We get plenty of questions about reusable menstrual pads – specifically about the benefits of cloth menstrual pads. So, we’re delighted to share the advice of Tracy Puhl, an advocate for greener and healthier period options.
Often we tend to focus on the less pleasant parts of menstruating and forget to take care of our bodies that are hard at work. As women and moms, we’re often too busy putting the needs of others above our own.
But your period can be a monthly reminder to take extra care of yourself. And one of the best ways to care for your body is to choose safer personal care products like reusable cloth menstrual pads.
The Benefits of Reusable Cloth Menstrual Pads
1. Cloth pads are good for your body
Conventional disposable products can contain plastics, artificial fragrances, adhesives, and chemical gels – things you don’t want next to one of the most sensitive parts of your body! Cloth menstrual pads are free from irritating materials, so you can avoid unnecessary exposure to the synthetic ingredients in disposable pads and tampons.
One of the lesser-known benefits of switching to reusable menstrual pads is the period positivity that comes along with it. The menstrual cycle is a natural – even sacred process. Many of us grow up believing that it’s a messy inconvenience or, worse, a disgusting disease-like condition. The embarrassment or shame we feel about our periods is often a result of negative cultural conditioning. Many women have experience profound positive transformations in our feelings toward our menstrual cycles after ditching the disposables!
2. Reusable menstrual pads are good for the planet
The average woman will use 12,000 to 16,000 disposable pads, party-liners, and tampons in her lifetime.
That’s a lot of waste!
Plus, think of the manufacturing, shipping, and packaging impact over the years. Cloth menstrual pads last for years, helping you reduce your impact on the environment and saving you from monthly trips to the store. Make sure to choose a brand that’s plastic and nylon free, and uses only natural fibers.
3. Cloth pads are good for your budget
Once you build your full set of cloth menstrual pads, you’ll have reliable menstrual protection for years to come. Most reusable menstrual pads are made to last for five years, but many women report that their pads have lasted much longer! Washable cloth pads are much more economical when compared to the cost of disposable products over your lifetime.
Remember those 12,000 to 16,000 disposables the average woman will use? If she’s a buying box of 20 tampons or pads at $5 per box, she’ll throw away upwards of $3,000.
It’s kind of like equipping your kitchen with ceramic plates: it would be tremendously expensive (not to mention wasteful!) to continuously purchase disposable paper plates.
4. Reusable pads are comfortable
This should probably warrant a higher placement on the list. Reusable cloth pads (especially the ones we’ve tried from Glad Rags) are extremely soft and comfortable. You know that itchy, plastic-y feeling that comes from sitting in a disposable pad? It’ll be a distant memory once you switch to cloth.
5. Cloth pads are quiet
If you don’t love announcing to anyone in your work bathroom that you’re on your period, you’ll love how quiet and discreet cloth pads are. This is especially helpful for young people who have to change menstrual products in a school bathroom.
Frequently Asked Questions about Cloth Menstrual Pads
How many pads will I need?
The short answer: it depends. How long is your cycle? How heavy is your flow? How often do you plan to wash your pads?
These are all questions you can consider when thinking about how many reusable cloth pads you’ll need. In general, six to twelve day pads and a few night pads and party-liners are sufficient for most women. You can always start with just a few and add to your stash as you learn more about what works best for you!
How do I choose the right style / size?
While there are endless styles of cloth pads on the market, they can be broken down into three main groups: cloth panty-liners, cloth menstrual day pads, and cloth night pads. You may want a variety of styles for different stages of your cycle.
Choose cloth panty-liners if…
• you want back-up for a menstrual cup or tampon
• you have very light flow, including at the very beginning or end of your cycle
• you want to wear everyday protection
Choose cloth day pads if…
• you typically use standard disposable day pads
• you sometimes leak urine when you sneeze or laugh (happens to the best of us!)
• you have a moderate flow
Choose cloth night pads if…
• you have just given birth and need postpartum protection
• you tend to leak over the front of back of your pads
• you have heavy flow
How to use cloth pads-on-the go or while traveling
Some people opt for disposables on vacation, but some are so spoiled to the comfort of cloth, they’ll never go without them. When you remove your pad, you can put it in a waterproof bag in your purse or backpack until it’s time to wash. Then follow the washing instructions below.
How to wash reusable pads
There are two main washing techniques: the dry method or the soaking method.
- You may choose to keep a zippered wet bag next to the toilet for used pads.
- At the end of your cycle, fill a tub or container with cold water and let the pads soak for about 30 minutes.
- Adding a presoak cleaner helps reduce staining.
- Drain the water and toss the now wet pads into the washing machine with the rest of the load.
- You can also just put your used pads directly in the washing machine if you want to skip the tub soak.
Some people prefer to use the soaking method and keep a small container in the bathroom for soaking their cloth menstrual pads before washing. If you do this, adding a presoak cleaner and changing the water every day will keep your soaking container free from mildew and odor.
Whatever you choose, make sure to use a mild detergent free from harsh chemicals, fabric softener, or bleach, as these will reduce the lifespan of your cloth pads. Find more tips for making yours last longer.
Youʼll want to store your cloth pad collection somewhere free of moisture, and only put them away when they are fully dry. You might find, as many women do, that the monthly ritual of caring for your pads gives you feelings of satisfaction — because taking good care of your body feels good!
Quick tips for washing cloth menstrual pads
• Cold water helps keep stains at bay
• Change soaking water daily, or wait to soak
• Avoid bleach, fragrance, and fabric softener
• Dry on lowest setting
What about leakage?
Leakage is the #1 worry of women thinking about using cloth pads — and for good reason. Fortunately, many women find that cloth actually works better for them than disposables. Cloth pads won’t bunch or twist like adhesive pads can, and most cloth menstrual pads have an absorbent core to keep you leak-free.
To stay comfortable and leak-free, just make sure you change your pad frequently enough (about as often as you would a disposable) and choose the right absorbency for your flow.
If you have any questions about switching to or selecting the right pads, feel free to ask us in the comments. Or if you’d like to ask privately, feel free to email your questions.