Exactly How to Clean Your Menstrual Cup, According to an Ob-Gyn

Fitness

Closeup shot of an unrecognizable woman washing her hands

Switching to a menstrual cup is good for the environment, as well as your wallet, since you no longer need to stockpile tampons or pads. But along with those benefits comes the dreaded task of cleaning it. The good news: it’s not as difficult (or gross) as you think.

Many brands recommend boiling your menstrual cup in water before the first use, while others suggest boiling it between cycles, too. While it’s reasonable to sterilize your cup, cleaning it well with soap and water should be sufficient, both during and after your period, Nathan Riley, MD, an ob-gyn with Norton Healthcare and host of the Obgyno Wino Podcast, told POPSUGAR. Always wash your hands before handling a menstrual cup, too, to prevent the transfer of germs.

If there’s one thing manufacturers agree on, it’s that a gentle, oil-free, unscented soap is the way to go. “Fragrant soaps should be avoided as many of the scented additives are notoriously responsible for vaginal and vulvar irritation,” Dr. Riley explained. Some brands recommend avoiding harsh cleaning agents like vinegar, baking soda, and rubbing alcohol as well, as they can also irritate the vagina. And while many sell their own cleansers, it’s your call whether to invest in one long-term.

Just how frequently you’ll need to clean your menstrual cup depends on your flow. “Menstrual cups should be removed and cleaned as often as needed, similarly to a tampon,” Dr. Riley said. But even if your flow is light, be careful not to leave it in too long. While menstrual cups can be worn longer than tampons, anything beyond 12 hours increases the risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS).

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