How to Use a Menstrual Sea Sponge
Sea Sponges are an organic, reusable alternative to disposable tampons. Sponges are worn internally and absorbs menstrual flow.
Menstrual Sea Sponges are made of fine silk sponges and may be bleached (or natural) or unbleached. Larger sponges are more absorbent than smaller sponges. To find out more on menstrual sponges see our blog on Everything you need to know about period sponges.
Sponges may be a suitable alternative for people who have had difficulty using a tampon or menstrual cup due to anatomical differences such as a tilted uterus, sensitive bladder or low cervix. Before opting for a sponge there are a few things to consider;
- Removing a sponge will be more 'hands-on' and messier than removing a tampon or menstrual cup.
- You will need access to a sink with clean running water to clean your sponge. For this reason, sponge use is often reserved for use when at home rather than when out and about. If possible, change your sponge in the shower where it is easier to clean up.
- Sudden abdominal pressure caused by sneezing, coughing or lifting heavy weights may cause the sponge to leak if it is nearing capacity.
- As sponges should be changed every 4-6 hours, they are generally not suitable for sleeping overnight but can be worn if sleeping for a shorter period of time.
- Sponges should be replaced every 3-6 months so they do not last as long as some other reusable alternatives however they are biodegradable.
- Sponges are aquatic invertebrates. Whilst they do not have a digestive system, brain or nervous system (and cannot feel pain), this may be a consideration if you are vegan.
Before you use your menstrual sponge
Your sponge is not supplied sterile. As sponges come from the sea they may contain traces of marine debris such as sand particles or small pieces of coral.
Whilst care has been taken to visually inspect each sponge it is important to inspect and sanatise your sponge prior to using it for the first time.
Inspecting your menstrual sponge
Inspect your sponge for marine debris prior to first use.
You will need; scissors, tweezers or narrow long-nose pliers and a large bowl, preferably white or light in colour to reflect light.
- Sit your sponges in the large bowl and fill with warm water. Sponges will expand as they absorb water.
- In a well-lit area or using a bright light, inspect the outside of the sponge and remove or trim off any visible traces of debris with scissors.
- Pinch each section of the sponges at different angles (warm water enables you to feel better than cold water). If you feel any granules within the sponge, slowly work them to the surface though the sponge pores until you are able to remove them with tweezers or long nose pliers.
- Sanatise your sponges.
How to sanitise your menstrual sponge
Sanitise your sponge before using for the first time and after each menstrual cycle.
- Bring a pot of water to the boil.
- Add 1 tablespoon of bi-carb soda.
- Add the sponges.
- Gently boil for 2 minutes. We recommend setting a timer.
- Remove the sponges with tongs.
- Allow to air dry on a clean surface.
Do not boil your sponges for longer than recommended time frame as this may cause the sponges to harden or shrink and shorten the lifespan of your sponges.
How to insert your menstrual sponge
Sea sponges are stiff when dry and soften when wet.
- Wash your hands with a mild pH-balanced soap and water.
- Wet the sponge under clean running water.
- Squeeze excess water out of the sponge.
- Twist the sponge and hold it.
- Part the labia with your opposite hand and insert the sponge into the vagina, ensuring it sits up above the pelvic floor muscles.
- Wash your hands.
Once inserted you should not be able to feel the sponge. If the sponge is too big, it can be trimmed as per the instructions in this leaflet.
Remove and wash your sponge every 4-6 hours or more frequently if you have a heavy flow.
How to remove your menstrual sponge
If possible, remove your sponge in the shower where you will be relaxed and less likely to be worried about making a mess.
- Wash your hands with a mild soap and water.
- Find a position which is comfortable for you; this may be standing with one leg raised or squatting (which will help shorten the vaginal canal and make your sponge easier to reach).
- Relax your body.
- Insert your index finger into the vagina between the vaginal wall and the sponge.
- Hook your finger around the sponge and gently scoop it out.
If you are unable to reach your finger around the top of the sponge, lightly bear down and pinch the base of the sponge with the index finger and thumb. Gently wiggle it from side to side as you move it lower.
Cleaning and storing your menstrual sponges
During your menstrual cycle, thoroughly wash your sponge with a pH-balanced, fragrance-free soap. Allow your sponge to air dry before reusing or storing.
Do not use harsh chemicals, essential oils or vinegar on your sponges. These may degrade sponge fibers or leave a residue on the sponge which may cause skin irritation and upset the natural vaginal flora.
Allow sponges to completely air-dry prior to reusing or storing in the cloth pouch provided. Never store your sponges in an air-tight container or plastic bag.
Trimming your menstrual sponge
If the sponge is too large it can be trimmed.
- Sanitise the sponge and a small pair or scissors.
- Trim a small amount off the sides of the sponge and try it again. Repeat until you have a good fit, only removing a small amount each time you trim it.
- Sanitise the sponge and scissors when complete.
When to replace your menstrual sponge
Menstrual sponges last approximately 3-6 months depending on how frequently they are used and how they are cared for.
For hygiene reasons it is recommended sponges are replaced every 3-6 months or it is also time to replace your sponge if;
- larger pieces of the sponge start to pull away or if you notice larger openings on your sponge (smaller pull away parts of the sponge can be trimmed with scissors)
- the sponge has hardened and no longer softens when wet
- the sponge has an odour
- the sponge structures have become weak and your sponge no longer bounces back to its original shape after squeezing out excess water
Dispose of cleaned used sponges in the compost or with your household garbage.
- Seek advice from a medical professional before using a sponge if you have any medical concerns, gynaecological conditions, have an intrauterine device (IUD), have recently given birth, have had surgery in the pelvic area, or if you have ever experienced Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).
- Do not wear a sponge for post-partum bleeding.
- Sponges can be worn during sex however wearing a sponge during intercourse may cause it to move higher into the vaginal canal and make removal more difficult.
- Sponges will not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or pregnancy.
- Practice good hand hygiene when using a sponge and follow the cleaning instructions.
- Only use as directed and never exceed the 6 hour maximum wear time.
- Seek medical assistance if you are unable to remove your sponge.
- IMPORTANT: The use of internal menstrual products such as tampons, menstrual cups and sponges may increase the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). TSS is a rare but serious disease that may cause death. If you feel unwell with fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, headache, fainting or skin rash, remove your sponge and go to the hospital emergency department immediately.