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Menstrual Cups vs Reusable Pads: the Best Zero Waste Option

You’re tired of the chafing, itching, and prickling that comes with pad and tampon use. You’re worried about the toxins and plastic found in disposable menstrual products. And you’d especially like to do away with all the plastic packaging and applicators of disposable pads and tampons. 

Single-use period products no longer provide you the comfort you desire or the safety you need. And you know you deserve better. It would be great to find an eco-friendly alternative that guarantees you better health and more freedom. So you’re now debating between menstrual cups vs reusable pads and want to know which is better.

You’ve come to the right place. Here at Ruby Cup, we take your health and comfort seriously while helping you achieve a sustainable lifestyle. That’s why we created the Ruby Cup,  a reusable menstrual cup to help you live a zero-waste lifestyle while reaping the benefits of better health and more freedom during your menstrual cycle. Ready to discover more about menstrual cups and reusable pads and which is best for you and the planet? Then read on.

Related post: How to Use a Menstrual Cup: The Ultimate Beginner's Guide

 

Want to reduce your period waste but dread the thought of wearing a reusable pad? With Ruby Cup, you can feel happier and freer during that time of the month, every month. Plus, for every Ruby Cup purchased, we donate another one to a person without access to safe menstrual products. Get your Ruby Cup now.

 

Why you should aim for a zero-waste period

Recent studies reveal the damage disposable sanitary products wreak on our environment. When comparing the solid waste of single-use sanitary pads and tampons to reusable menstrual cups over one year, here's what the research found:

  • Each year, one person who menstruates uses approximately 240 sanitary napkins or tampons versus one menstrual cup, which can be used for up to 10 years. 
  • That's 2400 pads or tampons per person over 10 years vs one menstrual cup.
  • Menstrual cup use has only 1.5% of the environmental impact created by tampon and pad use. 
  • A menstrual cup costs 10% of what you would spend on disposable products.

 

Ruby Cup impact calculator estimating the positive environmental impact a 22-year-old would have when switching to a Ruby Cup

 

Luckily we have more sustainable period products today than ever before. You can choose period panties, reusable panty liners, reusable discs, menstrual cups, and reusable pads. But not all reusable period products are the same. And reusable menstrual pads are not completely waste-free. So let's compare reusable menstrual cups vs reusable pads to see which one is better, both for you and the environment. 

Waste-free menstrual products: Menstrual cups vs reusable pads

Before we share the advantages of waste-free menstrual products, let’s first understand more about menstrual cups and reusable pads. 

What is a menstrual cup?

A menstrual cup is a reusable medical-grade silicone cup that fits comfortably inside your vagina and collects your period fluid without altering your natural vaginal flora. You can wear a menstrual cup safely for up to 8 hours before emptying it, then rinse it with clean water before reinserting. You only need to boil your cup between your menstrual cycles to sterilize it.

02 Ruby Cup image of a variety of Ruby Cups in different colors

 

What is a reusable pad?

A reusable pad is a menstrual pad made from natural, washable material that absorbs your menstrual fluid. It stays stable thanks to wings that fold around your underwear and snap into place. A reusable pad needs to be changed just like a disposable pad based on absorbency capacity and the heaviness of your flow, then washed and dried before using it again. 

 

 03 image of a variety of different colored reusable sanitary pads

 

The advantages of menstrual cups over reusable pads

At first glance, reusable pads and menstrual cups seem to be ideal choices for a healthy, zero-waste lifestyle. But there are net advantages of using menstrual cups vs reusable pads. Here’s how a menstrual cup trumps a reusable sanitary pad:

 

Menstrual cups are more sustainable

We make our menstrual cups to last. One Ruby Cup can last you up to 10 years while a reusable menstrual pad needs replacement sooner, approximately 1-5 years depending on the brand recommendations and how well it holds up under the strain of frequent washes. 

Plus, one reusable pad won’t last your entire period. You'll need at least a few cloth pads to replace the soiled ones. That's why at the end of the reusable products' life cycle, more products will end up in landfill when choosing reusable pads as opposed to one menstrual cup.

Also, the amount of water used to clean menstrual cups vs reusable pads differs. When you discover how to clean a menstrual cup, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is. Just empty your cup’s contents in the toilet, then rinse your menstrual cup under clean water before reinserting. Between periods, you need to sterilize your menstrual cup in a small pot of boiling water. That’s it. 

Instead, reusable pads need to be washed completely, requiring more water than a menstrual cup. Some customers suggest first rinsing, then letting them soak in a basin of cold water for better stain removal before throwing them in the washing machine. And when you take into consideration the use of laundry detergent and the extra energy consumed if you also use a dryer, reusable pads are less eco-friendly and more costly than a period cup. 

 

Menstrual cups are more comfortable to wear

Many people barely notice their menstrual cups. Once positioned inside your vaginal canal, a menstrual cup is practically imperceptible. Many Ruby Cup customers say they forget they have their period while using the Ruby Cup.

Related post: The Best Menstrual Cup for a Tilted Uterus & How to Use It

04 Ruby Cup image of a customer review with a 5-star rating and stating it’s a game-changer 

On the other hand, reusable pads are just like disposable pads. Since they absorb menstrual fluid, you will still feel wet, sticky, and uncomfortable with the added bulk, which also makes them all too noticeable under tight clothing or skinny jeans. Also, a strong menstruation odor is common with both single-use and reusable pads, created as menstrual blood comes into contact with the air. 

Since a menstrual cup collects your blood within your vaginal canal, and will only come into contact with air when you empty your blood into the toilet, you can say goodbye to foul-smelling periods. 

 

Menstrual cups need to be changed less frequently

With a menstrual cup, you can wait up to 8 hours before emptying your menstrual blood. And because there are larger-capacity menstrual cups, like the Ruby Cup Medium, even people with heavy flows can relax and wait before emptying their period cup. 

 

05 Ruby Cup image of the small and medium sizes with their measurements, fluid capacity, and recommended menstrual flow and cervix height.

 

Depending on your flow, you'll need to change your reusable pad more often. Health practitioners suggest changing a sanitary pad every 4-8 hours. But anyone with a heavy period knows that sanitary pads need to be changed more often, sometimes every 1-2 hours.   

 

Menstrual cups are easier to clean

Menstrual cups are much easier to clean than reusable pads. For a menstrual cup, just rinse it before reinserting during your period, then boil between one menstruation and another. 

Instead, you need to first rinse your reusable pad before throwing it in your washing machine. There's the drying time to take into consideration, too. 

As a result, menstrual cups are also less messy because you've already emptied your menstrual blood into the toilet. So the bulk of the fluid to rinse off your cup is minimal. 

 

Menstrual cups are less likely to leak

Reusable pads move around just like single-use ones, maybe even more so because they don’t use plastic adhesive. So expect some leakage when you're on the go, playing sports, or sleeping. 

With menstrual cups, bloody bedsheets will soon dissolve into a faded memory. Because period cups sit inside your vaginal canal and create a seal with your vaginal wall, they don’t move, allowing you to lead an active, carefree lifestyle and sleep in peace. 

 

Related post: Can You Swim With a Menstrual Cup? Swimming on Your Period

 

Menstrual cups are easier to use on the go

Even though cleaning a menstrual cup in a public bathroom may seem daunting, it's entirely doable. Just take a small water bottle with you to rinse your cup over the toilet. Caught without a water bottle handy? No problem. Use a damp or dry tissue or toilet paper to wipe it clean, then reinsert. So whether you're traveling, in a gym, or at work, you'll always know you can empty your cup with confidence.

 

cleaning your menstrual cup

 

But what if you need to change a reusable pad on the go? Or when you’re traveling on an airplane, where do you put your soiled pad? You'll need to buy special wet bags to store your used pad, which will add weight and bulk to your travels.

Menstrual cups are cheaper

One menstrual cup will last you up to 10 years. That means you may need as few as 4 menstrual cups during your lifetime if you start using a menstrual cup with your first menstruation. 

For each menstrual cycle, you'll need anywhere from 3 to 6 reusable pads. And each reusable pad's life cycle differs by brand—some brands recommend changing a cloth pad once a year, others every 3 years and a few say you can use them up to 7 years. It all depends on how often you use them and how well they survive the frequent washes. 

For long-term savings, choose a menstrual cup. 

 

The advantages of reusable pads over menstrual cups

Yes, we're not completely biased. There are also advantages of reusable pads vs menstrual cups. So read on to discover if using a reusable pad is right for you. 

Reusable pads are less intimidating

Some people are more body-conscious than others and have no qualms about inserting their fingers or menstrual cups into their vaginas. 

But if you feel squeamish or intimidated at the mere thought of inserting a foreign object into your body, you’re not alone. Maybe you're a teenager who just got your period for the first time. Or you haven't had sex yet or inserted anything into your vagina. Or maybe you’ve never liked the idea of inserting a period product in your vagina, which rules out using a menstrual cup altogether. 

With reusable cloth pads, you can rest easy because they are for external use only and don’t contain any trace of toxins or bleach commonly found in single-use pads. 

 

You already know how to use a reusable pad

We know there's a learning curve before you get the hang of how to use a menstrual cup. It might take you 1-3 menstrual cycles to insert your menstrual cup correctly, but once you do, it’s easy.

Instead, you already know how to use a pad. You place a reusable pad on your underwear, then you tuck their wings under the crotch and snap or velcro them shut. No learning curve here and you're good to go. 

The only learning curve with reusable pads is how to organize cleaning them. If you lead a busy lifestyle, adding daily pad washing to your to-do list might not be your best option. You’ll need to create a laundry plan before using reusable pads.

 

You can DIY reusable pads

Did you know you can make reusable pads? You can have them made for you by a seamstress or make them yourself at home if you know how to sew. They cost virtually no money, especially if you recycle your used natural-fiber clothing. 

Are they effective? It all depends on the materials you use and how absorbent they are.  

 

Ruby Cup: The perfect menstrual cup for beginners

We may be slightly biased, but we know Ruby Cup is the best menstrual cup for beginners. Why? Because when you're just starting, you need a cup that offers ease of use, reliability, and flexibility like the Ruby Cup. Here’s why we’re a good fit for beginners:

  • Different sizes. As a beginner cup user, you first need to know which cup size is right for you. Luckily, Ruby Cup comes in two sizes, Ruby Cup Small and Ruby Cup Medium. Check our sizing guide to discover which one is right for you.
  • Exchange or money-back guarantee policy: Even with our sizing guide, we know each body is unique and you may not find the right-size cup at first. This is why Ruby Cup’s 120-day money-back guarantee offers you the peace of mind to try your cup for a few periods before either exchanging it or returning it, no questions asked. 
  • Comfort and ease of use. Ruby Cup has the right firmness and texture. Its medium firmness makes it soft enough to feel comfortable, yet sits snugly in your vagina to prevent it from sliding or moving. It also has ribbing on both the base of the cup and stem for easy removal. Below its soft rim, tiny air holes will help with insertion and creating a seal to keep it in place.
  • Trimmable stem. When you have a low cervix or short vagina, you might discover the stem of the cup protruding from your vagina, even though your cup is positioned correctly. Ruby Cup offers a stem that you can trim if needed, without compromising the cup’s high quality or effectiveness. 
  • Starter kits. Starter kits are ideal for having everything you need straight away. Ruby Cup has a Duo Pack where you can buy both sizes, ideal for menstrual flows that vary during one cycle. Or try our Saver Pack, which includes 2 cups plus the Ruby Sterilizer, a discreet, foldable silicone container with a lid where you can boil your cup in a microwave or oven to sterilize it between menstrual cycles. 

What's more, for every cup you purchase, you'll automatically donate another Ruby Cup to a person without access to period products. Ruby Cup's Buy One Give One program includes not just menstrual cup donations, but menstrual-health educational programs as well as accountability work to ensure people get the most out of the period products received. 

Ruby Cup brings social and environmental impact to you in one menstrual cup.

 

Reusable pads vs menstrual cups: Which is right for you?

Though in our minds the benefits of a menstrual cup can far outweigh those of a reusable pad, we realize everyone is different with unique needs. So, when comparing menstrual cups vs reusable pads, keep in mind it doesn’t have to be an either-or choice. You can always combine the two, using a menstrual cup on your heavier days and a reusable pad at the end of your menstruation. Having the best of both worlds is possible while protecting your body and the environment. 

Use our handy comparison chart to make the best decision for you today:

 

Menstrual Cup

Reusable Pad

Healthy

Yes

Yes

Easy to Clean

Yes

No

Eco-friendly

Yes

Yes

Environmental impact

Low

Lower than single-use pads

Higher than a reusable menstrual cup

Life cycle

Up to 10 years

1-5 years 

(depends on brand and durability after multiple washes)

Initial cost

Medium

Medium

 (you’ll need more than one)

Long-term saving

1 cup for up to 10 years (maximum 4 cups per lifetime)

3-5 pads per cycle (multiple pads per lifetime)

Learning Curve

Yes

No

Comfort

Yes

No

Ideal for all types of flow

Yes

Depends on absorbency

Travel-friendly

Yes

Requires a wet bag and extra cloth pads

Night-use 

Yes

Yes

Leak-free

Yes

No

Fashion-friendly

Yes

No

Sports-friendly

Yes

Low-impact and non-aquatic sports only

DIY

No

Yes

 

Reusable pads vs menstrual cups: Which is the most eco-friendly period product?

All reusable period products are better for our environment than disposable pads and tampons. But as we’ve seen in our comparison of menstrual cups vs reusable pads, the best zero-waste choice is a menstrual cup. To help you remember why here’s a quick summary of the key factors that make a menstrual cup the best eco-friendly period product:

  • You only need one menstrual cup per cycle vs 3-5 reusable cloth pads.
  • One menstrual cup can last you up to 10 years whereas one reusable cloth pad can last anywhere from one to 5 years.
  • Reusable cloth pads use more water than a menstrual cup because they need to be rinsed, soaked, then washed. A menstrual cup just needs a good rinse. 
  • To clean a reusable cloth pad, you also need to use detergent, which pollutes the environment. To sterilize a menstrual cup, you only need to boil it in water for 3-5 minutes in between menstrual cycles.
  • When you dry your reusable cloth pad in a dryer, you’re using a lot more energy than if you boiled your small menstrual cup for a few minutes on the stove or in a microwave.

Now you have all the knowledge you need to lead a zero-waste lifestyle even during your period. And you’ll be proud of your responsible choice of using a menstrual cup vs a reusable pad.

 

money-back guarantee Ruby Cup

 

FAQs

If you’re still on the fence between reusable pads vs menstrual cups, take a moment to read through our answers to the most frequently asked questions. 

Which is better, menstrual cups or reusable pads?

Menstrual cups are better than reusable pads because they can:

  • Last up to 10 years.
  • Let you sleep leak-free. 
  • Be cleaned quickly and easily.
  • Travel more discreetly with you. 
  • Leave your skin more breathable and comfortable.
  • Offer more freedom with an 8-hour wait time before emptying.
  • Provide better long-term savings. 
  • Produce less waste overall. 

Are menstrual cups safer than pads?

Menstrual cups do not contain bleach or harmful toxins like dioxin usually found in single-use pads. Instead, reusable cloth pads are just as safe as menstrual cups.

Are reusable menstrual pads worth it?

When comparing reusable pads vs menstrual cups, a menstrual cup is a better investment. Though the initial costs of one cup vs 3 reusable pads are similar, in the long run, one menstrual cup will last you up to 10 years while even the best reusable pad won't last as long.

Is it safe to use reusable pads?

Reusable pads are a body-friendly choice that doesn't contain the same harmful toxins found in disposable pads and tampons. Also, using reusable pads does not present a risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome, which is associated with tampons. It’s always wise to change a reusable pad just as often as you would a disposable pad to maintain good hygiene. 

What are the disadvantages of reusable cloth pads?

Though safer and more eco-friendly than disposable pads, some disadvantages of reusable pads are:

  • The lengthy cleaning process.
  • Experiencing the same bulkiness of disposable pads.
  • You'll need more than one reusable pad during menstruation.
  • It’s not as durable as a menstrual cup.
  • Less comfortable than a menstrual cup.

Can you use reusable cloth pads for heavy flows?

Reusable cloth pads have different absorbency capacities, like disposable pads. However, just like disposable pads, heavy flows can quickly fill up even the most absorbent pad, reusable or not. For heavy flows, menstrual cups fare much better.

Are menstrual cups good for people with sensitive skin?

Because most cups are made from medical-grade silicone, a menstrual cup will not alter your vaginal flora. It won’t cause rashes like sanitary pads because it collects your menstrual blood instead of absorbing it, helping your skin to stay dry and naturally lubricated. And, when comparing tampons vs menstrual cups, a menstrual cup won’t dry out your skin.