Last week I wrote a post about menstrual products and their impact on the environment. One of the alternatives I listed was Cloth Pads, which are just the reusable version of the regular plastic pads. This has been my personal choice for more than 3 years and I am really happy with them.
I get it when women feel a bit doubtful about trying other options because let’s face it, periods can be messy and we want to make sure we are well protected especially when we are not at home.
For that reason, I decided to tell you all about my experience using these pads and give you some tips. Hopefully it will clarify some doubts and inspire you to give cloth pads a go.
Why Cloth Pads?
When I started looking for alternatives, my only two reusable options were cloth pads or menstrual cups. I had already switched to biodegradable pads some time ago.
As I mentioned in my previous post I am not fan of tampons, so I was naturally more inclined to wear cloth pads. It was a simple decision!
When I was ready to try them, I did a bit a research about some brands and I decided to buy from one that had very good comments and review from different sources. I wanted to make sure I was giving the experience the best chance.
I bought 3 pads. I started trying them only the days I was at home and/or night time. As my confidence in the product grew, I started using them to go out but again only on weekends to run some errands.
I did this for a couple of months until I felt it was ok for me to try them, for example, on the days I had to go to work. Of course I was a bit cautious those early days, I ran to the toilet often to make sure everything was under control. Soon I realised I had nothing to worry about and started using them all the time.
Because I bought my first three pads during a trip to USA, it didn’t make sense to me to keep buying from this company so far away – even when I was happy with the product. So I started buying one pad at a time from different local businesses until I had enough pads to cover my period.
After all these years using cloth pads, I definitely think there are many advantages of using this type of products. One of the most important to me is the fact that they are reusable, so I’ve reduced all the waste generated by disposable items.
Cloth pads are usually soft and comfortable. Let me tell you something, while I was wearing conventional pads I used to get irritation down there, not every month but often enough. Since I switched to cloth pads I no longer have that issue.
Also long term there is a monetary benefit too. Let’s break it down with an example:
- Imagine I used to buy 1 pack of conventional disposable pads every month, $5 each (prices varies a lot). In a year that would be $60.
- Let’s say I get 10 cloth pads and I spend on average $20 each, that would $200.
- Wearing cloth pads for 3 years (and a bit) would be equivalent to buying disposable pads, moneywise. However, after that period the only expenses would be the detergent/water that I need to wash them.
- These pads are often a long-lasting product. I have read about people who have worn the same cloth pads for 10 years. If let’s say you wear these 10 pads for 8 years, that would be around 5 years of savings. $60 x 5 = $300. That sounds quite good to me.
And the last “added benefit” is that they are very pretty compared to the boring plastic pads, so you have something colourful and cheerful for those not so fun days.
Things you need to be aware
When you start switching to cloth pads you need an initial investment. Buying cloth pads can be expensive. In my case because I did it progressively so it wasn’t too bad, but I know it can be a challenge.
The next point is a bit obvious but yes, I have to wash them. Of course when I used disposable products I just threw them away and forgot about it. With cloth pads I have to take responsibility and take care of them. I personally don’t see this one as bad thing, especially when I think about all the plastic waste that I am avoiding.
A word of caution: if you don’t feel very comfortable around blood, you might find the washing process a bit too much. A friend of mine told me it was yuck and she couldn’t handle it. I don’t have any issues with that but we are all different.
The last thing is travelling. If for example you are doing a trip and you are staying in a different place every night it might be complicated to soak, wash and dry them. Last year I found myself in that situation and for a couple of days I had to use biodegradable pads instead.
Tips to start
Here some personal tips if you want to give cloth pads a go:
Get to know the brand and their pads
Not all the brands are the same. If a particular model/fabric/brand is not working, please don’t give up. Maybe the absorption of that product is not right for the day you are testing it, maybe you need a bigger pad or another brand all together.
I would recommend you get a couple of pads from a particular company and try them on days you’ll be mostly at home. This is the best to get to know the product and ensure you don’t have accidents outside.
Experiment with different products/brands and find what’s right for you!
Mix and match for cost effectiveness
Related to the previous point, the effectiveness and absorption of the pads varies considerably, same as the prices. As I mentioned above, to start using fabric pads you need to do an initial investment and it can be a bit expensive. The key thing to remember is that you don’t need them all to be “the best you can get”.
What I mean is: our flow is different depending on which day of the period we are. So we need the best (and usually more expensive) for the heavy-flow days but for the rest other simpler pads will work well.
At the beginning when I started testing other brands, I bought some cheap pads and in my case they would never work on days 1-3 (I tried them and they failed) but they work wonderfully on day 4-6, so I didn’t waste my money.
For obvious reasons, I don’t think a white cloth pad is something I would be keen to buy. Although I must say some of my pads have prints with small areas in brighter colours and none of them have stains. Anyway, my preference is always dark colours.
It depends on how heavy and long your period is. My periods are quite long and heavy (especially during the first 3 days). I own 12 pads and around 6 inserts (read how-to section below for more info about inserts) in total.
I usually wash them every day (or every second day). In winter pads take longer to dry so that’s important to consider that as well.
Best thing is to buy them progressively and see how many you actually need.
For days of heavy flow I have longer pads for night time. They are more comfortable and the coverage is better helping me avoid accidents. I think that’s a good investment.
If you have a sewing machine this might a be a great project and cheaper. You could even use up-cycled fabric you already own. I have never tried this option because I don’t know how to sew, but here is a video with some instructions.
Where to buy
The first brand of pads I bought was LunaPads they are from Canada but sell in North America too – as local. These pads are great, if you live near that area that could be a good option to try. In Australia, one brand I trust is Mense Sense.
These two brands for example I personally would categorise as the “best you can get” (no I am not getting commissions) , therefore I would pick them for the days of heavy flow. I am sure there are many other excellent brands in the market but I haven’t tried them.
Another good place to search for cloth pads is Etsy (remember to use the filter “Shop Location” to pick your country).
If you are in Melbourne Eastern Suburbs, you can try Here and There Makers. I discovered this little place recently and it is lovely. It is run by volunteers and the profits help “Days for girls” project. They sell zero waste/upcycled/fair trade products including Cloth Pads. I haven’t tried these but they look really nice and you’d be supporting a great cause.
Changing the pads when you’re not at home
Replacing the pads is simple and not that different to when I wore a conventional pad (just that this time I don’t throw it away in the bin). I keep the clean pads in a small pouch I carry with me. When I am ready to change it, I remove the used pad, wrap it in a bit of toilet paper (you can also fold the pad, wrap it with the wings and use the snap closure to keep it in shape) and I put it in the pouch.
When I know I’ll be out all day, I usually wear the type of pads with inserts (see photo below). So instead of replacing the whole cloth pad (which is more bulky) I change the inserts during the day.
It is a matter of finding the type of pads you like and work best for your routine.
Washing them is quite easy:
- When I get home, I soak them overnight with my regular detergent and usually hand-wash them next day. If for any reason I can’t, I change the water and leave them there until the following day.
- If I am about to do my regular laundry and I have some pads ready to wash, I remove the blood excess and put them in the washing machine.
- Some people iron them (depending on the fabric). I personally try to dry them in sun as much as possible.
That’s it. You won’t get bad odours (unless you leave them soaking for several days) or stains – at least if you buy dark colours!
“In a world of plastic and noise, I want to be clay and silence” – Eduardo Galeano
That’s it. I Hope you have found it useful. If you have other questions about wearing cloth pads I haven’t covered please let me know in the comments below. Are you ready to give cloth pads a go? Please share the info with your girlfriends, it is important to consider alternatives that are better for our planet.
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Thanks for reading,