The alternatives to disposable period products

There is a huge range of more eco-friendly menstrual products out there. To help you decide which product or combination of products will work best for you, we’ve put together a description of each, along with its pros and cons.

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What are the alternatives?

Here are some of the options available when picking more sustainable period products, as well as some of their advantages and disadvantages.

Natural Disposable Pads and Tampons

If you want to take an easy first step on your sustainable period journey, switching to natural disposable pads or tampons is a super-simple swap. These disposable products are just like mainstream pads or tampons, but without the plastic! Brilliant. 

For even more information on natural pads and tampons, click here.


  • Made from organic unbleached cotton or sustainable bamboo fibre
  • Cardboard applicator instead of plastic
  • Good for travelling


  • Creation of waste to dispose of. Some brands use bio-based plastics for waterproofing /wrapping
  • Monthly expense
  • Some natural tampons use plastic (FLO, Freda) or bio-based plastic applicators (HeyGirls)

Menstrual cups

Menstrual cups are worn internally so they are a good replacement for tampons. They can be made from silicone, thermoplastic or natural rubber. There are loads of different styles to choose from, which suit different body types or menstrual flow.

You might find it helpful to do the quiz on the Put A Cup In It website, or read this advice from Earthwise Girls to help you choose one. If you’d like to see how a menstrual cup is used, have a look at this article.


  • Zero waste
  • Can be used during swimming
  • Long-lasting (around 10 years)
  • You only need one!


  • Can be hard to get used to inserting and emptying
  • Needs rinsing every time it is emptied
  • All internal menstrual products have a risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome
  • May not be suitable for overnight use – check product recommendations
  • Need sterilising once a month


Washable Menstrual Pads

If you usually use disposable pads, switching to washables is a good green option. Washable pads can be made from a range of materials including organic cotton, polyester fleece, bamboo microfibre or felted wool. Most brands use a layer of PUL plastic for waterproofing, and have poppers on the ‘wings’ to hold them in place.

For some more info and some FAQs about washable pads, take a look at this page.


  • Zero waste
  • Long lasting
  • Some completely plastic-free options
  • Lots of styles and designs to choose from


  • If the pads are made from synthetic fibres they will shed microplastic particles in the laundry
  • Need access to a washing machine
selection of reusable period products on a wooden background
If you want to take things a step further to be a green super-star, you can even make your own! Find out more here.


Period Pants

Washable ‘period pants’ can be made using lots of different materials, including a mix of synthetic fibres. They are a really good alternative for teens, dancers and athletes as they are ‘invisible’ and super easy to use.


  • Easy to use
  • Good for beginners
  • Good for sports such as running or dancing where slippage or chafing can cause problems
  • Comfortable and discreet


  • Expensive to buy a set
  • Shorter life-span than other reusable options (around 2-3 years)
  • Hard to change if wearing trousers/tights
  • If the pants are made from synthetic fibres they will shed microplastic particles in the laundry
  • Need access to a washing machine

Reusable Tampon Applicator

If you use applicator tampons and are trying to reduce your waste, it may be worth investing in a reusable tampon applicator. DAME offer subscriptions to their single-use organic cotton tampons with a reusable plastic applicator.

Reusable Tampon

Reusable cloth tampons are made from a roll of natural cotton cloth, which is secured with a string and inserted in the same way as a disposable non-applicator tampon. They can be worn for 4-6 hours, so are suitable for daytime wear. Reusable tampons need to be boiled to sterilise before first use, and rinsed in cold water after removal to prevent staining. They should be boiled after washing to remove any laundry liquid residue. With proper care, a cloth tampon could last up to ten years.

With all tampons there is a risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome, so the care instructions need to be carefully followed! Imse Vimse have a useful FAQ page which you can read here.


  • Completely plastic-free
  • No monthly expense
  • Zero waste
  • Long lasting (up to 10 years)


  • Can only be used in daytime (4-6 hours)
  • All internal menstrual products have a risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome
  • Need access to a washing machine
  • Need boiling to sterilise and remove laundry residue

If you need any more help or advice, please remember the Ailuna community is always there to connect you with others, and the Ailuna team is always happy to help. Just open the community in the AIluna app or hit the chat button to speak to someone at Ailuna.