The average woman will spend somewhere between $6,000 and $7,000 on pads and period supplies throughout her lifetime. That is a lot of money! Switching to a reusable, more ethical version is something a lot of women have started doing to save money, and help the environment. But the real question is, do cloth pads work?
Let’s go over it together and see what all the hype is about.
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A brief history of period products
Pads, tampons, reusable, disposable, period underwear, menstrual cups… there are so many options for women these days when it comes to how we approach our menstrual cycle.
Disposable pads first came about in 1896, and were preceded by things like the first menstrual cup, rubber bloomers, and doily belts.
Since then, we have had so many technological advances including much better menstrual cups, tampons, and cloth and disposable pads. So, do cloth pads really work? And if so, what makes them any better than these other products?
What are cloth pads?
Cloth or reusable pads are simply pads that you don’t throw away.
They are usually the exact same shape as their disposable counterpart, and have a snap on either wing to help them stay in place. These types of pads wrap around your underwear like any disposable pad with wings.
I started using cloth pads for my periods about the same time my son was born (in 2019). It surprised me how comfortable they were! These pads are so comfortable, when I’m on my period its easy to forget I’m wearing one.
I love the fun designed, comfort, and the sustainability of using reusable pads, and have made them part of my monthly routine.
The thought of washing a pad can sound gross, or maybe make you a little squeamish at first, and that’s okay! I wasn’t totally on-board with the idea when I first heard about them.
The thing that honestly changed my mind about cloth pads was when we started cloth diapering with our baby son.
It’s a very similar process, and they are both ethical products that can help you to save money and the environment in the long run.
What are the benefits of switching to cloth pads?
Cloth or reusable pads have a lot of great benefits!
From helping the environment, to enhancing your own health, there are a lot of good reasons you may want to make the switch.
Here are just a few reasons why cloth pads are so good:
- Better for the environment
- Healthier for your body
- Saves you a ton of money overtime
- Made from sustainable materials
Reusable pads are typically made by small businesses, so you are helping a real person instead of a huge company.
They are also better for the environment since they are not made with plastic, unlike disposable pads.
How are they healthier than disposable pads?
There are a few things that make cloth pads a more healthy choice for your period.
- Zero fragrances or perfumes added
- They are more breathable, because they do not contain a plastic lining
- Don’t cause allergic reaction
Of course, not all disposable pads are made the same. There are some really great brands like Seventh Generation’s chlorine free pads, Rael Organic cotton pads, and natracare organic perfume free pads.
I’ve used all of these brands, and they all work really well!
The problem with most pads you will find at the store is that they are meant to smell nice and keep you “odor free”.
One of the reasons people may ask, “Do cloth pads work?” is because they are unscented. Did you know that the perfumes and fragrances in most pads can actually cause you to smell worse?
This is because the effect of the menstrual blood mixing with the perfume actually enhances the smell of the blood, making it more obvious to everyone around you.
If you look in the ingredient label on most pads, it will say: “Fragrance ingredients”. It doesn’t even tell you where the fragrance comes from.
These fragrances are actually harmful to our sensitive lady parts, and can mess with our vagina’s sensitive PH balance.
Our genitals easily absorb fragrance, chemicals, and other harmful ingredients in most pads.
This is the same for babies and diapers, so if you’re a mom you might want to look into healthier diapers or cloth diapering as well.
Are they safe to use?
Yes, reusable menstrual pads are safe to use.
As long as the material used is absorbent and you don’t feel wet or uncomfortable, your pad is likely fine. The only reason you should question the type of cloth pad you are using if it becomes easily damp, and if you feel uncomfortable wearing it due to moisture.
You should of course always change your pad every 2-6 hours to keep them from getting saturated.
Related Content: 5 Natural ways to ease menstrual pain
If you have a heavy flow, do cloth pads work?
Yes! And there are cloth pads made specifically for heavy flow.
These heavy flow cloth menstrual pads are made from bamboo, and are easy to rinse and toss in the wash after using them.
It’s always nice to have a few different types of pads, for heavy and lighter days on your period. I would suggest getting a set of heavy flow, and regular size menstrual pads when you start using cloth.
How to use reusable pads
Using cloth pads is easy once you get used to them! All you have to do is wear them like a disposable pad, and when it’s time to change them, either use a wet bag or soak/clean them right away.
Reusable pads come in a few different styles, but they all basically work like disposable pads with wings.
Some of them have two parts, one is a layer of material with bottoms to wrap over your underwear. This layer has an adhesive (or band) for the actual pad to stick to. Some women like these because you only have to remove part of the pad when you change pads.
The ones I am more fond of look like a pad with wings, and you take out the whole thing when you change pads.
How to clean cloth pads
There are a few different ways you can clean cloth pads, an many women choose different ways of cleaning them.
Here is the method that I use to clean my cloth pads:
1. After use, immediately turn the sink in the bathroom to hot water.
2. Pour a small amount of peroxide onto the pad, to disinfect and get out any blood.
3. Add a drop or two of dawn dish soap, and rinse under hot water in the sink.
4. Repeat process until all or most of the blood is out of the pad, and then throw in the washer for a second cleaning.
This is the method that works best for me, and keeps my pads nice and clean for the next use!
Is it uncomfortable to clean them?
At first, yes. I think it was a little uncomfortable.
But ladies, we see our own blood every month. And it’s no different (really) than changing a diaper. It’s still a bodily fluid that needs to be cleaned up.
How long can you wear a cloth pad?
Like any pad, you want to switch pads every 2-6 hours depending on your flow.
Don’t ever let your pad get over-saturated where you feel wet and uncomfortable. Wearing a pad too long can cause a lot of problems, including UTI’s and Vaginal infections.
Related post: How to stop monthly PMS
Does switching to reusable pads really save you money?
In short, yes.
Cloth pads definitely save you money! I would go through at least one box of pads per month when I was only using disposable pads. Typically though, I would buy a box of liners, and a box with wings.
That is anywhere between $14 and $30 a month I was spending on pads. Up to $360 a year!
Cloth pads cost anywhere between $10 and $30 for a pack of 6 pads, and they can last up to 5 years.
That means you save at least $300 a year for 5 years if you were to only buy one pack of pads.
Where to buy cloth pads
Cloth pads are easily purchased online! My mom had actually made my first set of cloth pads, and I recently purchased some from Amazon as well.
Another good place to look for them that supports small business is ETSY! ETSY helps small business owners and entrepreneurs make a living, and helps you find some really cool items you couldn’t find anywhere else.
Always check how the pads are made before buying. I know that bamboo is a really good material when it comes to both cloth pads and cloth diaper inserts.
How long do cloth pads last?
You can use one set of menstrual cloth pads for up to 5 years. Granted, that is if you take good care of them!
Make sure you are washing them correctly, and not using harsh washes or bleaches on them. This kind of treatment can degrade the material and cause it to wear out sooner than it is supposed to.
So, do cloth pads work?
I think we can all agree to a resounding YES! And it may be time for us all to start switching to them. You can always start slow with switching to cloth, and still use disposable pads alongside them.
Just make sure if you do stick with disposable pads that you use a healthy brand, free of chemicals and artificial fragrances.