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What’s The History Behind Sanitary Products?


Have you ever thought about the long history of sanitary products? It’s hard to believe that the things we use monthly have progressed and changed so much over time to get to where they are now. As we know, periods are steadily becoming less of a taboo topic to discuss in public, on social media and anywhere else. However, women from over 150 years ago had to not only deal with the taboos of periods, but also the overall struggle in finding ways to hygienically make sure they were “covered” during their time of the month.


So, let’s explore the history of our feminine sanitary products! Dating all the way back to the 1800s, women and girls used menstrual cloths. These menstrual cloths were made out of flannel and woven fabric, but eventually, there was a growing concern about bacterial growth from inadequate cleaning of the reusable menstrual cloths in between wears. Imagine only having the option to use parts of flannel cloth during your period. How protected do you think you would feel? Back then, they didn’t have an option until later on, that’s when new menstrual products started to come about between 1854 and 1915.


Twenty patents were taken out for menstrual products between 1854 and 1915, some made of aluminum or rubber. Rubber pants, yes you read that correctly- rubber pants were bloomers or underwear lined with rubber! This menstrual product was designed to create a barrier, using the rubber but was later deemed just as unhygienic as the menstrual cloths. In the 1890s, the Ladies Elastic Doily Belt was created. With the period belt, women attached a pad to a silk and elastic belt that they would wear around their waist and strap the pad underneath. After the period belt, this made way for the first disposable pad, which came about in 1896 using bandages in plant fibers.


By the 1900s and into the first World War, the first cellulose Kotex sanitary napkins were made by war nurses who figured out that they were better when made from surplus high absorption war bandages rather than cotton. In 1921, Kotex was the first mass produced sanitary napkin. However, women still didn’t want to be seen purchasing any products because of the moral taboos surrounding menstruation.


Women would put nickels in a box and discreetly purchase their menstrual products. By the 1930s to 140s, also known as the Kotex Age, disposable tampons were patented under the name Tampax. Using names like Kotex and Tampax made it even easier for women to be discreet about buying their products. By 1972, the first beltless pads were introduced and the years following would bring about the maxi pad (modernized) and even pads with wings! All of these things would eventually drive the innovation to the pads and menstrual products that we see today.


Our menstrual products have had a long journey all around the world. In Ancient Rome they used wool, paper in Ancient Japan and even grass in some parts of Africa! It gives you something to think about the next time you go out to purchase your products when it’s that time of the month, look how far our menstrual products have come.


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