Reusable tampons offer the advantages of an internal product, with the advantages of a reusable one. They can be cheaper than Menstrual Cups, however they may still cause TSS and can be harder to clean.
Reusable tampons can be purchased from a few online stores or they can be handmade – in sewn, knit or crochet form. Some women purchase cotton baby socks and use these rolled up as tampons.
Making a sewn version (as shown above left) is simply a case of cutting out a rectangle of cloth (here I’ve used organic cotton jersey), sewing it into a tube, filling it with something absorbent (Like bamboo fleece or cotton terry), sewing it closed and (securely) sewing on a string. The advantage of this style is that it is used much the same as a disposable tampon and needs no rolling or fiddling around with. The disadvantage is that styles that can roll up will allow for easier cleaning than an absorbent-filled tube style.
Knit or crochet versions can be done in a cotton or bamboo yarn. Knitted tampons usually use the fact that a square or rectangle knit in “stocking” stitch will naturally want to roll. This rolling action makes it easy for the knitted tampon to stay rolled for easier insertion/removal. Crochet tampons sometimes have a flat roll up section, with a curved top to give the tampon a rounded end for more comfortable insertion.
Are they safe though? Well that’s hard to say. The main contributing factor for TSS seems to be the rayon fibres in regular tampons (basically the bacteria multiplies readily on the rayon fibres and can cause TSS) All-cotton tampons have not be found to breed bacteria like rayon does (although there have been studies that show that all-cotton tampons are just as risky as rayon ones). So it would seem that if an all-cotton disposable tampon is safer for you than a rayon one, then an all-cotton reusable tampon might be safer for you than a rayon disposable one. Regular disposable tampons are not sterile (just because they are white, wrapped in plastic and look sterile doesn’t mean they are). Other things that go into vaginas also aren’t sterile (penises, vibrators, fingers etc.). However you obviously do want to make sure they are well cleaned. You could boil or soak the tampons in a sterilising solution if you wanted to.
You can find patterns and instructions for knit/crochet tampons here: