Cloth sanitary pads? Strange. Are they hygienic? How about stains? How to wash them? Do they leak? These are the questions I hear within two minutes of putting forward this idea of cloth sanitary pads to anyone.
Though I wanted to spread the message ever since I switched to cloth pads, I was a bit nervous about being judged. However with time, I see more and more people becoming open to talk about menstruation and the alternatives to sanitary pads. So here I am today, to share my experience with you.
Like most modern women, I grew up with the notion that using cloth as in pads is unhygienic. “Thank God, modern ultra slim pads are invented”, I used to think. “How would we do without them?”
When I switched to cloth diapers for my son, I wondered “How is a cloth diaper better than disposables, but a cloth pad unhygienic?” I was so staunch in my belief of cloth being unhygienic that I never cared to research about it.
Then one day, very accidentally, I read an article about a new concept called cloth sanitary pads (which is a shame, given how many ads we see per day for disposable pads). The article talked about how unfair it is to dispose used pads, as it has to be handled by sanitary workers who can contract diseases from them.
Moreover, disposable pads are a major cause of land fills. It might lead the earth to nowhere but devastation and global warming!
Why did I never think about this?
About the people who have to handle menstrual waste after we comfortably tossed them out?
Being a cloth diapering mom already, it took me just one hour to understand the wonderful benefits of cloth pads and convince myself to switch. When the pads arrived home, I found myself eagerly awaiting my next periods. How cool is that!
13 Frequently asked questions about cloth sanitary pads:
Answering all your questions on cloth pads based on my personal experience.
- What are cloth sanitary pads?
Cloth sanitary pads are shaped just like disposable sanitary napkins, with similar absorption pattern. They are usually made of cotton, with a thin PUL (Polyurethane Laminate) backing to prevent leaks.
They come in various sizes – like day pad, night pad, panty liners. We can use the one to suit our needs.
2. How is it different from just cloth?
- One major thing is the PUL backing, which prevents accidental leaks
- Apart from that, modern cloth pads are so beautiful and colorful; they lift up your moods
- The material used for cloth pads will be more absorbent as they are designed specifically to serve the purpose
- They come with a press button at the bottom, making it very easy to wear and adjust. The functionality is better than disposables
- Why should I buy them?
Here are some of the reasons why I continue buying cloth sanitary pads for me.
- Harsh chemicals
As with disposable diapers, disposable pads contain chemicals that are very harmful, especially in those sensitive areas. The companies who sell these pads do not even reveal the ingredients, but independent tests have shown scary ingredients including dioxins.
The pads are also made of artificial materials like plastic that are not good to be in contact with your skin.
- Itching and rashes
Disposable pads may contribute to itching, rashes etc. Cloth pads give you freedom from these discomforts.
- Less expenditure
Cloth pads will save you money in the long run, as you invest once and use them for many years.
- No more running out of stock
Thanks to the reusable cloth sanitary pads I have at home, out of stock is never a possibility for me.
- No more embarrassment while shopping for pads
The line says it all 🙂
- Ethical reasons:
We do not want to handle our own blood, and pass on the work to sanitary workers. It’s very unhygienic for them, as the blood will grow germs over time.
- Go green:
It helps reduce the trash we throw on our planet. The pads itself and the plastic covers used in packaging each individual pad.
- What are the other advantages of cloth sanitary pads over disposables?
The indirect advantages of cloth sanitary pads are as mentioned below.
- Women who switched to cloth pad claim that it is a liberating feel. I understood the meaning when I started using cloth pads.
When you use the synthetic disposables, it feels like your life depends on it. It makes periods feel like a very artificial thing, that only the sanitary pads make manageable. But when you see that something as natural as cloth can help manage menstrual flow, menstruation feels natural.
- Since it’s not being constantly advertised, no one will recognize a cloth pad when you take this good looking stuff to a public bathroom. Embarrassment saved at this point too.
- No tell-tale crinkling sound, when you open the pad inside the bathroom
- I find that disposable pads do not stick properly to your panty once the underwear is wet. That’s a hassle to live with. With a press button adjustment in cloth pads, adjust it as much as you want, and there is no issue with adhesive not sticking.
- Some women claim that switching to cloth pads drastically reduced their cramps.
- Some cloth pads are sold by NGOs for rural women empowerment. By buying their pads, you help empower rural women
5. Are they hygienic?
I know what you mean.
Sanitary pad companies spend millions of dollars to make us believe cloth is unhygienic and odorous. Hearing stories from our moms/grand moms about using cloth also makes us cringe.
Cloth pads are very hygienic as long as they are washed well and dried in sun properly. In older generations, menstruation was a taboo. So the women would wash and dry their menstrual cloths in closed spaces, with no exposure to sun. This was one of the main reasons that made cloth unhygienic.
6. Is it difficult to wash?
Not really. This is how I wash it.
I have a small mug in my bathroom for this. As soon as I am done using the pad, I put the pad in this mug of water. Without any further effort, the blood dissolves into the water. Whenever I visit the bathroom, I change the water. Once the water is almost clear, I take the pad out.
I wash the pads along with my other clothes in washing machine and dry it in my balcony where there are ample sun rays. It is ready to use again when completely dry.
You can also scrub and wash separately if you find blood stains on the pads before drying.
7. How about odor?
When I read about cloth pads, it claimed that the odor in disposables is due to the chemicals reacting with blood. Cloth pads were supposed to be odorless.
While it’s true that the smell caused by disposables is yuck, cloth pads do smell a little bit during rinse time in the bathroom. I like to keep one bathroom to myself during the periods, and exhaust fan helps a lot. There are no odor issues when wearing them.
Odor while rinsing is the only issue I find with cloth pads, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.
8. How about stains?
The best way to avoid stains is to soak the pads in a mug of water as soon as you are done using them. Always use room temperature water for this, as hot water will set stains. You can also add a small amount of detergent or soapnut powder to this soak water.
Sun drying also helps to get rid of stains.
Despite these measures, some blood stains are hard to remove. Remember that stains do not indicate lack of hygiene. If you are afraid of stains, go for dark colored pads, which won’t reveal stains easily. Stain removers like vanish or Ala can also be used.
9. Do they leak?
The first time I used them, they did leak and I was so disappointed. But I had no issues from second time onwards. As a cloth diapering mom, I guessed that the cloth would have taken multiple washings to reach full absorbency. I washed them once before first use.
If you are concerned about leaks, make sure the brand you buy has a PUL backing (not all brands do).
10. How often should you change them?
Pads come in different sizes and their absorption is equal to similarly sized sanitary pads. But they can feel a bit wet when they are almost full. So, they can be changed based on your preference.
I love to change my cloth pads often, not out of need, but simply because there is no extra cost involved. I find that an advantage of cloth pads, that we can change as often as we want.
11. I am a working woman….
A lot of working women have happily switched to cloth pads. A good tip is to moisten the used pad slightly (as dried pads can set stains), snap the press button shut and keep inside your hand bag in a cover. Once you are back home, soak them in water.
Also consider a menstrual cup as they are easier to maintain, along with the same benefits as cloth pads.
12. What will others think?
In our country, period is a taboo subject. There might be a few eyebrows raised about publicly hanging the pads. Thankfully, most people won’t even figure out what these pads are.
As for the raised eyebrows, it’s time to demonstrate that periods is not a sin.
13. Where can I buy?
The brand that I have fallen in love with, is EcoFemme. It lists the shops and online stores from which you can buy their pads.
The cute patterned pads in the pictures are sold by a fellow mom in facebook.
I am all excited to share my cloth pad experience. I hope it helps a few more of you to make this healthier alternative- for yourself and the environment.
Hope this article on cloth sanitary pads was informative.
Have you switched to reusable menstrual pads already? What is your experience? Which is your favorite brand? Please let me know in the comments.