Sea sponges are a natural and safer alternative to tampons.
Written by guest writer MJ Martin. MJ is a regular at the Nappy Shoppe. She cloth diapers, babywears and she and her teenage daughters use natural alternative methods for managing menstruation.
I’ve used tampons exclusively since I was about 15, so when I started searching for a greener alternative, I settled on Sea Pearls. As with any product, they have both their pros and cons.
- Easy to use. Really. I promise.
- Totally comfortable. I sometimes forget that I’ve got it in.
- Depending on tampon brand preference and usage, can save money.
- They don’t dry out your vagina the way regular tampons do, therefore don’t carry the risk of TSS.
- A natural, chemical-free alternative to tampons.
- Reusable, and compostable when they begin to wear out.
- Smells less than tampons. Seriously. The chemicals in sanitary products stink.
- It takes a little more foresight to use Sea Pearls when going out.
- No applicator comes with them, so you have to stick your fingers “up there”!
- They have to be cleaned.
So how exactly DO you use a sea sponge tampon? When I first received my Sea Pearls, I was somewhat apprehensive about trying them out. Straight out of the package they’re stiff, and huge! No way was I going to be able to stick that thing in my vag! Nevertheless, I was committed to at least giving them a shot, as I had already tried a menstrual cup and determined that it wasn’t for me. So I grabbed out the recommended cleaning supplies and disinfected them for the first time. Once the sponges got wet, they were totally soft and easy to squish into the right shape to wear. All I had to do was squeeze out the excess water, pinch it between my fingers and insert it just like a regular tampon. If you’ve ever used an OB style tampon that doesn’t have an applicator, it’s essentially the exact same thing, only with a sponge that you can reuse at the end. Once it’s in, I really don’t notice it at all. Sea Pearls absorb roughly the same amount as a regular tampon, so I gauge how often to clean it based on how frequently I would change a tampon. The biggest difference here is that sea sponges get heavier the fuller they get, so they will actually migrate downwards. Taking out Sea Pearls is more or less like putting one in, only in reverse. Pinch it gently with your fingers, and pull it out. Because they’re not drying, they don’t stick like tampons can. Rinse it out well in the sink, and put it back in. I usually disinfect mine once a day. To disinfect your sponge, soak it in a cup of warm water and one of the following for about 15 minutes:
2-3 drops of tea tree oil
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs baking soda
1 tsp colloidal silver
1 tsp sea salt
¼ cup hydrogen peroxide and ¼ cup warm water – This method will also get rid of any staining
Let air dry, preferably in sun light. I fold a hand towel and leave mine to dry in the windowsill of my bedroom.
Leaving the house while using Sea Pearls does, admittedly, take a little more thought that just tossing a handful of tampons in your handbag. Personally, I prefer not to muck with cleaning my sponges in a public toilet, so I keep two sets in order to have enough. I certainly have, in a pinch had to rinse my sponge when I’m out, so it’s totally doable, I just prefer not to. Instead, I carry a small, double sided wet bag to keep clean, dampened sponges in one side, and used ones in the other to be dealt with at home. Washing with a mild soap and then disinfecting is recommended if you have to leave your sponges for a prolonged period of time. I usually use peroxide, because psychologically, seeing them bubble makes me feel like they’re cleaner.
One unexpected benefit of using Sea Pearls is that they smell less than regular tampons. Frankly, I don’t why this never occurred to me, as I’ve noticed the same phenomenon switching my teenage daughters from disposable pads to cloth, and also using cloth diapers. Whatever chemicals that companies use in their disposable products STINK when they get wet. Now, I’m not saying that you’ll smell like roses when Aunt Flo visits, but going chemical-free definitely reduces the smell factor.
How long a sponge will last can vary greatly from person to person, as it is largely dependent on body chemistry, and how they’re cared for. My first sets lasted me about a year, and to be honest, I tend to put them in my windowsill to dry and forget about them. I suspect they may have lasted quite a bit longer if I didn’t leave them exposed to the sunlight.
That’s really all there is to it. Sanitize before first use. Rinse as needed. Sanitize and leave to air dry in the sun. Easy, right?