Sea Pearls (menstrual sponges): a review

Warning: This post contains explicit descriptions of internal menstrual products and the use thereof, cervical and menstrual fluids, and my sex life. If you are particularly squeamish, or a member of my family, navigate away now.

Sea Pearls menstrual sponges

Sea Pearls menstrual sponges

Although I’m a happy home-made cloth pad user most of the time, I decided to invest in an internal product a couple cycles ago, for the (rare, for me) occasion when a pad is ineffective or inconvenient (swimming and massage come to mind). Because of my pelvic organ prolapses, neither traditional disposable tampons nor menstrual cups, reusable or disposable, work for me; that left, to my knowledge, Sea Pearls1.

And so I ordered some from a friend of mine, Zoom Baby Gear2, and after picking them up I spent nearly an hour giggling at the, as advertised, full-color pamphlet. I’m not sure what I found so amusing about it; maybe the starfish and shells on the cover, the obligatory bisected woman picture (to show insertion), the endorsement from Cleopatra3, or what. Perhaps I’m just not quite as enlightened as I like to think. I did, eventually, get over the giggles, and looked forward to testing them out.

Because it was the end of my period, I didn’t get a chance to try them until nearly a month later. And that is when I experienced Backpocalypse 2010, and about all I can say from that cycle is that 1) at least I didn’t leak while I was collapsed on the floor for nearly two hours then standing up wandering around in agony for another nearly two, and 2) The Man had a hell of a time getting it out for me (back spasm = couldn’t even reach to wipe myself, much less retrieve the sponge), but did, eventually, manage it.

The next month, I finally had them, a period, and the ability to get them in and out unassisted. So, I’ve had one cycle and one day of using these puppies, and finally feel like I can give a decent review.

Yes, you have to touch yourself: getting the Sea Pearl in and taking it out

Let me start by telling you that I’ve used disposable tampons with an applicator all of maybe twice in my life, and I hated it; I used non-applicator tampons throughout high school and for years afterward; I’ve charted my cervical fluid and cervical texture, position, and os width for years; my idea of a brilliant used-book-store find is A New View of a Woman’s Body: A Fully Illustrated Guide4; and I masturbate, rather a lot, including while menstruating. So I’m kinda used to the idea of touching myself, reaching into my genitals, and, when called for, getting my hands pretty darn messy. (Hey, skin cleans up great.) If you are not, consider this an opportunity to discover that our bodies really aren’t as gross as we’ve been led to believe: we can touch them, and survive!

So, the sponge. When dry, it is hard, kind of scratchy, and not at all squishy. But, run it under the tap for a moment, and, as a sponge should, it becomes soft, pliable, and very compressible, which are all very good things when looking to insert it into one’s vagina.

(A note: the sponge should, as the pamphlet says, be inspected5 and cleaned — more on that below — before first use.)

To insert, I get it wet, squeeze out as much water as possible, and compress what had formerly been a perhaps 1″ diameter, 2″ long sponge into the size of a very large pill capsule between my thumb and first two fingers. Sitting on the toilet, or standing up with a leg on the back of the toilet, I then insert it into my vagina; I try to at least get all of it between my vaginal walls at this stage so that it does not expand in the air, although it is not yet in its final place.

Next, I use my forefinger or fore and middle fingers to navigate the compressed (but slightly more expanded now) sponge into place in front of my cervix (which, because of my prolapse and sideways tilt, means it winds up in a sort of crevice high up and off to the right); I find it helpful to bear down slightly while keeping my fingers in place, effectively bringing my cervix to my fingers rather than vice versa: when I relax, the sponge is pulled back up. If necessary, I poke it around a bit more to get it just so, but at this point, I usually find I can’t even feel it anymore, and everything is quite comfortable.

The pictures and instructions have the sponge more in the vaginal canal rather than right in front of the cervix; that doesn’t work for me, since around menstruation — when the ligaments relax and the uterus and cervix usually drop a bit anyway — there’s not a whole lot of vaginal canal to use, and having anything there feels pretty uncomfortable. But it might work better for some to place it there, more like a traditional tampon.

When it comes time to remove it, I find the sponge has expanded (makes sense, since it’s filled with fluid now, right?), has moved/expanded more into the vaginal canal, and I am able to reach it fairly easily between my two fingers to gently pull it out. This can, if my flow has been heavy, squeeze some menstrual fluid out of the sponge, but since I always do this step over the toilet, I don’t find that to be a problem.

Some people, apparently, tie floss or string around the sponge, making it even more like a tampon, and so you only have to pull, rather than reach, to retrieve it. I suppose you could, but I have no desire to do so; either way, unlike a single use tampon you’re going to plop in the toilet, you have to hold the thing to get it to the sink, so your hand’s gonna get messy anyway.

Isn’t that messy?? Well, yes. Rinsing the menstrual sponge

This bit is the part I find really cool, but also sometimes annoying: I get the sponge from my vagina (or rather, from in my hands sort of floating in the toilet basin) to the sink, and rinse it out. (I have so far been lucky/able to plan it so I am only removing it in a toilet from which I can reach the sink; this stage would be a lot more complex logistics-wise if using a public toilet or one not in reach of a sink, and frankly, I hope I never have to figure out what to do then.) If my flow has been heavy, this has sometimes left drips of bloody fluid along the path it travels through the air, but so far has not landed on anything not easily wiped off.

The cool bit? The sponge usually (except on really heavy flow days) doesn’t look like much; there might be some red bits on the outside, or a brownish tinge around the sides, but it certainly doesn’t look like the movies lead us to believe a blood-soaked sponge should look like. But! When I start rinsing it, out comes all this bright-red water. Almost out of nowhere. I find this fascinatingly cool. (See above statement of midwifery/sex ed geekery.)

The annoying part is that there is almost always a spot on the sponge, I believe where it was pressed against my cervix, which is simply plastered with mucus6. And that stuff does NOT like to come off. I’m getting better at it, and no longer need to run the water for five minutes (!) to get it off; I find a bit of friction, and scraping it with my finger nail, breaks it up enough to let go of the surface of the sponge, and I can get it thoroughly rinsed in a minute or less. I’ve never read a mention of this elsewhere, so I assume it has to do with my placement of the sponge directly against the cervix, but since that’s where I’m gonna keep using it, I’m gonna keep having to deal with it, so I might as well tell y’all about it, right? Right.

After it’s rinsed, you can 1) disinfect it, and then leave it out to dry for later use, 2) set it aside to disinfect later (keeping in mind that the longer after use and before disinfection, the longer bacteria etc have a chance to settle in and multiply), or 3) pop it back in. I’ve done all of these; although I don’t use the sponge as my primary menstrual collection product, I find it easier to rinse and reuse than try to store until I can get home and clean it.

A nice relaxing soak… in vinegar: cleaning the sponge

The Sea Pearl pamphlet lists a number of ways to clean the sponges. They recommend against boiling or using soap, as these break down the sponge more quickly, but have a number of other suggestions, all of which come down to soaking in a disinfecting solution of some kind. Suggestions include baking soda, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, tea tree oil, sea salt, and colloidal silver.7 I’ve so far only used apple cider vinegar (since I have it in the bathroom for my hair anyway), and it seems to be highly effective, leaving no odors and only one spot of discoloration.

ETA: I just tried a hydrogen peroxide soak (about 1:4 H2O2 to water), leaving it in for, ah, about two hours (I was watching Doctor Who and got distracted…), and it not only got clean, it got clean, and is now the same color it was when I first bought it. No more stains whatsoever. I would recommend very thoroughly rinsing afterward, as the same reason H2O2 is an effective disinfectant makes it rather harsh on living tissue.

The sponge requires slightly more attention than disposable tampons (though there’s no risk of clogging the toilet *cough*), and a different sort of attention than cloth pads, but overall I find it quite easy to care for.

Yeah, but does it work?

Yeah, it really does work. Other than slight spotting that comes from putting it in when my vagina already has menstrual fluid in it (and thus it continues to work its way out), I haven’t had any leaks or failures from the sponge. It expands to fill the space given it, so there’s little chance of a leak past, and I haven’t yet “overfilled” it. What I do find is that when it starts to get full, I start to feel it — and that prompts me to take it out, rinse, and reuse or return to primary pad use. It’s not uncomfortable, unlike a full tampon used to be (I used side-expanding ones, and those things had some edges!), but it is there, and nags at me until I do something about it.

Because I don’t use the sponge regularly, and haven’t used it overnight ever, I haven’t had a chance to test out the claims that it’s fine to leave in during penetrative sex, and I don’t really see that happening soon. I do think it would be fine, though. My main concern would be if the sponge was already “full” — I’d worry both about leaking (from compression) and being more in the way (from having already expanded). There’s also the cleaning issue; if cervical mucus is tough to clean off, how much more so the abundant mucus of ejaculation? But, it’s good to know the option is there, unlike with disposable tampons or a reusable menstrual cup.

FDA, TSS, and pollution, oh my!

(You can calm down, those are three different topics.)

Now, what does the FDA8 have to say about this? Way back in 1980 (the year before I was born!),

twelve “menstrual sponges” were examined by the University of Iowa Laboratory and found to contain sand, grit, bacteria, and various other materials. The sponges were voluntarily recalled by the distributor.

(As the pamphlet points out, Sea Pearls, just like single-use tampons, are not sterile, and — unlike single-use tampons — might have minor debris and thus should be inspected and cleaned before use.) I have read in many places that their sale is, because of this, “technically illegal”, but what the FDA actually says is:

Sea sponges labeled as “menstrual sponges,” “hygienic sponges,” or “sanitary sponges,” intended for use as menstrual tampons, are regarded as significant risk devices requiring premarket approval under Section 515.

I have been unable to discover whether Jade & Pearl has obtained such or not.

Does this scare me away from their use? No, not at all. At the risk of sounding conspiracy-theorist, the businesses with money to spend are, in general, the ones who get products approved by the FDA. The disposable tampon and pad industry have lot of money; sponge harvesters and distributors, not so much. While this doesn’t make sponge sellers “good” and disposable menstrual product manufacturers “bad”, it does make me take any promotion of the ones with more money, and defamation of the ones with less, with a grain — haha — of salt.

As for TSS9, I have found reference to one confirmed case of TSS due to menstrual sponge use, in 1980 (compare this to “more than 800 cases and 38 deaths” in the USA in 1980 from tampon use). TSS risk from tampon use, primarily found during the era of using hydrogels in tampons (the same super-absorbent polymers still used in abundance today in disposable diapers), is caused by microscopic wounds created in the vagina’s mucosal walls when they get too dry (and then are roughed up by friction, such as the removal of a tampon), allowing a common bacteria, usually Staphylococcus aureus, to enter the bloodstream. The Jade & Pearl Sea Pearl pamphlet reads “Rest assured that Sea Pearls sea sponge tampons do not have the same drying effects as single use tampons.”

I, however, am not completely sure: the sponge is absorbent, though not greedily the way a tampon is (consider: the sponge is inserted when damp; a cotton or rayon tampon when dry), and at the end of my period, when there is not so much menstrual fluid, but my vaginal and cervical fluids haven’t yet geared up in anticipation of ovulation, I find the sponge more sticky, as it were, to remove. Do I think, therefore, I am at high risk of toxic shock? No, certainly not. Definitely no more so than using a conventional tampon (whose risk is already quite low), and, based on comparative feel alone (and worth what you paid for it), probably less.

A concern that some people have raised which I find more compelling than TSS is pollution, and the potential of toxic chemicals embedded within the structure of the sponge. Sea sponges are (very simple) sea creatures; they grow wild in the ocean, and although they are quite low on the food chain (as opposed to, say, tuna, or swordfish), they still spend their entire life-cycle soaked in the oceans we have made nigh-unlivable. How much of that gets absorbed in the matrix we use as a sponge? And how much of that then gets absorbed into our bloodstream via our highly permeable vaginal membranes? Could it possibly be worse than the dioxin-traced tampons millions of people use every day? I have no idea. But it’s something to think about.

But… a sea sponge?? A conclusion

Totally, a sea sponge. Granted I can’t compare it to a menstrual cup, single-use tampons haven’t been comfortable for me for years, and I’m still gonna stay loyal to my cloth pads for most of my menstrual needs, but for when I want to really get my gluts worked on, or long for a dip in the hot tub, or simply want a back-up? Sea sponge, all the way. They are soft, comfortable, easy to use, effective, and fit my body like no other internal device I’ve tried. I’m definitely going to keep them around.

Your turn: Have you ever used a menstrual sponge, and what did/do you think of them? What internal menstrual products have you used? Do you have any questions or concerns about the use of sea sponges as a reusable tampon? Might you now take a second look at those strange lumpy things you’ve seen in the health food store?

********************

  1. Jade & Pearl Sea Pearls are the only menstrual sponges I have been able to locate, although several sources say you can buy cosmetic sea sponges and re-purpose them for menstruation.
  2. Disclosure: I received no compensation for this review from Zoom Baby Gear nor any other company or entity, and paid full retail price for my Sea Pearls, though I did receive $1 off my wet bag in the same purchase.
  3. OK, the exact quote is “Actually Cleopatra used sea sponges as tampons.” How exactly do we know this?
  4. My love for this book cannot be overstated: it perfectly appeals to my midwifery/reproduction, feminist history, and sex ed geekery.
  5. For debris or bits of sand or shell; I found none.
  6. I’m normally a big fan of saying cervical fluid rather than cervical mucus; after all, we say seminal fluid not seminal mucus, although it’s almost exactly the same stuff! (Except for the sperm, of course.) But this? Mucus.
  7. I would personally recommend against using tea tree oil, as it has estrogen mimicking/endocrine disrupting properties, and I’m not sure I want any extra estrogen pressed against my mucus membranes for hours.
  8. The Food and Drug Administration of the United States of America
  9. Toxic Shock Syndrome
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53 Responses to Sea Pearls (menstrual sponges): a review

  1. Great post!
    Years ago I used sea sponges for a while and found them effective and comfortable. I used to add a string (just threaded through the sponge with a needle and tied, like a loop) which helped with removing them.
    Eventually I tried a menstrual cup (the Keeper) and never turned back. It was even better, neater, made me less nervous about the (remote) possibility of TSS or infection.
    Have always used flannel pads and I still do. Nowadays, mostly just the pads as my cycle is very light now.
    I always thought I was the crazy-mentrual-habits lady and am glad to see I’m not alone. Thanks!

  2. I have tried a re-usable menstrual cup, and I quite liked it. However, I have an IUD now, and they’re not recommended for use with an IUD. Fortunately (?) I also have almost no period (it’s a progesterone-releasing IUD), so cloth pantyliners, or even just living with the occasional spot, do the trick for me. I might consider using a sea sponge though if I had a heavier flow and I still had the IUD.

  3. I used one for a few months last year because I wanted a good back-up for when I went swimming. I really liked it, they’re very comfortable and they seemed like they would be effective if I had a lighter period. Sadly, on my heavier days I would bleed through two of them in a very short period of time and cleaning off the mucus every couple of hours got annoying pretty quickly. Speaking of which, I’d never seen anyone else mention the mucus problem at all and it’s good to know I’m not alone in having that happen.

    • OhIGetIt — so if I may ask, what if anything do you use when swimming now? And what size were you using?

      It’s one of my goals in life to speak things that remain unspoken, so I’m glad to hear someone else is glad to hear about the mucus thing. ;)

      • I use a diva cup now and even though I have to change it just as frequently on my heaviest days I prefer it because I don’t have to scrub the mucus out of it. Also, I have an IUD and have had no problem with the menstrual cup, I just make sure to break the seal before pulling it out so that there’s no suction that could possibly pull the IUD out with the cup.

      • Oh, I didn’t answer your question. *headdesk* I was using the large, I just have a /really/ heavy flow for two days of my period.

  4. If only I were able to find such wonderfully thorough reviews on everything I might be interested in. Great piece!

  5. Love the product review (and all out body geekiness).

    I use a divacup and love it. I’ve been using it for about 4 years, and really have no plans on switching it up because it works so well. But I am very glad to hear a review of a choice of internal products I might like!

    How long do the sponges last? A few cycles? A year?

    I might just go re-read this. I just loved it.

    • Amber Morrisey — Jade & Pearl says they last, full use, for at least half a dozen cycles, but I’ve read other reviews from people who say they last for years. I think it probably depends on how they get washed, and how often you use them for each cycle.

      I think this review guarantees me a place in the Body Geek Hall of Fame. ;)

  6. Love this review! I read every word. I so want to try this out now; I saw one at the store today so know where I can get some.

    I’m still using the Diva Cup, and quite like it. It has a lot of the same issues as the sea sponge, in that you have to be comfortable touching yourself, and you have to not mind dealing with the blood. And that it helps to have a sink nearby when you’re emptying, and even so you’re likely going to leave a little blood trail. I’m fine with all that, though. I’m in the midst of trying out some different cloth pads as backup, and so far so good.

    Can you give a ballpark of how long the sponge could stay in before you had to change it? I know everybody’s flow levels are different, but maybe you could just tell me how it compares to disposable tampons from what you remember. I used to have to change disposable tampons anywhere from a couple hours on super-heavy days to every 8 hours on lighter days, but I think 4-6 hours was the average or recommended span?

    • Lauren — The brochure says rinse every 3-4 hours for maximum absorbency, but that they can be left in overnight. On my heaviest, chunkiest flow, I’ve wanted to change it within 2-3 hours, and I think the maximum I’ve left it in so far has been 6 (on a light day, so it wasn’t full, I was just done). So basically, I’d say the regular size (which is what I have — they come in teenie, regular, and large) is about comparable to a Plus or Super Plus tampon.

  7. Great post and wonderful detail. I will send the article to anyone looking to change up their routine!

  8. Great review! I am intrigued and may try these out (I’ve been using Instead cups, but would love something more environmentally friendly that’s not as high-maintenance as cloth).

    A question I had after reading your review was how environmentally sustainable harvesting sea sponges is. According to the website, it’s very sustainable, but they do get most of their sponges from the Gulf Coast, which worries me a bit given the current state of that area.

  9. Now I’m intrigued, and may go hunting for some of these locally (since I’m taking provera to stimulate a period right now, and will be needing to do *something* by the end of the week.

    I’ve used a keeper and cloth pads exclusively for about 4-5 years, but my cycles are notoriously random, so I’ve used each maybe a dozen times.

    On my heaviest days, I can fill a keeper to overflowing in under 2 hours, and I work out of the home, with inconvenient bathrooms (like, one room w/ bathroom stalls, and then the sink is out the door….so a sponge probably wouldn’t work my entire cycle, but I eventually find the cup to irritate me a bit later in my cycle, and a sponge might be a good alternate.

  10. Thanks for the post, I LOVE sea sponges and feel like they never get the same kind of attention that diva cups and reusable pads do. Hey, they’re not for everyone, but neither are those other two options. Folks deserve to know about them!

  11. Good post, I honestly haven’t seen any sponges around here, but I have heard of them.

    I use a cup and I really love it. One thing that irritates me (that would be worse with the sponge from the sounds) is that at my home you have to go out of the toilet to use the sink. Which I suppose is a minor irritation, but would be worse with something that drips (the cup doesn’t really).

    Completely off the topic, but your post just reminded me I had a dream last night that my mum called to “warn me about IUDs”. Not sure what that’s about. *shrugs*

  12. I’m a keeper/cloth pad girl m’self, but the idea of penetration while bleeding intrigues me. My DH has no problem with sex on a period, I’m the one with the shame/grossness issues. Has anyone used it during sex with positive/negative results?

    Also, I had no idea about the IUD-cup issues. My IUD ended up moving and chilling out in my cervix (without my knowledge) and gave us quite a scare. I wonder now if my cup usage assisted in yanking it out of position :-/

    A very interesting review, I’ll definitely have to try one at some point!

  13. I’ve used tampons pretty much since I got my period, but have been considering switching to something like the diva cup when my period returns after I have this baby. I’ll have to look into this IUD-cup incompatibility, though, as I probably will go back to using an IUD as my birth control post-baby, as well…

    I’m curious about the sponge, but not sure it’d be very convenient for me– only our downstairs bathroom has a sink you can easily reach from the toilet, our master bath has the separate-toilet thing with the sink several feet away so that wouldn’t really work (and yes, I am a bit squeamish about carrying a menstrual-blood-filled sponge to the sink, and wondering how to also get around pulling up my pants, etc, while holding it). I also don’t know if I’d be up for rinsing it out in a public bathroom while out and about… But, it certainly is nice to know of other options for those who don’t like/can’t use the cup.

    (I also am mildly curious about cloth menstrual pads, but don’t really like pads in general…would be willing to maybe try cloth for pantyliners, esp if they’ve gotten good about wicking moisture away from the skin)

  14. Thanks for this review! I’ve used disposable tampons since I started cycling, but decided to switch to a diva cup a couple years ago. Thanks to pregnancy & breastfeeding, I’ve only been able to try it out for 2 cycles. I’m sure I’ll love the Diva cup, but I was thinking about my daughters. Last I heard, menstrual cups are not recommended for non-sexually-active women, so when my daughters first start cycling, I was hoping to find something other than pads and tampons for them… this might be the answer!

  15. Pingback: Hello period! « Raising My Boychick

  16. Fantastic review, very detailed. I also like the fact that they can be just put on the compost heap when it’s time to renew them.
    But they start to degrade when they are getting near the end of their life. So, would any bits of sponge remain inside? I would change mine before they started to degrade!

  17. Pingback: When a period isn’t a period « Raising My Boychick

  18. Fabulous, detailed review. Great to see you telling it ‘like it is’. I’ve recently reviewed some cloth pads, having never used anything like that before, and I absolutely loved them. Am now looking to try other products that are less damaging to the environment than conventional sanitary products. I have a couple of sea-pearls in the post and am looking forward to trying them. Excellent, factual and entertaining review, thank you for sharing :O)

  19. Very informative! I’ve just stated using a sponge – as in, yesterday – and went on the hunt for a bit more information than the seller provided. I bought mine from Jam Sponge, which is UK based, as i haven’t found a seller in my part of the (scandinavian) woods.
    Their sponges are somewhat larger than what you describe – my internet cm to inch converter says 3.5×2.8 inches. A bit difficult to maneuver on the first try, but with a bit of wiggling it stopped pressing on my bladder. Which was nice, truly. I’m happy you could inform me as to where that annoyingly-difficult-to remove mucus came from – that was a bit of a surprise, I’m not that knowledgeable about the workings of those parts of my body. I am, though, trying to educate myself, seeing as it’s some of the more obviously useful ones :) I can’t see how you’d place it anywhere else, though, but that may be due to the size.
    I have one question still that I hope can be answered. My seller described this sinking down of the sponge as well, but despite wearing it overnight and a couple of hours into the morning on a heavy flow, it took quite a lot of awkward squatting, leaking and grabbing to get it out. The leaking started well before I was anywhere where I could remove it, and it was obviously full, but still somewhat stuck. I tilt quite a bit, internally, and I am only 22 – so no babies, and quite.. vaginally fit, I guess?! That should hardly be a problem though, I figure. Any suggestions for future avoidance of this issue?
    Thanks for a great and detailed review, at any rate.

    • Katrine — I think that’s why some people tie strings around their sponges, to assist with removal. With my uterine prolapse, it wasn’t really an issue (except that first time, but that didn’t count), but different vaginas have different depths and shapes (and we have different fingers and bodies and ability to contort ourselves), so I’d say if it continues to be an issue, try the string trick. Just sterilize it after applying and before using.

  20. Very informative, I love getting a “real use” review on all items.

    While I am thrilled with my cups, I do like to know more about my other options, and I think you did a great job breaking everything down here.

    One thought–in my cup use/cleaning/sanitizing, I have learned that peroxide quickly breaks down to simple water if left open and exposed to light. (hence the capping and dark colored bottles.) So provided that you’re letting it soak for about 2 hours, your peroxide has turned to water. Rinse it sure, but don’t make it a crazy rinse-a-thon on account of it being peroxide. :)

  21. Thanks for this review!

    I am a very heavy bleeder (due to uterine fibroid) and I use a menstrual cup AND a sea sponge (in the same time !) once a period. I’s the only way I found to have an almost complete night beetween my two worst days of the month ;-). I tried a few times to use two cups in the same time, one around my cervix and the other one below in my vagina, but it didn’t work as well as a cup + a sponge. I know it sounds really weird but it IS very comfortable for me.

    During the rest of my period, I use only one single menstrual cup (at a time, LOL), but sea sponge rescued me for my “heavy” night and allowed me to sleep 6 to 8 hours when I could only hope to sleep 4 hours before.

    The only thing that bothers me with the sponge is when I urinate (… sorry). My sponge stands usually really near the exit of the vagina, so each time I let it inside and got to urinate, I felt drops of urine coming inside (I don’t know how it found its way) and filled the sponge. I hate thinking of urine standing inside my vagina… so each time I have to urinate now with my sponge inside, I take the sponge off, rinse it, urinate, wipe what I have to, and then reinsert the sponge, clean.

    I “sterilize” it once a month (when my period is over) with hydrogen peroxide along with the menstrual cups I used for my period. It works really well.

    • This is an awesome review 8-) !
      Hey Azazelle ^^ to avoid the pee coming into the sponge, hm.. am having some dull ideas ;). Maybe you could use your index + middle fingers, being straight, in order for them to closely “plug” your vagina entrance while the urine stream is getting off (but you fingers’d get all the wet of course.)
      Also, at the same time, with fingers of your other hand (ah!), you could lift up the skin, let’s say, the skin that’s just above the clitoris. This gesture can allow the urine stream to be orientated forward, and not towards the entrance and lower, butt etc.
      More “simply”, while you are urinating, sitting on the toilet, you might be leaning your torso forward : here again, the aim is to get the stream go distant from the vaginal entrance.
      Other than that, lol, you may also pee standing ;))….
      Cheers and great weekend to everyone ;D

  22. Aside from disposable pads and tampons, I’ve also tried Instead cups and the Diva Cup, neither of which I was thrilled about. I was going to order some reusable cotton tampons from Etsy when I heard about sea sponge tampons. I actually got excited about the idea of using them! I give them points for being easy to insert and remove and being comfortable, but I finally gave up on them. :(

    I found that I couldn’t wash away the gooey bits on the sponges, and it was a pain trying to get them clean. I had a few in rotation, but all the soaking seemed to disintegrate them and I wasn’t able to reuse them for as long as I had hoped. Also, I have some pretty heavy days – especially at night, I found when I would get up the excess would just drip onto the floor. *sigh* I have to say, the idea of using a sponge AND a cup sounds pretty neat…

    I also noticed – and I think someone else mentioned – the sponge would start to come out as I was going to the bathroom. I would just push it on up, but felt like I was constantly on a sea sponge vigil.

    Some of the commenters noted being wary of a having to change the sponge while out and about. While using them, I carried a ziploc baggy and extras so I didn’t have to wash and reuse the same one.

    I had been wanting to revisit the idea of menstrual cups since I hate buying disposable products, and did some research on the different brands out there. I finally settled on a Lunette menstrual cup, which so far is way more comfortable than the Diva was for me. Now I just have to reacquaint myself with the best, most effective way of putting it in.

  23. I just found this. I appreciate your very thorough review! I wrote a similarly thorough article on menstrual cups in which I casually dismiss the idea of sea sponges: “I am not sticking a dead animal into my vagina.” That idea, and the unknown pollutants from the ocean, really bother me. But I’m glad you’ve found something that works for you!

    I’m impressed that you haven’t had leaks. A couple of women who tried sponges told me they had extreme leaks if they sneezed or bent over suddenly.

    • ‘Becca I really enjoyed your post! I noticed the comments were closed since it’s from a couple years ago. Anyhoo… I’ve tried a whole bunch of these products (cups, disposable cups, sea sponges), and I almost always revert back to tampons at some point because they do the best job at preventing leaks (esp. if I’m going out somewhere). *sigh* I didn’t like the Diva Cup I bought a number of yeras back, but tried again with a Lunette this year – it’s super-comfy, easy to insert and remove, but it leaks even on low-flow days. Some times it doesn’t leak at all, and I just can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong/differently. I’m surprised you can go so long w/o leaks! Every time my period comes around I get anxious because it means I’m stuck at home for a few days. You’d think in this day and age this wouldn’t be an issue. :P

      • Hi Karla :).. do the leaks with your cup(s) usually happen at a specific moment of your period (=on the heaviest day), or absolutely not :s ?
        Thinking about one thing.. if your blood is thick, it may be blocking the holes very early, after you have inserted the cool Lunette. I know a woman who made the holes bigger (thanks to small punches from a scrapbooking kit), now are about 4mm big on her small Lunette, and it solved her leaking issue :). But soley with this cup, she felt more dampness, after then. She did the same with her large Diva, same good results, except no damp feeling ;o). (She actually commented here on this page^).. Maybe this could help eff, if that’s the problem..

  24. Wow, ‘Becca, what a nice brilliant review you made for cups!!
    I’ve been using them for 6 years (only ;p lol), but you know them since 1997 yoohoo!
    The title itself is cool, yeah mania mood….
    I don’t use cloth pads, but indeed, the TLC pads you linked in your bulletin look convenient, must be easier to wash-& quicker to dry ;o).. Cheers to you :D!

    • Thanks, I’m glad you liked it! I just opened it to comments. It had been closed to avoid any “Hubba hubba, tell me all about your vagina” weirdos, but I’ll give it a chance and maybe I won’t get that this time…. I was going to put in a link to this article, too, but I just got an iPad and can’t figure out how to scroll down in my article editing window using it, so I’ll have to do that later!

  25. I’m from the uk and cant get sea pearl so I use a brand of sponges called ‘jam sponge’ but I think they work in pretty much the same way (though are a little larger in size) and I LOVE THEM!!! Even more than my mooncup (and I waxed lyrical about that for 2 years after I got it so that’s saying something). If you’re ok about the squeamish bits I really cant recommend them enough!

  26. P.s. Great review. I really do think more people would use sponges if only they knew about them. Great that people are spreading the word. x

  27. Pingback: Making the Switch to Reusable Menstrual Products | Natural Parents Network

  28. Pingback: Menstrual Cup Mania!!! « The Earthling's Handbook

  29. I’m trying out the sponge for the first time right now, so far…loving it! Super comfortable. I regularly use cloth pads and a divacup. I can’t use disposable products because the chemicals give me a reaction. I adore my reusable menstrual products!!!

  30. Thanks for your review with all the details! It was fun to read the piece. I’m eager to try them now, but curious whether or not they are sold in Holland, though.

  31. Used them and to be honest, it was kind of cool! Only had 1 slight leak incident and I had left it in way too long and it was full. Have had sex with one in and not only was is great, my partner thought it felt just like the inside of the vagina. He only knew it was there because I had told him. He said otherwise he would not have known the difference. My tip would be I purchased my sponges from the health store and there were in the cosmetics dept. I end up with one that was perfectly round, and another that was more triangle shaped. Well after using both, I had to toss the triangle after I had to seriously wrestle with it to get it out (as in use some kitchen utensils to retrieve it!) Turns out the rounded sponges had no “edges” or random fibers sticking out, so nothing (or at least the appearence of nothing) to tear/flake off and stay inside me. The triangle I noted had fiber edges that stuck out, which when soaked with menstrual blood tended to break off when trying to retrieve it. Also there was less to grasp on to the pull it out. It was literally a gymnist feat to remove. Sooooo…stick with the rounded, smooth ones and the string addition is not a bad idea at all. The mucus thing happened to me too..but was not a deterent. I also keep two ziplocs in my purse one with a spare and one to put the one I washed out in, that way I’m not dealing with it as much and it keeps the used one moist for a late more thorough cleaning. Loved em…highly recommend. :)

  32. I loved your review, thanks for being honest and straight forward. I have been using a combo of mooncup and reuseable cloth pads and disposable pads (depending on situation). I have had four children and find tampons move around, but my mooncup is good. I tip the contents into the toilet and wipe it with toilet paper before reinserting. I don’t know if i could use a sponge, except with the ziploc bag system people have described. Even at home, the toilet is separate, and with my children waiting at the door, i won’t have much choice! I may give them a go, the mooncup works well, but is sometimes slightly uncomfortable. Maybe the softness of a sponge would be better. Thanks again!

  33. Sponge Fanatic

    What an awesome, earthy, get-down-to-the-nitty-gritty review! This is the first time I have read about the persistent mucus spot on the sponge–I thought that was just my body, but I did think it was weird that it’s always in the SAME spot. I use the sponge exclusively, but then I have a very light, almost non-existent flow, so the sponge is perfect. I have left it in overnight with no problem, and I have had sex with it inserted during my period, and my partner said he could not feel it. Confession: I have also used it once as spontaneous birth control (no pregnancy!), though I cannot endorse that practice at all.

    I find the oblong shaped ones are easier to pull out because I have something to grab onto. I solved the problem of leaking during removal by doing it in the shower. I bathe twice a day anyway, so it’s convenient for me to remove it and wash it out under the running water. Getting into a complete squat works best for me for insertion and removal, as it seems to push it down.

    I usually rinse it out and put it back in during my cycle then disinfect after my flow is gone. I cover it in straight hydrogen peroxide and leave it for a few hours or overnight–pristine! It even removes that stubborn mucus! I have never found any grit, etc. but the integrity of the sponge varies from sponge to sponge. I had one that fell apart after a few months, and one that is still in its original shape after over a year.

    The sponge seems to expand immediately inside me, which means it is full of air, and I have had a few scares when I laughed or sneezed or coughed and felt like something leaked out, but when I went to check, I didn’t find any leakage. I think every now and then I just push some air out. I have never had any leaks.

    My vagina is so happy with the sponge, I could go on all day. I am never going back to dry wads of cotton! Thank you for your incredibly real approach to a product all women should know about.

  34. I use sea sponges! I LOVE them I just cant handle something other then an internal device….and with my cervical placement i just dont see a cup working. I found them when reseaching reusable options for after my second childs birth(after locha of course) see with my first born i bleed for 6 months then started my “period” just before her 8month mark and….it didnt STOP for 2months under the 3YEAR mark!(they finally did a d&c my hormones were preventing my uterine lining from building up so i just keep sheding it) Anyways I was gearing up for that possibillity case the money i wasted in tampons was OBSCENE, and i refused to do it again.
    Anyways THAT^didnt happen this time actually i was ALL done in 10days of giving bith not even any spotting after that but anyways now a year after and my period has returned this is my second cycle using them and i LOVE them
    i also get that mucous on it (just an fyi 4 u dear lady) my first 3 days are HEAVy(like extra super tampon) and i have never leaked(unlike with tampons) I have not experienced any dryness (unike with tampons) i cant feel them at all till they are pretty full and need to be changed….they are just plain awesome! oh and sex with them in works and keeps it from being messy ;)

  35. Hey All!
    I’ve been using the sea sponge & reusable panty liners for about 4 years now & love them! I go through tampons too fast due to clotting, but can have one of these in for about half a day, even on my heavy days. I also never have leaks with these. I have four sponges that I cycle through so that I always have 2 clean ones to throw in my purse. Four sponges will last me about 2 years. I recommend buying a couple of the smallest square rubbermaid containers to store/clean them in, which hold 2 sponges each. To clean I rinse them out, fill the containers up with hot water & a couple drops of Tea Tree Oil and let sit for at least an hour, then rinse them out. I sit them on top of the containers to air dry, so they are always on a clean surface.
    I avoid using the sponges during the first or last day of my period when I am just spotting, since the old blood is what stains the sponges. I can get away with just a cloth liner during these days.
    My favorite thing about the sponges is that you never run out of them. Even if you don’t have a “clean” one, you can just rinse it out and put it back in! I also use the sponges during sex & he barely notices. The only problem with this is that it gets shoved way up there. You either have to dig it out or just wait for it to come down on it’s own, which is usually by morning.

  36. I’ve been using sponges for about two years and the flannel pads for about 7 years and I love both! I always double up. Even when I used super plus or ultra tampons along with disposable pads, I had days when I had to change every hour, and I just knew I was filling an entire landfill by myself just with menstrual disposables alone. Plus, it was too costly because I used a full box of both tampons and pads almost every month. I found the Gladrags pads and that helped, but didn’t know what to use internally. And I’m an athletic outdoorsy girl, so I had to have something. When my store stopped carrying Gladrags, I looked for them online, and found Jade and Pearl. Their large sponges were way too small to be effective for me. So I started buying my own much larger ones at health food stores, and just trimming for shape. This is a WAY better option!
    1) I have the mucus spot too.
    2) I keep vintage ceramic jars and a glass candy dish in my bathroom to put them in with Tea Tree Oil. They have lids and they’re pretty. I can rinse and take the lid off for them to dry.
    3) With work, sports, and school, I have to change while I’m out, and I do rinse and re-use. I take a water bottle into the stall with me, hold the sponge in tissue or a paper towel once I remove it, clean myself, and then just rinse the sponge over the toilet so that I can re-use. It takes a little coordinating and practice for what to touch, or how to use tissue or a paper towel to keep the bottle clean, and it definitely helps if there’s a door hook for your water bottle, or if the toilet paper dispenser has the flat shelf or flat casing to put the bottle down–you don’t want to put it on the floor! But I’ve now gotten quite good at it and I feel so much cleaner and fresh all day than I ever did using disposables.
    4) I have leaks sometimes but only if I’m not keeping track of the time. I ran through ob ultras in an hour sometimes! (yes, I went to doctors years ago. Apparently this is “my normal.”) So I’m quite vigilant. And yes, I wear them at night. My body wakes me up to change, which has always been the case since I was a teenager. Nothing would last me 6-8 hours until the last day anyway.
    5) I tried a Diva or Moon Cup, I forget which, and I could never get it to work. It could leak. I tried Instead cups MANY years ago, couldn’t be sure of them either. These sponges allow me to control size, so I keep several, and I don’t worry about pollutants once I’m soaking it in tea tree oil.
    6) I’ve even used them for hiking, and it’s awesome. You don’t have to pack out menstrual waste, just find a safe place to rinse.
    I’m glad there’s a place to talk about it and I hope someone else finds the sponge option freeing!

  37. I’m a dork.

    I’ve done quite a bit of research on menstrual sponges several times over the past year or so. I’ve always and only used pads, so why would I be looking at sponges? Well, you see… a friend mentioned that you can have sex while wearing them. COLOR ME INTERESTED. Heh. So about once a month (funny how that works) I would do a bunch of research and read a bunch of reviews and think really hard about it and mean to try it. But I always *somehow* ended up not ordering sponges because I worry about the logistics of changing/carrying them and what if it leaks and what if i can only wear them for an hour or two at a time and what if what if blah blah blah. Also i am a procrastinator. But, sex! And so the cycle (both of them) continued the next month.

    BUT. This month, reading this review, it suddenly dawned on me: why not use the sponges only peri-sex? Why not indeed? As you say, they can be situational. There’s nothing that requires me to wear one when I’m not, shall we say, getting a massage. Why not use them just for the reason I wanted one in the first place? Better question, why had I never considered that before?

    I don’t know the answer to that, but the wording of your review made a light bulb go off (dimly) over my head. It completely destroys all my concerns and I’m off to Amazon to place an order. I might become a full-time sponge user. I might not… and that’s okay. Duh. Thank you!

  38. I’m so pleased to see this review, as i am considering using a sponge and diva cup together so that i can leave the house, or stop getting up twice a night to empty my diva cup. My flow runs so fast that it runs right off cloth pads, and i’ve had to convert to size small cloth baby diapers, in the newspaper (or “angelwing”) fold, to catch it when the dam breaks — i mean, when the cup gets full, which is generally about an hour to an hour and a half. So i’m hoping a sponge on top of a cup allows me to reduce the night trips to the bathroom at least by one, but have high hopes for staying there all night once i get there. i’m so excited! :)

    Regarding the trail, i was wondering why no one explains why it does not work to keep an old dish or bowl by the toilet to catch the drainage from the sponge on the way from beneath you to the sink (when at home)? i believe concerns of “the trail” may discourage people from trying sponges, and it doesn’t sound like a necessary struggle.

    Again, i so very much appreciated this candid article. And i also really appreciate the suggestion to have various sizes on hand.

  39. the mucus thing: i havent read up if anyone else said yet, but id love to share about the mucus thing. only after using the mooncup did i start to understand that the menstrual release is not drops of blood but actually sort of like the yolk of a raw egg, except in red and not yellow. so theres blood before, then blop! yolk! slimey blood-white-red-life-potential, and then s’more blood. so i wouldnt call it mucus, because im so in love with seeing it… … …
    xo happy femininity <3

  40. Great review =]
    I used tampons and pads from age 15-20, and for the past cycle and a half I’ve been using the disposable Softcup, made by Instead. I don’t think I could ever put a tampon back into my wonderful vagina EVER again.

    Since using the softcup, my periods have just been COMFORTABLE. Putting the cup in with my hands (as opposed to using at tampon and applicator) made me so much more aware of my body. I know exactly where I’m going, and they don’t give me cramps like tampons used to. In fact, I’ve had less cramps than when I used tampons, anyway. I also feel “fresher” with a menstrual cup– the pH of my vagina isn’t altered and I’m not all dried out. I kind of even like looking at the cup when I take it out! It is awesome!

    Now that I’ve been exposed to the wonderful world of the menstrual cup, I’m interested in a reuseable menstrual cup– but the only draw back is sex is not advised while wearing one. On the other hand, I used to just pull out my tampons beforehand and hope my uterus will cooperate with my wishes. If the time comes, I could always just slide in a softcup for those special occasions =]

    I’m not actually interested in using a sea sponge, I’m just geeky and I love menstruation. No period shame in this corner of the world =]

    That said, I’m SO interested in cloth pads. I just wear re-usable ones (I’m in college and I work at a school, and public restrooms are the worst enemy of the menstrual cup) for back-up with my softcup. So any info on that would rock.

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