of how to get from your toilet to your sink?Washing your cup may involve traveling a decent distance. Do you clean up, pull your underwear up, then wash? Shuffle with your pants at your ankles?
How do you transport your dirty cup without leaving a bloody trail? If you have to travel across the room, take a piece of toilet paper and place it under the cup to catch any drips. Unless you have a SERIOUSLY heavy period the time between removal, washing, and replacing your cup shouldn’t be long enough for your blood to drip. I would throw some rolled up toilet paper into your undies if you think you need it versus nothing in that case.
How to Clean Your Menstrual Cup in Public
When it comes to public bathrooms and menstrual cups it’s not as scary or horrible as you would imagine. Since you only need to clean the cup every 12 hours you can simply dump the cup and re-insert while in your public stall. Take one-time use cup wipes or simply just alcohol wipes with them to wipe it clean if you prefer. You can also pack an “on the go cup spray cleaner” to spray down the cup with and wipe it clean. There are really no scenarios where you have to carry your bloody cup to a public sink and wash around others – or hide in the stall until the coast is clear. If you have blood on your hands use toilet paper to wipe the visible blood and wash your hands at the sink.
Related Article: How to Pack an Emergency Period Kit
Boiling and Sanitizing Your Menstrual Cup
Boil your brand new cup before using the first time and 1x a month. Boil your cup either at the end of your cycle before storing, or before your period begins the following month. You should aim to boil your cup for between 5-8 minutes, though check your brand’s guidelines as some suggest longer.
The best solution is to place your cup or disc into a whisk and placing that into the boiling water. Many cups have been lost to the bottom of the pan and the whisk keeps the cup away from scorching. As I say almost every day – boiling is the best option if you have a stove. You already have the tools you need at home – it’s free, you don’t need special devices that may break in a few years, and did I mention it’s free?
What if you don’t have a stove?
Boiling is just one way to sanitize your cup. There is a whole new industry developing for “sterilizing” devices just for cups. Menstrual cup discussion groups are currently fixated on these new cup steam sterilizers that need distilled water and they steam the cup. These electronic devices are pretty wasteful (especially if you use a menstrual cup for eco-friendly reasons) but they are convenient if you lack a stove. UV cup sterilizers that use light, not water/steam, are even newer; I don’t have any data to show how effective these are for sterilizing menstrual cups to share at this time.
If you have a microwave you can buy a collapsible cup sterilizer. These can be placed in a microwave with water as a method of sanitizing. The collapsible cases are cheaper than the electric steam sterilizers, portable, less wasteful, and won’t break down and need replacing in a few years. Another option is an electric kettle – pour boiling water into a container with the cup inside. A microwave safe coffee mug can even be used.
If you lack a stove or microwave for sanitizing your cup you can opt to simply wipe your clean/dry menstrual cup with 70% isopropyl alcohol.
How to Remove Menstrual Cup and Disc Stains
Your menstrual cup or disc is almost certainly going to show staining and discoloration over time unless you have a very dark or black cup. Staining is normal and the presence of a stain does not indicate that your cup needs replacing or that it’s unsanitary. There is no reason that you have to remove stains. If you want to see your cup return to its lighter color you can do a hydrogen peroxide soak. Use the 80/20 mixture without diluting and soak for 2-3 hours. It’s simply miraculous how well peroxide soaks work on stained menstrual cups or discs. When I soaked my menstrual disc I truly didn’t expect it would turn out crystal clear!
Buildup usually happens around the suction holes in the cup. Use small interdental brushes to scrub clean the holes. A toothbrush can also be used to scrub any buildup on raised lettering and grips. I used a soft terry towel to wipe down build-up on my menstrual disc and this worked brilliantly.
How to Store Your Cup or Disc Between Cycles
Store your clean and dry cup in a breathable pouch or some sort of container that is not air tight. Pets, especially dogs, love to chew cups so make sure it’s out of reach. Most menstrual cups come with a breathable pouch for storage but if it doesn’t you likely have a pouch somewhere in your house. The Vulva Gallery sells hand stamped pouches that are adorable.
Does your menstrual cup smell?
Try boiling your cup or disinfecting naturally by harnessing sunlight. Sit your cup in the sun outside (where it can’t be picked up by any animals) or sit on a sunny windowsill indoors. I haven’t tried it on cups but it definitely works for cloth diapers to help with stains and odor.
Cleaning your cup is part of using one, but it can be very easy and simple. Pick the routine that works best for you. After understanding the basics you will no longer have to give cleaning your menstrual cup any thought!