In a world so ram-packed with new eco-friendly sustainable menstrual products, as well as toxic plastic ones, it’s hard to know exactly which ones are the best. Well, I’ve already tried the Mooncup which was great but due to my heavy bleeding wasn’t for me so I’ve been trialling the WUKA Period Pants for a year now and couldn’t be more thrilled. It’s opened up a really comfortable and leak-free way to get on with my life whilst reducing my single-use plastic trash. Before I go on to my review, let’s take a little look at how much waste our periods actually produce and the impact that has on the environment.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that this is not a sponsored post and I have not received a monetary payment. I was sent products from WUKA for my own personal use and to write a review if I wished. All opinions are my own and 100% honest. If you buy anything from the WUKA website I will not be at any personal gain. If you’d like to know more, feel free to contact me.
How Much Waste Does My Period Produce?
In the UK, on average, 4.6 million sanitary products (including pads, tampons, liners, and applicators) are flushed down the toilet every single day, making their way into our oceans causing a huge amount of plastic pollution putting marine wildlife at risk. In your lifetime you’ll probably use a whopping 11,000 disposable menstrual products, which is roughly 280 a year, and 22 every period. It sounds like it’s a lot because it is a lot but what’s really scary is that disposable menstrual products apparently only make up about 0.5% of our landfill waste, the same as plastic plates and cups, meaning that the amount of waste we produce as humans is ridiculously high.
I’ve heard people apply this argument against using more eco-friendly sanitary products as people hear 0.5% and think it’s no big deal. Personally I think that our planet is at a tipping point and it’s not about ‘blaming and shaming’ women. It’s a matter of every little counts. After all, once disposed of, period products start leaking micro-plastics and other toxins into the environment – regardless of if they’re in landfill or in our oceans. Not only that but they will most likely leave behind a residue far beyond our very own lifespans. Even if you’re not a serial sanitary flusher, every time you wrap a sanitary towel in plastic make sure you have a think because that extra plastic means your single sanitary towel will take centuries to biodegrade.
Here are some more interesting facts on period waste:
- Typical period products like regular pads and tampons and the packaging they come in are 90% plastic (polyethylene and polypropylene).⠀
- 200kg of period product waste is thrown away in the average lifetime. (London Assembly, Single-Use Plastics: Unflushables, August 2018)
- A year’s worth of a typical period products leaves a carbon footprint of 5.3kg CO2 equivalent. (Harvard Business School)
- 3% of all identifiable plastic litter items found in our freshwater environment are sanitary items (this also includes wet wipes). (Plastic Oceans UK Plastic Rivers Report 2019)
- Each day 700,000 panty liners, 2.5 million tampons and 1.4 million sanitary towels are flushed down the toilet, making a total of 4.6 million. (Plastic Oceans UK Plastic Rivers Report 2019)
- If we stopped flushing plastic tampons and pads and switched to reusable sanitary methods we could prevent 4,599 tonnes of plastic from entering the environment each year. (Plastic Oceans UK Plastic Rivers Report 2019)
WUKA was founded by the insanely gorgeous (inside and out), Nepali born Ruby Raut in 2017, who just so happens to be a super passionate environmental scientist. Her cultural upbringing was very different to in the UK. In Nepal, periods are known a ‘nachune’ which literally translates to ‘untouchable’. Young girls and women are not to go outside, look at men, or even touch plants as they believe that simply doing so would kill them.
Ruby would have to stay at her aunt’s house every week of the month, and anything she ate from or touched would be classed as being ‘dirty’. She would even have to eat from her own bowl and drink from her own cup. As a mother, this is incredibly upsetting to hear and honestly hard to even think about for too long before becoming choked up. But, there was a plus side to Ruby’s different culture. She would have to use her mum’s old sarees as reusable menstrual pads which although was eco-friendly wasn’t very practical or hygienic. Once Ruby gained her science degree all of these experiences helped her to form what WUKA is today.
WUKA’s Period Wear range allows you to have ultra-hygienic and luxuriously comfortable periods. The pants use a hi-tech super absorbent layer which possesses anti-bacterial properties. All fabrics are eco-friendly and incredibly soft to the touch, so not only are they kind to the environment but they’re comfortable to wear too!
How Ethical Are WUKA?
I’m still not huge on my knowledge on ethical fashion but WUKA’s range is designed in the UK and manufactured in China by a very experienced team who have ISO standard Audits, BSCI (Business Social Compliance Initiative) Audits, Confidence in Textiles (Testing for harmful substances), and Walmart certification. There seems to be a very traceable manufacturing line which is always important for brand transparency. WUKA’s full range is also registered with the Vegan Society so you’ll know that they’ve been made cruelty-free.
I’ve pulled the following information below on the materials from WUKA’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) page for you all to take a look at:
Outer and Inner layer – Micro-modal generic. Selected due to its softness and moisture-wicking properties. It is a type of rayon, a semi-synthetic cellulose fibre made by spinning reconstituted cellulose, in this case from Beech trees. Our Micro-modal is used with other Spandex fibres to enable the generous stretch fit.
Improvement: Traceable fabric with a closed-loop manufacturing process.
Outer sides – Polyester. non-biodegradable, 20-100 year degrading lifecycle. selected for its strength to hold together multi-layered softer fabrics. It is the minority fabric in the garment and other materials are being sampled for future batches.
Improvement: Alternate fabric with equal strength and performance.
Black fabric Die. Under evaluation.
Inner layer – Absorbent fabric. Man-made blended fibres selected for its class-leading absorbancy.
Although there’s clearly room for improvement (like there is for most brands) it’s apparent that WUKA really cares about the environment and the people working in their factories. As far as sustainability goes they’re a pretty darn sustainable product in comparison to single-use menstrual products. Are they as sustainable as a menstrual cup? I think not but they are a lot more practical than most methods.
Are WUKA Period Pants Cost-Effective?
A lot of you are probably already aware of Britain’s notorious tampon tax but if you’re one of my American readers you’re probably not in the know. In the UK, us lucky ladies are taxed 5% on all sanitary towels, tampons, and menstrual cups – meaning that our sanitary products are classed as ‘luxury items’. Thankfully after a 2016 petition parliament agreed to put an end to this however due to Brexit (like everything in Britain) this has now been delayed and won’t be implemented until 2020, or at least so they say. It’s pretty crazy to think that you can pick up a postage stamp or cycle helmet without paying extra tax but something that is needed so desperately in order to stay hygienic, prevent TSS, and mean that you are able to attend work (or school) is classed as a luxury item.
It’s hard to put things into perspective and encourage people to part with their money but personally, I feel that reducing waste is well worth the cost if you can afford it. If you take into account that one pair of WUKA’s pants replace 100 or more disposable pads or tampons that’s a huge deal.
I found out, courtesy of the BBC tampon tax calculator, that I’ve spent roughly £952.79 on sanitary products of which £67.33 is VAT. Considering in my lifetime I’ll probably spend at least £1530 on sanitary products, that’s about £39 per year, meaning that a set of 5 pairs of WUKA heavy flow pants costing £150 would set the average cost at almost double that a year. According to WUKA their pants last 2 years (so long as you don’t need a different size of course).
This is purely because the lining becomes less absorbent due to machine washing, although they do say that they can still be used for light days or as a replacement to panty liners so they aren’t completely out of action. Personally, I know that due to my ridiculously heavy flow over recent years that I’ve needed to buy at least double the average amount of sanitary products which would put my cost up significantly higher to around another £1250 until I start the dreaded menopause. That’s about £80 a year. So in my case, WUKA wear ends up being a lot more cost-effective even if I do have to use a few tampons on the first 2 heavy days of my cycle. If however, you have a more normal cycle than I do you could probably manage on just 3 pairs rather than 5 so the cost is a pretty bespoke thing and is also dependent upon how often you run your washing machine.
It’s hard to put things into perspective and encourage people to part with their money but personally, I feel that reducing waste is well worth the cost if you can afford it. If you take into account that one pair of WUKA’s pants replace 100 or more disposable pads or tampons that’s a huge deal. Especially as every tampon contains on average the same amount of plastic as 4 plastic bags!
Not to mention tampon applicators are commonly made of plastic and menstrual pads also contain plastic liners to prevent leaks. I know that a lot of people won’t be able to afford the upfront cost of WUKA’s amazing period pants, especially not a cycle set, but simply buying a pair every 6 months to a year would make your life that little bit easier and whilst doing your bit for the environment too.
How Does WUKA Perform?
WUKA’s period pants are made of 4 different layers of fabric; both the inner and outer fabrics are made of a Lenzing ® MicroModal fabric which is soft, breathable and possesses moisture-wicking properties. The central layer absorbs and locks the blood into the fabric and the final leak-proof layer prevents the blood from passing through the underwear but also allows for airflow to reduce sweating, making the pants super breathable.
They come in 3 levels of absorbency; Light, Medium, and Heavy. WUKA Light can hold at least 1 tampons (5-7ml) worth blood, WUKA Medium holds 3 tampons (roughly 15-17ml) of blood, and WUKA Heavy can hold at least 4 tampons worth of blood which is about 20ml. WUKA Heavy is recommended for all night or 8 hours of wear. All of the WUKA range have an anti-bacterial layer making them super hygienic and suitable for use post-partum. To clean you simply rinse with cold water and wash at 40°C (without fabric softener) then line dry.
The absorbent fabric gusset measures 25 – 27cm long which means no matter if you’re a front or back bleeder you won’t end up with leaks that you might get with a sudden gush when wearing a pad. The fabric also has 4-way stretch meaning they move with your body, making them super comfortable too!
Before I talk about the performance of WUKA’s super awesome period pants I do want to remind you all that I have what might be the world’s heaviest flow. As in for the first 2 days of my period I tend to go through the most absorbent of tampons every 20 minutes. So, I was unable to wear them on their own for those days and used organic cotton tampons (OHNE are my fave!).
WUKA claim to be leak-free – even for the heaviest period. However, for me, even though I received the Heavy Flow pack, this was not the case. For those first 2 days if I used them on my own they’d leak or I’d often be left in a puddle of blood that led to matting of my pubic hair. Yes, that’s probably TMI sorry. Even though they come equipped with a super-duper high tech absorbency layer that can absorb 200x its own weight in water and lock it in, it couldn’t keep up with the speed of my flow and so yes I did even occasionally gush out of the sides a little. After those 2 days, however (or when using tampons alongside them) I did not have any leaks whatsoever. It was really a matter of troubleshooting with the pants and my flow and gauging from that.
As I opted for the Heavy pants the first thing I noticed is that they do feel incredibly bulky – obviously as a result of the extra absorbent layers. This definitely took a little while to get used to because I was quite conscious of the fact I was essentially wearing the world’s comfiest nappy. There was a bit of rustling until I broke them in, which to be honest wasn’t noticeable to anyone but myself. I have to say – you really do need to be prepared for your butt to grow a little after putting them on due to the extra padding so skinny jeans will be that bit tighter. The leg holes are a little bit tight too but I feel that is probably necessary to keep the blood in and it’s not remotely uncomfortable. Having said that though, since I’ve lost a lot of weight I haven’t found that it’s made too much of a difference. They do size very similarly to Marks & Spencer pants and are just as comfortable.
In the summer when worn with jeans they did feel incredibly hot, although with most other items of clothing they weren’t as bad. The great thing is that they have an amazing wicking layer so you never feel too damp. The only time I felt any real dampness is if I had a sudden gush of blood or passed a clot. When you pass a clot you will need to go to the bathroom to remove it as it’s not too pleasant to sit on, I suppose it’s the same with pads though too. Due to the antibacterial layer, you won’t find that you’re smelling bad by the end of the day. It’s more of a natural, blood-like smell and if you have ever had a baby it smells quite like that initial post-partum bleeding which is totally inoffensive.
I know that this has ended up being a really long review but I feel like it’s a product that needs to be reviewed thoroughly in order to come to a conclusion as to whether or not WUKA’s period pants may be for you. If you really care about the environment and have had enough of using single-use menstrual products, or haven’t had any luck with a menstrual cup, then WUKA is definitely worth the investment. I can’t imagine using anything else now as I found the menstrual cup a hassle due to my heavy flow as I needed to empty it far too regularly. WUKA’s range allows me to get on with life in a way that I couldn’t before and in line with my ethics. Pads were uncomfortable and sweaty, plus awful for the environment so now I feel that I can actually leave the house and not have to worry about leaks which were a huge problem for me in the past.
WUKA have actually managed to make period wear sexy, comfortable and a lot more hip than other brands. I love the mesh sides and branded waistband. They’re a modern, forward-thinking brand that cares about its customers, the environment, and it’s manufacturing process which is such a rare occurrence these days. They also offer a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee meaning that you can try a pair for 40 days and exchange for a full refund if you aren’t happy, and a new size if the ones you initially get don’t fit. The sizes range from a UK 4-20 meaning there will almost definitely be a size for pretty much anyone.
It’s worth noting that I was also sent out the WUKA® Bralette (RRP £28.99) which is currently on sale for £18.99 and just so happens to be the comfiest bralette I have ever worn. Plus the branded under band makes it look a little edgy and urban which fits into my style well, and looks awesome under mesh tops!
So, would I buy from WUKA again? Absolutely! In fact, I’m really keen to try out their new styles next. I’m also looking to buy my eldest daughter a couple of pairs of the tween size or WUKA’s amazing First Period Pack (RRP £49.99) which includes; 3 medium flow panties, a bralette, and a wash bag as well as a period guide too! It’s taken a while but she’s finally seeing the importance of cutting down on plastic and that they’re actually a more hygienic alternative to pads.
WUKA’s Period Pants are available to buy direct from their shop ranging from £19.99-£24.99 for a single pair, £67.47 for a 3 pack, or £99.99 for a pack of 5. Have you tried WUKA’s Period Pants yet? Drop me a comment below and let me know your favourite eco-friendly menstrual products. For more sustainable living reviews click here.