One of the first questions that women often ask is "where can I buy cheap cloth pads?", and "why do cloth pads cost so much".
Obviously we all like to spend as little money as possible on something like this that is supposed to be the more economical choice than disposable products. However with cloth pads it's not like with disposable pads, where there is little difference between the brands.
Because of the variation of fabrics that may make up a cloth pad, as well as the prestige/experience of those who make them, it is hard to compare prices in the cloth pad industry. Instead of just using price as a guide, you need to look at "value for money". Value for money is not just how cheap an item is, but it is what you get for the money you pay.
For example, let's look at 2 hypothetical "pantyliners" (with prices and composition like you would actually find, but just not naming any brands), and see how the 2 prices compare.
Pantyliner #1 - Cost USD$3
Pantyliner #2 - Cost USD$10
- Length: 8in/20cm
- Winged, plastic snap closure
- Made from: top layer of hand dyed bamboo velour, 1 layer organic cotton fleece, backed with organic wool knit.
Now, assuming both of these pantyliners are exceptionally well made, on price alone, the $3 pantyliner is cheaper than pantyliner #2. But pantyliner #2 is made from more expensive fabrics and is more absorbent than pantyliner #1. So only you can make the decision of which is better "value for money". If you are looking for a pantyliner for between period use, or very light spotting, you may find the $3 flannel pantyliner is sufficient for your needs. Or if you are looking for something more absorbent you might feel that the organics and lush fabrics justify the extra price you would pay for the $12 one.
The old saying "you get what you pay for" is often very true when talking about cloth pads. Which is why it is difficult to just compare based on prices.
However it is difficult to work out the value of something if you have no idea what sort of price a similar item would be sold for. So there is a rough guide to average prices of cloth pads.
However there are also cases where, as in other industries, you are also paying extra for the brand name and prestige/popularity of the brand. Or paying less from sellers who are running more of a hobby business.
Sometimes you will find that larger businesses will have higher prices than a smaller WAHM type business. Part of this is because larger businesses need to employ staff, pay for advertising and other expenses (perhaps even rent on a factory where the pads are sewn). The product price then needs to be priced in a way that will pay for all those expenses. Where a smaller business that works from home may not have such expenses and can afford to price their product lower. Even large cloth pad businesses are small enough to not have the benefits of billions of sales that disposable product companies have.
On the other end of the scale you have the "cheaper" brands. Often these pad sellers make pads in their spare time, mostly out of the love of sewing, and have low prices. Often you'll find these sellers on etsy or ebay, because they usually don't have their own websites to sell from. Because they are selling as more of a hobby, they often do not take into consideration the other costs involved with running a business (selling fees, power usage, threads/needles/machine repairs, packaging), and may even be barely making a profit from their sales. Often pad sellers price their products low to begin with, while they refine their sewing techniques and pattern. These might be inexpensive, but may not be as well sewn as those from more established pad makers.
So the price (and what you get for it) of a cloth pad is much too varied to be able to be compared brand to brand
So, what makes a cloth pad so expensive?
If you've gone to your local fabric store and found flannel for $3 a yard/metre and wondered why do cloth pads cost so much, when you can make several pads from one piece of fabric. There is actually quite a lot more to it.
Obviously if you are comparing them to the per pad cost of a disposable product they are going to seem a lot more expensive, but if you are spending about $10 a month on disposable products you could find that for the cost of 1 year's worth of disposable pads, you could have enough cloth pads to last you for around 7 years!
Some fabrics, such as bamboo, hemp, PUL and organic fabrics cannot be found in your local fabric store. So these are usually bought online. So that adds postage onto the cost of the fabric, which are often fairly expensive fabrics to begin with. For some pad makers, fabric needs to be imported in from other countries, which adds even more cost on to the shipping charges. Hand dyed fabrics require a lot of work. Hand dying 1 yard of fabric may take around 2 hours of work or more (plus a lot of washing). The more you sew, the more needles, thread, machine oil, bobbins, machine repairs, pins and other small items that you might not even consider are used. There may also be web hosting, domain names, seller fees (for etsy, ebay etc.), bank fees, paypal fees, printing ink, envelopes, sticky tape, petrol cost driving to the post office or fabric store and so on. Obviously if your sewing machine breaks down when you are making a pad, you can't charge an extra $100 on that pad to account for the cost of those repairs, so the products have to be priced so that not only the cost of the actual fabric is covered, but also a little extra to allow for a portion of all those other expenses. Adding $1 or $2 extra onto the cost of each pad you make can add up to help cover some of those expenses.
And then there is the time, it could take 15-20 mins to make a pad from start to finish. Not to mention the time spent custom dying fabric, working on the bookkeeping or even working on their websites or answering customer e-mails. If the pad maker was employed out of the home, they would be paid an hourly wage for their labour. For many pad makers, their pad making is their only job. So to make it worth while, they should be able to earn an hourly rate too. Otherwise they might stop making their lovely pads, and go to work for a fast food outlet!
A lot of pad sellers are not charging enough for their products. If you work out the hourly rate based on what you would pay someone to sew up goods for you, and then add actual fabric cost, this can work out to be less than what some sellers are charging. While this is a great deal for the customer, it means the seller is working for nothing and not covering all their costs. They may as well be working in a sweatshop or in paid employment outside of the home. When the seller is doing it as a part-time business they may not mind working for "the love of sewing", but this can take its toll eventually and lead to the seller closing down, or increasing their prices once they realise what is going on.
So when looking at the cost of cloth pads, it's worth remembering that for someone to make cloth pads to sell, it costs more than just the cost of 1 yard of fabric. There are a lot of hidden costs.
While most of us are on the hunt for a bargain, cloth pads (even expensive ones) are cheaper than using disposable pads, and while a $10 pad may seem expensive, remember that a lot of time and effort goes into each one made. They are made by people, often in their homes. Not some big factory among people in lab coats. Someone might have searched for hours to find that particular fabric print. By customers buying their pads they might be able to afford their child's swimming lessons, or buy themselves something nice to wear. Or you might simply be helping them be able to afford to feed their family.
Buying a cloth pad can be so much more than just accumulating something else to bleed on each month….. you are supporting small business, contributing to a drive towards cloth pads, aiding the environment… and getting something lovely to put into your underpants.
Lets not quibble too much about the price.