Updated March 2020. Today we’re going to talk about cloth menstrual pads and answer some questions you may have if you’re considering giving them a try. I’ve been using cloth pads for a few months now, so those beginner questions are still fresh in my mind!
This is somewhat of a taboo subject, so I’ll do my best to be helpful without getting too detailed or graphic.
Before anyone asks, yes, those are brand new pads that I received in the mail yesterday… so they have never been used. 🙂
Tips for Purchasing Cloth Pads for the first time:
1. Measure the pads you currently use. Grab a ruler and an unused disposable pad that fits you comfortably and measure the length. Also, consider what you don’t like about the sizing of the pads you currently wear. Are they too long? Too short? I should’ve followed my own advice on this one because the cloth pads pictured at the top of this post are larger than I thought they’d be.
2. Purchase from more than one seller. Purchasing from more than one seller ensures that you’ll get to experience more styles, and fits, of cloth pads. If you initially purchase all of your pads from one seller, and find them uncomfortable, you may decide that all cloth pads are uncomfortable simply because you’ve only had one experience with them across the board.
Answers to Common Questions
I put together a list of questions that I had as a beginner and that I’ve been asked by friends that are interested in using cloth menstrual pads. Please remember that I’m answering from personal experience, so others may have different experiences and opinions.
What’s the minimum number of cloth pads I need to get started?
Comfortably, I’d say six is the minimum. Though some say three, which is possible, but you’d have to launder them daily. I purchased six to get started and it worked for me because I only needed to toss them in the wash every other day.
Do I need anything else to get started?
Technically, no. But there are tools that may make your experience more comfortable and help keep your pads stain-free. Some of these may be:
- Stain stick (I use a Fels Naptha bar – you can find them at most grocery stores in the laundry section)
- Sanitary method of storing soiled pads
- Oxyclean (off brand is fine)
- A wet bag (if you work a job outside of the home or are a student)
What about odor?
I have found them to be completely odor free.
Will the cloth pads become stained?
Short answer: maybe. Long answer: There is always a chance, but you can take certain steps to minimize staining, like using a stain stick and soaking in oxy clean. A friend that has worn cloth pads for years recommends purchasing black pads and says she never has to worry about stains (good idea!).
How uncomfortable is it to clean?
It may not be as uncomfortable an experience as you might think. Being a fairly squeamish person, I dreaded this part at first, but it didn’t make me uncomfortable or disgust me (which is a word I unfortunately see used to describe cloth pads by those that haven’t worn them). It is an adjustment, though, and not everyone may be comfortable rinsing a soiled pad.
How do you clean cloth pads?
Some rinse and fold after use, and place in a wet bag, bin or laundry basket until laundry day. While others soak in a container of soapy water or oxy clean, changing the water daily. Others prefer to rinse, treat with a stain stick immediately and on laundry day do a quick soak in oxy clean before washing (which is what I do).
There is no right, or wrong, method for cleaning cloth pads. It’s all about which method best fits your lifestyle and comfort level. Most cloth pad sellers will include recommended care instructions with your package.
Note: I also clean the sink with rubbing alcohol so it can resume its normal use without concern. I’m not sure if everyone else does this, but it’s a “for good measure” step that I never skip.
Benefits Of Using Cloth Pads
There are many reasons to consider making the switch to cloth pads, and I wanted to take a minute to share those with you. Granted, I have used regular pads for years, but I am always up for trying new things when it comes to helping the environment and saving money! Take a look at these top reasons to throw out the old pads (pun intended) and try cloth ones.
- Savings – I have to hit this first because it’s such a HUGE money saver. Just like everything else, commercially made pads are expensive, and the prices are only increasing. You can buy a few of these cloth pads and save a lot of money. Seriously!
- Cool Designs – While it’s not exactly a benefit to using pads with unique designs, it makes being on your period a little more tolerable.
- You’re Helping Small Businesses – In many cases, the cloth pads are made by small businesses. When you buy from a small business, you are helping regular business owners and not corporate bigwigs.
- Helping The Environment – This might seem like a no-brainer, but you will be significantly benefiting the environment by switching. It can take a really long time (think years) for disposable pads to decompose.
- Chemical Free – Disposable pads are loaded with chemicals and things that you really don’t want next to your nether regions. Using chemical-free cloth pads is excellent if you have extra sensitive skin.
- Cloth Is More Absorbable – When you use cloth pads, you’ll find that they are more absorbable than store-bought ones — just one more reason to consider trying them out.
What If I Switch To Cloth Pads And Don’t Like Them?
It’s totally fine if you switch to cloth pads and don’t want to keep using them. Just save them in case you want to try again later. I recommend using them for a few cycles before making the decision, though. After the stigma wears off a little bit, I’m confident that you will actually prefer cloth pads after you give them a try.
How Long Do Cloth Pads Last?
Most cloth pads will last 4-5 years on average. You may find that varies depending on your usage. So, even though the initial price per pad is more, all the usage you get out of them is insane! This is where you will really start to see those savings kick in.
Do Cloth Pads Smell?
I never had any issues with cloth pads smelling, and most women don’t. I know that you would think that there would be a noticeable odor, but because the liquid is going into cloth, it will evaporate some. When this happens, you will notice much less smell than with commercial pads. You should change them frequently to prevent any odors, just like you usually would. You can’t use the same one all day long and expect it to be entirely odorless.
Another anti-smell tip is to pour Peroxide on it to cut the smell and cut down on any stains! There’s an old mom tip right there!
Do Cloth Pads Shorten Your Period?
The jury is out on this one, and everyone has different experiences. However, there are many women who have stated that they have fewer cramps, and their periods tend to be less heavy or last as long. Some women have said that it has no bearing on how long her period lasts or the number of cramps she has. Give them a try and see if there is an effect for you either way.
Can You Wear Cloth Pads When Swimming?
Unfortunately, swimming with any sort of pad is going to be difficult. The cloth pad is made to absorb liquid, and that includes water. In many cases, the flow will stop while you are in the water. As soon as you get out of the water, it may start right away, so making it to the bathroom could result in a mess if you have a heavy flow.
I find that the best option is to use a menstrual cup when swimming, so you don’t have to worry about this. You can easily insert it and swim, and no one will ever know a thing about it, and there won’t be any leaking issues.
Do cloth pads leak?
They can, but this really depends on whether you are wearing an appropriately sized pad and whether it has the necessary absorbency for the particular stage in your cycle. I’ve found it best to wear longer, more absorbent pads at night to avoid potential leaks.
What do you do when changing a pad away from home?
Most ladies use a small wetbag which has a waterproof lining and two pockets –one pocket for clean pads, and another for the pads you’re changing out of. When changing, you simply fold and snap the pad closed and place it into the “used” pocket; while grabbing a clean pad from the other pocket. You can keep this bag in your purse. Then when you get home, treat as you normally would.
Here’s my wet bag (which I haven’t had to use yet) with clean pads in each pocket to give you a better idea.
I’ve had no personal experience with this situation, however. I work from home so the need simply hasn’t arisen. I would love for more experienced ladies to chime into the comments below with their tips and experiences.
Can I throw them in with the rest of my laundry?
If you’d like to. Some prefer to keep them separate from the rest of the laundry (like me), however, so the way you wash them is up to personal preference. But be mindful of the heat settings on your washer and dryer. Generally, cloth pads should not be treated with hot water.
When rinsing and washing, I use cold water. When drying, I use the lowest heat setting. Some prefer to air dry cloth pads, but if you don’t have many pads in your stash, this may take too long to be practical.
Are they less expensive?
There is an upfront cost involved ($8 to $13 per cloth pad, in my experience). But over the long term, it is less expensive than disposables, as cloth pads last for years.
Please feel free to leave any questions you may have in the comments below. I’ll try my best to answer, but if I can’t help hopefully someone else will chime in and answer your question.
If cloth pads aren’t for you but you’d like to move away from disposables, consider reusable menstrual cups as an alternative. I have no personal experience with this, but some women prefer them to cloth pads.
Calling all Cloth Pad Users!
If you have experience purchasing cloth pads, please leave your recommendations and the name of the shop in the comments below. I’d love to help each other out by recommending our favorite shops/providers. If we get enough recommendations, I may add them to the post.
Cloth Pad Shops:
I’ve found most of the cloth pads in my stash on Etsy.