How To Use A Tampon

Because those instruction booklets are a hot mess.

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I will never forget the first time I tried to learn how to use a tampon. I was 10 and my family was getting ready to head out to the beach for the day. I was new to all this period stuff, and when I woke up that morning to find out that Aunt Flo had decided to slap my nethers on a beach-day, I roared in despair to the heavens above.

I sheepishly told my mom what was up, and she handed me a tampon from her own stash. Cut to me on my back squinting at the indecipherable directions that came with the tampons, and then squinting at the tampon itself, and then squinting at my own crotch trying to figure out how all of these things were supposed to work in tandem to staunch my flow so that verily, I would not be eaten by sharks in the ocean.


RELATED: 10 Ways To Induce Your Period (If You're Trying To Time Aunt Flo)

Because that's how period blood works, right? How do you use a tampon? Ultimately, there wasn't enough time and I was too confused to get the damn thing in. Instead, I wound up crossing my fingers and going without protection.

It was a low enough day flow-wise that I got away with doing it, but I would be lying if I told you that I wasn't paralyzed with terror about potential sharks in the water the entire day we spent sunning and splashing in the lovely cool Rhode Island waves. 

Eventually, I did learn how to use a tampon, but it took time, and even when I did get it right, I didn't always get it right enough for it to feel comfortable or remotely as trustworthy as the pads on which I cut my teeth. To that end, I want to break down how to use a tampon right here so that no panic-stricken youth needs to ever jab fruitlessly at their own loins again with visions of blood-thirsty sharks dancing in their head. 


1. Pick your tampon.

Tampons might all do the same thing, but not every tampon is right for every woman. Do some experimenting when it comes to brands and styles until you find the brand, style, and size that works best for you. 

All tampons are not created equal. While I might clap my hands at a package of applicator-free tampons, you might need a plastic applicator to feel comfortable. 


2. Wash your hands.

It might seem counterintuitive to wash your hands before you insert a tampon, but come on now — your hands touch all sorts of nasty things, including your own pee and feces. Delicious! 

Your vagina and your vaginal opening are riddled with all sorts of good bacteria. When you're putting something into your vagina, you want to be as clean as possible so you aren't introducing anything that might upset the precarious balance that is the bacteria that lives to make your vagina so darn fly! 

RELATED: The 7 Best Organic Tampons (To Use Instead Of Plastic)

3. Open the tampon.

This might seem obvious but it isn't. See, there's a right way and a wrong way. If you're using the applicator to push up and open the plastic or paper wrapper, you're doing it the wrong way. If you're using the applicator to open your tampon, you run the risk of preemptively pushing the cotton out of the applicator before it gets to where it needs to go. 


You literally can't put that back in the bag... at least, not without getting your fingers all over it! Most tampons come with notches or easily marked peel-away paper that indicate how to best open them, so use them! 

4. Position the tampon.

Position the tampon so that it is perfectly vertical and the tip is pressed against your vaginal opening. You can do this while sitting on the toilet while squatting, or while laying down on your bed (use a towel if you're worried about messes).


Whatever position you pick, make sure it's one where you aren't clenching. You can still get a tampon inside of your vagina when you're clenched and tight, but it's going to be more difficult. 

Once you're in a comfortable position, move one hand to the topmost part of the applicator and your other hand to the bottom part of the applicator. Holding the top in place, gently but firmly push up the bottom piece of the applicator until it's completely inside the top part, or until you feel like the tampon is in position. 

5. Do a final check.

If your tampon is inside of you correctly, you should feel no discomfort. The only sign that the tampon is in to begin with should be the string (or strings) attached for easy removal. 

If the tampon feels like it's sticking out, don't try to push it back up with your fingers (unless it's applicator free). Just take another tampon and start all over again. The goal is to have your tampon up high enough that you feel no discomfort, but low enough so that it's not bumping up against your cervix


Figuring out the best way to put in a tampon is a personal thing. You may find that your method is slightly different from the one listed above, and that's totally fine. What matters the most is that you stay clean, stay healthy, and figure out a way to stay dry during your period that causes the least disruption to your life. 

RELATED: 9 Simple But Effective Ways To Get Rid Of Your Period Cramps For Good

Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cat, Batman. Her work focuses on relationships, pop culture and news. For more of her work, check out her Tumblr.