Menstrual Cup: How to Use, Clean, Remove & More

Updated in January 2024

A menstrual cup is a great way to substitute the use of pads and tampons during menstruation. It os the most comfortable, most economic and most environmentally-friendly option available. The collector is easy to easy and maintains the natural moisture in the vagina, making it easier to place than a tampon.

The cup also reduces odors, as blood does not enter into contact with the air and does not oxidize (which causes the odors). 

The menstrual cup should be chosen based on the length of the cervix and intensity of menstrual flow. It can be switched every 8 to 12 hours. It is important that the cup is inserted and placed correctly to avoid spillage. 

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How to use it

A menstrual cup can be used by all women, however girls who are not yet sexually active may need extra guidance from a health care professional about how to choose one. Cups can be used in all occasions (like at the beach, when playing sports, or swimming), and can even be used while sleeping as long as it is not used for longer than 12 hours. 

Generally speaking, a menstrual cup can be used for 8 to 12 hours. However, when flow is very heavy or if some leaking is noted, it may be necessary to switch the collector before this time. 

How to place

Just like a tampon, the menstrual cup is recommended for use only during ap eriod. To place the cup, you should squat over the toilet with your legs open, and fold the cup as indicated on the package instructions. Insert the folded cup into the vagina, so that the rubber tail stays outside. Then rotate the cup slightly as you open it to ensure that it has been correctly placed without folds. 

To verify whether it has opened properly and that it has suctioned to the cervix, you can hold onto the tail or bottom of the cup and rotate it very slowly. The correct positioning of a menstrual cup is closer to the vaginal canal, and not as deep inside like a tampon. 

How to remove

Every 8 to 12 hours, a menstrual cup should be removed in the following way: 

  • Sit on the toilet, urinate and dry your vulva well. Then squat over the toilet with your legs open. 
  • Insert your pointer finger into the vagina and slide it up along the side of the cup to remove the suction and help with its removal. 
  • Then push the bottom or the tail of the cup inwards, so that the cup folds and comes out. 
  • Pour the blood into the toilet and wash your cup with lots of water and ph neutral soap, making sure to dry it well with toilet paper. 

If you have difficulty removing the cup, you can try squatting low in the bathtub, as this helps to easily remove the cup. Make sure it is clean and dry before using it again. 

How to pick a menstrual cup 

A menstrual cup can vary depending on the size and consistency, therefore it important to consider certain factors when choosing one. These are some things you should think about: 

1. Cervical height

To know how high up your cervix is, when showering, wash your hands and genital area well. Then insert one finger in the vaginal canal and up until you reach a round structure, which is your cervix. This test is best completed during your period, as cervical positioning can change slightly. 

  • For a low cervix: choose a shorter cup
  • For a high cervix: choose a longer cup

If your cervix is lower, you will not need to insert your finger very far before reaching it. If your cervix is higher, you will have more difficulty reaching it. 

2. Menstrual flow

The amount of menstrual flow will help you decide the width of cup that is best for you to use, which determines how much it can hold.

  • For a heavy flow: opt for a larger, wider cup
  • For medium flow: opt for a medium-size cup
  • For light flow: use a smaller, shorter cup

To evaluate the intensity of flow, you should monitor how often you switch your pads or tampons. Flow is considered to be heavy when you switch pads or tampons every 2 to 3 hours, and light when switched only every 4 to 6 hours. 

3. Other factors

In addition to cervical height and menstrual flow, you should also consider factors like the strength of your pelvic muscles, if you have a more sensitive bladder, if you engage in exercise that strengthens pelvic muscles (like yoga or pilates), whether you are sexually active, or if you have had children. 

All of these factors can help determine the right cup for you in terms of diameter, malleability, and size. 

Where to purchase

The menstrual cup can be found in grocery stores, pharmacies and online. Many are sold as just one unit, or with two cups so that you can alternate use. Some of the most common brands include the Diva Cup. Nixit, The Lily Cup, The Honey Pot and the Cora Cup. 

How to clean your menstrual cup 

Before its first use, before each cycle and after the cycle ends, you should sterilize your menstrual cup to ensure a deep clean and so that microorganisms that can cause infection are completely removed. Sterilization should be done in a pot or in the microwave, depending on the package instructions. 

In a pot 

  • You should have a dedicated pot just for sterilizing your cup. Fill this pot with water so that it covers the cup completely.
  • Turn on the heat and wait for the water to boil. 
  • Allow the cup to soak in the boiling water for 4 to 5 minutes, then remove the pot from heat. 
  • Remove the menstrual cup from the pot and wash with water and soap. 

You are not advised to use aluminum or Teflon pots, as these can release metallic substances that can damage the silicone of the cup. To avoid any risks of damage, you can purchase the sterilizing recipient or products sold by the cup brand.  

In the microwave

  • Use a microwave-safe recipient or a glass or ceramic bowl that will only be for this use. Place the cup in the recipient and cover with water, then place in the microwave. 
  • Turn on the microwave and wait for the water to boil. Then set the timer for an additional 3 to 4 minutes. .
  • After this time, remove the cup from the microwave and wash it normally, with water and soap.

These are the most practical and economic ways to sterilize menstrual cups. However, if you are unable to boil water, you can use hydrogen peroxide (up to 12 %), chlorine (up to 3%), sterilizing tablets, or even sodium hypochlorite which is used to disinfect vegetables. When using these agents, ensure your cup is well rinsed under running water before using it again, as these chemicals can cause allergic reactions, irritation or burns. 

If your cup becomes stained, you can add a teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate into the water that the cup will be sterilized in. If the cup is very stained and soiled, then you can place it in hydrogen peroxide for 6 to 8 hours, making sure to rinse it well under running water afterwards. 

If your cup falls into the toilet, you should let it soak in 1 L (8 cups) of water with a tablespoon of bleach for 15 to 20 minutes. Then transfer it to another recipient and cover it with hydrogen peroxide, allowing it to soak for 5 to 7 hours. Then sterilize the cup as above (allowing it to boil for 5 minutes=. If possible, add 1 teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate to the boiling pot.  

Difference between menstrual cup and menstrual disc

The menstrual collector and menstrual disc both serve to replace internal or external absorbents. They are devices that collect period blood to be discarded, and can both be cleaned and reused.

The menstrual disc is shaped like a shell, similar to the diaphragm, and is positioned close to the cervix, while the menstrual cup is positioned in the vaginal canal.

For this reason, you are unable to have penetrative sex when you have a menstrual cup in place. The menstrual disc is positioned deeper in the vaginal canal, and can therefore allow for penetration.