This information sheet contains information about:
- What is a sponge?
- How to use a sponge
- How to take a sponge out
- I cannot get the sponge out
- Oh no! The client knows!
- Healthy and safety tips
- Questions, answers and other information
What is a sponge?
A sponge is used to soak up menstrual fluid inside the vagina when you are working.
There are different brands and types of sponges. For example, Beppy, Sax, Hygenica, etc. They come in different shapes and sizes.
They are normally individually wrapped and sterile for single use only. Some come already lubricated. A sponge can be used for up to 8 hours, depending on how heavy your period is.
You can get these sponges online, from Respect Inc and some Needle and Syringe Programs (NSPs).
Types of sponges that are not recommended:
Sea sponges are from the ocean and you can buy them at a chemist, or some supermarkets. These are not recommended because they may not be clean or safe for internal use. This is because they are:
- not sterile
- may have bits of dirt, sand and seashells in them. Sea sponges can scratch the inside of your vagina, leave debris inside the vagina, and scratch or tear the condom.
These sponges are sold in a plastic wrap or loose in a big container.
Lots of workers have used sea sponges with no ill effects, but there are safer choices available.
How to use a sponge
1. Wash your hands with soap and water.
2. Take the sponge out of its packaging.
3. Wet the sponge with either water or lube (if it’s not lubed).
4. Squeeze excess liquid out of the sponge.
5. Put the sponge inside as if you are putting in a tampon. Squeeze the sponge to make it small and narrow. You can squat down or lift up one leg while standing up, which may make insertion easier. Push it up inside your vagina to the same area you normally put your tampon. Try to make it sit against your cervix.
6. Once you have put the sponge in, wash your hands with soap and water again.
How to take a sponge out
When taking a sponge out, it is best to be calm, relaxed and comfortable.
With one finger
- Get into a comfortable position. You can squat down or stand up and lift up one leg.
- Gently and slowly slip your finger into your vagina. Be careful not to scratch the vaginal walls.
- Hook your middle finger around the side of the sponge to scoop it out.
With two fingers
Repeat step 1 and 2 and use your middle finger and thumb like they are a pair of tweezers.
Note: Some menstrual fluid may come out when you pull the sponge out. You can do this over the toilet, in the shower or with a towel under you to avoid spillage.
If you can not get the sponge out
- Can’t reach it? It’s slippery? Can’t get a firm hold of it?
-Breathe deeply, slowly and relax: When you are tense, you will tighten up. This will make it harder to remove the sponge.
- Change positions:
-Stand up with one leg up.
-Squat down over the floor or on the toilet. If you are squatting, squat down more or curl up forward.
-Straighten and relax your back or lean back gently and push (tilt) your pelvis or hips forward. This will straighten the vagina.
- Ask someone you trust and know what they are doing to help you get it out.
- Do not attempt to insert tools such as tweezers.
- See a general practitioner (GP). The general practitioner uses a medical tong and a speculum to open the vagina and remove the sponge.
Healthy and safety tips
- Douching is not recommended as it can unbalance the pH level of your vagina.
- It is not recommended to reuse sponges. They are manufactured for 8 hours of use, once only.
- Using more than one sponge at a time can be uncomfortable, however some sex workers find it effective for a heavier period.
- It is not recommended to leave them in the vagina for a very long period of time. Up to eight hours is fine. Leaving them for longer can make you ill or cause an infection. If you feel discomfort, remove it straight away.
- Before you put the sponge in, make sure there isn’t too much lube or water on the sponge. Otherwise the sponge will not be as absorbant.
- It is not recommended to tie a string or dental floss around the sponge.
- Decrease absorbency.
- The string may tear the sponge when you pull it out.
- The string can break when you pull it out.
- The string may get pushed deeper inside the vagina.
Here are some helpful tips to avoid clients noticing:
- Use black or red coloured condoms.
- When the client removes the penetrating body part, put your hand over the condom with tissue and remove it quickly. With the tissue (or wet wipes), you can wipe the client and yourself.
Oh no! The client knows!
For some clients, it is a turn-off to find out that you are working on your period and they might freak out at the sight of it. Some clients can feel the sponge inside you and others will think it’s your cervix.
If the clients seems bothered, you could try pretending that you didn’t realise (if you want to) by saying:
- “I didn’t expect this to happen.”
- “Looks like my period came early.”
If they don’t want to continue penetrative sex and the service isn’t over, you could offer an alternative service, eg. massage and hand relief
Questions, answers and other information
Can you sleep with a sponge in?
Yes, you can sleep with a sponge in, so overnight jobs are not a problem. Once you wake up, remove the sponge as soon as possible.
Can you go to the toilet without removing the sponge?
Yes, you can. Going to the toilet with your sponge in is safe and it will stay inside the vagina. The sponge sits deep inside, away from the opening of the the vagina and the anus.
Can you re-use a sponge?
No, sponges are for single use (8 hours) only. Using cleaning products on sponges or boiling them can cause the material to break down, leaving them less effective, and may cause infection.
What if you don’t want to use a sponge?
Many workers take time off when they are menstruating. Contraception may be an option for some workers who wish to regulate, stop or reduce the heaviness of menstruation. Check with your GP for suitable contraception.
A note on sponges
Sponges have not been tested as 100% safe to be used inside the vagina. Respect Inc sells these sponges because we want to provide the safest sponges available.
All material in this information sheet is provided for your information only and may not be construed as legal, medical or health advice or instruction.