Intimate Care

Sponging The Red Sea: Is The Magic Of Menstrual Sponge Overrated?

Switching to menstrual sponges?Not so fast! Here is why.

Written by Rani Premkumar

On Mar 11, 2023 – 12 minutes read

menstrual sponge

We are lucky to be living in these times when a number of menstrual products are available to us women to deal with our shark week. Aside from sanitary pads, we now have a number of intravaginal options like menstrual cups and menstrual discs, preferred by women who aspire to push for new frontiers.

Though we are not Angelina Jolie from the epic Tomb Raider, carrying out breathtaking stunts, there are professions and activities that require us to go physically fluid. These menstrual options do give a boost to our confidence to lead our lives the way we would like them to be. Athletes, sportswomen, and women in professions that require physical exertion- are all in need of efficient and body-friendly menstrual management options. 

How to tackle the red-letter days with a menstrual sponge? Let us surf the sea of details regarding menstrual sponges before we stick one up our vag.

What Is A Menstrual Sponge?

There are most of us love to go green. From cosmetics that are made from natural products to home-grown fruits and veggies, people are switching to choices that are closer to nature. The menstrual sponge may appeal to such people who prefer to go green.

The menstrual sponge is a sea sponge made from an underwater organism called sea sponges, made with a substance called spongin. Sea sponges are usually seen attached to underwater surfaces to continuously filter sea water in order to sustain their ecosystem. Menstrual sponges, due to their capacity to absorb and retain liquids, are used by women during periods. They are inserted into the vagina and they very much operate like menstrual discs or tampons. Once swollen in blood, it can be taken out and cleaned to be reused. 

What Is A Menstrual Sponge?

Types Of Menstrual Sponge

Statistics suggest that a single woman can produce up to 300 pounds of waste by disposing of tampons or sanitary pads. These wastes ultimately land up in landfills or the ocean, raising serious environmental concerns. Sea sponges are touted as a natural alternative to period products like sanitary pads, menstrual cups, etc. Sea sponges are super absorbent and can retain what they have absorbed. Sea sponges are claimed to be good for use for six to twelve months, hence comparatively eco-friendly. 

Menstrual sponges harvested from the seas can be cut to size and used. The sponges are harvested in such a way as to create a minimal impact on the oceanic ecosystem, by trimming it in such a way that its stem is not damaged, thereby allowing them to regrow.

Natural Menstrual Sponge

Those who prefer an environmentally friendly option, which is easily compostable, will opt for a natural menstrual sponge. Again, they come in bleached and non-bleached options. The bleached one is easy on the eyes and looks neat. It will have a yellowish appearance while the natural unbleached version is a little brownish. The unbleached version of menstrual sponges will degrade slower than the bleached options, hence safer to wear.

Synthetic Menstrual Sponge

Synthetic sea sponges very much, as the name suggests, are artificially made menstrual sponges. They are preferred for lighter flow as they are less absorbent and offer succor in conditions like pelvic organ prolapse.

Types Of Menstrual Sponge

Disposable Menstrual Sponge

Disposable Menstrual sponges are both synthetic and made for one-time usage. Beppy sponges are an example of one-time-use menstrual sponges. Beppy sponges are lubricated or dry versions of menstrual sponges that are shaped to suit your body type. Some have loops for easy removal. They should be discarded after use. They claim nonmessy sex and ease during exercise than any other period device.

Pros And Cons Of Using Menstrual Sponge


Well, every coin has two sides. Yes. So here are the pros of using a menstrual sponge.

  • Natural– The natural sea sponges are products of nature. It has no added chemicals, fragrances, or irritants that can cause harm to you. It does not disturb the natural pH levels in the vagina as well. 
  • Comfortable– The Menstrual sponges are soft and squishy, hence the insertion and removal do not create any pains. It is also said to be comfortable enough that we can exercise without fear of leakage.
  • Nonmessy sex– Unlike Menstrual cups, the menstrual sponge does not block the vaginal passage which allows for mess-free sex during the times you have your monthly visitor.
  • Sustainable – Most sponges can be used for up to six months. But some can be used even for twelve months without it degrading even a bit. This makes it a sustainable and eco-friendly Menstrual care product.
  • Absorbent– menstrual sponges are highly absorbent and expand to retain the liquids inside.


  • Messy: I cannot repeat this enough. It is bloody MESSY!! If you are not comfortable dealing with your menstrual blood and find it too gory, menstrual sponges are not for you. You will have to reach into the vagina and pull out a menstrual blood-drenched sponge which you have to wring out and clean for it to be fit for reuse.
  • Safety: They are not allowed to be sold as a menstrual care product in the United States without special approval from the Food and Drugs Administration due to concerns related to toxic shock syndrome and other infections.
  • High maintenance: we are talking about our private parts and beyond. We know how soft it is inside the holy portal. Remember the disaster and inconvenience when you get a teeny bit of dust on your contacts? This is worse. You have to watch out for sand, mold, or any sea residue in order to be sure that you are not putting it inside with the sponge. The first time and many times cleaning should be perfect enough to make sure that you don’t get hold of any infections.
  • Risks of TSS and micro tears: They are natural products harvested from oceans that may contain residues that may cause infections or Toxic Shock Syndrome, which is the natural reaction of the body towards an unwanted invader. There are risks of micro-tears inside the vagina when you put the menstrual sponge or when there is some slightly abrasive residue in it. 
  • Trial and error: First, the method of insertion that works for you, then cleaning the menstrual sponge and finally gauging the absorption rate, is a matter of trial and error. The level of blood it can hold in order to prevent leakages can only be found out with use. No amount of literature can be conclusive about the absorbency rate of the sponge you have in your hand or vag. 
  • Breaking apart: While removing the damp menstrual sponge, there are reasons for it to break apart when it is pinched out of your vag.
  • Have to alternate: As it may take a while to clean the menstrual sponge, you may need another one, or a different option, to be used during the cleaning process.

How Does The Menstrual Sponge Work?

Pretty much like tampons! They are squishy enough to be inserted into the vagina so that it fits inside without much fuss. It absorbs the menstrual fluids which you will clean at regular intervals before reinsertion. The menstrual sponges can be cut to shape and the synthetic ones are shaped better to fit in! They pretty much do not have any applicator for insertion or strings for easy removal though.

Is The Menstrual Sponge Safe For Use?

The medical community is pretty vocal about the hygiene concerns of the use of sea sponges as intravaginal period devices. Research in the 1980s points out that sea sponges contained particles of yeast, grit, mold, sand, and bacteria in the samples of 12 natural sponges. They claim that though they are claimed to be hygienic, they require special approval from FDA due to safety concerns. Inserting a menstrual sponge which may have traces of bacteria could result in toxic shock syndrome.

Is The Menstrual Sponge Safe For Use?

What is this toxic shock syndrome? Toxic shock syndrome is a rare but life-threatening condition brought about by certain bacterial infections which enter the blood and release toxins. Staphylococcus aureus is the most common cause of toxic shock syndrome. If after the insertion of the menstrual sponge, the person has these symptoms- high fever of 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit (39 degrees C) or higher, low blood pressure, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, seizures, fainting or dizziness, headaches, drowsiness, flu-like symptoms, rashes muscle pain, red eyes or throat or mouth- the person most probably has toxic shock syndrome and requires immediate medical attention and should not be ignored. If untreated, it could result in complications, including kidney failure, heart failure, liver failure, slow blood circulation, or death.

Let us assume that the menstrual sponge is free from sand, grit, mold, etc. due to perfect processing or it is a synthetic menstrual sponge. Are you safe?

Not really.

Using it for longer durations without cleaning and unhygienic menstrual sponges can also cause toxic shock syndrome. The question is if you can clean the menstrual sponge in such a way that it has no traces of bacteria. 

How Can You Sanitize The Menstrual Sponges Enough?

When using a reusable menstrual sponge, it is pertinent to make sure that it is hygienic enough to be inserted into your body. You would want to clean it thoroughly before the first use and in between uses. You should watch out for any sand particles or oceanic debris on the sponge to pull it out with sanitized tweezers.

Washing the sponge with mild soap in clean warm water is the best way. You could use face wash or menstrual cup wash to be safe. Alternatively, you could soak the menstrual sponge in a cup in a ratio of one portion of vinegar to ten portions of water for ten to fifteen minutes. You could also soak it in a cup of water into which a tablespoon of baking soda is added for a duration of fifteen minutes. Some use hydrogen peroxide to soak the menstrual sponges clean. Some suggest using tea tree oil, as the natural disinfectant can clean better. But it could be an irritant as well. 

The point to be borne in mind is to dry it out completely, preferably in the sun, before storing it away safely. Make sure you use a pouch in order to keep it dust free. 

How Not To Clean A Menstrual Sponge?

Using harsh soaps: Do not use harsh soaps which may contain chemicals that can tamper with the delicate fibers in the sponge. The residues of soap or chemicals can play havoc with your pH levels or cause allergies or skin irritations. So be wary of what you wash the menstrual sponges with.

Boil the menstrual sponge: Boiling has been pushed as an option, but it may cause them to become more rigid and tough. It could also cause it to shrink.

Longer soaks: If you leave the sponges to soak for more than the time that is required, it could lead to the deterioration of the natural menstrual sponge.

How To Insert A Menstrual Sponge?

Wash your hands before you take this ‘tailless tampon’ in hand. Wet the menstrual sponge with a dash of water or water-based lubricant. Make sure it is not soggy by squeezing the extra liquid out. Stand with one leg up the toilet lid or squat. You could also sit on the toilet. It is up to you to find the right position. Next, use your fingers to separate the folds of the labia and push the menstrual sponge deep into the vagina, just as you insert a tampon or menstrual disc. You are now good to rock the world!

How To Insert A Menstrual Sponge?

How To Remove A Menstrual Sponge?

What goes in should come out too! Removing the menstrual sponge!

Spoiler alert: it is gonna be bloody messy! So be prepared to deal with the bloody crap, ok!

Squat, preferably under the shower or on the bathroom floor. Insert two fingers. Your choice!! Put pressure on your pelvic muscles as if you are gonna poop. You will feel this sliding down as you bear down. Softly pinch down the sponge and out it will come!

How To Insert A Menstrual Sponge?

Menstrual Sponges In Menstrual Sponge Reviews

Menstrual sponge reviews suggest the best menstrual sponge for specific uses. For periods, they suggest a natural sea sponge-like Natural Intimacy. Intimate Care Menstrual sea sponges are available in bleached and unbleached versions. P.S. Fine silk sponge and Jade & Pearls Ultra soft sea pearls are also good choices for periods management.

For those with a prolapse, a large, dense, and firm sponge is usually recommended. Jade & Pearl Reusable Sea Pearls XL + Firm sponge or synthetic Jade and Pearl Reusable pearls plus Extra dense + Firm sponge are recommended. But it is best to consult your doc regarding the choice, as it is a medical issue.

While if you intend to have sex, disposable period sponges like wet Beppy sponge or Dry Beppy Sponge which are individually wrapped will make for a great choice. 

As Menstrual sponges require pre-approval due to the risk factors, they are sold as ‘sea sponges’ or in other names instead of ‘menstrual sponges’. They are pretty much available on online portals like Amazon, and in stores.

Menstrual Sponge Reviews Users

Some Menstrual sponge reviews suggest that seeing the size of a medium-sized sponge was scary for many. But they claim that it compresses easily. A review of Jade & Pearl states that it is reassuring to see their claims that it is “extremely absorbent, soft, durable, and free of chemicals, dioxin, bleach, chlorine, fragrance, dyes or synthetic materials.” They feel that it is a natural version of a tampon, as both of them are fulfilling the same function here.

Menstrual sponge reviews suggest that there are lesser instances of leakage, unlike menstrual discs or menstrual cups. Some also state that it is confusing if it is the body or the sponge when it is damp and needs removal. They also claim that when inserted it feels like a giant tampon inside, but adjusts to the vaginal contours easily. 

Many reviews on menstrual sponges suggest that if you are not someone who is comfortable touching your menstrual blood, this option is to be forgotten, as this requires you to deal with your blood during removal and cleaning. But you could get accustomed to it in the longer run. Some also pointed out that menstrual sponges can feel extremely dry inside once inserted. Hence, dampening it with a water-based lubricant or water would be helpful.

Let me appreciate you for coming this far in this article. It shows your curiosity and caution regarding the choice of feminine products!

We all are born to go around like divas. To be like Kylie Jenner, who made us go wow in her itsy-bitsy rhinestone bikini, which is trending on insta and that too in shark week? We will do anything! But let’s put our health first and think twice about what we put into our bodies. Do not take risks with your bods! Advertising has its ways. You should be careful anyway! High five to that??🤚 Stay vag smart 🌹🌹

  1. StatPearls Publishing LLC. (2022). Toxic Shock Syndrome. Available (Online) at:

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Rani is a women’s lifestyle coach with a knack for translating high fashion into accessible, everyday looks. She has helped countless women embrace their personal style, fostering confidence and self-expression.

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