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May 14, 2002

Rolling your own tampons
Posted by Teresa at 09:26 AM *

Please forgive the indelicacy; I was recently surprised to find out how many women don’t know this trick.

Take a single sheet from a roll of paper towels, preferably uncolored. It will probably be about eleven inches square.

Fold it in half, between and parallel to the perforated edges. Fold it again, the long way, into thirds — ideally, so that the third that is bordered by the initial fold is on the outside, and the third that is bordered by the doubled edge is on the inside. You should now have a strip that’s eleven inches long and a bit less than two inches wide.

If you require a string, and you have string, here’s where it comes in. Take a piece of string that’s twice the length of the tampon plus desired tail, wrap it over the strip’s short axis, and tie it so it forms a loose loop. Pull the tails to one side.

Now fold the strip along its shorter axis, but not quite in half. Bring one short edge over to within about two inches of the other short edge. The strip is now about six and a half inches long. If you’re using string, the half on the in-folded side should lie in the fold.

Folding in the same direction as last time, take the edge formed by the fold you just made, and fold over the thicker side of the strip about an inch and a half in from the edge.

You should now have a strip a bit under two inches wide and about four and a half inches long. If you’ve done the last three folds correctly, it’ll be six sheets thick at one end and twenty-four sheets thick at the other. I find this makes the rolling easier and tidier, but it’s not strictly necessary. Once you’d folded the towel lengthwise into halves then thirds, you could just start rolling from one short end to the other; but the strip tends to splay and distort as you roll it. The third and fourth rounds of folding stabilize it a bit.

Starting from the thick edge, roll the strip into a snug but not impenetrably tight cylinder. Use in the normal fashion. It won’t be quite as absorptive as the commercial variety, but it’s a good deal cheaper and can be improvised at need.

In a pinch, you can do this trick with a length of toilet paper folded lengthwise, but I find the finished product comes out a little too long, and the paper has a tendency to shred and pill a bit in use: not ideal, but heaven knows it’s better than getting caught short.

There are two reasons to avoid tinted or printed paper towels. One is that the dye can’t be good for you. The other is that the towels aren’t always dyefast. It’s hard enough to get out the usual sort of stains, but fugitive dye stains from colored paper towels can get you some really funny looks from your dry cleaner.

Comments on Rolling your own tampons:
#1 ::: Velma ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2002, 07:47 AM:

I think I shall print out and save your directions. I can do it (and have, though without the fourth fold), but find it hard to explain to anyone else.

And, of course, there are the women who look shocked and say, "Oh, I could never do that!"

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2002, 08:56 PM:

They could never do that?

What do they do, use tongs?

#3 ::: PixelFish ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2002, 09:09 PM:

Wow! This is quite the useful bit of knowledge. (Considering I blog something menstrual related about once a month, I think this is it for this month.)

*skibbles off*

#4 ::: Jill ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2002, 01:01 PM:

Do you find that bits come off it? I mean, do bits of toilet paper get stuck in there? I've folded my own pads but have been a bit concerned about putting toilet paper INSIDE me. Probably it's no different to commercial tampons, really.

Now I have that hormone IUD which stops periods all together. At first I was skeptical, but honestly, it is SO NICE just not worrying about remembering to have tampons around. I love it. Haven't had a period for a year and have no desire to stop. It also means the IUD pays for itself since tampons etc are expensive.

#5 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2002, 02:27 PM:

Yes. Toilet paper is absorbent stuff, and if local conditions aren't moist enough, it can wind up getting slightly stuck to the nearest bodily surface. You know how a dab of toilet paper will stick to a place where you cut yourself shaving? It's kind of like that. Anyway, the mild friction that develops when you remove a tampon in this condition can peel little rolled-up shreds off the tampon while it's being removed. I've neer found them a huge problem. They don't hang around forever, and I've never known them to migrate north, so to speak.

Kleenex has a little more tensile strength, but the individual sheets make it hard to roll. However, the little plastic-wrapped purse packs of Kleenex make a decent improvised pad, if that's what you have.

As for the hormone IUD -- well, sure, if it works for you. They don't work for everyone, but I'm glad to hear that someone's escaped this @#$%! blessing.

I'm not griping at you, just mentioning that there was a big discussion of alternate technologies on Metafilter, with women chiming in about this-that-or-the-other product they preferred. They were missing the point.

Granted, there are commercial products that are a little tidier or are more convenient. I have nothing to say there; they should use whatever they like best. Rolling your own isn't a product preference. It's a quick fix when you find you've left your preferred product at home. And while it's not up to the standards of a metasuperwoofawoofa OB -- you know, the kind you unwrap and throw in the water if you need to temporarily part the Red Sea -- a hand-rolled tampon works as well or better than those feeble things they sell in ladies' room vending machines.

#6 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2002, 08:15 PM:

I'm trying to remember the last time I had neither tampons nor sanitary napkins, but did have a roll of paper towels. And if I take the trouble to make sure I have untinted, unprinted paper towels, it becomes simpler to keep the tampons in stock.

I guess it would work with the kind of non-roll paper towels found in public restrooms, but I think I'll keep just doubling a couple and making an impromptu pad.

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