Reusable Cloth Pads – FAQ’s

Why choose reusable menstrual pads? Is it hard to take care of them? How much money will you really save? We invite you to find out the answers to frequently asked questions about reusable cloth menstrual pads.

 

General Questions about Reusable Pads

What’s the difference between reusable pads and disposables?

Aside from the obvious fact that you don’t throw away reusable pads, there are several differences. Some of the main ones are that:

  • Cloth pads have wings that snap into place; there’s no adhesive like with disposable pads.
  • Cloth pads tend to “breathe” better than disposables because they aren’t made of plastic (although some cloth pads have a waterproof breathable lining). This makes them more comfortable than disposables.
  • Cloth pads are more fun than disposables because you can get them in a variety of colors and prints to match your personal style.

Why would I want to use cloth pads instead of disposables?

While it’s a personal choice, there are several good reasons for switching to reusable pads. You can:

  • Keep thousands of disposable feminine hygiene products out of landfills.
  • Save money by not having to buy pads each and every month.
  • Experience the comfort of wearing soft, non-synthetic fabrics next to your body.
  • Have less exposure to potentially unhealthy chemicals.
  • Never again deal with an adhesive wing getting stuck in the wrong place.

Do pads shorten your period?

While there are no reliable scientific studies on the subject, many women and doctors believe using pads over tampons can shorten your period. The idea is that products like tampons absorb menstrual blood, but they also cause a sort of backup within your vagina. Pads, on the other hand, allow blood to leave your body naturally and at a more normal rate. In theory, this could lead to shorter periods.

Are reusable pads safe?

They are indeed! As mentioned above, reusable pads tend to be more breathable and are less likely to expose your most sensitive bits to harsh and harmful chemicals than traditional disposable pads. Of course, it’s important to make sure that you change your pads regularly. If they become saturated and wet, they can irritate your skin, just like any other menstrual product.

How long can I expect a reusable cloth pad to last?

Most cloth pads are estimated to last up to five years if they’re properly cared for. Some people say theirs last even longer than that. That estimated five years is based on the assumption that you have a rotation of about 10 pads.

What’s the difference between regular and organic cotton pads?

Organic cloth pads are made of fabric that was grown without pesticides or herbicides. Less of these chemicals means less pollution and less damage to the environment. Also, it means less exposure to toxins for the people who work on the farm where the cotton grows. While it’s true that you can buy organic cotton disposable products, they still create the same amount of landfill waste as non-organic cotton.

What does it mean when they say a reusable pad is made from bamboo?

Many people think of wood when they think of bamboo and wonder how it can make for a comfortable menstrual pad. Fortunately, bamboo is able to be made into a very soft, silky cloth fabric. A great thing about bamboo is that it’s very fast growing, and thus, highly renewable. And it isn’t a target of pests, so it doesn’t have to be treated with chemicals like regular cotton crops.

Sorry to be gross, but do reusable pads smell?

The good new is cloth pads tend to stay fresher than disposable pads. That’s because their fabric breathes which allows moisture to evaporate. Less moisture means fewer bacteria to produce unwanted smells. If you do notice an odd smell, common bacterial imbalances could be to blame. That’s something to check out with a doctor. You can also use special techniques like adding OxiClean, vinegar, or essential oils when soaking pads to help eliminate lingering smells.

How much money can I expect to save by switching to reusable pads?

Most women can expect to deal with 35 years of menstruation during their lifetime. That can cost you thousands of dollars in products over time. When you switch to cloth pads, you’ll spend a lot less on feminine hygiene. Everyone’s cycle is different, and so is the age when they start to use cloth pads. One cloth pad maker, Party in My Pants, has made this handy calculator to give you a personalized estimate of how much you can save by switching to reusable pads. But some people estimate that you can save up to $350 over five years when using reusable pads!

Can I use cloth pads for incontinence?

Cloth pads absolutely can be used for light incontinence. People with this issue usually need to wear some kind of protection every day. When they wear disposable, plastic-based products, they run an increased risk of getting yeast and bacterial infections, in addition to ordinary irritation and chafing. Cloth pads can be heaven-sent for people who need to wear a pad every day due to their comfort and breathability.

Can I use cloth pads immediately after giving birth?

Cloth pads are an excellent choice for postpartum wear, especially the longer and thicker overnight pads. Many women soak their pads in soothing ingredients before freezing them. They then wear them to promote comfort and healing after giving birth. Cloth postpartum pads seem to be a natural choice for women who choose cloth diapers for their babies.

Aren’t reusable pads bulkier than disposables?

It all depends on the pads. Some pads are made leak-resistant by the thickness of their fabrics. Other cloth pads have a waterproof lining, so they require less cotton fabric than pads with no waterproof backing. The thickness of the pad also varies based on the flow level the pads are designed for, and whether they’re an all-in-one system or have adjustable inserts.

Can teenagers use cloth pads?

They sure can. Some retailers, like Party in My Pants, even sell special kits to give to a girl for her first period. They may want to start with pantyliner or small size pads to see how they like them. Starting early with cloth pads can help young people feel in control of their cycles, and teenagers love the many colors and prints of cloth pads.

 

Questions about Wearing Reusable Pads

How do I find the right pad for my needs?

Typically, the most important factor is the absorbency level of the pad. You can go with a thinner pad with lighter coverage if you have very light flow or just need a backup for a menstrual cup or tampons, or you can go for thicker pads if you have a heavier flow. One way to get started is to measure the disposable pads that you like and order similar sized cloth pads.

How many cloth pads will I need?

Most of us want to have an assortment of pads in our stash to cover the entire menstrual cycle. While the number you’ll need will vary based on how long your period lasts and the heaviness of your flow, most reusable pad makers recommend about a dozen pads, give or take. For example:

  • Three to six pantyliners.
  • Six to twelve daypads.
  • One to three overnight pads

Will cloth pads leak?

Cloth pads are made to be very absorbent. They’re typically made with wings that snap around the underwear to keep the sides of the panties dry. Some pad companies include a waterproof backing with their pads. But, believe it or not, it’s not always necessary and depends on your flow level. Of course, just like disposable pads, you need to change them out before they become totally saturated. After wearing reusable pads for just a short while, you’ll have a good idea of how often you’ll need to change them.

Are cloth pads comfortable?

Most users of reusable cloth pads go on and on about how comfortable they are compared to disposables, which can chafe or feel bulky and clammy. Reusable pads are very soft and breathable. This exchange of air can leave you feeling dry and with less chafing and irritation. Some users say the breathability makes them much cooler to wear than disposable pads, which have plastic parts that trap heat.

How often should I change my cloth pad?

You will probably need to change your reusable pad one to six times a day. You’ll know it’s time to switch out the pad if it starts to feel wet next to your skin. Naturally, the heavier your flow, the more often you’ll have to change pads. The lighter your flow, the longer you can get away with infrequent changing.

Can I wear a cloth pad with thong underwear?

You sure can. Lots of pad makers sell thong liners to give you protection when you’re wearing a thong. Just like with disposable thong liners, they’re designed to be worn on light days or as a backup to a menstrual cup or tampon. Wearing cloth pads won’t cramp your style.

How do I deal with pad changes when I’m away from home?

Thanks to the wings with snaps on most pads, they fold up into perfect little squares that you can pack away in your purse. You probably will want to carry a plastic baggie with you when it’s your time of the month. You can use an ordinary Ziploc or plastic grocery bag. A super cute option is to use waterproof carrying pouches called “wet bags” that you can buy together with your pads from most cloth pad retailers. Tree Hugger Cloth Pads even have an assortment of wet bags that come in an array of models – like bathroom bags, purses, and even clutches – and adorable prints.

I have a very heavy flow. Can I use cloth pads?

Yes, in fact, cloth pads can be extremely absorbent. If you have a favorite overnight disposable pad, take a measurement of it and then look for a cloth pad that’s the same length or longer. Many cloth pad brands come with inserts that you can stack for extra super absorbency.

Can I wear reusable pads when swimming?

Unfortunately, no. Just like disposable pads, cloth pads will absorb the water, making them soggy and ineffective for period protection. However, a menstrual cup or period-proof swimwear are great alternatives when you want to go swimming during your time of the month.

 

Questions about Caring for Reusable Pads

Should I wash new pads before wearing?

Yes, it’s recommended you wash your pads before wearing them for the first time. This will remove any fabric sizing and enhance the fabric’s absorbency. You only need to wash them one time before wearing.

Isn’t washing cloth pads an awful lot of work?

Washing reusable pads is as simple as cleaning any other items of clothing. Washing pads might seem weird at first, but after doing it a few times, it’ll become status quo. You can clean your pads in your washing machine, or you can do so by hand.

How do I wash cloth pads?

The easiest way to clean your pads is to just toss them into the washing machine. You can wash them on cold or warm settings; just avoid using hot water if you want to avoid setting stains. If you’re less concerned with stains and more concerned with sanitizing your pads, feel free to use hot water. Some people even boil their cloth pads!

Then you can either air dry the pads or tumble dry on the low setting. Many women find they get the best results if they soak the pads before washing in cold water, particularly if there’s any dried blood on the pads. An alternative to soaking the pads is to use the prewash setting if your washing machine has that option.

Handwashing the pads is also an option. In this case, you’ll probably want to pre-soak the pads to make washing easier. If you choose to soak the pads, be sure to change out the soak water on a daily basis. When the time comes to wash them, rinse the pads in cold water until the water runs clear and then gently scrub them to get them clean.

Any detergent is fine to use when washing your cloth pads. You may want to avoid fabric softeners because they can make fabrics less absorbent. It’s not recommended to bleach pads either because it can break down the material and interfere with absorbency.

When should I wash the pads?

You can wash the pads during your cycle as you go through your stash or launder them all once your period ends. Basically, just wash them whenever is the most convenient for you.

Can you put cloth pads in the dryer?

This will vary based on the particular fabrics that make up your pads; however, the majority of pads can be machine dried on a low or medium setting. Just make sure you don’t use high heat or dryer sheets.

What are other ways I can dry my cloth pads?

You can also air dry pads but, just like with any item that’s air dried, the pads might feel slightly stiff initially. Sunlight can kill any lingering bacteria and help stains fade, but try to avoid leaving your pads in direct sunlight for extended lengths of time. The sun can bleach out the colors of your pads or damage waterproof backing materials.

Won’t cloth pads get stained?

If you have pure white cloth pads, you may see some staining. However, stains don’t mean that the fabric isn’t clean. Pads that have patterns or darker colors tend to naturally hide stains. If you’re concerned about staining, you can use a stain treatment on your pads before washing them.

 

Click Here to Check Our Top 10 Reusable Cloth Pad List

27 Comments
  1. Hi l have Litchen Sclerosis and cannot use any soap or perfumes.
    Any ideas on a natural way to clean my pads.
    Thanks for all the great information, Linda

    • Hello There!
      You can rinse or soak them as best as you can and then wash them as you would your underwear or pants, whatever is normally against your skin when you are not menstruating.

      -If you feel they need deeper cleaning, you can soak the pads in water with a bit of baking SODA (not powder) or white vinegar.
      -Some people use over-the-counter hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) diluted with water (50/50) to clean their pads and help remove stains.
      *H2O2 turns into H2O (water) in a short period of time. It’s the reason it’s normally found in dark brown bottles.
      -If you live in an area with a lot of sunlight, rinse or soak the pads and then hang them out to dry outside or by a sunny window. It not only helps your pads last longer (less friction and shrinkage from skipping the dryer), it also helps with stains and is a natural sanitizer.

      I hope these help.
      Good Luck <3
      @RedHerringTV

  2. I use double-sided tape to keep mine in place. Put the tape on the underwear side and stick it down. Just remember to remove the tape before washing.

  3. I am using one for the first time today and I am LOVING IT! It feels like I have nothing on—like I’m just wearing underwear. And it feels really soft too. When i wear regular pads, I feel them on my underwear, but this cloth one—nothing. I am definitely buying more in various sizes!

  4. Hi I was just wondering because I live with my mom and my sister and if it we all use reusable pads can we share them? As in after they come from the washing machine or should we have different colors? And if we have different color can we still wash them at the same time or..? I couldn’t find anything about sharing pad s it would be great if someone knew.

    • I think it has to do with how comfortable you or whoever is with sharing the cleaned cloth. I’ve heard and read from both sides who are totally fine with the concept and others who think it is totally disgusting. Disgusting because they feel it’s gloss. But other than the “ick” factor, I don’t think there is anything medically wrong with it. However, I’m not a doctor, so if you want a medical standpoint, I’m sure your doctor would be happy to answer it for you.

      On a side note, cloth items in medical offices and hospitals are reused and I’m sure there are all kinds of bodily fluids left on those before they’re washed.

      I’ve had to borrow underwear from my friends, sisters, mother, daughter, and even my husband for some reason or other. Besides my husband, I’m pretty sure that at least one of them have bled onto the underwear at some point. I don’t see a difference in the case of washing or wearing (clean) cloth pads.

      There are several social platforms in which people buy & sell used cloth pads to reduce/recycle and/or save money.

      If you’re sister and mother are fine with sharing with you, then I don’t think there’s anything wrong. Just practice good hygiene and cleaning habits.

      Stay Safe & Happy New Year!

      Red Herring
      @redherringtv
      RedHerringTV on YouTube

      PS. My daughter and I shared cloth pads before we both switched to Menstrual Cups.

  5. I have been using reusable pads for years now. It’s time for me to retire them based on the ‘how long do they last” question. Throwing them in the trash seems wasteful. What is the best way to dispose of reusable pads?

    • Hello There!
      It’s awesome to hear that you’ve been using reusable pads for so long! I have not needed to replace or dispose of any of mine but I did wonder, as well.
      Most all-natural fiber fabrics are biodegradable. If you know what yours are made of, you can look it up and determine if they are or not.
      Most of mine are made of cotton and bamboo. When mine needs replacing my plan was to use them in the flower beds or the bottom of the compost pile that is not used for food products.

      The most biodegradable fabrics are cotton, linen, hemp, and bamboo. They can start to decompose as little as two weeks and take as long as a year or so. You can cut the cloth into smaller pieces to speed up the process.
      Wool takes a year to 5 years depending on the blend but I don’t know very many cloth pad makers who use wool because it can hold heat.

      I hope this helps. I would love to know if you come up with anything else.
      <3 RedHerring

  6. I’m sorry, just the idea of having to wash that, is insane for me.

  7. I’m living in a house share with a lot of people now so I’m just wondering, once I’ve washed my pads in the washing machine, is it okay for another person’s load to go straight in afterward? Like will the washing machine itself be clean?

    • Hi Phoebe!
      Washing cloth pads is like washing any other article of clothing except for if it has PUL (waterproof liner) in it. It’s just like overflowing blood onto your undies, just now you have a something between yourself and your undies to collect it.
      You can rinse your cloth pads before throwing it in the wash if it’s heavily soiled but I also know of people who just throw them in un-rinsed with dark colors.

      If you have a PUL liner in a pad, it would be better to air dry it. PUL fabric can/will shrink or warp in high temperatures.

      Red Herring
      @redherringtv
      RedHerringTV on YouTube

      • I two teaspoons of baking soda in the bowl where I rinse them before I put them in the washing machine, where I add another 2 spoons. That’s it!

  8. This is a great website. I am just about to go into my first cycle with cloth pads and I am looking at cleaning methods. This was all a great help. I feel prepared now.

    • How do these work when you have a lot of clots?

      • I have that issue as well, they work the same as disposable pads. Basically just like a disposable pad, the clots seem to get absorbed into the pad, but just like disposable pads, large clots can tend to sit on top for a short time before getting absorbed in. It hasn’t bothered me any.

  9. Thanks so much for this! Super comprehensive and simple. I’ve already gotten a few cloth pads, but as any transition goes, it hasn’t been easy. The washing part is what I was most confused about but now I feel much more confident in my choice! I love the feel of cloth pads compared to regular ones, not to mention the comfort I get from knowing I’m not wasting a ton of inorganic material for my natural period. Blessings!

  10. So this might be a weird question, but what do you do with the pads until you are ready to wash? Do you have a separate trash can in the bathroom? I’m assuming you want to wash a load together? Do you wash them with other dedicates? I bought 10 pads…but haven’t used them because I don’t know how to do that part?
    Thanks,

    • I throw mine into the shower. When I shower next, I rinse/wring them well & hang over my shower door to dry. Then, I’ll throw them into a load of laundry. I rinse first because I don’t sort laundry & wash everything on cool water setting. Every couple months, I’ll give them a vinegar/water soak.

    • I know this is old but it might help someone, I throw mine in a dry bag I keep on the back of the bathroom door but any bag would probably work as they’re not dripping wet or anything (grocery bag would be a great cheap option). My wash routine has definitely changed. When I first started I had a complicated soaking and stain removal process, now I’m 3 years in and I throw them in the washer and cover them with cold water, let sit overnight, drain the water and throw a load of towels, clothes or blanket on top and wash like normal (I use cold water because I want the PUL and fabric to last as long as possible. Sometimes I set it to an extra rinse but I don’t always remember. I hope your switch is going well!

    • I store mine in a large wet bag then throw them all in the machine (the bag too) at the end of my cycle. I put them through a cold rinse, then a normal 40 degree wash cycle with pre-wash and extra rinse selected. I use detergent and a scoop of oxi action stain remover (no softener). Always come out completely clean and no stains. Hope that helps! This is my 4th month using them and so glad I made the switch! I have a heavy flow and they’ve been so much better than disposables and much less need to change during the day.

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