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Reusable Menstrual Pads: Are They Worth the Hype?
Have you heard of a zero-waste period? It means using only plastic-free, reusable products during your cycle each month. It also means ditching the plastic-laden and chemical-laden disposable pads that not only contribute to the world’s plastic problem, but can also have a negative impact on our reproductive organs. And of course, it means making a huge switch, for the better!
Personally, I try going as close to zero-waste as I possibly can during my monthly cycle. That involves purchasing a reusable cup and a few reusable sanitary napkins, also known as pasadors. Making the switch takes commitment, but let me tell you that once I started, I never went back.
If you want to jump into the world of cloth pads and eco-friendly periods, then this guide is for you! Here’s everything you need to know about reusable menstrual pads.
What are reusable cloth menstrual pads?
Although disposable sanitary napkins are way more common nowadays, old rags and cloth pads were the norm for women centuries ago. It wasn’t until the 1800s that disposable pads were created due to rising demand. More women were working outside of the home, and their washable cloth pads just weren’t convenient or easy to use anymore.
In came disposable pads. The first prototypes were made by nurses who fashioned the pads out of a wood pulp because they were easy to just toss out after use.
Since then, menstrual pads have become more advanced and come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, absorbency levels, material, and even fragrances. There are night pads for heavier flows and day pads that are more lightweight. You can easily stick them onto your underwear, throw them away when they’re full, and never think twice about it. Disposable pads suited our needs in a fast-paced world.
The problem is the enormous plastic waste they produce. In the UK, the average user throws away 125 to 150 kilograms of disposable period products, including pads and tampons, in their lifetime. Multiply that by the number of people in the world who menstruate and use disposables. The damage to the environment is unthinkable.
Being a woman can be tough. The saying “Anything you can do, I can do bleeding” pretty much sums it up. It’s hard enough to go through scheduled physical and emotional duress every month, so of course we want to make the process as quick and convenient as we possibly can. But the earth is our home, and inflicting damage on mother nature is just as bad as inflicting damage to our own selves and our own womanhood.
Eco-friendly menstrual products have gained popularity because of this dilemma. Thankfully, there are now plenty of ways to take care of our body and the environment at the same time. The reusable menstrual pad is just one of them. Let’s head into all your burning questions about it!
Are reusable menstrual pads sanitary?
You might be wondering how sanitary it is to reuse a cloth pad. After all, our discharge, blood and all, isn’t exactly clean. Is washing truly enough to disinfect the pads, or are we setting ourselves up for a potential infection and vaginal disease?
The truth is, reusable pads are super safe — even more so than disposables. Not only that, but they can also lessen the many health risks found in disposable products.
Why should I switch to reusable sanitary pads?
Apart from containing a large amount of plastic that takes at least 500 years to degrade, disposable pads can become a health hazard to their users. One of the most common problems associated with them is bacterial infection. The synthetic material and super-absorbent nature of the pads can restrict airflow, trapping moisture and heat within the walls of the vagina which can eventually lead to yeast and bacterial growth.
Additionally, cotton pads (and even tampons) normally contain traces of the chemicals dioxin and bleach. Certain forms of these chemicals have been linked to cancer. Since the skin in the vagina is particularly thin, the risk of these toxins entering the bloodstream is high.
So what makes a reusable pad a safer alternative? For one thing, it uses a higher amount of natural, non-irritating materials. While not all reusable cloth pads are made from certified organic cotton, the cloth is less likely to cause rashes and discomfort the way disposable pads do. Furthermore, reusable cloth pads shy away from dangerous synthetic materials, making them more breathable.
How do you wash reusable menstrual pads?
We’ve pretty much established that cloth menstrual pads are safer than irritating disposable ones. But there are still a set of hygiene rules you need to follow when using reusable cloth pads, and you need to follow them closely.
Washing your cloth menstrual pads properly and thoroughly is the key. If you want them to last long, then you need to know how to treat them right.
Unlike disposable pads which require no aftercare, your cloth menstrual pads are going to be more high maintenance. But for all the benefits you’re getting out of them, we say they’re worth the time and effort.
Here are the things you need to keep in mind when washing your reusable pads:
- Pre-wash brand new cloth pads with cold water.
- Soak the reusable pad in cold water after your use, preferably with the pad facing down, as this reduces the likelihood of the blood settling into the pad. Do not expose your pad to hot water because the blood will stain!
- After 30 minutes of soaking, rinse your pad in cold running water until the water turns clear. This is an indicator that most of the blood has been removed from the pad.
- Now’s the time to wash your pad with soap. You may hand wash it, rubbing the pad onto itself. You may also clean your pad with a washing machine if you prefer, along with your other clothes or by itself.
- Never use a fabric softener or bleach to clean your pad. The fabric softener will damage the absorbency.
- Once you’re done washing the pad, hang it to air dry or sun dry. Pro-tip: the sun is a natural disinfectant!
Should you notice any stains on your pad even after consistent soaking and washing, don’t panic. Simply add a little baking soda (not baking powder) to combat the stains.
Do I have to wash my pad immediately after use?
A common misconception is that one has to wash their reusable pads immediately after use. That’s not actually the case! In fact, you can store your used day pads in a small pouch (some brands include them when you purchase your pads) and wash them all at night. Others wash their pads at the end of every cycle. Personally, it depends on your routine.
Part of integrating the use of these reusable pads into your everyday life is finding a routine that works for you. You can wash your pads along with the rest of your laundry or designate a specific day for just your pads. It all depends on you.
How long do reusable menstrual pads last?
A reusable cloth pad can last up to 5 years with proper care and maintenance, so make sure you’re willing to put in the work before you invest in them!
Are reusable pads worth it compared to disposable pads?
There are certain disadvantages that come with reusable pads. To give you the full idea of what you’re getting into, here are some struggles that users may encounter:
Cloth menstrual pads are certainly not as easy to maintain as disposable ones. If convenience is something that’s non-negotiable for you, then you might end up getting tired of having to wash your own period blood every cycle.
Reusable pads will actually save you more money in the long run, but you’ll need to shell out a lot of cash at the beginning. Financial accessibility is another problem when it comes to products such as these, and it’s why a large number of people prefer to buy disposables. In the short run, these disposables cost less.
3. No adhesive
A disposable pad contains an adhesive strip so you can easily stick it onto your underwear and move freely without worrying about leaks. While leaks aren’t a huge problem when it comes to reusables, you might be surprised that they don’t have an adhesive at the bottom!
A reusable pad instead offers wings that clasp at the crotch area to secure it to the lining of your undies. This makes the product easier to reposition during use, but it also means that it can move around a little bit.
How to Choose the Right Cloth Pads for You
Let’s say you’re ready to make the switch — hooray! Now, all that’s left is to choose which reusable pads you should go for. Remember that these pads will be your period partners for a long time, so choose wisely.
Just like a disposable pad, reusable period products have different absorbency levels. The average period lasts 2 to 8 days, and the flow usually varies from lighter to heavier. The most sensible thing to do is to choose products that have different absorbency levels to match the variations of your flow.
There are pantyliners for those who like to use their pads as back-up layers of protection when using cups. To help you make the right choice, here are the kinds of reusable products you’ll encounter and who they could benefit the most.
Like we mentioned, pantyliners are great for those who just need the additional layers of protection when they’re already using other products, such as cups or tampons. They’re thinner and less absorbent, making them more suitable for spotting days.
2. Day-use Pads
Women who feel more comfortable using pads with a standard absorbency ought to go for day-use pads. These are the ones that provide an effective layer of protection for a moderate flow. They’re a lot more breathable than night pads.
3. Night Pads
Finally, those who tend to have heavier flows or are prone to leaking at the back should try night-use pads. This product usually offers the most protection and absorbency, which is why some people prefer to use one over standard pads.
Like we said, being a woman is tough! At the end of the day, the way you choose to take care of your period and the rest of your body is your own choice. But with more research coming out about the harmful impact of disposables to the environment and our own health, the better option is clear as day.
We hope this article has answered some of your burning questions! Check out our site for more lifestyle, beauty, and health tips!
Joey is an AB Psychology graduate of the University of St. La Salle – Bacolod. Her life’s passions include writing, film, and spending hours on end binge-watching fashion vloggers on Youtube.