Long-time TreeHugger readers will know that we are fervent in our praise for reusable menstrual products -- whether they are cloth pads, menstrual cups, or even self-sewn alternatives. Not only are they better for your health, but they are also better for the environment -- and for your wallet too.
Surprisingly, we haven't covered many examples of menstrual underwear -- basically, a combination of panties and leak-proof component that acts as a menstrual pad, and integrated in the underwear itself, resulting in a more seamless appearance. A number of companies making these magical menstrual panties have cropped up in recent years, and UK-based WUKA Wear is yet another one of these companies offering a more eco-friendly feminine hygiene product, which we were eager to try.
Co-founded by Ruby Raut, WUKA (short for Wake Up and Kick Ass) came out of Raut's teenage experience growing up in Nepal, where disposable menstrual products are expensive and many girls will use sari rags for their monthly flow instead. While sari rags can do the job, they are bulky and have the unfortunate tendency to fall out, especially if you are playing sports. So Raut, an environmental scientist by training, set out to create a more comfortable, luxurious, hygienic and eco-friendly product that could be reused for periods. Hence, WUKA was born, not just to offer an alternative product, but to also bust menstruation myths, as Raut explained to us:
Periods often have this negative connotation, that it's a bloody pain: either physical pain (aches and what-not), emotional pain (mood swings), social pains (taboos) and environmental pain (waste). So we wanted WUKA to bring a positive message and a sense of empowerment. We want to break taboos around menstruation. You should be proud and loud about your period. On your period, show it off!
Made out of a dark-coloured soft, breathable fabric, WUKA looks like any regular pair of panties at first glance. But at the crotch, beneath the moisture-wicking top layer are several layers of menstrual protection: an absorbent and anti-bacterial layer that takes and traps in bloody outflow, and which can hold up to 4 tampons (or 20 millilitres) worth of blood. Beneath this is a layer of leak-proof material that prevents any liquid from passing through.
My first impression in donning a small-size pair of WUKA underwear was how comfortable they were. At first glance, the small size seemed too big, but after putting them on, I suspected the apparent largeness was to cover all the bases (so to speak), so that it wouldn't shift or budge during the day, while the padded area covered a decently sized zone for potential leakages, especially at the back, meaning that they could be worn at night as well, up to 8 hours.
There's a sporty feel to the design, thanks to the sturdy elastic band at the top, emblazoned with WUKA's name. In terms of height, WUKA came up just an inch or so below the belly button -- higher than hip-hanging bikini-style panties, but feeling much more secure and flexible, thanks to two sections of mesh-like fabric at the hips.
WUKA did well during its test run; it absorbed well, and during the several continuous hours that it was worn, it didn't feel uncomfortable or have anything leak out. I actually forgot I was wearing it at times. Though it is just as absorbent, WUKA has a surprisingly thin profile compared to my usual cloth pads. Clean-up was simple: they can be tossed into the machine to wash in cold water (separately from your other clothes, of course), with regular detergent, and line-dried. Alternatively, they can be pre-soaked in cold water and detergent, prior to machine washing, to get them extra clean.
As a veteran user of both cloth pads and menstrual cups, I have to say I'm impressed with WUKA: it offers an attractive middle ground between the bulk of a cloth pad and the fiddling around that's required to insert a menstrual cup. For those of us who might be leery of either cloth pads and menstrual cups, menstrual underwear such as WUKA's offers a perfect compromise, and its high-absorbency means it can be worn as a standalone or as a back-up to other products. Either way, using any of these reusable alternatives will make a huge dent in reducing the amount of disposable menstrual products that are sent to the landfill each year (or 62,415 pounds of pads and tampons during the lifetime of the average American woman).
WUKA has been successfully crowdfunded via Kickstarter; each pair costs £29.99 retail (USD $41, with free shipping to UK), but they are still taking pre-orders at a discount of £25 (or USD $34, free UK shipping, and there's a discount of 33 percent off for orders of 5 pairs) until the second week of March, 2018. To find out more information or pre-order, visit WUKA Wear.