I often preach the good news of menstrual cups as a tampon alternative to all my friends and family members. But, do you want to know the most common fear that people have about them? It’s dealing with them at work, school, or away from home in public bathrooms.
It can certainly be a little bit intimidating. While it's rare to get menstrual fluid on your hands when you're emptying a menstrual cup––in fact, a lot of cup users say it feels cleaner than using tampons or pads––it can happen!
So, how do you handle this when you’re not at home or only have access to a public bathroom? I’ll share a few tips with you:
Tip #1: Find a Private Bathroom in Public
Many cup users have scoped out a “private” bathroom in public at their work or school, or surrounding neighborhood. For example, coffee shops often have private bathrooms with a sink and toilet in a single room.
This is the best possible situation for managing your period care in public because it’s almost like being at home. You just have to take out your cup, and rinse it off with water. Then, reinsert it and go about your day.
Tip #2: A Few Simple Steps for Emptying Your Menstrual Cup in a Public Bathroom
However, when your only option is a very public bathroom, there’s no need to fear! It’s easier to manage than you might think. Here’s what you need to do:
Wash your hands before going into the stall. This helps to prevent things like yeast infections.
Take a wet paper towel into the stall with you, if available for wiping your cup or your hands.
Take out your menstrual cup and dump the contents into the toilet.
Spray off your cup with a water bottle, use a menstrual cup wipe, or wipe it with clean toilet paper or paper towel. (Note: do not flush paper towels – dispose of them in the waste bin.)
Insert your cup and wipe your hands off with a wet wipe, toilet paper, or paper towel.
Wash your hands when you get out of the bathroom stall.
If water is not accessible, you may wipe the cup with a clean tissue or just re-insert directly, rinsing at the next opportunity.
If you don’t want to get messy with wet wipes and tissues, there is another option. You can use a portable, sink-like container, such as VOXAPOD On-the-go Menstrual Cup Sterilizer. It's collapsible, making it small enough to slip into your hand bag or back pocket when heading into a public bathroom. Here's how it works:
- Fill the Sterilizer Cup container partway with water before going into the bathroom stall.
- Take out your menstrual cup and dump the contents into the toilet.
- Once empty, place your cup into the container and secure the lid.
Gently shake the container to rinse your menstrual cup before reinserting (Note: use the lid as a clean surface if needed to set your cup down while you clean yourself).
- Pour remaining water into the toilet or sink, and clean the container once at home.
There’s more good news! Menstrual cups have a capacity around 3-5x more than a jumbo tampon. Plus, you can leave it in for up to 12 hours. If you empty your cup right before you go to work or school, and your period isn’t that heavy, you may be able to wait until you get home to empty and clean your cup.
Tip #3: Wash Your Menstrual Cup When You Get Home
It’s important to keep menstrual cups clean in order to reduce your risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), or infections, like yeast infections or Bacterial Vaginosis (BV).
Typically, you’d want to wash your menstrual cup before and after each use with water (always using safe-to-drink, potable, clean water to rinse your cup). However, when you’re in a public bathroom, you may not be able to wash your cup very well, or at all. This is fine for the day, but you’ll want to clean it at the next opportunity or when you get home.
If using a mild soap or other natural purpose cleaning product that could leave residue, please note that it could cause irritation upon insertion or deteriorate the silicone of your menstrual cup. Do not use bleach, vinegar, tea tree oil, scented soap, oil based soap, alcohol, hand sanitizer, hydrogen peroxide, antibacterial soap or other harsh cleaners or chemicals to clean your menstrual cup.
Removing build-up will allow the cup to seal properly. To remove debris, gently stretch each hole under running warm water.
For more details about cleaning your menstrual cup, check out: Everything you Need to Know about Cleaning a Menstrual Cup.
FAQ #1: How Many Menstrual Cups Do I Need?
Some companies sell period cups in a package of two, with the suggestion that you can bring one with you and change it out when you need to. Is this necessary?
In my experience, one cup is enough. It’s fine to not wash your cup well for the day when you’re out and about. Just be sure to give it an extra scrub when you get home.
An extra cup can come in handy, however, if you accidentally drop your cup on a public bathroom floor, or as a backup to keep in your glove box, gym bag or purse for those times when Aunt Flow shows up unexpectedly.
FAQ #2: Are Menstrual Cup Wipes Worth It?
There are some companies that make special menstrual cup wipes . They can be pretty expensive and not very eco-friendly, so you may wonder whether or not they’re worth it.
In general, spraying your cup off with water, or wiping it with clean toilet paper is enough until you get home and can wash it well.
That being said, you may want to consider some of these menstrual cup wipes if you’re camping or traveling, and have limited access to potable water. In which case, they can be a lifesaver!
Menstrual Cups in Public Bathrooms: Have Your Say!
Any tips or tricks for dealing with your menstrual cup when you’re not at home? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with us.
Author Bio: Jackie Bolen is a tree-hugging, friend of the Earth who can usually be found on top of a mountain, paddling the rivers, or drinking coffee around Vancouver, Canada. Her hope is that a reusable period product will one day be found in the hands of every single menstruating person in the world.
You can find her at Reusable Menstrual Cups .
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