I don’t understand reusable menstrual knickers

Saturday 19 October, 2019

Disclaimer: I have dyscalculia and every calculation on this post was carefully written down and calculated using a calculator, but my understanding of numbers comes and goes so there could be mistakes here and I welcome any corrections.


Thinx? Wuka? Modibodi? I don’t get them. It might be because I’ve not tried them, but a fair few youtubers have and they seem to be hit and miss. And I refuse to call them “pants” or “Panties” because I’m not American. I’m British, they’re knickers.

I’m not trying to make a big song and dance about it, there’s some wild claims out there about how some of these products don’t work and they really only highlight user error or deliberate misinformation, but I just really don’t understand how it’s meant to work. There seems to be a lot of washing involved, and an assumption that you have ready access to a washing machine, and can dry them no problem.

But I’ve been looking into products available. First of all, I was shocked at the price. People on facebook led me to believe that you can buy a set of reusable period knickers for maybe £20-25, so I was shocked and appalled to find Boots sell one pair of the Thinx brand of menstrual knickers for £30 each. I went to the Thinx website, and I found the same prices, or a set of 3 for between £73-77, depending on your style. That’s a lot.

They do say if you’re not happy with them, you can return them within 60 days, no questions asked, so that’s something.

You’ve got to wash them on cold, which makes sense if you understand blood, you can’t bleach them, which also yes, makes sense, but you can’t put them in the dryer, they have to hang dry.

So you have 3 pairs of re-usable menstrual knickers for, say £73.13 because I’m an organic cotton full brief kind of person. And that comes with two heavy day pairs and a medium day pair. So you’re going to want to dedicate one of the heavy day pairs for a night pair… unless you just want to freebleed on your sheets… You probably don’t want to do that.
So, really, you’re going to need 2 sets for one period, unless you only bleed for one day. So that’s £146.26… Wait, what? Sorry, that’s £146.26!?

For that amount of money I could buy 146 packets of Always cotton for 99p from Bodycare! Or 42 packets of TOTM Organic Cotton for £3.36 from Superdrug. There’s 14 pads in the former, and 10 pads in the latter, that means for that amount of money I could buy 2044 always cotton pads, or 420 TOTM pads. Say I use 4 pads a day, for an average of 6 days a month, so that’s 24 pads a month on average. That means for that amount of money, Always cotton would last me 85 months, and I’d get less milage out of TOTM which would last me 17 months. What? 85 months is just a bit over 7 years!
How long do thinx knickers last? Well ordinarily you’re meant to throw your underwear out every 2 to 3 years for health and hygiene reasons, but is Thinx different? There is no information on their website as to how long a pair should last a person, or signs to look out for which show they may need replacing, unlike Menstrual Cups which are lauded as lasting for 10 years. So if you go with the general information for knickers, that’s max 3 years. I mean, you’re not exactly getting bang for your buck, here, are you?

Okay so in this scenario where I’ve forked out £146.26 for 6 pairs of knickers. That’s £24 per pair of knickers btw. Not exactly my normal price range considering I get multipacks from Primark…

So I’ve forked out this money and let’s start with a night, because who risks going to bed when you’re due on without a pad on? Sp I get up the next morning, I rinse it under the tap and then I put it in the washing bag. In this scenario I’m your average person with a job, not a disabled unemployed mature student currently unable to work. The Thinx knickers can take up to an average 8 hours worth of bleeding, but there’s a “heavy” pair and a medium “pair” and it’s hard to say how heavy a person is and how much a “heavy” pair can really take. Let’s say I’m the heaviest I am, in pads I’m changing every 3 hours, because even pads for “heavy” days say they should last 4 hours between changes, so let’s say this means instead of 8 hours, the knickers can take 6. So, i’m at work, I woke up at half 7 in the morning, which means I need to change my pair of knickers by 2 in the afternoon at the latest. Maybe you’re more likely to change them at a convenient time earlier than 2 depending on your break. Okay. And then so, depending on when i’ve changed them, i change again between 7 and 8 in the evening. And then I swap that out for another night pair of knickers and that day’s worth of knickers have gone into the wash. I’ve started with 6, and I’ve already worn four of them, and I’d be wearing the fifth over night. And I’m heavy for two days.

By description, I assume they’d last longer on lighter days, but whether wearing a pair of longer on lighter days is advisable, I don’t know, because I can’t find that suggestion either way on their website. It’s all about how they match up to tampons and pads per amount of blood, rather than an hourly kind of thing. You might be able to get away with 12 hours if you’re very light, if doing so wouldn’t cause a problem like wearing a pad or tampon might.

I’m not trying to sound difficult, but that means you’re going to need to do washing when you get home and hope they’ll be dry by the next morning, to take a pair to work with you. Now as a disabled person who doesn’t go to work, and has limited access to a washing machine and absolutely nowhere to hang dry them… I’d need a third set, I think? At an eye watering total price of £219.39?

I have never once see anyone say they need to buy three sets of Thinx knickers, so what am I assuming wrongly here? Or do you really need to be washing the knickers you’ve worn, every day?

For the record, for £219.39 I could buy at least 221 packets of Always cotton pads, and at 14 pads per packet that’s 3,094 pads, or 65 packets of TOTM organic cotton pads, and at 10 pads per packet that’s 650 pads.

I know what you’re probably thinking. “But they’re disposable! Is the cost so important when it comes to the future of the planet!?” and the problem is, with disposable ones, they’re low energy and I can depend on myself for the most part. I unwrap them, i put them on, I wrap up the old one, I throw it away.

If I was to buy Thinx knickers, I would have to think about having enough between washes, I would have to figure out how best to dry them in a damp bathroom used by other people and the outlay of the cost. When will they start paying for themselves? Will they ever, if I’m forking out £219 every 3 years? It’s a lot to ask of someone to fork out a high financial cost as well as a high personal energy cost when there’s a lot more out of my control that effects these being viable. I could wake up tomorrow to a letter from the social services saying they’re revoking my care package all together, and then what would I do? And I’m sorry to say it but when it’s a choice between 9 knickers I’d need to wait on someone else to wash and hang up to dry for me that might only last 3 years, and 3094 pads which would last 171 months (14 years! Is that right?), or even 650 pads which would last 36 months, also 3 years, I know which sounds more appealing. At least TOTM promise their pads are ecologically friendly and plastic free.

Lastly, going back to a previous post, people need to stop recommending these as something else that homeless people can use. I see it less than with menstrual cups, but I do see it and I think this post highlights as to why menstrual knickers are hardly viable for the average person, let alone someone who is homeless! Asking someone who likely does not have much money in the first place to fork out the crushing expense of between £73 and £219 for not even a full week’s worth of period care, and then having nowhere hygenic to wash them, is cruel. And that offer only seems available online!

If you think homeless people should be using them, then I hope you have an open door policy on your home so they can use your washer and washing line in the garden to facilitate the wearing thereof!

Now if i am completely wrong, which I might be, I would like to know. It does feel a bit “mountain out of a molehill” here, and what do I know? I haven’t used them. But all that expense, all that work, that doesn’t seem viable to me, not in any reasonable circumstances. So I would also like to know if I am right, and this is exactly what you have to do to make menstrual knickers work for you.


Yes, we know about the menstrual cups

Thursday 12 September, 2019

If someone had told me at age fourteen that I would one day become so incensed by a sub-group of menstrual rights campaigners that I would write a blog post for everyone to read on the subject of menstruating and the right to choose which products suit you, I would have blushed and looked at you like you’d grown a second head.

But here I am, writing a blog post for everyone to see because a certain sub-group of menstrual rights campaigners have incensed me. Incensed!

Now before I get started, I know it might not sound like it, what with the straws issue and now this, I really do care about the environment. But I also really care about people and if i was to put something first, it was would be people above senseless ideals. The idea of recycling is always reduce, re-use and recycle. Nowhere does it say “Make a one size fit all solution to the detriment of a lot people”. For example, if you don’t need a plastic straw, great, don’t use one. But you don’t get to tell disabled people who do need plastic straws to find another solution… Well, unfortunately for me, you do get to tell people that because of the international bans that are happening everywhere. But this isn’t about straws, this is about menstrual cups. And the menstrual cup brigade keep coming on to posts, into the threads, on facebook, twitter, blog posts, charity articles, and vomit their hivemind all over it: “Use menstrual cups! Why not use menstrual cups! Give them menstrual cups! Take away choice and replace it with a menstrual cup!”

We get it, Martha, you love your Menstrual Cup so much you don’t just want to marry it, you want us all to marry it too. Like a cult.

For those of you don’t know what a menstrual cup is, a menstrual cup is an egg-cup shaped sillicone cup with a short funnel, which you stick up your, erm, “ladyfloo” (Look, I’ve got better with this sort of stuff over the last few years but you’re going to have to bear with me here, I’m not Jackie Collins) during your period and it collects the blood. I believe you have to empty it every 8 hours, or sooner if you have a heavy flow, but unlike tampons, there’s a low risk of toxic shock syndrome.

But the menstrual cup, however great for these people, is not the one size fits all solition they wish it to be, and I am quite frankly thoroughly sick of it being suggested every time a period-related issue comes up.

It is not going to help homeless people on their period, because not only is it still cost prohibitive to buy, there are a lot of hygiene related issues when it comes to being homeless. Even when given free ones, you have to think about cleaning it, you have to think about sterilising it, and you have to think about storing it. It is not good to just “wipe it with a bit of tissue” like I keep seeing suggested! I’m not a microbiologist, but I think the last thing a homeless person would want is to be made sick by a bit of remnant tissue fibres and dried blood being shoved back up inside them when their own hands don’t feel clean enough to even handle applicated tampons. And homeless people have their stuff stolen, confiscated, ruined and set on fire on a regular basis.

It’s not going to help girls staying off school because of period poverty, again because the cost is prohibitive, and you’re asking twelve year old girls who might not even be comfortable with tampons to handle something like a menstrual cup – by these people’s own admission, there is a “technique” to it – at a time when their bodies are changing. They might have strict parents, or strict religious parents, or helicopter parents with boundary issues who do not allow insertable period products which means they couldn’t wear them even if they wanted them.

And thirdly, it’s got to be about choice! And what I keep seeing from the menstrual cup brigade, is that they see these as all individual problems all solved with this one thing. Too poor to regularly buy period care? That’s okay, one up front cost of £20 and you’re set for 10 years! Kids can’t go to school on their period? Get them a menstrual cup! Amazon workers can’t have bathroom breaks to deal with tampons and pads? Don’t worry, the menstrual cup can be used for 8 hours! Long journey and a tendency to leak? You can’t leak with a menstrual cup (you absolutely can if it’s not inserted correctly or your flow is heavy)!Oh the environment’s suffering at all the disposable period care that makes it into the eco system? Solve it by only ever using one product for the next 10 years! Let’s ignore that you might need to clean it and use something in your underwear whilst it’s being cleaned.

That’s the menstrual cup brigade’s modus operandi. They ignore a lot of things. They ignore what they themselves know – Everybody is different, and because of that, everyone needs different things. The size and shape doesn’t work for everyone, just like tampons don’t work for everyone. On a very personal note, I have almost always exlcusively used pads because I can not use tampons. I’ve used them twice, I am not compatible with them, and cups are bigger and take more handling to insert. I’d rather freebleed than try a menstrual cup.

There’s a “technique” that some people, no matter how hard they try, can not “master the art of”. And, by the menstrual cup brigade’s own admission, sometimes you have to use a different type. Now a quick google tells me the Mooncup is £21.99, the Lily Cup is £18.99 and the Diva Cup is £24. So that’s someone, who might not have that kind of money, forking out at least £65 to try something that might just not work with their body? Bodies are so different! Why are people, in this day and age of understanding the issue with “for women” clothes sizes, and diet advice and medication is more dependent on an individual basis, so ignorant to suggest this one solution can work for all body types, all flows, all lives and all priorities? It doesn’t!

I am barely scraping the top of the issues I have with the menstrual cup brigade here!

I have seen them say charities should hand them out to every kid who starts their period and they’ll be set for all of school. As well as the issues i’ve already covered, ignoring the matter of simply choice, am I really reading that a bunch of adults think a child who could be as young as eight use a menstrual cup!? I mean we’re talking the practical sizing issues of this, and the emotional trauma of starting puberty young. At least lillets do nice small pads aimed at tweens in cute packaging. It’s inoffensive, it’s non-confrontational and it, or at least it is aiming to, convey the message “you might have started your period, but you’re still a child!”. I can’t see them being able to manage that with a menstrual cup. I’m not sure I’ve even seen tampons aimed at tweens.

And yes, at the forefront of this, is choice. It doesn’t matter if the menstrual cup brigade can bulldoze over issues such as pracitcality (Ask a cafe for some boiling water!) and hygiene (just wipe it with a tissue!) and home life situations (tell your parents you make your own decisions! Your religion is oppressive!), they can not bulldoze over the simple matter of choice.

You have the right to choose what to use with your period care. And whilst I’ve seen the menstrual cup villify anyone who explains their issues with the menstrual cup, blaming them for not doing it the right way, not using the right product, not having the right body, and downright eviscerating anyone who says it’s simply something they choose not to use, it doesn’t change the simple matter of fact that you have your own rights and your own voice. Don’t let them take away disposable pads, disposable tampons and plastic applicators like the straw brigade took away our straws.

And if you’re reading this thinking “Well I just like to suggest to people there are options”, here’s the problem, you’re not the only one making the same suggestion. If you think by now poeple don’t know about the menstrual cup, if you think your ability to use one means everyone has the ability, the practicality, the financial stability to use one (or two or three), maybe just try one thing before you barrel on with that suggestion: Ask them if they want a suggestion for an alternative first. Because I can tell you, they probably don’t. Homeless poeple don’t, school children don’t, charities working with vulnerable people don’t. They just want people to have better access to the products that they are already familiar with.

Just, stop.