Menstrual sponges are taking the internet by storm. Facebook groups have been formed to give fans a space where they can discuss these alternative menstrual products, while vloggers have taken to YouTube and other sites to talk about the benefits of using sponges.
But what exactly are these products? Menstrual sponges are actually sea sponges taken from Bahamas, the Caribbean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and other locations. They have been used by women in certain societies ever since the ancient times, and they’re considered to be one of the earliest female tampons.
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Commercially sold menstrual sponges have been around for some time now, but they’ve gained popularity and attracted numerous fans only in the recent years.
“But are they safe for me to use? Can they replace my favorite pad or tampon?” you might ask. Well, the answer greatly depends on your specific needs and personal preferences, so you need to do some research to find out if menstrual sponges are the right choice for you. You can start by learning about their pros and cons.
PROS OF MENSTRUAL SPONGES
Let’s start with the benefits these sponges bring. Proponents point out that they’re better than other menstrual products because:
They’re highly comfortable
Because of their naturally rough surface, sponges might seem like an uncomfortable product to use. However, many users report that menstrual sponges are actually comfortable — as long as they’re used the proper way. This involves wetting the sponge with clean water, wringing out the excess water until it’s just damp, and then inserting it until it feels right.
Once it’s inside, it adjusts to the unique shape of your body and provides you with optimum protection and comfort. A lot of users say it feels like they’re not using any product, which means they can focus on their activities instead of constantly fretting about their period.
They prevent leaks
Since your menstrual sponge adjusts its shape to your body, it can prevent blood from leaking out and flowing through your vagina. Some users reveal that they use a sponge when sleeping and have no problem with leaks throughout the night.
This is great especially if you’re used to waking up in the middle of the night just to change your pad or tampon and avoid messing up your sheets.
They’re 100 percent natural
When it comes to menstrual products, you can’t get any more natural than menstrual sponges. These products are harvested from the sea, and the companies that sell them simply clean the sponges thoroughly, inspect them for any flaws, and trim them to remove any rough edges.
Compare this with ordinary tampons and pads — which are made from cotton that’s exposed to pesticides (along with rayon, dioxins, and other substances) then bleached using chlorine — and you’ll see that menstrual sponges are the better option.
They’re cheaper than other products
Menstrual sponges cost around $5 to $40 (depending on their size) and can be more expensive than pads and tampons at first. But, if you consider that one sponge can be used for around 6 to 12 months, you’ll see that they’re a lot cheaper in the long-run.
Even if you buy the most expensive sponges at around $30 to $40, you’ll only spend around $60 to $80 per year (if you replace them every 6 months). This is still a lot cheaper compared to the $120 that most women spend on pads and tampons per year.
Since menstrual sponges are 100 percent natural, they break down when you throw them away and won’t litter the planet. Using sponges becomes an even more attractive option when you consider the fact that the average woman uses and throws away up to 300 pounds worth of tampons, applicators, and menstrual pads in her lifetime.
CONS OF MENSTRUAL SPONGES
Just like any product, menstrual sponges are not perfect — they do have some drawbacks that you need to consider before deciding to use them. Here are some of the disadvantages you need to know:
They may contain dirt and bacteria
The natural underwater environment of menstrual sponges constantly exposes them to dirt, sand, grit, and bacteria. If they’re not properly cleaned, they can transfer these particles and microorganisms to your vagina and create an environment that’s ideal for infections.
In fact, in 1980, the University of Iowa Laboratory tested 12 sea sponges and found out that they contained sand and grit as well as various bacteria — including Staphylococcus aureus, which causes toxic shock syndrome.
However, it’s important to note that processes and regulations have changed over the years and that many sponge retailers now use modern techniques to ensure their products are safe to use.
They require diligent upkeep
Because they’re natural products, menstrual sponges require thorough cleaning before and after they’re used. And you can’t use ordinary soap, which contains chemicals that can damage the sponge; experts recommend that you use natural cleaning agents like vinegar, baking soda, or tea tree oil.
Of course, you need to rinse the sponge thoroughly to remove all traces of the cleaning agent you used. If you’re always on the go and don’t have time and patience to clean your menstrual sponge, you’ll want to stick to disposable pads and tampons.
They can be difficult to remove
When they become damp, menstrual sponges have the same texture as the human body. Because of this, it can be difficult to differentiate between the sponge and your vaginal walls when you need to remove it, and you have to take a few minutes to locate it and take it out. Sponges can also leak a bit, especially when they’ve been in your body for quite some time and you have a heavy flow.
Because of this, it’s advisable to use menstrual sponges when you’re at home during evenings and weekends and don’t need to worry about making a slight mess in the bathroom. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with using a sponge if you’re experiencing light flow and/or are just going out for a bit.
They may not be suitable for very heavy flow
If you’re a heavy bleeder, you might find that menstrual sponges aren’t enough to stop leaks. If this is the case, you can use your tried-and-tested pads or tampons during heavy flow days and then switch to menstrual sponges when you experience lighter flow. This way, you can avoid leaks while still cutting down on the number of pads and tampons you use over time.
TOP RATED SEA SPONGES
If you decide to use menstrual sponges, here are some of the products you’ll want to check out:
1. Jade and Pearl Sea Pearl Sponge Tampon
Jade and Pearl is one of the leading menstrual sponge providers. They offer their products in four different sizes: teeny (1” to 1.5”), small (1.5” to 2”), medium (2” to 2.5”), and large (2.5” to 3”). If you’re not sure which is ideal for you, you can buy the multi-pack and get one sponge of each size. Jade and Pearl points out that their products are reusable for 3 to 6 months or more.
2. Sponge Producers Naturals Natural Sea Silk Sponges
These may not be marketed for menstrual use, but a lot of buyers have revealed that they use these sponges as tampons. Many point out that they opt for this product because they’re cheaper than other brands but are just as effective. These sponges measure 1.5” to 2” and are ideal for regular flow, and they’re smooth as silk when damp and are comfortable to use.
3. Jade and Pearl Premium Ultra Soft Sea Pearls Reusable Sea Sponges
Regular Jade and Pearl products are already soft, but if you’re looking for much softer sponges, these are the right choice for you. They’re extremely absorbent and can help keep you away from leaks, and they’re also soft to the touch and highly durable.
Harvested from the Mediterranean Sea, they’re 100 percent natural and don’t have any chemicals and synthetic materials. They come in three sizes (small, medium, and large) and can last up to 3 to 6 months.
4. Poseidon Sponge Natural Sea Tampons
These are Honeycomb and Fina Silk Mediterranean Sea sponges that are traditionally processed on the Greek island of Kalymnos, which is known for its high-quality sponges and has been processing them for centuries.
The sponges are available in small, medium, and large sizes, and you can buy the starter set or the full set to give each size a try and see which one works for you. They come with a 17 percent tea tree oil solution that’s 100 percent natural, which you can use to clean and sanitize the sponges.
5. Sheepish Distribution Fresh Moon Sea Sponges
These sponges are all-natural and non-toxic, and they come with a cute muslin bag in which you can store them when you don’t have your period.
They also come with washing and usage instructions so you’ll know exactly how to take care of your sponges and keep them in good shape. Each order comes with two sea sponges.
Menstrual sponges are a great option if you’re looking for natural, chemical-free, and environmentally friendly alternatives to tampons and pads. Of course, consider the pros and cons first before you buy to ensure that sponges are the right choice for you.