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How to clean a menstrual cup, tackle stains and more

Everything you need to know about cleaning, sterilising and caring for a menstrual cup.

Updated

A menstrual cup on a bathroom windowsill

A menstrual cup is a great way to be that little bit kinder to the planet. A convenient, safe and eco-friendly alternative to tampons and pads, if you know how to clean a menstrual cup properly, it should last you for years, so you’ll save a fair bit of cash as well as waste.

Cleaning a Mooncup or other silicone cup can seem a bit strange if you’re used to chucking tampons in the bin, but it only takes a few minutes when you know how.

How to clean a menstrual cup

Cleaning a menstrual cup under running water

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  • First, wash your hands.
  • Remove the cup and empty the blood into the toilet.
  • Next, wash the cup with warm water and (if possible) a small squirt of mild, unscented soap. You can use your fingers to wash the cup, or an old toothbrush. Pay particular attention to the rim as this can trap blood and bacteria.
  • There are tiny holes in your cup, around the rim. These can get clogged, so fill the cup with water, then cover it using the palm of your hand and squeeze the water out through the holes. If this doesn’t work, you might need to use an old toothbrush.
  • Repeat the step above but without the soap; just use plain water. Make sure you rinse the cup really well, to remove all traces of soap.
  • Your cup is now ready for you to refit it.

If you’re going out, you might not want to wash your cup at the sink in a public toilet. You could take a bottle of water to clean your cup in the cubicle instead. Always use water that’s safe to drink, so that you know it doesn’t have any bacteria in it that could get on your cup. Mooncup also says that it’s fine to just wipe the cup with loo roll if you can’t rinse it with water.

How to sterilise a menstrual cup

Hand holding a menstrual up in front of a stainless steel saucepan

You’ll need to sterilise your menstrual cup before using it for the first time, and after each period. Doing so will make sure there’s no bacteria, so it’ll be safe and hygienic to use.

There are two different methods of sterilising your cup. Both are easy as pie. Before you start, clean your menstrual by following the steps above.

Sterilising a menstrual cup with boiling water

  • Drop your menstrual cup into a pan of boiling water and leave it to boil for 5–10 minutes. DivaCup recommends using a stainless steel saucepan (and only using it to sterilise your cup if you can).
  • Remove the cup with tongs or a slotted spoon.
  • Leave it to air dry, or dry it with a towel, before putting it away.

Sterilising a menstrual cup with tablets

You can also use sterilising tablets (the ones usually used for sterilising baby bottles) to quickly and effectively clean your menstrual cup.

  • Check the packet and drop a tablet into the recommended amount of cold water.
  • Leave the menstrual cup to soak for the time stated on the sterilising tablet box (usually around 10 minutes).
  • Rinse the cup thoroughly.
  • Either leave the cup to air dry, or dry it with a towel, before putting it away.

How to clean a menstrual cup that’s become stained

A menstrual cup, toothbrush, container of bicarbonate soda and cloth

Proper menstrual cup cleaning and sterilising will make sure your cup is hygienic and safe to use. However, it might still become a bit discoloured over time. Stains don’t affect how well a cup works, so there’s no need to replace it.

If the staining bothers you though, clean your menstrual cup with bicarbonate of soda, using a damp cloth or an old toothbrush. That should help to lighten any staining.

Or try soaking it in a sterilising solution, if you usually boil it.

Cleaning menstrual cups: what not to do

If you want your menstrual cup to last and be safe to use, you need to treat it with care. So there are a few things to avoid when cleaning menstrual cups:

  • Don’t use vinegar, Vaseline or bleach, as they could damage the silicone cup. You should also avoid hand sanitiser, anti-bac soap, dishwashing liquid and any other products which may cause you irritation or damage the cup.
  • If you’re using an old toothbrush or a cloth to clean your menstrual cup, make sure it doesn’t have traces of anything else on it. (i.e. don’t use a toothbrush to scrub your sink with bleach and then use it to clean your menstrual cup!)
  • Don’t boil your cup for longer than 10 minutes or you could damage the silicone.
  • Don’t clean your menstrual cup in a dishwasher. It could damage the cup and spread bacteria.
  • Don’t put your menstrual cup away until it’s completely dry.

How often should you sterilise a menstrual cup?

You’ll need to sterilise your cup before the first time you use it, and again when you pack it away after each period.

How should you clean a Mooncup?

A Mooncup is simply a brand of menstrual cup. Like others, it is made from soft, medical-grade silicone. If you’re looking for an easy and effective Mooncup cleaning routine, any of the methods we’ve outlined above will work on Mooncups too.

How do you get the smell out of a menstrual cup?

Hands holding a menstrual cup, bathroom sink in the background

A menstrual cup shouldn’t smell if you clean and sterilise it regularly. According to Mooncup, the main reasons that a menstrual cup might smell are:

  • You’ve boiled it in a pan that wasn’t completely clean.
  • You’ve left it too long before emptying it.
  • You’ve got a vaginal infection.

If your cup does smell, soak it in a sterilising solution before using it again.

Can I use feminine wash to clean my menstrual cup?

Feminine wash is usually very mild, so should be fine to clean a menstrual cup with. However, it won’t sterilise the cup, so you’ll still need to soak it in boiling water or sterilising solution every month.

How often should I empty my menstrual cup?

Menstrual cups hold more blood than a tampon or sanitary towel, so you might not have to empty it as often as you’d change a tampon. However, you should aim to empty it every four to eight hours.

Help! My cup leaked!

Menstrual cups don’t leak very often, but it does happen occasionally. You might find this article on removing blood stains handy. If your cup often leaks, do have a look on the brand’s website to make sure you’re using the cup correctly.

Where should I keep my menstrual cup?

To prevent mould or damage to your cup, always store it in a cotton bag or other breathable container that will allow for air flow. Keep it well away from lotions, perfumes and other liquids that could damage the cup (or cause you irritation) if they leak.

What else can I do to reduce waste?

Now you’ve mastered cleaning a menstrual cup, why not check out these tips for making your whole bathroom routine more eco-friendly? You might also enjoy our guide to zero waste living.

Originally published