A few weeks ago I blithely mentioned cloth pads and Keepers in a post. Crystal, one of my readers, happily pointed out that she had no idea what I was talking about. So if you’re like her, here’s the low down:

Cloth pads are, essentially, just like disposable pads except that they’re made out of…um…cloth. (Those snaps go on the bottom of your panties, folks, and the nice smooth side you can’t see in the picture goes towards your body.) Potential benefits are: you don’t have all those yucky absorptive chemicals in such a sensitive place, it’s cheaper in the long run than disposables, plus it’s so much better for the environment. Another happy side effect for those of you able to handle your moon blood more easily than most is that the water you use to wash your pads in is really great to use to water your plants with. Makes them extra green and shiny. That is, of course, just too gross for some people, which I totally understand. Frankly, if I used cloth pads, I’m not sure I could bring myself to water my plants that way.

OKAY! Onto the the Keepers.

First, Keepers are menstrual cups, menstrual cups are Keepers. They’re shaped like little wine goblets without the base and are made out of rubber (the brown one) or medical grade silicone (the white one). Here’s how you use a Keeper: You fold the lip of the cup together and into quarters and insert it into your vagina. You poke around to make sure they’ve fully expanded and tug on the stem a little to make sure they’ve got a good seal all the way around. In the best of all worlds, they catch all your blood. When you think it’s full (you develop a seventh sense about this, just like with tampons), or it’s been up to 12 hours, you tug on the little bit sticking down and dump your blood in the potty. Rinse the cup in the sink. Benefits are: there’s no concern of toxic shock syndrome like there is with tampons, it’s cheaper in the long run, fewer chemicals are leaching into your body, there’s no bloody yuck in your bathroom trashcan, plus they’re better for the environment.

I’m a Keeper girl myself. But it took me years to find out! So be particularly sure to talk with your pre-menstrual girls about both of these options, in addition to the more typical disposable items in the crotch section of your local grocery store. (Ever notice how all of the items for the general crotch area are all on the same aisle? Take a look next time you’re there. It’s kind of funny.) That way she’ll be more open to the idea of a reusable item when she starts her period. Particular care and attention must be used to help her figure out how to be discrete in the bathroom with these items, in the event she doesn’t want her friends to know what kind of blood catcher she’s using.