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CARE 101 FOR YOUR MENSTRUAL CUPS

It’s a sultry Sunday afternoon and you are sitting at your computer, madly dashing off mails to every woman in your shared sisterhood circle about your miraculous new discovery of menstrual cups. While you explain every little detail about its usage and care, you realize that a standard sterilization procedure might not be applicable for every woman who uses menstrual cups. And if you are left wondering about what are the different options available to keep your menstrual cup clean, this article is for you.

How often do I have to sterilize my cup?

Ideally, menstrual cups need to be sterilized before and after each menstrual cycle. If twice seems like an impossibility once in a while, you MUST boil it at least one in between cycles. During your menstrual cycle, you are required to clean it each time you empty and reinsert, if possible. Rinse it with cold water so that the stains don’t set in. If this is not possible once in a while, feel free to empty the cup and put it back as it is, but remember to give it a good clean once you get back home. If possible, you can simply carry some tissue paper and wipe down the cup with it, in case of non-availability of water. In between cycles, it is also important to store the cup in a hygienic and dry environment to avoid the possibility of contamination, and consequently, infections.

So, what are the different sterilizing options?

  1. Invade the good old kitchen

Really. This is the easiest and most effective way of cleaning those little cups of joy. Sterilization is a simple way of killing all the potential bacteria that is thriving in the cup ecosystem. Just like one would boil feeding bottles and nipples for babies, one can similarly boil menstrual cups. It is best practice to dedicate a particular pan/vessel for boiling, so that others in the household who feel squeamish about your boiling-in-the-kitchen adventure can be at peace.

Boil it on the Stove: Just take a pan/vessel and fill it three quarters with clean, drinking water. Put it on the stove, bring the water to boil and toss your menstrual cup/s inside (Yes, you can boil more than one cup at the same time). Put the burner on medium flame, and remember to keep watching over the cup once in a while. It is advisable to do the boiling business when you are already engaged in the kitchen – shell some peas or grate some cheese, so that you do not forget the cup simmering away on the stove! Notice the water level, and add more water if required. At all points, there should be enough water for the cup to keep bobbing, and not sinking down to the bottom of the pan/vessel. If the water level depletes considerably, chances are you could end up burning your cup and bringing down the whole house with its rubbery smoky smells. Boil the cup for at least 5 – 10 minutes, after which, drain the water out of the pan, and take your menstrual cup out with clean and washed hands. You can also rinse it out with cold water, so you can take it out without burning your fingers. Once done, you can air dry it before storing it away.

Go for the Microwave: If boiling on the stove is not a possibility once in a while, for whatever reason, then you also have the option of sterilizing it using a microwave. Find a microwave safe container that can fit your cup and fill it with water. Put the cup inside the container and ensure that the cup is completely submerged in water. Whatever be the brand or type of your microwave, you’ll need to microwave your cup for about 3-5 minutes. Once done, allow it to cool down for a while before taking it out of the container. This method is not recommended each time you boil your cup. Continuous use of microwaves for sterilizing can degrade the quality of the cup, and could also reduce its life.

Kettle it Up: FYI, if you live in a hostel/paying guest accommodation or in a household where boiling your menstrual hygiene products in the kitchen is a big no, you have another option in the form of kettles. You can simply buy yourself a small steel kettle, and boil your menstrual cup in the privacy of your room, without the hassle of carrying it all the way to the kitchen and being mortified. The instructions for boiling using a kettle are same as you’d boil it over a stove. Avoid buying plastic kettles, as they are not only non-biodegradable, but boiling your cup in it might also harm the quality of the cup.

Whether you are boiling it over the stove, in a microwave, or in a kettle, you might occasionally find a layer of residue either in the pan or on your menstrual cup. This is completely normal as these are just residual salts and there is no reason to panic. Simply wipe the residue off with a cloth or run it under cold water and you are good to go! Another important point is to ensure that you clean the air-holes in the cup with a jet of water or a fresh toothpick so that no blood settles inside them. Any bloody remnants can act as a breeding ground for bacteria, and subsequently infections.

  1. Sterilizing Tablets is an Option Too!

Just like you would sterilize nipples for baby feeding bottles, you can sterilize your menstrual cups too using sterilizing tablets like Milton. One can easily avail them in any nearby medical store. Take a small pan and drop quarter of a sterilizing tablet in a little more than one litre of water[1]. If you put less water, it is possible that the solution becomes a little sticky, which is entirely fine. Allow it to melt in the water for about 15 minutes. After this, throw in your menstrual cup and leave it in there for the recommended amount of time. Once done, you can rinse it off with water (which would also remove the stickiness, if any) and air dry it.

HygieneandYouWhere do I store my cup after cleaning?

Whatever care procedure you follow to sterilize, it is important to properly store the squeaky clean menstrual cup. After the cup is dry and free of moisture, put it back in the airy cotton pouch that the cup comes in. Do not store it in plastic bags or containers. If you don’t have the pouch for some reason, you can wrap the cup up in a clean cotton handkerchief. If you have some time, and some colourful soft, cotton cloth, you can simply hand-sew a pouch all by yourself!

 

To buy cleaning material, click here.

[1] The Milton Website advises 5 litres of water for 1 Sterilizing Tablet. So you can do the math, according to the amount of water you’d need for your menstrual cup.

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