Menstrual Hygiene: Feminine Wipes vs. Flushable Wipes 

menstrual hygiene feminine wipes flushable wipes

When it comes to the period products timeline, feminine wipes are a pretty new invention—and a controversial one. Many women use them to help clean up leakage from tampons, pads, and other menstrual products. Plus, they can help women feel more refreshed and cleaner. But if you think about it, flushable wipes can do the same job. So what are the differences—if any—between feminine wipes and flushable wipes?
 

Feminine Wipes: Helpful or Harmful?

The next time you’re in Washington, DC, stop by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History and visit their Feminine Hygiene Products collection. The curators themselves admit that it’s small and “lacks examples of many common and important products.” And feminine wipes are one thing you won’t find in their historical archives among the tampons, pads, douches, and bottles of Lysol and Lavoris — which were advertised as vaginal douches once upon a time.

At least not yet.

Feminine wipes are cleansing cloths meant to clean the vaginal area during menstruation, or for everyday use when freshness and odor are a concern. However, the vagina is a self-cleansing organ so they aren’t something one necessarily needs to be clean — and there could actually be some drawbacks: 

  • Many feminine wipes list fragrance among their first ingredients, so depending on one’s skin sensitivity, they may cause irritation.

  • Some feminine wipes are marketed as “pH balancing.” However, the external vulva and vagina of every woman have their own normal pH range, so these wipes will only work for those whose pH range matches that of the wipes.

  • Feminine wipes are said to help eliminate odors, but every vagina has a natural odor that doesn’t need to be masked. If you experience a strange odor, irritation, or discharge, see your gynecologist to make sure you’re not suffering from an infection.

  • Many feminine wipes are not flushable, and do not degrade well. This can mess up your septic system and harm the environment over time.

  • Feminine wipes are expensive! They can cost as much as $0.40 per wipe, especially for packages containing individually-wrapped feminine wipes. 

 

ALSO READ: Talking to Your Teen About Her First Menstrual Cycle

 

Feminine Wipes vs. Flushable Wipes: What’s the Difference?

Both feminine wipes and flushable wipes found their way onto store shelves in the early 2000s. Both are pre-moistened wipes designed to provide solutions to problems that aren’t thoroughly addressed by dry toilet paper alone. The biggest difference between the two is the impact on vaginal pH balance.

If you’re unfamiliar with vaginal pH balance, read on for answers to some commonly asked questions:

What is vaginal pH balance?

Think back to those blue Litmus strips in science class that turned pink when you dipped them in lemon juice. What you were actually measuring was the pH amount, or acidity, of the juice. pH is a measurement of how acidic or alkaline — another word for basic — a substance is. The scale runs from 0 to 14. A pH level under 7 is acidic, and a pH level above 7 is basic. 

A woman’s vaginal pH level, and whether it’s acidic or basic, is an important measurement of vaginal health. A moderately acidic vaginal pH level prevents unhealthy yeast and bacteria from multiplying rapidly and causing infections.

According to gynecologists, a moderately acidic vaginal pH level between 3.8 and 4.5 is considered “normal” — but “normal” can vary based on age. During the reproductive years (between 15 to 49 years old), a normal vaginal pH level should be equal to, or slightly below, 4.5. Before menstruation and after menopause, a healthy pH level tends to be slightly higher than 4.5.

However, a vaginal pH level significantly higher than 4.5 creates the ideal circumstances for infections, such as bacterial vaginosis. This, in turn, can put women in danger of developing more serious infections like herpes simplex virus, human papillomavirus (HPV), and HIV. It also makes one more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as trichomoniasis.

During intercourse, the pH level inside the vagina rises to be more alkaline. This protects the sperm as they make their way to the egg. A pH level between 7.0 and 8.5 is optimal for swimming sperm. If the acidity is too high to begin with, it can reduce a woman’s fertility.

What throws off a woman’s pH balance?

The four most common culprits that can throw off a woman’s vaginal pH balance are:

  • Menstruation. As we mentioned before, menstrual blood is slightly alkaline. When that blood is collected in a tampon or pad and sits in place, it can raise the vagina’s pH level.

  • Antibiotics. Unfortunately, antibiotics not only kill bad bacteria that cause disease, but also the good bacteria in the body, including the bacteria necessary to maintain a healthy, acidic vaginal pH level.

  • Unprotected sex. Semen is alkaline, which can encourage certain bacterial growth, breaking down that important barrier a more acidic pH level provides.

  • Douching and the use of other feminine hygiene products. Douching and other products used on the vagina to prevent odor not only increase the vaginal pH level, but also may encourage the growth of harmful bacteria.

 
What are some symptoms of an unbalanced vaginal pH level?

If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your gynecologist or OB/GYN. They can do tests to check your pH level and diagnose and treat an infection if you have one:

  • Itching

  • Burning

  • Foul odor

  • Unusual discharge

 
How do I maintain my pH balance?

There are several things you can do to keep your vaginal pH level on an even keel. Some of them are common sense, such as practicing good personal hygiene, especially during your period and after a bowel movement. Here are some others to keep in mind:

  • Choose your clothing with your vagina in mind. Avoid tight-fitting clothes and fabrics that may create moist conditions allowing yeast to thrive. Wear breathable fabrics and cotton underwear to help keep your vaginal area clean and dry.

  • Practice safe sex. Using condoms prevents semen from entering your vagina and changing the pH level. It can also help protect you from STDs. 

  • Schedule annual OB/GYN appointments. Regular exams are important for maintaining vaginal health.

  • Eat yogurt. According to Leah Millheiser, MD, director of the female sexual medicine program at Stanford University Medical Center in Palo Alto, California, “Yogurt is rich in probiotics, especially plain Greek yogurt, so if a woman is prone to yeast infections, taking a probiotic that is rich in [the bacteria] Lactobacilli, or eating plain Greek yogurt every day can be helpful.”

  • Don’t douche. Your vagina is naturally self-cleaning, and using douches and other feminine hygiene products can increase your pH level. Instead, wash only the outside of your vagina with mild soap and water when you shower. If you’re concerned about odor, talk to your OB/GYN. A douche or feminine wipe only serves to cover up the smell, but doesn’t address the cause.

 
What can I use instead of feminine wipes?

If you’re already using moist toilet tissue like Nice ’N CLEAN® Flushable Wipes for your everyday restroom needs, you can also rely on our durably soft pre-moistened wipes for your menstrual hygiene needs. Our resealable, travel-sized soft packs are an added convenience for on-the-go use during your time of the month.

When it comes to menstrual hygiene, trust the Nice 'N CLEAN® brand to help you feel nicer and be cleaner.

 

 

References

« Back to Blog