I used to swear by disposable tampons and pads, but as an environmentalist, I started to wonder if there was a better way. I experimented with the DivaCup, but I could never quite get the hang of it, and always ended up with blood pouring down my hands every time I tried to change it. A few years later, when a college friend told me about cloth pads, I was skeptical. I wanted to help the planet, but were they safe? Were they hard to clean? Were they comfortable?
But then I reminded myself that it wasn’t too long ago that there was no other option (it’s called “your rag” for a reason), and in many rural villages across the world, there is still no other option. I decided to take the plunge and open my mind, ordered a few cloth pads Etsy one evening, and now there’s no going back—I’m hooked on reusable pads, which are not just equal to, but are actually superior to disposable pads!
Here’s why I encourage other women to give cloth pads a try.
1. Mother Earth will thank you.
The average American woman begins her period at age 12 and experiences menopause between the ages of 45 and 55, menstruating for almost 40 years.
It is recommended that pads and tampons are changed every 4 to 8 hours. If we change them an average of every 6 hours, that is a total of 4 sanitary products per day, and if our cycle is 5 days long, that is 20 sanitary products per cycle, 240 over the course of a year and 9,600 in a lifetime. According to Lunapads.com, my estimate is very conservative. Because these products do not biodegrade very well, are packaged in plastic wrap, and often contain plastic applicators, after just a few hours in our vaginas they will end up spending hundreds of years in a landfill.
2. You will save money.
A box of 20 maxipads runs at $5.47 at Walmart. If we menstruate for 40 years and use one box per cycle, this will amount to $2,625.60. Cloth pads, which I buy on Etsy from artisans who run home businesses, usually cost me about $10 including shipping. Although you may go up to 12 hours without changing your pad, I like to change mine every 8 to 10 hours, going through about 3 pads a day for 5 days (15 pads). These pads can be kept for 5 to 10 years. Using cloth pads throughout a lifetime of a 5-day cycle would cost $600 to $1,200. Also, you’ll be supporting working moms with one-of-a-kind art shops rather than major brands that often use questionable ingredients.
3. Cloth pads are low-maintenance.
One of my first concerns when I considered switching to cloth pads was how I was going to go about caring for them. Would it be time-consuming to wash them? If I was using copious amounts of water, was the solution really environmental? I looked at message boards to see what other women who used reusable pads were doing, and I found a care routine that worked for me.
When I change my pads, I throw them into my bath tub and leave them to soak in a layer of water. The next morning, I stomp on the pads as I shower until the water runs clear. Then I give them a quick scrub with a dime-sized amount of shampoo and toss them into the washing machine with my regular laundry. When I was first switching from disposables, I was worried that this would take a lot of effort, but even after just rinsing them in the shower, the blood came out easily and the pads already looked spotless.
After putting them through the washer and dryer, I iron them for good measure as a precaution against bacteria. Caring for the pads takes little extra time out of my day because I use the same shower water I would be using anyways and wash them with other laundry, which would also need to be washed anyways. Plus, since I wash them twice, dry them and iron them, I know that these reusable sanitary pads are actually much more “sanitary” than disposables.
4. Cloth pads are surprisingly comfy and convenient.
Cloth pads move with your body and don’t have the itchy, plastic-y texture of disposable pads. Because they don’t contain bleach, perfumes, and other compounds that may irritate your skin, they are also better for vaginal health. For instance, tampon manufacturers recommend that you change often and only use the minimum absorbency necessary to avoid the rare but deadly TSS, or Toxic Shock Syndrome. TSS occurs when your immune defense system cannot fend off toxins. With a cloth pad, I can overshoot and use an extra absorbency pad if I feel like being on the safe side, and not have to worry about any side effects.
Cloth pads also absorb both blood and odour better than disposables and do not leave a stench, despite that they can be worn for much longer. Although I prefer to change my pads more frequently, I have the convenience of not worrying if I go out and don’t have access to a bathroom for an hour. And gone are the days when I had to wake up at odd hours of the night because I needed to change my tampon at a specific time!
5. Cloth pads are adorable.
I just love the look and feel of the cloth pads I buy from Etsy, which are truly works of art. There are endless patterns, materials, and sizes to choose from. Here are just a few from my personal collection, courtesy of MomsCrafts4U.
Being on your rag has never been so fashionable.