Reusable Cloth Menstrual Pads 101

+J.M.J.+

I haven’t bought disposable menstrual pads for 2.5 years now (well, aside from one package to use while traveling without access to laundry). I asked on social media for your questions on reusable pads, and I’m ready to answer them and give you the 4-11 on this super easy to care for, better for you switch!

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Let’s go!

Why Switch To Cloth Pads?

  • It reduces endocrine-interrupting chemicals.

    • Unless you’re purchasing organic  and unbleached cloth pads and tampons, you’re inserting into or resting your privates on nasty chemicals linked to all kinds of hormone disruption. This Buzzfeed article of all places has a ton of information on the issues with conventional disposable feminine hygiene products.
  • It saves money. A lot of money. 

    • Buy these pads once, and you could go many years before needing to replace them. When I bought cheapie disposable pads from Walmart I used to spend about $8 a month on pads. When I switched to cleaner, non-bleached disposable options later it was about $16 a month. An $80 stash of pre-made reusable cloth pads can last 10 or more years!. Thats a savings of $800 from my cheapie Walmart pads, and $1760 in savings from those organic cotton disposables I used to get. (I’ve never been a tampon wearer, so I am not sure if this would affect the amount saved if you generally wear tampons over pads.) Plus, the savings can be even greater depending on the brand or if you sew a set yourself!
  • They are SO much more comfortable than disposable.

    • Seriously – I always felt like disposable pads were so uncomfortable and thick. Nothing feels more like a diaper than an overnight disposable pad… and the cheapie cheap ones with the plastic top literally gave me diaper-rashy skin. Cloth pads are super trim, and organic cotton or bamboo is just so breathable and luxurious feeling!
  • They don’t require insertion like a Diva Cup.

    • I have only ever worn tampons the rare times I’ve had water activities during a period. I never felt like I got the hang of them well enough, and even the super expensive “pearl” applicator types felt really irritating to me. The Diva Cup and other reusable silicon menstrual cups are very popular options if you want to move away from disposable period products… but if you don’t like the idea of having to insert it, cloth pads give you the same benefits without dealing with that aspect of it.

My Recommendations:

I have tried two different cloth pad companies – here are my pros and cons for both.

Pink Lemonade

Pink Lemonade pads have a great reputation online and were recommended over and over when I started my cloth pad search. I’ve used these pads for 2.5 years and they have no immediate signs of wear that I can see. Here are some things to consider about them.

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Pros:

  • They’re very high quality and long lasting
  • They come in many sizes and fabric patterns
  • They do NOT bleed through even though there is no PUL backing on them
  • They’re very trim and breathable yet shockingly absorbent
  • They’re a small, mama founded and owned business

Cons:

  • They are certainly pricier than some you can find on Amazon, but that can be reflective of quality or the type of company you’re supporting as well!
  • They only have a few organic cotton patterns available
  • The small pads shift a little in your underwear when walking. I would only recommend medium sizes and above. (And for all I know, this may be the case with other brands’ small sizes and not unique to this brand).

Heart Felt

I tried out Heart Felt Organic Cloth Pads found here on Amazon because I found I prefer bigger pads to smaller pads and wanted to fill out my stash a bit.

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Pros:

  • They are organic
  • This charcoal/bamboo blend is super stain friendly
  • They are very affordable if you are starting out on a tight budget
  • They are Amazon Prime eligible
  • They are very absorbent
  • They are quite comfortable

Cons:

  • These are not as comfortable as Pink Lemonade. They are slightly thicker so it gives a bit more of a bulky feeling.
  • They lack many pattern choices if you care about that.

Either way, both of these options are really affordable, well made, and overall comfortable! You can also make you’re own if you’re good with a sewing machine. These are some patterns recommended to me: Luna Wolfe patterns, this one from Free Sewing Patterns, this one from The Eco Friendly Family.

Your questions answered:

So now for all of those other questions asked online that weren’t answered above. You wanted to know….

What is the best way to clean them? Laundry routine? Can you safely clean these?

I clean these using my exact same laundry routine as my cloth diapers. (In fact… I just throw mine in our cloth diaper pail and there has been ZERO issue with just washing them altogether.)

That routine is:

  1. A cold rinse cycle to rinse out all the pads (and in my case, diapers along with them)
  2. A hot wash with the highest heat and water levels your machine has with a full cap of a free and clear laundry detergent
  3. Dry them

I’ve never had any sort of smell or residue to make me feel like these aren’t sanitary to use again, and that routine is so easy.

Do they stain?

Staining depends on fabric and pattern. I imagine my black charcoal/bamboo blend ones will have minimal to no staining at all, just by virtue of their color.

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As for cotton and other patterned fabrics, yes, mine have stained, and part of that is that I’m lazy and I simply don’t do immediate rinses of my pads in cold water. To be honest, staining just doesn’t bother me personally, so I haven’t made a big effort to combat it. Instructions always say to rinse in cold water after use, and I’m sure than would drastically cut down on that.

Are they absorbent enough for really heavy bleeding?

Yes! Yes! Yes! I wore mine for my postpartum bleeding with Zelie and couldn’t believe just how well they held up to it! Later on when my cycle finally returned I wondered if maybe my periods had really lightened up. I just couldn’t believe these thin cloth pads could absorb my decent flow periods. Then when we moved to Nebraska I had to use disposable pads for our driving days of the trip without laundry facility access… and I realized just how much better they absorbed compared to disposable!

Which fabrics are best for staining and absorbency?

I have tried minky, cotton, and bamboo. Cotton is hands down my favorite, with bamboo as a second. I think the cotton feels slightly more breathable. I wouldn’t buy minky again.

Do they smell while wearing?

I have asked Ethan and he says he doesn’t think they are responsible for any noticeable odor, and it’s nice not having that synthetic fragrance smell that cheap disposable ones have.

How do you change them out and about?

I just toss them in a wetbag and go. They’re really so absorbent you’re probably fine if you’re only out for a few hours. Otherwise, grab a simple wet bag for your purse or diaper bag and toss them in there. These Planet Wise mini wet bags look like great options. (If you’re already cloth diapering, once again, they can just go in that wetbag with dirty diapers).

Is it easy to get the hang of them?

Switching for me felt pretty easy because of cloth diapering my kids, but regardless, I think you’d have it down within one period.

How many and in what sizes do you recommend for a stash?

This is tricky to answer because everyone’s cycle varies in length and intensity. I tend to bleed heavily for two full days, a day of light bleeding, and a day of spotting. Now that I’ve experimented I would recommend starting with:

6 – 8  large pads, think 11 in. to 12 in. range

2 – 4 medium pads in the 8 in. to 9 in. range

2 – 3 small pads, in the 5  in. – 6 in. range

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I hope this has been helpful for you and please don’t hesitate to comment with any questions you have!

 

2 thoughts on “Reusable Cloth Menstrual Pads 101

    1. All of the cloth pads I have used have buttons on the wings that adhere attach them to your underwear. These work beautifully! The only issue I’ve ever had is that sometimes there is shifting with the really small ones when walking. But I’ve never had a problem with mediums and above.

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