One of the best things about menstrual cups is that with the right care, they can last you years! And the care that makes sure your cup keeps in tip-top condition is the same care that ensures it is healthy and safe for you to use.
The best way to care for your cup is to use the boiled water method to sanitize your menstrual cup between cycles. (We love the hack of placing your cup in the middle of a whisk while boiling to keep it from touching the bottom of a pot!)
But what if you can’t easily access boiling hot water? Maybe you don’t feel comfortable watching water boil while your cup bobs around in the middle of your kitchen. (Roommates—even if/especially when they’re family—can be awkward like that).
Don’t worry! There are alternative ways to ensure that your cup is as clean as possible.
Sanitize vs Clean: What’s the Difference?
First, let’s get some definitions out of the way. When people talk about boiling their menstrual cup, this is a method of sanitizing; ‘sanitizing’ means removing any microorganisms (like bacteria) down to a safe level. (‘Sterilizing’ means removing all, which is difficult to do in a home environment.)
Cleaning, on the other hand, means removing surface bacteria, odor, and buildup.
We make menstrual cups out of medical-grade silicone for a few reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is that as a non-porous material, it resists bacteria growth. However, many people feel better about sanitizing their cups between cycles by boiling water, and we recommend it because it helps ensure your cup lasts as long as possible.
How to Sanitize Your Menstrual Cup (without Boiling)
Aside from the boiled water method, you can also sanitize your menstrual cup by using:
- An autoclave. If you happen to have one kicking around (we don’t recommend using the autoclave at your place of work) then it is a great way to sanitize your cup. It should be set to 121°C for 60 minutes, using a dry cycle run, and otherwise used as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
- A breast pump steam bag. These handy tools are for sanitizing parts of breast pump equipment in your microwave. They’re easy to use and claim to kill 99.9 % of common bacteria and germs. Check for any that
- A menstrual cup steam sanitizer. There are several steam cleaners on the market specifically for menstrual cups. Be warned, not all machines are made to the same standard, so be sure to do your research. We can’t check the quality of all such devices so we can’t ensure that they are as thorough as they say that they are, or that they will not damage your cup.
How to Clean Your Menstrual Cup
Cleaning your cup during your cycle is as easy as a thorough rinse and some alcohol-free antibacterial soap! Some people like to clean their cup in the shower as it’s discreet and easy to do after emptying their cup. On the other end of the convenience spectrum is the oft-dreaded ‘public washroom clean.’
We’ve got your guide for cleaning your cup in a public washroom here!
How to Remove Stains From Your Menstrual Cup
Even with proper sanitizing and cleaning, your cup will undergo some colour changes from use. As well, you may run into staining or odor issues. Here are ways to remove stains or smells from your menstrual cup:
- Hydrogen peroxide (1%): You can find this in most drug stores or pharmacies. Use one part 1% hydrogen peroxide and one part water. Submerge your cup and let it soak for 24 hours. Give it a good, thorough wash to remove all of the hydrogen peroxide residues before using it or storing it.
- Apple cider vinegar (diluted in water): This might be as effective as hydrogen peroxide, but chances are you have some around the house! Use 2 Tbsp (30 ml) to 1 cup (250 ml) water. Submerge and soak your cup for 24 hours. If it still smells a bit like vinegar after washing the cup, follow up with a boiling session.
When to Throw Out Your Cup
Cups aren’t indestructible. Your Intimina menstrual cup is reusable for up to 10 years (or 2 years for the Ziggy Cup) but you may need to replace it earlier than that.
You should replace your menstrual cup if:
- There is any visible, physical damage such as cracking or splitting.
- The cup becomes sticky to the touch even after cleaning or has a chalky residue.
- Any smells linger, even after you try the above tips.
- A strange color develops (fading is normal, green is not, for example)
Lane Baumeister is an internationally-based Canadian writer with several years’ experience creating educational and entertaining articles that discuss intimate health and sexual well-being. When not waxing profound about menstruation, she devotes herself to enjoying extremely good food and equally bad movies.