Regardless if you just started using menstrual cups or if you are an experienced cup user, I thought it would be helpful to compile all the hygiene tips to give your cup a long and healthy life.
Before we talk about hygiene of the menstrual cup I should mention that in the leaflet that accompanies it provides all the information required for a proper use and maintenance. Always read it with care! I thought it would be helpful to compile all the tips, what do to and what to avoid. Make sure you read my FAQ answering many other random questions about menstrual cups.
Basic practices regarding hygiene of the menstrual cup to avoid catching an infection or damage your menstrual cup
- Before handling the menstrual cup wash your hands with normal soap.
- On the first ever use of the menstrual cup, sanitize your menstrual cup. See in this post the various ways to do it.
- You need to sterilise your cup only once per cycle, at the end or at the beginning. While you are having your period you can simply rinse your cup with water and mild soap when available.
- After its last use of your period, wash your menstrual cup carefully and store it in its own pouch or box provided with your cup.
- It is recommended to rinse the cup with cold water at first when it has just been removed. The use of cold water help prevent staining and odor. Then you can use hot water with a neutral soap.
- Long fingernails should be thoroughly brushed. Beneath them is accumulated organic material also including bacteria and fungi. If the nails are not properly washed, you may introduce them into the vagina. Same thing goes for using tampons without applicators.
- The tiny suction holes that are near the rim of most menstrual cups needs to be kept clean. Use cleaning brushes to to do so. Another easy technique: Fill the cup with water, place your palm on it, turn upside down and squeeze! When the water squirts out through the air-holes, they should be instantly cleaned!
Clean your menstrual cup with Neutral soap
Rinsing your cup with water in between uses is enough but If you want to use soap, use one must be strictly: pH neutral with no perfumes and no antibacterial agents. There are soaps that have been specifically formulated to clean menstrual cup ensuring it won’t leave any residue that could irritate your vaginal mucous membranes. They can also be used as intimate soap or to clean sex toys. We recommend you the Cleansing soap by Me Luna.
If you are you already use intimate soap you can also use it to wash your menstrual cup. If you want to use a soap make sure this is a unscented a as basic as possible like a Marseille soap and make sure you rinse it very well. Don’t use those chemicals hand wash with fragrances. Remember that your cup will sit many hours in your vagina you don’t want chemicals going there.
This kind of cleaning is not disinfecting your cup, it’s for the everyday cleaning. it is sufficient during your cycle unless you feel the need to do a deeper clean. Read below how to do it.
If you are on the go or don’t have access to water you can use Alcohol based wipes but we recommend the use of these products only when prove strictly necessary. Although there are Wipes specially made for cleaning of menstrual cups, they may be irritating for sensitive women. Do not use wipes that are not specifically indicated for the cleaning of the cup to not disrupt your vaginal Ph balance. A prolonged use of alcohol based wipes may be responsible for the premature deterioration of the cup in the long run on top of creating unnecessary waste. Having said that it’s better than nothing if you are traveling or really in need to sanitize your cup.
Boiling your menstrual cup
Boiling is a method that ensures optimum disinfection of the menstrual cup with adequate reduction of the charge of bacteria, fungi (yeasts) or viruses that may be present on it.
The use of heat, in this case wet heat, is known since antiquity and has been applied for example to implement the effective method of food pasteurization. Most of the bacteria and pathogenic viruses for humans are already inactivated at temperatures of 65 ° C. For this reason the boiling is a safe method, since the temperature of 100 ° C are denatured proteins of cell membranes and the cells are destroyed.
1/ Boiling your menstrual cup in a pot
It is NOT absolutely necessary to boil the menstrual cup between an insert and the other. Tap water is safe to wash it. Only some special occasions (eg. no access to clean water in foreign countries) may require the use of natural bottled water.
According to the manufacturer’s indications the menstrual cup is boiling over medium heat for 5 minutes in a pan (careful not to forget it on the fire, because if the water evaporates the cup burns).
Here is a little tip you can see on that video below, put your cup in a cooking whisk that was it will keep it from being in direct contact with the pan.
2/ Boiling your menstrual cup in the microwave
You can use your microwave to sterilise your menstrual cup. Use a micro wave friendly container with no lid (plastic or glass). The cup must be totally immersed in water. Heat 6-7 minutes at 750 W
It is a safe way to clean your cup as you have less chance to forget your cup on the stove and burn it. The good news is that many brands have designed little Tupperware specifically designed for cleaning menstrual cups in microwave.
Clean your menstrual cup with Milton tablets
You can also use sterilizing tablets like Milton. It takes just 15 minutes to sterilize your menstrual cup (or anything else, baby bottles, teats etc…). One tablet is sufficient for 5 liters of disinfection solution. You may halve or quarter the Milton tablet and use correspondingly less water to solve it. (1/4 tablet in 1,25 l cold water). Milton solution can be kept for 24 hours so you can continue to put items in, and take them out when you are ready to use them throughout the day. It is fast and very efficient. Also the most convenient thing to bring if you are traveling and are not able to boil water.
Milton protects your menstrual cup from harmful germs and bacteria. It kills germs such as E-coli, Listeria, Salmonella, Campylobactor and Rotavirus (which can cause gastroenteritis), and Candida albicans (which can cause thrush).
Clean your menstrual cup with a steamer
Sterilize your menstrual cup with 5ml of purified water, no need for nasty chemicals. Just add water, place your cup, press the button, and you’re good to go. Sterilizing your menstrual cup could not be any simpler! Kills 99.9% of bacteria and germs in 3 minutes
Easy, trustworthy, clean, and QUICK! Love it!
“After getting hooked on using PIxie Cup, cleaning became a big concern for me. The wipes that came with the cup were great, but I read online that boiling the cup is a great way to clean it. But honestly, actually boiling it kind of scared me because I didn’t want to let it touch the bottom of the pot and possibly melt. (Plus I wanted a dedicated little pot used ONLY for cleaning my cup.) This steam sterilizer makes cleaning my Pixie Cup an absolute breeze! You just put a little water in it, put your cup in stem up, attach the lid and plug it in and the process is over in no time. Directions say to fill it to the 5 ml line but the line is a little hard to see and doesn’t say “5ml” on it. The line is down there though and it’s a very small amount of water needed. It honestly cannot get any easier to clean my cup now and I absolutely love these products!
Also, I trust steam sterilizing more than I trust boiling my cup. I work in the OR and we steam sterilize the instruments used in surgery so I know for a fact that steam sterilizing is an AMAZING way to clean things. I highly, highly suggest this steam sterilizer. Trust me, it will make your time of the month that much more simple… :)” – Savanah, Actual Pixie Cup Customer
Natural ways to clean your cup with white vinegar
If you are more into natural solutions and DIY, you can use natural products diluted in water such as white vinegar (the clear one). They can be used cold or added to the water after boiling the cup. Afterwards, rinse the menstrual cup with water.
Soak your cup briefly (3 minutes maximum) in a “10% white vinegar, 90% water” solution. That way you are sure to not damage your cup and it’s a bit easier than pulling out pots. White vinegar is very cheap and a non polluting product. It’s also great to have in the house for cleaning purposes (cleaning your kettle, your windows and much more).
WHAT NOT TO DO?
NO aggressive soaps
Better to avoid washing with soap, even intimate, that they have: no neutral pH, fragrances, natural or synthetic oils, foaming agents, antibacterial agents. The soaps is labeled ‘for external use “because they can not be used for cleaning inside the vagina (or mucous membranes in general), and if not well rinsed may cause irritation. If you feel the need to use soap to clean the menstrual cup, make sure it is compatible with, and rinse thoroughly.
Soaps or other special substances such as oils, as well as irritate can ruin the special filming that protect the silicone and may set odors or yellowish color.
You can use soaps indicated for cleansing of sex toys and balls for pelvic floor (for personal items that are not among other things subject to boiling).
NO Essential Oils
Avoids the use of essential oils: ruin ruin silicon as much as latex condoms. Do not use them even diluted, because the micelles remain in suspension even if you think you have them dissolved well. Being difficult to rinse, they can also give problems of irritation of the mucous membrane.
Sounds like a no brainer but this is a question I get asked a lot. Can I put my menstrual cup in the dishwasher? What works for your silicone mold cakes is one thing, it doesn’t make it ok for a menstrual cup that you use inside your vagina. So NO you cannot. The detergents used for dishwasher are absolutely not compatible with the delicate vaginal flora. Just don’t do it.
Do not use bleach! Its use is completely unnecessary in this case and is not recommended for objects that come into contact with mucous membranes. Bleach is an irritant, marked for this reason the symbol “X” on the package. It is also irritating when it is used diluted in water and is highly discouraged contact with skin and mucous membranes. Also, it has an oily matrix and the percentage of chlorine.
No silicone based products
Remember to never use silicone based product as they can damage the cup. If you want to use lubricant use the water based ones; no silicone or oil base (except the Me Luna that is made out of TPE). Just clean it as recommended and keep it away from extreme temperature and in its provided pouch
Do not store your cup in a air-tight container
Do not store it in a air tight container or plastic bag (ziploc, tupperware etc.) as this can cause mold. A cup must have air flow when being stored away for the rest of the month. The best thing to store a menstrual cup in, is clean, dry cloth pouch (which are provided), and away from extreme heat, cold, or sunlight. After your period is over and you have cleaned your cup, store it in the cloth pouch.
Not out in the open, Keep your cup out of reach…
It may sounds silly but a menstrual cup is small and easily lost. Keep it out of reach from children. I remember that one time I was at booth on a little market selling cups, I got distracted with a customer and when I looked back on the table, all my cup samples were gone. It’s only 20 min later while walking around the market, I saw three small Japanese kids in the playground making sand castles with the cups ;D We had was quite a laugh with the parents who were mortified :-D. I just wish I had my phone on me to take a pic.
Also, keep it away from your pets, the amount of time I heard: “Ho no, I am gonna buy another cup, my dog found it and chewed it up!” Yep, it kind of looks like a toy to them.
How to store your menstrual cup?
Before storing the menstrual cup wash it thoroughly in cold water. Pay attention to the suction holes and make sure they’re always clear or any organic residue. The pouch usually provided with you menstrual cup is breathable to avoid bacterial proliferation. Put the cup in its bag in a clean, dry place (no airtight container as I mentioned above)
HELP! my menstrual cup is discolored! What can I do?
Over time it may happen that your cup gets discolored like on the photo, I know some who has never had that problem and others who will have a stained cup after 2 years of use.
The solution is very simple: Hydrogen Peroxide
Pour some hydrogen peroxide 3% into a clear glass (so you can watch the magic happen), drop in the cup, and wait some hours. It’s something you can do to give a new life to your cup. I would advise you to not leave it too long, as soon as you seen the color come back to normal, rinse your cup. To leave it for days is not going to help and may start to degrade the silicone.
When is it time to replace my menstrual cup?
Medical Grade silicone can last well over ten years when cared for properly. It does, however, stain over time. Some users may wish to switch to another cup as a result, for aesthetics. In the unlikely event that a cup splits or develops cracks, it is time to replace it.
Luckily, there are a few signs to look out for that mean it’s time to replace your menstrual cup. Inspect your cup regularly for signs of deterioration:
– A sticky or powdery film (you may have seen this happen on kitchen utensils)
– Severe discoloration or odor
– or if you find its causing irritation.
Keep in mind, menstrual cups can discolor or develop an odor for various reasons over time. If you’ve noticed yours has, you can try the hydrogen peroxide trick i mentioned above. However, if an odor remains or the silicone stays tacky, you might want to purchase a new menstrual cup.
*Photo credit to Libby cup available in 3 sizes including one for short cervix.