Warning, this may be a taboo topic for some people, but it really shouldn’t be! Recently I changed to cloth menstrual pads in an effort to reduce my environmental footprint. I wanted to share my experience as I know it’s not always talked about. There are a lot of women that still think using reusable cloth pads is gross. I understand if you’re one of them, but give this article a read before making the decision to say no to cloth.
Have you ever thought about the chemicals in disposable pads and tampons and what they could be doing to your body? Do you know how many are going into landfill every year? Do you keep track of how much you’re spending on an item that you are literally throwing in the bin?
A little bit of history
I’m sure you’ve heard of the saying ‘on your rags’, but do you know where it came from? Before the days of disposables women used cloth (or rags) folded up to absorb their bleeding. Disposable pads weren’t around until the 1920s, and even then they weren’t originally designed to be used for our periods. They were originally designed to help absorb blood from wounds during the war. Nurses had the idea of using them to help with menstrual bleeding.
For your health
Conventional disposable pads and tampons contain irritating chemicals and additives that interfere with how your body works naturally. We shouldn’t be putting these anywhere near us let alone in one of the most sensitive areas of our body. The skin of the labia is very thin and sensitive, and absorbs very well. Think of all the chemicals entering your body and staying there for hours on end in the case of tampons. No wonder Toxic Shock Syndrome exists. My grandmother almost died from this when she was younger. Did you know that the companies that make these products don’t have to tell you what is in them?
With cloth pads, you are safe from any unwanted substances. You also know exactly what they are made from. You can get pads that are unbleached and non-dyed and many in organic cotton too.
Here’s another random fact: did you know that cloth pads don’t generally cause odour. Did you know that your menstrual blood doesn’t naturally smell? The odour comes from the chemical reactions and bacteria that grows when blood is absorbed into the chemical-full pad. With cloth pads you shouldn’t get any smell aside from your normal scent.
For the environment
We all know that sanitary pads aren’t good for the environment. Besides the amount of harmful chemicals they contain, there’s the plastic packaging and the fact that they take between 500-800 years to break down in landfill. Did you know one woman uses up to 16,000 pads and tampons over her lifetime? If you think about how many women there are in the world, times by 16,000 pads, it honestly makes me a little bit sick to think about how many used pads are sitting in landfill for hundreds of years.
Cloth pads can last years before you need to throw them away, and some of them can even go into your compost bin. With cloth pads, you decrease your environmental footprint and that’s something to feel good about.
For your wallet
Cloth pads can last for years with good care so you’ll be saving money. Did you know that over the cost of your lifetime your cycle costs you several thousand dollars?
Lets say it costs about $0.20 per pad or tampon on average. Remember the 16,000 pads we already mentioned? Multiply them together and you get $3,200! $3,200 over your lifetime on what essentially gets thrown in the rubbish bin. Money straight into the bin. Investing in a set of cloth pads may seem expensive upfront, but it will save you tons in the future.
How to wear
- Place the pad over the inside of your underwear like a regular pad.
- Fold the wings over the outside of your underwear and fasten using the snaps.
- Adjust the position if you need to by pulling it further forward or back.
How to wash and care
- Place used pad under running cold water (not hot as this can set stains) and rinse out as much as possible. I do this in the shower so that it all runs away. I know others who place them under the shower spray and stand on them to remove any surface blood.
- Add washing detergent onto soiled area of pad and gently rub.
- Soak in a bucket of cold water for at least 6 hrs, and up to 2 days until you are ready to wash them. Change the water in between if soaked for longer than 12 hrs. Because I live with a friend, I keep the bucket in my bathroom not in the laundry.
- When ready to wash either hand wash or place into a delicates bag and put in the washing machine as normal on a cold wash.
- Hang dry in the sun or indoors.
Notes: Do not use bleach, tumble dry, wring/twist, iron or dry clean your pads.
What about away from the home?
When away from home use the pad as normal, but when it’s time to change it fold it up (like the example below) and place it into a wet bag. This will prevent it from touching any of your items in your handbag etc. When you are home rinse and wash the pad as normal. If you aren’t familiar with a wet bag, it’s a waterproof bag purposely designed to hold damp items and prevent any odours.
How many do I need?
Cloth pads aren’t that much different from disposable pads. As a rough guide you will generally go through the same amount as you would have with disposables. I generally only go through 2 during the day and 1 overnight. You can buy cloth pads in all sizes from liners up to maternity and overnight.
With disposables, you usually have to change them because of a smell or them being uncomfortable even when the pad is not full. However, with cloth pads, there is no odour and feels just like wearing your underwear, so there may be times when you don’t have to change as much as you did with disposables. I’m sure you won’t miss hearing the sound of a disposable peeling off your underwear either!
Please keep in mind that everyone is different though. Your flow and comfort level may be different, so just consider this as a starting off point. Buy even one and see how it goes!
If the cloth pad still isn’t for you, maybe you could try a menstrual cup. I personally don’t like the feeling of either a tampon or a cup, but I know others who find it works well for them. The cup also lasts years and are relatively affordable. They are made of high-grade silicon that is safe for the body. They have a similar process for washing and don’t need to be changed as often as cloth pads.
Where to buy?
I purchased my pads from Australian shops and mostly small businesses run by SAHMs. I like that I’m supporting a small business and my money is staying in Australia. There are lots of stores out there that sell cloth pads or cups. Even a search on Etsy or Ebay will show you lots of options. Pads range from the very cheap on ebay, all the way up to $20 each. The ones I bought were anywhere from $5-$11 each.
Below are some stores I’ve found that sell cloth pads/cups:
- The Purple Panda AU
- Flora and Fauna
- HannahPad AU
- Mense Sense
- My little Gumnut
- Facebook Buy, Swap, Sell Groups
Image credit: Images sourced mostly from HannahPad Website. I do not take credit for them.
If you’ve tried them or have any other comments let me know below. Open to all questions!