Here is absolutely EVERYTHING you NEED to know about switching to reusable menstrual pads, including how they work, what to expect, washing them and how to know if it's for you.
Reusable cloth pads are a fabulous zero waste option for that time of the month AND a perfect way to reduce landfill waste.
Get to know the ins and outs of cloth pads before you make your decision on if it's right for you. I'll share some facts, details and my experience in making the swap (Don't worry, I wont be heading into 'too much information' territory).
This post does contain some affiliate links. This means if you click and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission that helps me keep this site up and running.
Quite a while back, I had pretty much ruled out using any reusable menstrual products and honestly thought it all sounded a little bit yuck and a little bit extreme, inconvenient and perhaps slightly strange. But I've really changed my stance on this!
I had actually put it in the same category as giving up toilet paper....never gonna happen!! (but, I guess, never say never!)
Put aside the ewww factor and anything bad you may have heard.
I'm going to walk you through some of the questions you might be wondering about, and maybe a few things you haven't yet thought of.
With any zero-waste swap it is important to educate yourself and work out how it could fit to your lifestyle rather than how popular it is. There's absolutely no point running out to buy all the cool, shiny new zero-waste things if they aren't going to improve your life.
Reusable menstrual products still seems to be a bit of a taboo topic that isn't discussed that much.
So grab yourself a coffee and read on...and if you still have questions not covered, add them into the comments at the end or check out the links provided.
Why Consider a Swap to Zero Waste Menstrual Products?
Single-use disposable items are highly convenient, but as landfill sites become overflowing it's becoming a concern across the globe. There are many reasons and benefits to swapping, and the environmental factors are a great motivation to at least give it a go.
There are also claims that materials in disposable products could actually be harmful to our bodies and you can find many articles recommending organic cotton as both a greener and safer option despite being disposable. Regardless what you use, remember, none of it should be flushed down the loo, especially plastic applicators which are being found on our beaches and in our marine life.
I've tried a few different brands, and some of the information covered is applicable no matter which brand you choose. Hannahpad is my absolute favourite brand.
They use organic cotton, have amazingly awesome patterns, come with NO plastic packaging (some brands come in cardboard and then are wrapped in plastic inside the packet) , pricing Vs quality is fantastic, it's easy to buy online and have them delivered, AND you can actually get in touch with them if you want to ask something not covered on their site....that's right, humans that actually respond...so awesome!
Well, obviously not throwing away stuff has got to be an improvement right?
I'm not just talking about plastic packaging (some of which used to drive me nuts trying to actually open them in an emergency) but when I read that some period products take 500-800 years to degrade I was taken aback...... AND...... in Australia alone, over 400 million pads and almost 300 million tampons were sold in just 1 year.
Disposables use non-renewable products (such as oil) to make, not to mention the overall water consumption, energy and pesticides, to manufacture our disposable cotton. Of course CO2 emissions are involved during transport and production, but for me, the landfill and resource usage shocked me, especially when you consider a lifetime of these essential items.
Washing your reusables means they only needed to be made once and the water you use is minute compared to the amount it takes to manufacture the disposable variety. They also only take around 12 months to biodegrade when disposed of.
Is the Cost of reusable pads worth it?
Less spending on monthly essential items is a huge bonus, this of course varies for each person, but I save around $10-$15 each month and this adds up over just one year. In fact, as the reusable pads are guaranteed for around 2-3 years I will be saving a significant amount of money. (Plus, having a front loading washing machine I suspect
they are going to last longer than this).
It does require a small outlay to begin with and what I did was slowly build up my collection. So say it cost me $150 to create my set, and I'm saving $150 a year then I'm getting 2 years of no cost periods at a minimum.
(I love how zero-waste often = saving money!)
You will of course need to work out your own figures, and determine if it's a total swap or if it will be something you use part of the time.
If you're an experienced sewer, you may be able to make your own, for me this was way to complicated and there is no room to add anything else to my To Do List (or Wish To Do List).
Yes, you do need to consider this...it is going to depend on your individual requirements and flow. Check out the image below which shows the sizes, dimensions and absorbency.
Am I going to have enough protection?
This may be TMI but I haven't had a leakage yet. The patterned backing doesn't allow anything to come through and as they bend and flex with movement I have way more confidence with these than disposables, which have failed me many times.
Plus on a heavy night I don't have to feel like I'm wearing a surfboard or try to sleep in one position the entire night. This doesn't mean leaks can't happen ever, but it seems less likely.
What are the pads made of?
Being organic cotton, you REALLY notice the difference immediately, not only is it soft, comfortable and more flexible than the plasticy disposable pads, but its kinder to your sensitive bits and sweating it out on a hot summers day is no problem like it is with synthetic materials. It's pretty much like wearing great quality cotton undies.
Not all brands of reusable pads are equal in this department and I have tried some that weren't as soft and flexible as I'd like.
Is it going to stay in place?
They have built in studs to attach to your undies and they are extremely effective. The small pads have two standard snaps to adjust the width. The medium and overnight pads come with one standard snap.
Due to the fabric, they tend to move with you NOT against you. (Some reusable brands I tried seriously lacked the comfort factor) The other bonus, is that it doesn't have the sticky glue required for attaching like the disposable ones - this seems to ruin all my good undies. Head here to see a video on how to use, along with the sizes.
I can comfortably wear these to yoga or gym without any worries, so pretty much any situation other than swimming. This also makes it an awesome option for girls just starting out who want to be discreet and confident with their 'secret women's business'.
Is there an Odour?
Hey, you're all wondering about this, I know. I was concerned about this factor before trying, but no, this is absolutely not an issue, and assuming you are changing your pads according to instructions (3-4 hours or more frequently if needed) you have absolutely nothing to worry about.
How To Wash and Care for Reusable Pads
Admittedly, this was an area I had some doubts about...how easy are they going to be to rinse, soak and wash.
Actually, it is super simple! and I have a small tub with a lid I pop them into after rinsing. Then, I throw them in with the next wash load.
Personally, I've had no issues with staining or not coming out clean and I just dry them outdoors. It's really no different than rinsing and soaking undies or bed sheets after a leakage . I'm pretty sure we've all been there so if you can handle that, then this is honestly not much different.
Rinse in cold water (don't use hot!) until the water runs clear.
Use this Probiotic Laundry Soap to give them a quick scrub
Soak in cold water (with soap still on them) for 24-48 hours.
Wash them in the washing machine.
You can hand wash them, but I put them in a normal or gentle wash cycle. I have accidentally added fabric softener and didn't notice a difference but it's recommended not to so this as it impacts absorbency.
Here's a short video on washing and drying them
How Many will I need?
I can't tell you how many you'll need, as we're all different and it also depends if you are going the full swap, combining it with other products, and if you plan to use just for periods or for LBL (Light Bladder Leakage) too.
If you have never tried it, I seriously recommend getting a Mini Starter Kit - it comes with 4 pads (2 small, 1 medium, 1 overnight). You save 15% on the cost AND can still choose your own patterns for each pad.
This will also help in determining how often you will use them and which kit or items are going to be the best value for money.
Zero-waste Jar Friendly
You wont have to put your disposable products into your zero waste jar...SORRY, really bad joke, I hope you do realise I'm joking, but yes it will save on landfill and the 800 years it takes to breakdown.
And no worries about kids or dogs tipping out the bathroom bin contents. (I don't do the jar thing, but I guess I could now without freaking everyone out).
Out and About...
One worry I had was what to do when I was out....how would I handle the change. Honestly, I feel it's simpler now as I don't have to try and locate a bin. I simply fold them up, place them in a little zip bag in my handbag and rinse when I get home.
Unlike the menstrual cups, you don't have to worry so much about hygiene problems at public toilets or getting into a potential messy situation. Plus I can't count the times I was confronted by disgusting smelly overfull sanitary bins covered in rubbish that I had no option but to touch, and now I don't have to deal with it. And if they happen to fall out of your handbag they look like a cute little purse all folded up anyway, so low chance of embarrassment.
No More Late Night Servo Trips
How often does a period arrive at inconvenient moments? There's nothing worse than realising late at night that you have run out of whatever it is you use and have to head out to the late night service station (or beg your partner to go for you) and just know they wont have your brand and it's going to cost twice as much as usual. I never have this problem now, I'm always fully stocked and rearing to go....without going out, unless I want to that is.
They are also noiseless!
Big advantage at work or socialising if you'd rather your colleagues, friends or family were clueless about what your getting up to...Or if you have co-ed bathrooms, camping trips, or many other situations...I wish these were around when I was in High School!!!
If you're a Kon Marie fan, these will not only 'Spark Joy', but you will love the fact that these can be stored in a neat little square by folding and using the stud to secure. I'm maybe 2% Kon Marie, but operate on the principle that life is too short to fold fitted sheets, so I mostly store them flat in a drawer and don't fold.
How to choose a pattern?
Ok, I'm sure this wasn't on the list of things you wanted to know, but I fell in love with so many of the patterns I had an incredibly hard time choosing!
I've heard some people choose a pattern for each size so that it's easy to pull out the right sized pad. I am a bit in awe at this level of organisation. You could pick colours based on matching clothes or handbags (I wear mostly the same stuff and have only 2 handbags so this seemed a bit too boring). I chose random patterns and colours and I pick to match my mood. You can see some of their standard patterns below plus they have a few limited edition ones like zebra print that you can check out here.
Now you know pretty much EVERYTHING there is to know about Reusable Menstrual Pads, what to expect and how to navigate the swap.
I hope this helps, and let me know if there's a question I haven't covered!
If you're still deciding whether to go with pads or cups, here's a great article about Why You Should Switch to a Menstrual Cup