Sea Sponge Tampons & Period Underwear: A Review

Hey reader: This is part four of a review on period products. To read part one about tampons, click here. Part two about pads is here. Part three about menstrual cups is here.

This week, I put a sponge in my vagina so that you don’t have to. That’s right. Here I am bra-less in oversized sweatpants and a hoodie stolen from a long-ago ex. There is a heating pad strapped to my middle like a fanny pack and I’m binge watching Jane the Virgin with A SEA SPONGE STUFFED INTO MY COOCHIE. I am so Spongebob Square Pussy right now, and it’s all for your educational purposes!

Don’t ever say I wasn’t a good friend. Some people remember to call you on your birthday, some people give you a shoulder to cry on. Others use their vagina as a laboratory and write about it on the internet. You’re welcome!

Sponges

You know what a sponge is, you know what a tampon is. If you put them together you have a sponge tampon. Voilá. You stuff this plant-like sea creature, in all its absorbent glory, into your vagina and it soaks up the blood. If you ever wondered what the Little Mermaid did when she got her first period, now you’ve got your answer (her pops gave her a period with her legs, right?). No but seriously, I am not making this up. It’s an actual thing.

The good

  • Tampon-like effect. You get the advantages of having an internal product without worrying about pads or underwear.
  • Reusable. When the sponge is full, you pull it out, rinse it in the sink and re-insert.
  • The cheapest option by far. For $21 you get two sponges, which will last quite a long time if cared for properly.
  • Good to remember at the end of the world. It seems like climate change is pretty real, and I bet people will be more focused on food and shelter than keeping the tampon factory running. So in case you find yourself in some Waterworld-like dystopia during Shark Week, reach down under that melting iceberg and grab a sponge from the ocean. Whoever is left of your band of survivors will appreciate your thoughtfulness!

The bad

  • Not FDA approved. Legally, these cannot be marketed as tampon alternatives. I’m not sure why that is, but I do know that it freaks me out a little bit. I don’t necessarily trust the FDA so much (they still let companies make tampons with all kinds of cooties in them), but I’m going to need to see the receipts for anything I put into my pussy (says the woman with said sponge inside of her at the time of writing). But because it’s not cleared for vaginal use, they can’t legally provide instructions. I really need a clear manual with diagrams. I need Youtube videos and forums and lots of information. I can’t just order a sponge off the internet and then figure it out. I am not Zooey Deschanel.
  • They’re natural. It’s cool that these little guys come from the ocean and not a chemical plant. However, these have to be harvested carefully in order to prevent fucking up the ocean. If we’re not careful, what will the merpeople use to wash their dishes?!
  • Still risk for TSS. Although the risk is much less, you still have to worry about Toxic Shock Syndrome anytime you put things in your vagina, especially those that are made from absorbent materials. And just like tampons, these sponges can absorb other bacteria, causing TSS and/or throwing off your pH.
  • Too DIY. These didn’t come with a string attached, so when it was time to remove the sponge I had to reach my whole forearm up there to pull it out. Ok, not my whole forearm but you get the picture. There are lots of tips online about how to attach your own string, but then I spent way too long researching non-toxic string. I really don’t have time for this shit.
  • Non-vegan Vag. These sponges were once living sea creatures. If you’re a vegan or have strong feelings about animal products in your vagina, this probably isn’t the product for you.

The options

My recommendation

I think that sea sponge tampons mark the limit of my progressive pussy-power agenda. I am not that radical, I guess. It felt uncomfortable most of the time I was wearing it, and I think it needed to be smaller. Apparently, you have to do some experimenting to get the right size. But how the hell am I supposed to figure that out? It was all too much work, too much uncertainty, too much mystery.

Has anyone else used these successfully and have wisdom to share?

Period Underwear

It’s kind of amazing that the most celebrated new period product on the market is basically just a high-tech version of you shoving toilet paper into your underwear in the middle school bathroom, totally caught off guard by Aunt Flo and cursing the day you “became a woman.” But even more amazing is that they actually work.

The good

  • It works. I bought the Thinx’s hip huggers for heavy days (holds two tampons worth) and had no leaks or problems of any kind. Unfortunately, the way my bank account is set up right now I couldn’t afford to buy any other brands and styles, but I’ve heard good things about the other options below.
  • So damn easy. If there is something easier than just bleeding into your underwear, can someone please tell me!? Because I am always looking for new ways to do as little as possible. Especially for those first two days of my period when I don’t want to do shit, hear shit or try out any new pussy gadgets.
  • No diaper effect. Even though this is as close to an adult diaper as you might be able to find, it doesn’t feel like one at all. It feels remarkably dry.

The bad

  • Thick and stiff. These don’t really feel like “normal” underwear. I guess that makes sense since they keep you from bleeding all over the place. But they didn’t stretch the way I was used to. For example, I usually wear a size medium to fit my waist, and assume the stretch will accommodate my size large thighs and hips. But in this case, it felt too tight on my curves and made me wish I’d gotten a larger size. If you’re curvy, you might want to size up (or, it’s just me and I’ll finally admit I’m a size large now).
  • Not very breathable. This fabric is magic during period-time, but I wouldn’t recommend the nylon/spandex material during the rest of the month. Underwear that are designed to retain liquid aren’t going to be the best for letting your pussy breathe.
  • Rinse first. Just like reusable pads, you are supposed to wash these out before putting them in the wash. This raises two issues for me (1) I don’t like rinsing my blood in the sink where I brush my teeth, so I do it in the shower and (2) assuming you won’t do laundry right away and don’t want them sitting wet in your basket for weeks, you’ll need to let them hang dry somewhere after they’ve been rinsed. If you’ve got roommates or squeamish lovers or AirBNB guests, this could be a little hard/weird.

The options

  • Thinx
  • Dear Kate’s: these can’t be worn alone on heavy days, but they’re good back ups and/or for those light days at the end when you still need something.
  • Lunapanties
  • Random Korean clothing stores: My friend Joanne tipped me off about period underwear she’s been buying her whole life, purchased from the local Korean clothing store. These are definitely the cheaper option, although sizes seem to run small.

My recommendation

I really like this underwear for the day my period is supposed to arrive. I usually have hours of slow-building cramps that reach a crescendo at some point during my day, but I never know exactly when the red death with descend. I don’t like using a tampon or a menstrual cup if there is no blood, because that’s an easy way to throw off your pH and get crotch rot, etc. But I don’t want to be thinking about it every two seconds either. Period underwear is an awesome solution for this problem. They’re also great for that last day or two, when you still have a little coming out but it’s not really enough to justify a tampon.