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A toolkit that supports girls living in poverty to wash, dry and carry reusable sanitary pads.

  • Washing the Reusable Sanitary Pads using Flo

  • A one-minute video about the concept of Flo

    A one-minute video about the concept of Flo

  • Drying the Reusable Sanitary Pads using Flo

  • Putting the Pads inside the Carrying Pouch

  • Problem Findings & Design Criteria

  • Problems Around the World

What it does

A toolkit that supports girls living in poverty to wash, dry and carry reusable sanitary pads.

Your inspiration

Learning that a girl's menstrual cycle could have a substantial negative impact on her life was heartbreaking. In parts of the world, girls miss school during when they are menstruating because they do not have access to sanitary products and are afraid of menstrual leaks. As a result, many drop out of school when they hit puberty. Disposable sanitary pads are too expensive for population living below $1.25 purchasing power parity per day, and more than 90% of girls still use rags instead of pads. Because of social norms, it is prohibited to wash used rags or reusable pads with other clothes or dry them in public. Consequently, they are hidden under the bed, on top of the roof, or inside cracks in the wall. Rags and reusable pads are always wet and are causing reproductive infections and illnesses. Solving a taboo problem is is challenging, but we thought we could design a tool that can help girls work around the issue and eventually shift the social norm.

How it works

The main components of Flo are two bowls, a basket, and string. Compared to regular hand washing method with a barrel, Flo uses half the water and detergent. The spinning action will wring the fabric to minimize drying time. Using the basket, girls can dry the pads outside in the sun by using any fabric as blinder. Flo comes with zip-top pouch made with Tyvek material. Non-verbal instruction of Flo is printed on the product. This pouch allows girls to carry a reusable pad to school privately. In the morning, girls put the clean pad inside the pouch and attach the pouch under their clothes where it is unseen from others. With the average school day lasting eight hours, a girl will need to change her pad once. She can go to the toilet without carrying any extra bags or items because she is wearing the pouch under her clothes. Then, she can securely carry her used pad home with this resealable zip-top pouch. Flo will be sold under $3. With the Flo tool kit, girls will have access to dry, clean pads that can reduce illness and will be more comfortable, both physically and emotionally. Girls will be able to work around their menstrual cycle and be in control. By having control over their menstrual cycle, girls do not have to give up on their dreams and can be empowered to pursue what she wants to become.

Design process

During this project, we did not have the opportunity of visiting girls worldwide for primary research. Instead, we gained advice from professionals who have been to the field. We soon found out about menstrual cycle taking over girls’ lives, and that there are already many NGOs giving out disposable and reusable pads to girls. However, even with access to the pads, there were still many girls who could not come to school when they had their period. We realized the solution would not be as simple as giving them access to sanitary products. There were bigger challenges that needed to be addressed, too, such as social norms and water sanitation. We wanted to design a tool that would empower these girls and create sustainable system to use and reuse sanitary pads. We went over fifteen concept iterations and created more than eight functional prototypes. Our prototypes were tested with actual bloodstain and salt water. We also collaborated with MBA students for roll out business plan, and realistic manufacturing process. Our journey is not over. Future steps will include bringing the prototypes into the field and long-term research of girls around the world.

How it is different

Future plans


Flo has been entered in IDSA IDEA, Core77 Design Awards, Red Dot Awards, and Spark Awards.

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