When you first start crocheting, you want to make All The Things around the house. They tend to be easy, quick projects which require only a small amount of dishcloth cotton – perfect for beginners! First you make a few washcloths, then you make a Swiffer cover. Before long you’ve graduated to making face scrubbies. You start looking around at all the things you spend money on and wonder…can I crochet that?
One day, overwhelmed by yarn fumes and premenstrual cramps, you may have a eureka moment: I can crochet tampons!
Mmmmmmnope. Bad idea. Crochet tampons are a DDIY project – don’t do it yourself.
[bctt tweet=”Would you really want to explain to your gynecologist that you’ve been shoving yarn up in your ladybits?” username=”jensalilloopy”]
If you’re seriously thinking about shoving a fiber shedding, vaginal lining tearing, unhygienic wad of yarn up your hoohaa, I have some words for you: Toxic shock syndrome. Bacterial vaginosis. Yeast infection.
Step away from the Sugar and Cream and read on (after stopping here for a quick refresher on the ways tampons impact your body). (Spoiler: they aren’t easy on your system .)
Toxic Shock Syndrome
Toxic shock syndrome is nasty, nasty stuff. Thankfully, it’s rare and there are steps you can take to decrease the risk of contracting this disease. Crochet tampons are a giant leap in the opposite direction.
One of the contributing factors to TSS is using tampons with a greater absorbency than required. The FDA guidelines recommend using the lowest required absorbency level for your flow. They’ve created absorbency standards to which all tampon manufacturers must adhere. If you’re making your own crochet tampons, there is no way you can accurately measure the absorbency. On top of that, the absorbency level of a crochet tampon will change over time as the fibers expand, shrink, and deteriorate with use and washing.
Also, crochet tampons have an abrasive texture. The microtears that could result during insertion and removal make it that much easier for dangerous bacteria to enter your bloodstream.
Bacterial vaginosis is much more common. While not as nasty as TSS, if confused for a yeast infection or left untreated, it can become extremely painful and cause lasting harm to your reproductive organs.
Bacterial vaginosis is an imbalance of the “good” and “bad” bacteria in your vagina. Since it is impossible to sterilize a crochet tampon well enough to reuse (as discussed more fully below), using a crochet tampon significantly increases the risk of introducing harmful bacteria.
In addition, the fibers that shed from crochet tampons can remain inside your vagina and trap bacteria. This can cause a bacterial overgrowth.
The fungal cousin to bacterial vaginosis, yeast infection, is very common. Yeast infections are an imbalance of yeast cells in your vagina that are super annoying, but generally easy to treat.
Yeast infections are mostly avoidable if you’re taking care of your body by eating a balanced diet (including foods that have active lactobacillus cultures), avoiding antibiotics when possible, and keeping your blood sugar in check. It’s also important to keep your vaginal area clean and dry by wearing cotton underwear and changing tampons and pads frequently.
Yeast infections love warmth and moisture. Crochet tampons are a perfect breeding ground for yeast. Many crochet tampons are made by crocheting a rectangle and rolling them into a tube shape. This creates a LOT more surface area than manufactured tampons have. More surface area = more places for yeast to grow.
Yarn is Not a Suitable Material for Tampons
Since it has never been studied, there is no real way of knowing how using yarn inside of your vagina affects the balance of the organisms residing there.
The only yarns that might be suitable for making crochet tampons are unbleached and undyed cotton or hemp. Cotton and hemp are absorbent, compostable, and don’t shed fibers as readily as wool (crocheting tampons with fiber that comes from animals is a whole level of OMG NOPE I’m not even going to get into).
That said, you’d have to do some research into whether any chemicals were used during the yarn manufacturing process (some yarns are cleaned with chemicals, stiffened with sizing, etc.). Obviously dyed cotton yarn is out. Look at how much (and how quickly) washcloths made from dyed cotton fade – that dye is going somewhere, and it is made from chemicals you definitely don’t want bleeding into your vagina.
Even if you use the softest cotton ever, once crocheted it will become a fabric consisting of many bumps and ridges. Compare the surface texture of something you’ve crocheted to that of a tampon:
Using a crochet tampon is the equivalent of inserting yarn sandpaper into your vagina. Not comfortable, and potentially hazardous to your health.
Crochet Tampons Can Never Be Adequately Cleaned
Forget the washing machine.
Just because something looks clean doesn’t mean it’s clean enough to insert into your vagina. That’s why your gynecologist uses an autoclave to clean speculums before using them with another patient.
Speculums are non-porous and need to be cleaned in an autoclave. Crochet tampons are absorbent and full of fibers in which bacteria can hide.
To get crochet tampons as clean as you would need them to be to safely reuse them, you’d either have to boil or bleach them. Boiling will shrink the cotton and weaken the fibers, causing fiber shedding. Bleaching crochet tampons would negate the environmental benefit of purchasing undyed/unbleached yarn. Further, there is no way to tell if the bleach residue has been sufficiently removed. Bleached crochet tampons create a risk for internal chemical burns.
There is no way to get a crochet tampon clean enough to use more than once.
Crochet Tampons are SO Don’t Do It Yourself
Making crochet tampons seems like an economic, environmentally friendly project. But, the potential health consequences of reusing handmade feminine hygiene products outweigh the environmental or economic advantage.
A box of tampons costs about five bucks. How much would it cost you to treat toxic shock syndrome, bacterial vaginosis, or even a simple yeast infection? At a minimum, my copay to see the gynecologist is $60 – more than ten times the cost of a box of tampons. Not so budget friendly anymore, is it? And would you really want to explain to your gynecologist that you’ve been shoving yarn up in your ladybits? AWKWARD.
On its face, it seems environmentally friendly to buy unbleached/undyed yarn to crochet tampons. By creating a reusable product, you’re keeping a significant amount of trash out of the waste stream. But, on the back end, keeping the tampons “clean enough” to reuse (which I firmly believe is impossible) would require significant water, energy, and/or chemical usage.
There are plenty of reusable feminine hygiene products on the market: Diva Cup, Lunette, Mooncup, etc. Whatever your feelings are about them, they’re safe enough that they’ve gotten a stamp of approval from the FDA. If something goes horribly wrong and you are injured or made sick by those products, you have avenues for legal recourse.
Not so with crochet tampons. If you make them or purchase them from an Etsy seller, you’re on your own. You have no recourse against the yarn manufacturer, because yarn is not intended to be inserted into your vagina. If you buy crochet tampons on Etsy, chances are good that the seller doesn’t have insurance coverage for that sort of thing.
Alternatives to Crochet Tampons
I get it. I like to live lightly upon the Earth too, and fully support replacing disposable items with handmade, reusable ones. I hate tampons with the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns, but if I’m really being honest, I just hate dealing with my period period. No blood catchment solution will make me happy, even if it’s cute and cleans up after itself.
But in this case, handmade is an incredibly bad idea.
If you’re committed to managing your menses in an environmentally friendly way, there are MANY safer options than crochet tampons. Here are a few:
[amazon product links)
For your health’s sake, please use something that has been researched, tested, and approved for use by the FDA.
Let’s Talk About It!
Have you tried crochet tampons or do you think they are the worst idea ever? Please share your thoughts in the comments!