These Students Created an Innovative Device for Reusable Period Pads

This will be a game changer for girls and women in developing countries.


(Invent at IITGN/Facebook)

Two students from the Indian Institute of Technology (ITT) just found a way to make reusable sanitary pads much safer, affordable, and more sustainable. This will be a gamechanger for girls and women in developing countries.

Devyani Maladkar, IIT Goa, and Aishwarya Agarwal, IIT Bombay invented Cleans Right, a device that cleans and sterilizes reusable sanitary pads and reduces biomedical waste. The students applied for a patent for the device that comes with an affordable Rs 1,500 ($21.80).

The project is the result of a six-week program that ended in May 2019 held at ITT-Gandhinagar called Invent@ITTGN. The participants had a budget of 50,000 rupees (about $726) to use on their projects. According to Global Citizen, the students chose to focus on a socially relevant problem that has a huge impact.

Only 18 percent of girls and women have access to sanitary products in India, and that means that many have to use unsafe materials like rags and sawdust. The women who do have access to disposable sanitary pads which are not recyclable are ending up as biomedical waste.

“It is not just about engineering but about the will to change society,” Agarwal told Better India. “Anyone can do so from their respective fields of knowledge. We are just using ours!” 

Agarwal and Maladkar constructed the device to operate on foot pedal plungers inside a chamber filled with water.  When the pedal is pushed, the cloth pads are squeezed to rinse out the menstrual blood while they are rinsed and then spun dry. Cleans Right can also be used on underwear and baby clothing. Right now, the students are working on how to improve how the device sterilizes the pads with UV lamps that run on solar power.

Currently, reusable pads have to be washed and dried in the sun. Sunlight is a natural sterilizer, but it takes a long time for the pads to dry. But only a fraction of women in developing countries who use reusable pads clean and dry them sufficiently, sometimes because they don’t have clean water or detergent. In India, 163 million people lack access to safe water, and over 210 million people lack access to sanitation.

The students chose to create Cleans Right after they read about girls dying from toxic shock syndrome, a deadly condition caused by the release of toxins from staph bacteria, that can be caused by improperly washed sanitary products. “With this device, we want to do our part by altering this reality!” Agarwal said.

In many places, there are stigmas attached to menstruation and pads are the most accessible and culturally acceptable products, according to Katymay Malone, public health instructor at Mississippi University for Women. She told Global Citizen that shame and misconceptions stop many girls from using tampons.  Reusable pads may be the only option and Cleans Right will make them safer to use.

A lack of access to sanitary products is a major issue in poor or developing countries where girls frequently have to miss school during their periods. Devices like Cleans Right can also help alleviate this issue because of its affordability. This simple, economical device has the potential to change the world.

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