What if you live in a dorm room or another shared living space that doesn’t have a single private sink or a place to sanitize your menstrual cup? This certainly makes the idea of using a cup less appealing and the cleaning process one that needs more planning. Most of us can simply give our cup a good washing in our private bathroom even if we have to change in a public setting at times. When a reader emailed us about this issue I had to confess it’s something I hadn’t considered and didn’t have experience with so I asked Jordan Sanders (BSN, RN) who has used a menstrual cup while living in a dorm and will share those answers here to help others who might need the advice. Every college dorm experience will vary- my dorms didn’t have access to any private bathrooms- others may have a shared bathroom with the luxury of a private sink and a door that closes.
“As a menstrual cup user what kind of cleaning methods did you use when it was time to empty and wash your cup in a communal restroom without a private sink?”
I had a couple different methods that worked for me over the years. Our dorm rooms had sinks in the room. Sometimes I’d remove my cup, dump the contents, and I’d wrap it in toilet paper. Then, I’d carry it back to my room and wash it with soap and water in my own sink. Other times, I’d just wash it in the sink and then go back into the stall to put it back in. At the end of my period I would boil water in my water kettle, pour it in bowl with some antibacterial soap, and let my cup soak in the bowl for a few hours. I also worked in and had classes in buildings that had single bathrooms with sinks in them which were ideal for cleaning and replacing my cup. The great thing about a menstrual cup is that you only need to take it out twice a day, so I only had to manage cleaning it twice a day.
“What is your must have ‘supply-list’ of items you used to clean and/or sterilize your cup while away at college?”
My absolute must have item is Dr. Bronner’s Soap. It’s an all-natural, biodegradable soap that I use with every cleaning. It’s really mild but effective. I don’t have to worry about it irritating my body.
Baby wipes or [hygiene] wipes. (PACII suggests water wipes or cup wipes– anything without perfumes etc) Sometimes taking out a cup can be a little messy, and a gentle wet wipe can really help clean up better than toilet paper.
Dish soap or antibacterial soap. I use this for cleaning at the end of my cycle before I put my cup away for a couple weeks.
Microwave or water kettle to boil water to sanitize also.
“Walk us through a typical ‘cleaning sesh’ with your cup.”
For just a regular change, not a deep clean at the end of my cycle, my routine is pretty basic. I wash my hands or sanitize them before removing my cup. I remove my cup and dump the contents in the toilet and wipe clean with toilet paper or a wipe. I try to do that with one hand, so I keep one hand clean for opening the door and touching the faucet handles. Sometimes that’s a little challenging. Then I take my cup to the sink and scrub it with hot water and soap, usually just whatever is in the bathroom, for about a minute. Then I wash my hands and go back to the toilet to put the cup back in. That’s it! When I was in my dorm bathroom, I would sometimes just wipe the cup as clean as I could and then take it back to my room to wash it with my own soap hoping I wouldn’t leak in those few minutes. Then I could just put my cup back in when I was done washing it in the privacy of my room. I lived alone, so that made things a little simpler for me than people with roommates.
“Was it worth it to you to still use a cup despite the challenge to your privacy and inventive ways you had to clean it?”
Absolutely! It feels so much cleaner. It’s less expensive and significantly better for the environment. I have to think about it way less than I did tampons or pads. Enough buildings on campus had private bathrooms with sinks that I usually didn’t have to worry about my privacy too much. I never had to wash my cup in front of someone else, and that might have been a little uncomfortable. I think menstrual cups are becoming common enough that people wouldn’t mind.
“If you had one word of advice to a student who wants to use a cup, or already uses a cup, and is going to be using a shared bathroom without a prospect of a private sink what would it be?”
Ownership! If using a cup is the best decision for you, own it. There’s so many reasons to use a cup, so use it as an opportunity to rave about the experience or share about the challenge. It’s an opportunity to help other people learn about an alternative option they might not understand well.
Thanks so much Jordan for sharing your valuable experience with us here at Put A Cup In It. Hopefully this interview answers your questions about using a menstrual cup at college and living in dorms, but if you have others please check out our Facebook group.