Cloth menstrual pads. Mama cloth. Washable pads. Yes, they are exactly what they say on the tin. Washable sanitary pads. Wear, wash, reuse. Simple. This concept has been known to make some people cringe but there’s a growing number of women discovering the joy of cloth and I am one of them. Washable pads are anything but gross in my opinion, to me it’s like washing knickers and wearing again another day, no biggie and perfectly acceptable.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of cloth and I’ll tell you why. These babies are uber comfortable, breathable and Eco-friendly. What’s more is cloth tends to be really, like uber pretty. So pretty in fact, that buying them can become somewhat addictive but that’s ok – these pads make you smile. Has an Always pad ever bought a smile to your face? No? I Didn’t think so either- but cloth most certainly can! In this post, I’ll introduce the cloth pad concept, how to care for them and how to get started. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the world of cloth!
An Overview of Cloth Menstrual Pads
Comfy, discreet and kinder to the vagina there’s every reason to consider using cloth. Available in a variety of fabrics from cotton Jersey to flannel and everything in between – there really is something to suit every woman’s needs and I just love em. The absorbent core often consists of hemp or zorb and are usually backed with fleece or PUL (a waterproof fabric) to protect against leaks. Leaks have never been a problem for me, I’ve never used a pad containing PUL and have no intention of ever doing so. As a rule of thumb select pad absorbance suited to your flow and change as regularly as you would a disposable and you can’t go far wrong.
Custom cloth can be made in many shapes and sizes to completely fit the customer’s needs. Flared backs and fronts for front and back bleeders, extra long (I’ve seen as long as 20 inches!) and even period pants are available. These are perks that disposables just can’t compete with. Of course, cloth cost more than a packet of disposables but cloth is a one time purchase. Considering a woman would use in excess of 11,000 pads over her menstrual career we’re talking significant savings with cloth. Just think of the landfill space that would be saved and the reduction in toxic chemical waste as a result of switching. Immense.
I Turned to Cloth Because I Loathe Disposables
Cloth pads came into my life about a year after the menstrual cup which I posted about here. Why? Well, at the time, I was pregnant with my second baby and I just knew there was NO way on God’s green earth I’d be using disposal pads after birth. It just wasn’t going to happen. The itching, the sweat and all those minging toxic chemicals? No thanks. Disposables were now firmly on the ‘nope’ list, if you haven’t already, you can read the reasons why I ditched disposable sanitary products in this post. Knowing the menstrual cup wasn’t a practical postpartum solution the search was on for something that was. It didn’t take me long to find it. Mama cloth.
My delve into the world of cloth…
Some folks make a big hoo-ha over washable pads for various reasons I don’t really understand. I don’t bat an eyelid about washing pads, maybe it’s because I’ve been using a menstrual cup for some time and I’m not adverse to a bit of blood, who knows. Whatever the reason is, I have no beef with rinsing and reusing be it a menstrual cup or washable pad. I was intrigued by the fact so many women spoke highly of cloth, many were reporting they were experiencing less period pain and even a lighter flow. Now, if that’s not something worth investigating, I don’t know what is!
I was, of course, anticipating using cloth post birth so I was keen to hear from postpartum cloth users and seek them out I did. Postpartum women were raving about cloth too, it was the ultimate comfort post birth and many swore they experienced reduced lochia too. Satisfied with my research it was time to dive in and build a postpartum bundle in preparation for birth.I wasn’t disappointed either. My bundle served me extremely well without a disposable in sight. Well chuffed! I have since purchased liners and regulars for my collection. I often switch between cloth and the menstrual cup.
Caring for Cloth Pads – It’s Fairly Simple Really
Naturally, cloth pads are going to require some care if you want them are to last. I’ve found the best thing to do is rinse used pads under COLD water at the earliest opportunity to prevent stains from setting. Transfer them to a wet bag or lidded bucket until you are ready to wash, this is what I do. Some ladies prefer to keep used pads soaking in cold water until wash day if you do this change the water daily.
Out and about? That’s easy. Invest in a wet bag (similar to a toiletry bag) and take it with you. When it’s time to change rinse your used pad under cold water if possible. If not, don’t worry. In either case fold up the used pad into a little parcel, secure with fastening and place in your wet bag. Rinse as above at the earliest convenience and wash.
So, it’s wash day, now what?
Wash day needn’t be a drag. I prewash my rinsed pads on cold, then wash as normal on at least 40 degrees with soap nuts – a gentle, natural detergent. Non-bio is ok to use but I don’t recommend it with all the minging chemicals it contains, it’s just not fanny friendly in my opinion. No idea what soap nuts are? Find out all about soap nuts and why I don’t do regular washing detergents in this post. Perhaps you are wondering if you can tumble dry cloth pads? The short answer is yes but it isn’t recommended. Tumbling can damage your pads and if they contain PUL the heat will damage this aspect. Personally, I hang pads to dry which is preferable to ensure the longevity of your stash. Plus, I don’t own a tumble dryer!
If there are stains and they do happen, hang pads out in the sun (not much chance of that in the UK but hey ho) should ‘sun out’ any staining. Cloth pads are often heavily patterned so staining doesn’t stand out like a sore thumb if it does occur.
Get Started Using Cloth Means Building a Stash
You can see by now there are many potential benefits to using cloth pads and caring for them is relatively easy. I guess you’re probably wondering how to get started with making the switch? Before you buy up every possible pretty pad you see, do this first. Dig out your favourite shape and size disposable pad(s) and measure them. Then you can purchase some cloth in a similar length in your preferred absorbance DO NOT skip this part or you risk ending up with a bunch of pads you don’t get on with. It can be a bit of trial and error, to begin with, but absolutely worth it. Try a few different lengths and shapes to find what works for you and build a stash accordingly.
How many do I need?
Well, that’s debatable but anywhere between 14 – 20 should be sufficient but I have seen some epic stashes of triple that amount, although I believe this is a fine example of what a cloth paddict stash looks like. There is a solution if you do get over excited or find you’ve got pads that don’t suit you. Sell them. I know, it sounds bizarre maybe even yucky but cloth has a good resale value. In fact, there is a huge market for preloved CSP and there are just as many women buying preloved as there is buying new. Resale is a great way to destash pads that are not serving you, recoup cash from what I call paddiction or fund new pads for your stash.
Are Cloth Pads Are The Way Forward? Yes!
Cloth is a safer alternative to disposable sanitary products with an uncanny ability to bring a smile to your lips each month. With the potential for reduced period pains and a more comfortable period cloth is worth the extra bit of effort you successfully resist the urge to acquire cloth in all of your favourite characters and patterns you’ll save a tidy sum over your lifetime on sanitary products. If you do succumb to pretty patterns, you can always take comfort in knowing cloth is kinder to the vagina and resale value is good. If that appeals to you I’d recommend you give cloth a go. I hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction to cloth and found it useful. Share with your girlfriends and let’s change the way we do periods one cloth pad at a time!
Yours in muff fluffiness,
What do you think about cloth pads? Would you use them? What print or characters would you like on your cloth pads? Got a question or personal experience with cloth? I’d love to hear from you, post it below and let me know.