How do you throw out tampons in a house with a minimum of yuckiness?
November 11, 2013 12:24 PM   Subscribe

What is the best (most hygienic/cleanest/least gross) way to dispose of tampons at home if you can't flush them? Is there a specific type of bag for this?

We're moving somewhere with old plumbing and our landlord has told us we can't flush tampons down the toilet (and to make sure our friends don't either). I'd like to manage this as unickily as possible by providing the best bags or alternate disposal method. We have a metal trashcan with a lid and odor-block trash bags for the bathroom. What should we have available for the actual disposal? Should I just use small ziplocs? If possible I'd like to avoid anything see-through.

I'm going to make a little sign asking people not to flush tampons down the toilet and instead to use the the provided ____________. Any suggestions for filling in this blank would be great. Thanks!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl to Home & Garden (54 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Ziplock used tampons? What? You can just wad them up in toilet paper and throw them in the bin.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:29 PM on November 11, 2013 [85 favorites]

Are you ever supposed to flush tampons down the toilet? I thought just the applicators, and then only when they were cardboard. Anyway, I have always wrapped them in toilet paper and put them in the trash, which is then emptied regularly.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 12:30 PM on November 11, 2013 [10 favorites]

I wrap them in toilet paper and put them in the trash.
posted by leahwrenn at 12:31 PM on November 11, 2013 [6 favorites]

I'm not sure I understand why they can't be wrapped in toilet paper and put in the trash, especially if the can is covered and has a bag. I've never known them to be smelly/ attract critters/ scandalize visitors
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 12:31 PM on November 11, 2013 [5 favorites]

I have never flushed a tampon in my life/my 15 years of using them. I, and I think a lot of my fellow ladies who were raised with this messaging, just wrap them in toilet paper and throw them away. It's not really A Thing. You have just taught me that this could be A Thing for people, which is really interesting. I wouldn't feel obligated to provide anything unique. If you want to be clear, just put "please only flush toilet paper" or something similar as the sign; no need to make it tampon-specific.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 12:32 PM on November 11, 2013 [24 favorites]

I also just wrap them in toilet paper and put them in the trash.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:32 PM on November 11, 2013

Relax. It's just tampons, not hazardous waste. Wrapping it in toilet paper is enough. If you wish to use bags, yes there are special sanitary napkin disposal bags [example here]. But the extra expense and environmental impact are not necessary worth it.

For yourself, you might consider greener alternatives, like menstrual cups. Less waste.
posted by travelwithcats at 12:32 PM on November 11, 2013 [6 favorites]

Yeah, you just wrap them in tp so that no one can see them. What do you think is going to happen if you don't wrap them in some sort of impenetrable shield? They don't smell unless you put your face right up to them. They will not explode, or make you ill, or anything.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:33 PM on November 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Put a little trash can with a foot peddle flap for opening the lid beside the toilet. Then line it with a drawstring style trash bag.

Every week that there is trash, change the bag. Problem solved.
posted by strixus at 12:33 PM on November 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

If it really bothers you, I suppose you could buy little brown paper baggies like they sometimes have in public restrooms.

And yeah, the only time I've heard of flushing tampons is in the context of don't do it
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 12:34 PM on November 11, 2013 [6 favorites]

Another vote here for wrap in TP and throw in the bin. I've always been told never ever to flush tampons.

If you're worried about it and have access to a building garbage room or a well-sealed outdoor garbage bin, you could always take your bathroom garbage out twice a week instead of once.
posted by snorkmaiden at 12:36 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you'd really just prefer to have small paper bags on hand, particularly for guests, you can by them in bulk from places like this.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:37 PM on November 11, 2013

Response by poster: Huh, interesting, thanks everyone -- at the risk of being the one to turn this gross, the smell problem has arisen before even after a day or so (our current plumbing is also a bit sensitive) and I figured moving would be a good time to address it.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:38 PM on November 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Charcoal smell absorption in the can, attached to the inside of the lid.
posted by tilde at 12:45 PM on November 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

Plastic liner in the trash can, wrap them in toilet roll before tossing, take out trash every single day. Make sure it is a heavy lidded bin if you have pets!

To combat the smelly issue you could use scented/odor block trash bags; even though they will likely be too large for the trash can, you could leave a folded one on the bottom of the can. Otherwise I guess febreze or similar? Or a highly perfumed bar of soap in the bottom of the can (between the can itself and the trash bag, I mean).
posted by elizardbits at 12:47 PM on November 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

I've always been told never ever to flush tampons.

Me, too. I don't know anyone who thought they should flush them, nor, thankfully, has anyone ever done so in my house.

Wrap in toilet paper and then it goes in the trash. With a covered trash can top the smell shouldn't be that much of a problem, as long as you clean often and keep the lid tight.
posted by sweetkid at 12:49 PM on November 11, 2013

Also we use a small trash can with small plastic liners, so it's reasonable to change or tie off every day.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 12:50 PM on November 11, 2013

You could use something like a Litter Locker or Diaper Genie if odor is really a problem. These are of course designed for things much larger than tampons, but they'd do the trick.
posted by payoto at 12:51 PM on November 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

The flushability issue came up before on ask.
Unless you're buying organic cotton tampons, tampons are not biodegradable. They're made from rayon and then covered in a polypropylene coat. They don't just dissolve. They clog something, either the pipes in your house or at the sewage treatment plant. If they hang around the pipes in your house, sure there can arise an odor problem.

Menstrual cups don't produce odor, btw. It's only when oxygen gets to the blood that it starts smelling.
posted by travelwithcats at 12:51 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

As a male in a house with a teenage daughter and (now) ex-wife, I never had a problem with them wrapping in TP and putting in trash except the time I accidentally threw something out and realized in later and had to go through the bin. But that was my friggin fault.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:53 PM on November 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

To combat garbage smell in the kitchen, I put a few shakes of baking soda in the bottom of the garbage can before lining it with a bag, and it works surprisingly well. Maybe that would work for your bathroom--or maybe even a shake of baking soda on top of your garbage at the end of the day?
posted by snorkmaiden at 12:55 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

> the smell problem has arisen before even after a day or so

I've never noticed a smell problem, but if you have one at your house: just take the garbage out every day.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:01 PM on November 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

The only times in my life that tampons have created problems in the trash are
  • a dog found the tampon and ate it
  • a small child found the tampon and played with it
  • I didn't take the trash out for several days because I was ill.
When dogs and/or small children are an issue, and I am using tampons, I just make sure to get the tampon to a safer place. Because asking about disposing of a tampon is WAY less embarassing than finding my used tampon dissected on the white sofa. I know, I've experienced both.

At home, I do take care to remove the tampon trash each day when I am using them because I live in a hot climate. I will also provide another vote for using a menstrual cup. I received one as a gift a while back and it is awesome. You need to have a place to wash your hands before inserting/ rinse the cup after emptying, but this is also true of tampons, because you have to touch the applicator. For most women, the cup lasts longer than a tampon. And many can just rinse it twice a day, which you could do at home, avoiding the problem of public restroom emptying. Continue to carry a tampon with you, in case the first day of your cycle catches you off guard.

For houseguests though, just let everyone who visits know that you have finicky plumbing and that the "last time someone sent a solid object down the toilet the bill for the repair was awful, so please don't flush anything that's not toilet paper." Tell that to everyone who visits your home whether they present as men or women, because some male presenting people menstruate, but ALSO because some people who don't menstruate need to be reminded not to put stuff in the toilet. (I have known people who had to deal with the following going down a toilet: condoms, dental floss, cotton balls, band aids, and I wish I were kidding, a diaper.)
posted by bilabial at 1:08 PM on November 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

Hm. I've been flushing them for years. It says I can on the box and I swear on all of the 1980s "I love being a girl!" propaganda that I was raised on that you could flush the used bits. (not the applicator)

But I guess if I wasn't inadvertently ruining pipes and my environment for years, I'd wrap them in TP like I used to wrap used pads and currently deal with liners. If there was a problem, I'd empty the trash daily.

I feel like a savage. I'm going to slink away now.
posted by kimberussell at 1:09 PM on November 11, 2013 [35 favorites]

Baking soda + essential oils manage to control the smell of my son's diaper pail pretty well. Diaper pail liners usually come with a swatch of fabric sewn into the seam for you to put the essential oils on, so if you want to be really hardcore about cutting out odors, you could fix a swatch of fabric to the inside of a garbage bin lid and add a few drops every now and again. Eucalyptus is the best IMO.

If you want a really small dedicated container to keep them in, how about a counter top compost pail? They come with charcoal inserts (or not) and they'd be about the right size to sit on the back of your toilet. Some of them are even vaguely attractive, and you could store it away when not in use.

(I however, just slum it and wrap my pads in toilet paper/their wrappers and chuck them in the bin. If there's a smell, I take the garbage out.)
posted by saturnine at 1:12 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've seen on some boxes that you can flush them, but I've been told by plumbers that they, like baby wipes, are one of those things that you just shouldn't. With that being said, I found out recently that a lot of female-bodied types do flush them. Thankfully none of them have used my bathroom.

I wrap and put them in the lidded trash next to them. The only time I've ever noticed a smell is if I stuck my head in the bin.
posted by sm1tten at 1:18 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I do the wrap in toilet paper thing myself but you could buy doggie poop bags their probably the right size and fairly cheap.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 1:20 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are these, which I've never heard of or used:

But I'd go old-school and get some of these waxed "sanitary napkin disposal bags" and if I was feeling fancy, I'd put them in a wall-mounted dispenser.
posted by mgar at 1:21 PM on November 11, 2013

On the "how to get guests not to flush" front, my aunt has a nice sign posted beside each of the guest-facing toilets that says "Please don't flush anything except toilet paper unless you'd like to demonstrate your skill with a toilet snake and/or plunger. Thanks!"
posted by arnicae at 1:24 PM on November 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

A generic "only flush TP" sign and a nice, lined bin that the dog won't get into. Dogs do love tampons. God-love the little heathens.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:31 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I take the pedal-bin bathroom trash out every. day. when it contains TP-wrapped hygiene products. I have a liner in when I know I will be putting wrapped pads, liners or tampons in it, and when I have female friends over, I just automatically take out the bathroom trash after they leave. If the trash bin gets icky, well, I wipe it out. Baking soda or borax sprinkled in after cleaning it out will help any residual odor.

(Sometimes I don't take it all the way out--I just tie the bag and drop it into a larger, emptied-once-or-twice-a-week bin that also contains less-than-lovely products--the litter genie, or the laundry room trash.)

I live with cats and dogs, so I am well-trained, and it doesn't take much time when it's routine.

And, FTR, although I am generally quite happy with my Lunette Selene cup, I've not yet found a menstrual cup that seals perfectly for me. I don't have hundreds of dollars to try every model of cup on the market. Reusable pads/panty liners are not happening, unless I want to shell out for abdominal exploratory surgeries on the beasts. (They have a fixation on anything that has touched blood ever, and all it takes is one second of lapsed vigilance at any point in the process of handling and cleaning reusable pads, and one of them will pursue their lifelong quest for a foreign body obstruction.) Since I know that I can't feasibly be perfectly environmentally sound and maintain my sanity/have energy for other parts of my life, I assume that other people have good reasons for their choices.

For example, cups can be much more uncomfortable for people who have irritable bladders, or who take drugs that act on the muscles of the bladder--many pharmaceuticals for mental health, allergies, and other health conditions have effects on the urinary system.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 1:31 PM on November 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Nthing a sign, a covered trash can with liner and foot-pedal, and they can just be wrapped in TP.

Also, make sure that the spare rolls of TP are in an obvious place so that if a guest happens to be the one to use the bathroom near the end of the roll, they don't have to choose between wiping themselves and wrapping their tampon for disposal (which, if squeamish/easily embarrassed, might tempt them to guiltily flush their tampon.)
posted by desuetude at 1:51 PM on November 11, 2013

Yes, wrap up your tampons in toilet paper. As long as the trash can is lined and has a lid it should be fine. If you have pets then you might want to look into a more dog-proof trash can.

In terms of flushing, a plumber told me (after he had to do emergency repairs at my parents' house) that even though the tampon companies claim their products are flushable, it's really not a good practice and it will eventually cause a problem. He basically indicated that that was the cause of this particular issue at our house although he didn't directly point his finger at me! So yeah, there's no truth in advertising.
posted by radioamy at 2:17 PM on November 11, 2013

I have a trash can in my bathroom. Mostly it just ends up collecting wads of hair I pull out of my hairbrush, empty shampoo bottles, q-tips, etc. but I also use it for tampons. It has a lid, and I make sure to empty it regularly.

That said, I live alone, and at this point in my life I don't foresee myself living in a situation wherein I would worry that someone else would dig through the (lidded) garbage and be grossed out. If I lived in a college dorm or something I might do things differently.

To me, the trash can with a lid = "out of sight, out of mind", which is good enough for me.

I am not particularly worried about whether a garbage bag with tampons in it is "hygienic". It's not like I'm licking the garbage can.

In office situations, I've liked places that provide those little paper bags, but that might just be my love of ephemera, stationery, and packaging. I don't feel like it makes things any more sanitary than just using toilet paper (or, again, trusting that the lid will do the job of keeping things discreet).
posted by Sara C. at 2:43 PM on November 11, 2013

Okay, I think the 'pedal bin, liner bag' advice is misguided. You want these TP-wrapped terrors to dessicate, not fester. Ditto with...uh, lots of other things people put in bathroom bins. No lid means stuff dries out and odour isn't an issue. Or on the odd occasion that it is an issue, no lid means being promptly alerted so you can empty it before it gets worse.

I clutch my pearls in horror at non-ironic signage in private homes (ex., poolside: "We don't swim in your toilet, so..." -- !); if you do put up any sort of sign, either kitsch out and get a bizarro vintage thing, or expect shits like me to blanch and wonder why you're too dainty to just talk about these things out loud and... Ignore me if you have a room set up for airbnb and are dealing with a regular stream of unknowns, in which case bog standard (har!) public toilet signage (ULine probably carries it?) will do nicely.
posted by kmennie at 2:48 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've been using tampons for 10+ years and have never flushed them. I had a roommate who was squeamish about such things but she was a passive-aggressive note-writer so whatever. Just please, on behalf of future visitors, make sure that there is always a trash can with a bag in your bathroom whenever you have people over. I used to work out of someone's house and he never had a trash can in the bathroom. Uncomfortable situations galore.
posted by kat518 at 2:50 PM on November 11, 2013

Also - unless it's a group living arrangement (which always require lots of notes and signs) or you're expecting to have random strangers tromping through all the time, I don't really see as you'd need a sign about what to flush.

I mean, who flushes a tampon at a stranger's house? You don't know what condition the plumbing is in, and who wants to clog someone's toilet?

If you are running an AirBnB or a group thing, yeah, keep it simple. "Please flush only toilet paper," or the like.
posted by Sara C. at 2:56 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I mean, who flushes a tampon at a stranger's house?

Lots of lovely people who, unlike me, didn't grow up with bad plumbing. Ask me how I know!
posted by lalex at 3:05 PM on November 11, 2013 [12 favorites]

I mean, who flushes a tampon at a stranger's house?

Or people like me who grew up in the country and this was just how you dealt with tampons. I know it's sort of AskMe-typical to presume that everyone has the same rules for living that you do, but where I come from people flush tampons. This thread also should not become an argument about this topics outside of the OPs question.

There are special bags that, for example, fancier restrooms have for disposing of feminine hygeine stuff of various stripes. Have them available and some indicator that you have bad plumbing and require their use.
posted by jessamyn at 3:53 PM on November 11, 2013 [10 favorites]

Maybe you could incinerate them.
posted by oceanjesse at 3:57 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I used to flush tampons when I got my periods, too. This has never backfired on me, so a sign saying to only flush TP would be helpful if your plumbing is that bad.
posted by ancient star at 4:18 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wrap them in toilet paper.

The thing about flushing is all of us have gotten away with it from time to time but eventually....nothing like a plumber talking about red mice.

It isn't the most decorative but I line my bathroom trashcans with those plastic bags from the supermarket. Just do that or buy something a step up and take the trash out daily and you will be fine. Really.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:27 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have two miniature dachshunds who think used tampons are the BEST SNACK EVER and a Simple Human garbage can with pedal-lifted lid keeps the dogs out and the smells in.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:50 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I used to design plumbing. It's not a bad-plumbing problem. It's a marketing problem, as in, there's no such thing as a flushable tampon. They're flushable in the same sense that baby shoes are flushable.

Every woman I've ever lived with or around has wrapped 'em up in a bunch of TP and binned 'em. Covered foot-pedal trash can for maximum discretion.
posted by notsnot at 4:56 PM on November 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

I still end up with lots of plastic grocery bags ; keep a bunch of them in the bathroom, and use them as bathroom trash bags. As soon as the bathroom trash looks icky (lots of long hair from the shower drain), smells at all, or is actually full, it gets tied off and taken out. I keep spares under the clean liner. Make a sign - some people do flush them, and they will cause problems, esp. in old plumbing.
posted by theora55 at 5:14 PM on November 11, 2013

throw them in the main trash or the one that goes out the most often. my mom and i did that for years. we never would throw them in the bathroom trash.
posted by Jewel98 at 6:06 PM on November 11, 2013

I tend to carry around biodegradable dog-poo bags for their designed use, but they also are good for disposing of tampons and pads. Some are scented, as well, and I would wager they are cheaper than froofy "sanitary sachets for your Moon Shame" or whatever the marketing media wants you to buy.
posted by The otter lady at 6:09 PM on November 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Wrap in a light later of tp and dispose of in cheap blue doggie waste bags. (I use these for baby tristeza's diapers.)
posted by tristeza at 6:58 PM on November 11, 2013

Use a lidded trash can or put a little trash can inside the cabinet below your sink. Put tampons, wrapped in tissue as necessary, into the plastic bag lining the trash can. Depending on yours or your visitors' olfactory sensitivity, tie up the bag anywhere from daily to weekly, put a new bag into the container, and put the tied off bag in the appropriate final garbage container.

General garbage odour strategy: Don't mix wet and dry garbage until the last possible moment. In Toronto, we have three trash containers for city collection:

1) Green bin: Holds material to be collected by the city every week for composting (food waste, disposable diapers, and, yes, tampons and pads). If my kitchen compost bin starts getting too full or potentially stinky, this food waste goes in the garage until the next pickup (winter) or in the freezer (summer).

2) Blue recycling bin: All the recyclables, collected every other week.

3) Grey bin: All other garbage, collected in non-recycling weeks. This ends up being pretty dry and clean garbage.

In my house, wet, non-compostable, non-recyclable kitchen garbage, such as meat wrappers, get rinsed and dried thoroughly OR bagged and stored in the kitchen freezer. These are added to the grey bin garbage bag just before putting the bin out for collection.

Even if you don't have a green bin system like ours, try keeping things separated until the last minute. Don't cross the streams. It's bad.
posted by maudlin at 7:48 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm a lazy tampon flusher, but even I know that in bathrooms that have a sign about flushing only tp, they should be treated like pads and just wrapped in tp and put in the trash can. I use OBs, but some applicator tampons now design the wrappers to be used to discretely dispose of applicator and used tampon.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:33 AM on November 12, 2013

jessamyn: "Or people like me who grew up in the country and this was just how you dealt with tampons. I know it's sort of AskMe-typical to presume that everyone has the same rules for living that you do, but where I come from people flush tampons."

Agreed. I grew up in a middle-class suburb and I never heard of people not flushing tampons until I was much older. We all just believed the marketing, I guess, and had 1960s-era plumbing that could mostly handle it.
posted by desuetude at 5:33 PM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

Alcohol wipes are handy for this and many other uses. One wipe will clean your hands, clean your reading glasses and clean your magnifying mirror all before enveloping your used tampon in an antiseptic shield.
posted by maggieb at 9:16 PM on November 13, 2013

I always flushed tampons unless it was a septic tank situation. And in my experience, if a landlord told me he has a plumbing problem, it was always a bad sign. That is, he was not maintaining his property. FYI. The last place I lived, I did not flush any female things, just septic safe paper. And only did laundry a couple times per week, so I was not overloading the system. And then sure enough, it backed up, the septic guy came and said to the landlord, "dude, I told you you had to fix this a year ago." And then I got blamed for supposedly flushing a napkin down the drain when I don't use napkins and no longer needed tampons. So it's not plumbing, necessarily. I find that suspicious.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:13 PM on December 29, 2013

Huh- just came here from the metatalk thread and will chime in to say it never occurred to me to NOT flush tampons unless there was a sign posted in the bathroom. I'm not sure I'll change my ways but I'll certainly think about it.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:15 AM on December 30, 2013

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