15 June 2017

Eco Menstrual Solutions: Menstrual Sponges

Menstrual what now? Yep, you read right sponges. As in sea sponge. A menstrual sponge is a reusable alternative to a tampon. Like a cup, basically, but instead of collecting liquid, it absorbs. But how do they work? Are they comfortable? And how exactly do you use and clean them? 

Fair warning: there will probably be some TMI ahead. If you are squeamish about menstruation you may want to click away at this point.

The details

Menstrual sponges come from the ocean. These specific ones are from Woman-Kind and are from the Mediterranean sea. Even though they seem strange to this generation, they have been used for centuries by previous generations.

Sponges are available in different sizes - small, medium or large and provide increased absorbency as the size increases.

They are said to be superior to tampons because they do not contain any harsh synthetic chemicals (eg bleach etc), are non-drying and non-abrasive, reusable and bio-degradable.


But how do they work? And more importantly how do they feel?

When I first saw these I was a bit skeptical. The sponge feels quite hard straight out of the packet which seems like it would be uncomfortable to use. However, you wet it before use and then it becomes soft and super easy to insert. It is inserted the same way as a tampon or menstrual cup.

I find these super easy to insert as they mold to the body and the space available. With both tampons and cups there is a learning curve to inserting them correctly and comfortably. These have no learning curve. They just fit right from the first try. To boot they are also super comfortable once inside - you literally do not feel a thing.

Now when it comes to taking them out it can get a bit tricky as, unlike a tampon or cup, there is nothing to pull on to coax it out. But don't fear. Simply bear down to move the sponge downwards where you will then be able to reach the bottom and gently pull it out. This part could be unpleasant if you are squeamish as you will physically be touching the sponge with blood on it when you remove it. Bear in mind though that there is nothing dirty about the blood and a quick hand wash afterwards will sort you out. 


I did some absorbency tests using a digital scale and found that a fully soaked medium size sponge can hold around 25ml. However it will most likely leak at full capacity due to the nature of a sponge - when pressure is applied, it will release liquid. To get a better gauge on absorbency, I squeezed it to release some liquid and weighed again - it now held 22ml. So to be safe I would say it can comfortably absorb 20ml. Compare this to tampons which can absorb roughly 6 - 18ml*, menstrual cups which can hold between 10 and 35ml* and disposable pads which absorb between 5 and 15 ml*.

Due to the nature of a sponge (compression = leaks) and also the risk of TSS (though it is a much lower risk compared to tampons) it is recommended to change your sponge every few hours.

*depending on size and brand


With regards to cleaning - during the same cycle I will remove, rinse under a tap and re-insert the sponge. In between cycles you can soak in a little hot water and a few drops of tea tree oil to disinfect. Some also like to use a little vinegar in the soak. Squeeze excess water out, allow to dry and store in a clean container for your next cycle.

Bang for your buck

At around R30 each (dependent on size and brand), they are very affordable and much more cost effective than the disposable alternative. They can be reused for a few cycles.

Final thoughts

I really like menstrual sponges - they are the comfiest and most user friendly internal menstrual product in my opinion. I love that even though they absorb like a tampon, they are not drying at all. So even on my light days, they are still very comfortable to wear. The only thing that might put you off is the removal and rinsing of them as it's a fairly hands-on process, however for me the pros outweigh it. If you are a very heavy bleeder, you would probably prefer a cup due to capacity. For me though, these are just perfect and one of my favourite menstrual solutions.

Menstrual sponges are available from Faithful to Nature (Woman-Kind brand), Lady Matters and Women's Health.


  1. Thanks for a great review. I have always wanted to know all these things. My only question that have not been answered, is how do you know it's time to replace them?

    1. It will start to disintegrate, then it's time to replace.

  2. Get started on your adventure with one of our sample itineraries botswana, sri-lanka and tanzania


I'd love to hear your thoughts! Drop me a line and I'll make sure to answer any questions or comments you might have.