Anytime the conversation steers to the pros and cons of using menstrual cups, inevitably someone says something like, “I wouldn’t want to change it in public, what a mess!” Periods can be a private matter for a lot of folks, but don’t be scared away by the idea of parading your bloody cup in front of strangers! You have options when it comes to cleaning your menstrual cup in public restrooms, none of which include sharing it with the world.
It’s true, using a menstrual cup can require a little more planning than disposable options like pads and tampons when you’re menstruating away from home, but we fully maintain that the benefits of cups far outweigh the challenges.
Why Choose Menstrual Cups
- Longer wearability (up to 12 hours!)
- An average cup holds 3-5x as much as a regular tampon
- Not-so-fun-fact: tampons leave behind fibers and can cause microabrasions in the vaginal walls. A silicone cup can’t do that!
- No waste, reusable, and environmentally friendly
- No need to carry a day’s supply of disposable products
- One-time cost for up to 10 years of use
One of the best things about a menstrual cup, as we mentioned, is the longer wearability. On lighter period days, cups can be worn for up to 12 hours before needing to be emptied. If your flow is light to average, you may be able to go quite a while without having to remove your cup at all (yes, you can still pee with a menstrual cup inserted!), since menstrual cups have 3-5 times more capacity than even the largest size of tampons. If you have a heavier flow and need more protections, check our menstrual cup chart and sort by capacity — some cups hold twice that much!
If, however, you find yourself in the precarious situation of having to empty your cup in public, we at Put A Cup In It want you to have all the know-how to navigate the situation.
What’s the Best Way to Empty My Menstrual Cup in Public?
First things first, we recommend always washing your hands and thoroughly rinsing them before putting them near your vagina. This helps prevent any germs on your hands from being introduced into the vagina while you remove and reinsert it, which can could lead to things like yeast infections. No thanks!
Whether you’re on a road trip, at work, school, or just spending the day out, you have options! Here are a few ways you can approach emptying and cleaning your menstrual cup in a public restroom to make it easier on yourself and maintain at least a little privacy.
- Seek out a private or family bathroom when you’re in public so you’ll have more space, a dedicated sink, and total privacy. This isn’t always available, but it’s the most comfortable when it is. In this instance you should have no problem removing your cup, emptying the collected blood into the toilet, and giving it a good healthy rinse in the sink (just make sure to fully rinse any remnants down the drain for the next bathroom patron). Basically, it’s business as usual.
- Bring a small bottle of water into the stall with you. Remove your cup, dump the contents in the toilet, rinse over the toilet with the clean water you’ve brought in, and replace your cup. Voila! Stealth mode activated. If your hands get a little messy in the process, you can give them a pre-clean with the water or a bit of toilet tissue as well before leaving the stall to wash at the sink.
- Carry cleansing wipes specifically for menstrual cups – yes, they exist! While it’s safest to use wipes designated for menstrual cups, the important thing to be sure of is that the wipes you’re using contain absolutely NO alcohol, fragrance, or oils. These can irritate your vagina, hold bacteria, or cause your cup to deteriorate. If you don’t have access to water or wipes on hand, you can always grab a paper towel and wet it before heading into the stall. Use it to wipe out your cup after dumping out the blood, but please be kind and dispose of the paper towel instead of flushing — the same goes for the wipe for that matter. Though many claim to be flushable, they really aren’t, so it’s best to toss them.
- Carry a collapsable shaker cup for quick and easy cleaning. You can certainly use plain old clean water to shake your cup clean, but several companies make menstrual cup washes that are great for on the go. Remember not to use harsh bathroom soaps and rinse only with clean water. Soaps with fragrance, dyes, or oils can not only damage the cup, but possibly irritate your vagina and potentially cause infection. Rinse with only clean water.
- If you’re really uncomfortable or in a pinch, skip the rinse altogether! Since your vagina will only make contact with your menstrual cup and your clean hands, the likelihood of bacteria or any other funky stuff getting in there is very slim. Just make sure to remove and wash your cup as usual once you’re in a more private setting.
There’s no one perfect solution to getting your menstrual cup clean in a public restroom, and comfort levels definitely vary between individuals. Try different methods for your situation to see what works for you, and do your best to be prepared with a backup plan in the case of any hiccups. Every day over 800 million people are menstruating, so it’s pretty safe to say you’re never alone in that boat, and you can bet you’re not the only person managing your period in public.