The sanitary napkin is the intimate protection favored by women, ahead of the tampon. While the disposable towel still has a long way to go, some women opt for the washable and reusable version, for a “zero waste” approach.


The sanitary napkin is intimate protection allowing to absorb the menstrual flow during the rules. Unlike the tampon or the menstrual cup, which are internal hygienic protections (that is to say inserted into the vagina), it is external protection, attached to the underwear.


As its name suggests, the disposable sanitary napkin is disposable: once used, it is disposable.
There are different models, in different sizes and thicknesses to suit the flow (light/medium/heavy) and the type of lingerie. The absorption capacity is indicated by a system of pictograms in the form of drops, common to all intimate protections. The sanitary napkin is attached to the lingerie thanks to a sticky part, completed according to the models by sticky fins on the sides.

The Weak Points Of Disposable Sanitary Napkin

● The materials used in some models can, in some women, cause allergies, feelings of discomfort, irritation, or even yeast infection

● The environmental impact is linked to their preparation, composition, and decomposition. From the absorbent part of the napkin to its packaging, including the adhesive strips of the fins, the disposable sanitary napkin (for classic models at least) contains plastic, which takes hundreds of years to decompose.

● Its composition; The composition of the disposable sanitary napkins in question
Depending on the brands and models of single-use sanitary napkins, different materials are used: products of natural origin derived from wood, products of a synthetic nature such as polyolefins, superabsorbent (SAP). The nature of the materials, the chemical processes they undergo (bleaching, polymerization, bonding) and the products used for this transformation could pose a problem.


Following a 2016 survey of 60 million consumers noting the presence of residues of toxic substances in sanitary napkins and tampons, ANSES was asked to assess the safety of intimate protection products. The agency submitted a first collective expert report in 2016, then a revised version in 2019.

The Agency noted in some towels different traces of substances: butylphenylme´thylpropional or BMHCA (Lilial®), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), pesticides (glyphosate), lindane, hexachlorobenzene, quintozene, dinoctyl phthalates (DnOP). These substances could act as endocrine disruptors. The Agency is however reassuring by specifying that for these substances, no health threshold is exceeded. However, the question of the cumulative effect and the cocktail effect remains, because, in our daily life (food, water, air, cosmetic products, etc.), we are exposed to many substances.

The Strengths Of The Disposable Sanitary Napkin

● Its ease of use
The disposable sanitary napkin: precautions for use. To limit the risks, here are a few simple recommendations:

● Opt for towels without perfume, lotion, additives, and plastic (in the absorbent area and in contact with the skin).

● Avoid towels bleached with chlorine

● Favor models labeled organic (cotton for example, or bamboo fiber certified GOTS for example) guaranteed without pesticides and without chemical substances.

● Change your towel regularly to avoid the proliferation of bacteria.



Faced with the opacity surrounding the composition of conventional sanitary napkins and the amount of waste they generate, more and more women are looking for greener and healthier solutions for their periods. The washable sanitary napkin is one of its “zero waste” alternatives. It uses the same principle as the classic towel except that it is made of fabric, and therefore machine washable and reusable. They have a lifespan of 3 to 5 years, depending on the frequency of washing.

Good news: of course, they have nothing to do with the diapers of our ancestors! The washable sanitary napkin is made up of different parts, for more comfort and efficiency:

● A soft and absorbent layer, in contact with the mucous membranes, generally in polyurethane.

● An insert made up of 1 to 2 layers of ultra-absorbent fabric inside, bamboo fiber or bamboo charcoal fiber, for example, materials chosen for their naturally absorbent and anti-odor properties.

● A waterproof and breathable outer layer (polyester).

● A system of press studs to fix the towel to the outside of the garment.

The brands offer different flows – light, normal, heavy – according to the same drop pictogram system, as well as different sizes depending on the flow and the type of lingerie.

The Strengths Of The Washable Towel

● Ecology: reusable, biodegradable, and recyclable, the washable towel reduces waste and thus limits the environmental impact.

● The absence of toxic products: the materials used are guaranteed to be fragrance-free and chemical-free (formaldehyde, heavy metals, chlorinated phenols, pesticides, phthalates, organotins, chlorinated benzene, and toluene, carcinogenic or allergenic dyes. Refer to the labels GOTS, Oeko Tex 100, SGS.


● The cost: the purchase of a batch of washable sanitary napkins certainly represents a small investment (count 12 to 20 € for a napkin), but it is quickly amortized.

Weakness Of A washable Sanitary Towel

● They need to be washed, which therefore takes time and organization.

● Electricity and water consumption also raises questions.

The Washable Sanitary Napkin: Instructions For Use

● The washable sanitary napkin needs to be changed at substantially the same rate as a conventional sanitary napkin: 3 to 6 times during the day, depending on the flow of course. For the night, choose an ultra-absorbent model, while a light flow model may be sufficient for the start and end of periods. In any case, the brands recommend not to use the towel for more than 12 hours in a row, for obvious hygiene reasons.

● Once used, the towel should be rinsed with lukewarm water, then ideally pre-washed with soap. Avoid fatty soaps such as Marseille soap which risk clogging the fibers and alter their absorbent properties.

● The panties should then be machine washed, on a cycle of 30 ° to 60 ° C. Preferably use a hypoallergenic, fragrance-free detergent, and make sure to choose a sufficient rinsing cycle in order to eliminate any particles of product that are potentially irritating or even allergenic to the mucous membranes.

● Air drying is recommended in order to preserve the absorbent properties of the towel. The use of the dryer is not recommended or on a delicate cycle.

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