Yep, there’s a tampon shortage — the latest supply chain hardship to disrupt normal life.
Essential feminine products are another necessity suffering from demand and low inventory — as baby formula remains in very low supply.
If you’re one of 34 million people who use tampons, there’s no reason for you to freak out about bare shelves. We’ll tell you what’s happening, help you find tampons (or tampon alternatives), and keep you from spending too much.
(Generally speaking, though, you’re going to want to brush up on our article about how to save on tampons and pads.)
Here’s what you need to know:
Why is there a tampon shortage? Face masks, vacancies, and the war in Ukraine.
Raw materials used for tampons have been in short supply, in part because cotton and plastic were used to make all of the surgical-style masks that were widespread during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
And Ukraine is a major supplier of the kind of fertilizer used to grow cotton. The war has slowed down exports of the fertilizer, making it more difficult to catch up on production.
Also making things worse? Inflation, rising fuel costs, and the labor shortage. The makers of o.b. and Playtex say their manufacturing has suffered since Covid outbreaks reduced their workforce. These companies are scrambling to rehire.
Walgreens, Target, and CVS say suppliers can’t keep up with inventory orders on tampons.
The tampon shortage isn’t actually new; forums, tweets, and articles were abuzz with talk of a tampon shortage as far back as March.
Walgreens, Target, and CVS all confirmed that they’ve been struggling to keep tampons on the shelves since early spring 2022 — because manufacturers aren’t able to fulfill their orders.
The shortage looks different, depending on where you live. In some stores, only certain brands are out of stock, while in others, the entire inventory is cleared out. (In the Chicago area, for example, some Walgreens reported being low on tampons, while others didn’t. So call/shop around.)
P&G says that tampon prices will continue to rise as the shortage drags on.
Proctor & Gamble, the company that makes the most-popular tampon brand, Tampax, calls the shortage “a temporary situation”, but warned shoppers that tampon prices will continue to rise this summer — as supply-chain problems cause prices of materials to increase.
TIP: With the prices of tampons and pads increasing, you’ll want to read our Ultimate Guide to Saving Money on Tampons and Pads.
Save up to $112 a year on tampons when you buy store brands.
Tampon prices have increased 10% in the past year, while feminine pad prices have gone up to almost 9%.
We have a whole guide on how to save on tampons, but the gist of it is this: Pay attention to the per-tampon price, not the price per box.
Tampons cost an average of $0.39 per tampon, while pads cost about $0.23 each. Since the average person menstruates 13 times yearly and uses about 36 tampons or pads per cycle, it’s common to spend $183 a year on tampons, and $108 on pads.
We compared the 36-ct multipacks at Walmart, Rite Aid, CVS, Amazon and Walgreens to find the best price-per-tampon:
- Walgreens: $0.15/ea, $70.20/year
- Walmart: $0.16/ea, $74.88/year
- Rite Aid: $0.16/ea, $74.88/year
- CVS Health: $0.25/ea, $117.00/year
- Amazon: $0.26/ea, $121.68/year
When compared to the average $0.39-per-tampon cost, these brands will save you anywhere between 33% and 62% — or between $61 and $112 per year.
Buy tampons in bulk to save up to 56% and avoid running out.
One of the best ways to avoid shortages and price hikes is to stock up on tampons with larger-count boxes. In our experience, the warehouse stores are well-stocked, and better priced, than grocery and drug stores.
Costco, Sam’s Club and even CVS offer warehouse-sized packages of tampons, which will cut down your per-tampon cost between 22% and 56%. That’s an easy way to beat the 10% price increases.
Here’s what we found online:
- Sam’s Club, Tampax Pearl Tampons Regular Absorbency with BPA-Free Plastic Applicator, 96 ct: $0.16/ea
- CVS, CVS Health Plastic Tampons, 72 ct: $0.19/ea
- Costco, L. Organic 100% Cotton Core, Tampons, Regular, 76 ct: $0.20/ea
- Costco, Cora Organic Cotton Tampons Regular/Super, 120 ct: $0.24/ea
When you compare to smaller boxes of the same brands, you’ll see that you’re getting up to $0.20/ea in savings:
- Tampax Pearl Tampons Regular Absorbency, 18 ct: $0.36/ea
- CVS Health Plastic Tampons, 20 ct: $0.27/ea
- L. Organic Cotton Tampons, 30 ct: $0.38/ea
- Cora Organic Cotton Tampons, 32 ct: $0.36/ea
TIP: You don’t need a membership to shop the big warehouse stores’ websites, but Costco will add a 5% surcharge and SamsClub.com charges a 10% surcharge.
Beware inflated prices on Tampax tampons from third-party sellers.
Tampax is nearly impossible to find online and in-stores right now, and if you can find a box online, you might find the price incredibly inflated.
For instance, we found a box of Tampax on eBay priced up to $0.52 per tampon (reg. $0.39 per tampon). That’s a 33% markup!
A limited supply of Tampax is still available online at Walmart, starting at $0.19 per tampon, but you should hurry before they sell out.
TIP: Don’t forget to check out our page of Tampon coupons everyday to amplify savings.
Skip tampons and switch to a menstrual cup to save up to $178 per year.
Remember when everybody was buying bidets when toilet paper ran out? The menstrual cup might be a similar answer to the tampon shortage.
Menstrual cups cost $10 – $40 each and can last from six months to 15 years. With menstrual cups, you can save up to $178 a year if you’ve used tampons or up to $98 a year if you’ve used pads.
Here are some good menstrual cups we found on Amazon:
- Darwzerocup Menstrual Cup, 2 ct: $6.99
- NeoPro Medical Leya Cup, 3 ct: $8.99 (reg. $9.99)
- EcoBlossom Menstrual Cup, 2 ct: $9.99
- Talisi Reusable Cups with Collapsible Silicon Sterilizing Cup, 3 ct: $9.99
- DivaCup Menstrual Cup, 1 ct: $32.99 (reg. $39.59)
Period panties can last up to two years and save up to $177 a year on tampons.
Period panties are what they sound like – panties built to absorb up to five tampons’ worth of period blood. You can then take them off, wash them, and reuse them.
Menstrual underwear can cost from $6 – $40 per panty and last from six months to two years if you wash it with your delicates.
If you use period panties, you can save up to $177 if you usually use tampons and up to $92 if you use pads.
Here are some good options for period panties we found on Amazon: