How to Clean Your Menstrual Cup & Store It Safely
How to clean a menstrual cup is often the first question people ask when introduced to period products like cups and discs. Given that a big advantage of cups is that they are reusable, it makes sense that keeping them clean should be a priority and finding a method that works for you is important.
In this post we’ll go over the steps to clean your menstrual cup from start to finish. You’ll learn what to do before using one for the first time, how to clean a menstrual cup for daily use, and how to boil your menstrual cup.
We’ll also show you how to sanitize a menstrual cup without boiling and answer some common questions about cleaning and disinfecting your menstrual cup (like how to use it on the go!).
How to clean your menstrual cup
You need to clean your cup between uses and between periods as well as sterilizing it after every cycle. Always remember to wash your hands before touching the cup or yourself to reduce the risk of infections and bacteria spreading.
The good news is that keeping your cup clean is relatively simple once you get the right technique. Even better is that the right technique is the one that works for you and that you are most comfortable with.
First time use and at the end of each cycle
To prepare the cup for first time use you’ll need to wash it with a mild cleanser and then sanitize it in boiling water. Wash your hands first and then wash the cup under warm running water with a mild cleanser for a thorough initial cleaning.
To sanitize and disinfect the cup totally, boil in a pot of water for no more than 10 minutes. You’ll need to monitor the cup during this stage so it doesn’t stick to the pot or get stuck and burn. Follow this process before using a cup for the first time and after you’ve finished your period for a thorough clean.
Cleaned and ready to go? Check out our guide on how to insert a menstrual cup.
How to boil your menstrual cup
You don’t have to boil your cup, but it is recommended by most brands to fully sanitize your cup after each cycle.
After washing your cup with soap and water, place it in a small pot and boil for at least 1-2 minutes (5-7 minutes is ideal). Take care not to let it stick or burn to the bottom and use a dedicated pot just for this purpose. A popular hack is to put your cup in a wire whisk so it can’t stick to the bottom or setting a timer so you don’t forget about it. Over-boiling your cup can contribute to the breakdown of the materials and will damage your cup over time.
Some manufacturers even make specialty containers that allow you to boil your cup in the microwave if that’s a better option for you. With this method you put the cup in a specialty sanitizing cup, fill with water and then boil in the microwave for 3-4 minutes.
Whichever method of boiling you choose, remove the cup after the recommended time and let it air dry before putting it away to store.
How to sanitize your menstrual cup without boiling
Your cup can still be sanitized even if you don’t boil it. Steaming and sterilizing tablets are an alternative to boiling and work just as well. Sterilizing tablets are usually used for baby bottles and you simply follow the manufacturer’s instructions to soak the cup for the appropriate amount of time. These can be a great alternative to boiling as you can use them with cold water and they are especially helpful if you don’t have access to a stove or don’t feel comfortable cleaning your cup in a shared kitchen.
You can also sanitize your cup by steaming it. This can be done in a breast pump steam bag, an autoclave (a special machine that uses steam to get rid of bacteria), or a dedicated menstrual cup steamer. Some manufacturers make a dedicated “cup steamer” similar in size and appearance to an essential oils diffuser. The advantage of these machines is that you don’t have to use your cookware to sanitize your cup and you can do it anywhere (not just in the kitchen).
Daily routine cleaning (during your period)
Cups can be safely worn for at least 12 hours which means that unless you have a heavy flow and are changing it often, you shouldn’t need to clean your cup more than twice a day. Even better is that silicone is naturally bacteria resistant so you don’t need to do a thorough cleaning every time. You can empty the contents and gently rinse the cup with water between uses. If your cup has tiny air holes, make sure you keep them clear so you don’t leave any bacteria hiding.
While it’s not necessary you can opt to use a mild soap or cleanser to wash the cup, there are specialty soaps available just for this purpose. When choosing a cleanser, make sure it’s fragrance-free, oil-free, and avoid antibacterial soaps as they can upset the ph-balance of the vagina and may cause irritation.
How to clean day-to-day
For day-to-day cleaning you have several options. If you’re at home or somewhere familiar you can simply rinse or clean the cup in whatever way you prefer. It’s not necessary to remove your cup every time you go to the bathroom but some people find that easier.
At times, it may be necessary to clean your cup somewhere that isn’t the comfort of your own home. In these instances, you have a few options; a private restroom with a sink is always best as it will give you the privacy and room you need but may not always be available. If that’s not an option you can carry a water bottle to rinse the cup over the toilet, use personal hygiene wipes, keep a second cup on hand, or in a pinch you can simply empty and reinsert without rinsing. It’s not ideal, and you may need to use some tissue, but sometimes you have to make do with what you have.
Cleaning products you can use
As mentioned above, you can simply use a mild cleanser and water to keep your cup clean but there are other options as well. Some manufacturers offer specific cleansers for menstrual cups that are pH-balanced and free of dyes and fragrances. But you can also use pH-balanced soaps like liquid Castile or glycerin soap since they are mild and won’t cause any irritation.
Cleaning products to avoid
The delicate tissues of the vagina can be sensitive to certain products or chemicals, not to mention that some could disrupt your vaginal pH balance. Avoid products with scents or fragrances, oil-based soap, rubbing alcohol, antibacterial soap, bleach, or dishwashing soap. It’s also best to avoid using the dishwasher to clean your cup and you should never microwave the cup alone.
How to store your menstrual cup between cycles
Let the cup dry completely after sanitizing it before putting your cup away between cycles. Any moisture encourages bacteria to grow and then be transferred to your vagina. On that note, never store your cup in an airtight container or plastic bag. A breathable container will keep your cup smelling better overall and ensure a longer life. Some manufacturers even make specific carrying cases but any breathable container or pouch will do. Store in a cool and dry location until your next period.
FAQs about cleaning your menstrual cup
How do I get rid of menstrual cup odor?
If cleaned and sterilized properly, your cup really shouldn’t smell. If you do notice an odor it’s likely because it was sterilized in a pot that wasn’t completely clean or you’ve left it too long before emptying it. In other cases it could indicate you have a vaginal infection. If your cup smells, take an unused toothbrush to scrub it thoroughly, rinse with a shot of cold water (hot water can lock in smells), and sanitize completely.
How often should I clean my menstrual cup?
When in use you should aim for daily cleaning using whatever method you prefer. This removes some of the surface bacteria, odor, and buildup that naturally occur. At the end of your period you should take it a step further and sanitize your cup to remove all the bacteria and prevent any growth before next use. If your cup has holes, always take care to make sure they are fully cleaned out so bacteria can’t hide away.
Can I boil my menstrual cup for too long?
Yes! Your cup should be in the water for no more than 10 minutes, although most manufacturers recommend somewhere between 2-7 minutes. Leave your cup in the water any longer and you risk the silicone softening or thinning over time.
How can I clean my menstrual cup in a public bathroom?
As long as you have access to clean running water, you can clean your cup anywhere, even a public bathroom. But if discreteness is your main concern, there are subtle ways to clean a cup when you are out and about. A small water bottle can be used to rinse the cup with water over the toilet or you can even wipe the menstrual cup with toilet paper. Be sure to empty the contents with one hand while using the other to wipe with clean toilet paper and then remember to wash your cup when you get home.
Menstrual cups are a safe and environmentally-conscious alternative to tampons and pads. With the right care, they can last for years and many people find them an easier method for dealing with their period. Using them can seem daunting at first, but once you know how to clean your menstrual cup there’s nothing stopping you from making the switch.