Frequently Asked Questions

Often those who are new to the idea of cloth pads want to know the same things. So this is a list of questions that are frequently asked.

"Aren't Cloth Pads gross?"

Disposable pads are a fairly recent invention, until then many women used cloth pads or rags. Chances are that someone in your family in the past has used cloth pads of some type. As far as being "gross" is concerned, many women today have been brought up believing that menstruation is "dirty", and that we have to be scared of all the germs lurking around us. So it stands to reason that the use of cloth pads can be seen as being dangerous and gross. However while some women might find the idea of reusing a pad that was bled on gross, they would have no problems reusing underwear, towels, sheets or other items that were also (usually accidentally) bled on.

Another point to consider is that all hospital gowns, sheets etc. that get blood on them and are washed and reused. Admittedly they are presumably treated with extreme heat, but they have to deal with cross contamination, where you would only use your own cloth pads.

"Are they better for the Environment?"

An enormous amount of rubbish in Landfill is made up of Sanitary pads and tampons. Cloth pads are reusable, so rather than throwing about 20-30 or more pads away each month, your supply of around 20 pads could last you around 10 years!

Some opponents of cloth pads will argue that washing cloth pads uses water a valuable resource), uses energy (for washing and drying) and chemicals (washing detergents, bleaches and sanitisers), that make the environmental impact greater than disposable pads. However in these types of arguments the environmental impact of manufacturing the disposables, as well as transportation and warehousing is never taken into consideration. If cloth pads are washed in a load of their own, and rinsed out with little regard to water saving and put through an electric clothes dryer then they will have more of an environmental impact that if they are washed with a load of other laundry and line dried.

"Cheaper? how can they be cheaper when they cost so much"

Obviously buying or making cloth pads requires you to spend some money to begin with (Unless you use material you have lying around), but it won't take long before your reusable pads have paid for themselves. If you spend about $10 a month on disposable products, that could buy you a couple of pads. 4 months down the track, your $40 could have bought you a decent start of a pad stash

You can make them out of fancy expensive fabrics like hemp and colourful quilting cotton…. or you can cut up some old reclaimed bath towels and flannel sheets (or go second hand shopping) for a cheaper option.

"Is washing them hard?"

There is more work involved than throwing your disposable pad in the bin, but it's not that hard to wash them and it really is worth the effort. See the section on washing Cloth Pads

"Won't they get stained and smelly?"

Obviously a white or light coloured pad is going to be more prone to staining than a darker coloured pad. Synthetics (eg fleece, suedecloth, velour) should not stain. So if you are concerned about stains, use a darker colour fabric, dark red (well it's the obvious colour isn't it ;)) or a highly patterned fabric. The way you wash your pads will also help prevent staining, or you can deal with staining if it happens.

As for smell…many women find that in wearing, there is less odour than with disposables. When washing the pads, if you don't leave them soaking too long, they shouldn't get smelly. As with a disposable pad, if you wear it all day it can have an odour, so change them as regularly as you would a disposable pad, rinse them out within a day and you should have no smell. The washed pads should have no smell at all.

"Do they actually work as well as a disposable pad?"

The level of absorbency between pads can be quite different, and some have a waterproof barrier to help prevent leaks while some do not. So it is important to find the right type of pad for your flow. However many women find they are more absorbent than similar sized disposable pads. One advantage of cloth pads is that you can choose from a myriad of styles, shapes and lengths - which you cannot do with disposable pads. So you can choose a pad with extra coverage at the back if that is what you need. Or one with a longer front. In this way many women find much better performance with cloth pads than they did with disposable pads

Materials like hemp and bamboo are generally more absorbent than the core of a disposable pads of the same thickness (particularly the cheaper kind), but the ultra thin pads use more absorbent materials than the standard disposables (like super absorbent crystals), so those would absorb more compared to a cloth pad of the same thickness. However cloth pads do not need to be thick and bulky to be effective.

"What do I do while I am out?"

Start off by wearing them around the house until you get comfortable with them and how they work with your flow. Then as you become confident that they will work just as well, or better than a disposable pad, you can start wearing them out. You can wear a disposable pad under a cloth pad while trying it out if you like.

Depending on the shape, style and size of pad, winged pads can be folded up into a parcel and wrapped up to be taken home if you need to change while you are out. Or they can be folded in half (soiled side in) and placed in a wetbag. Even a PVC pencil case would be suitable - something that isn't going to stain, release any odours or leak.

Styles that offer a base and insert system can be less bulky for using when out of the home, as you only need to carry the liners/inserts with you, not whole pads.

"What are the Heath benefits?"

Some women choose cloth because they are allergic or have irritation from the plastics and chemicals in disposable pads. Interestingly lots of Women find that their periods are lighter or less painful when using cloth. Some women find that they have fewer problems with thrush from using cloth, as the cloth pads are more breathable and do not provide the moist environment that effects thrush.

"How many pads will I need?"

You would obviously need more than 1 cloth pad for the duration of your period. They say you need around 6-12 pads… but how many you will need depends on several things.

  • Whether you want to wash them as you go, or just wash them all at the end
  • How heavy your flow is
  • How long you feel comfortable wearing the pad
  • If it's waterproofed or not
  • How long your cycle is
  • What type of pads you have

It is generally recommended to change your cloth pad as often as you would change a disposable pad for hygiene reasons (Every 3-4 hours), but you could get away with 1-2 pads a day if your flow is light and your pad is sufficiently absorbent/waterproofed….or you could go through 6 pads a day if your flow is heavier and you like to have clean pads as much as possible. Some women like to change their pad every time they go to the toilet (a pad can feel a bit cold and wet in the brief time it's been away from your body - so it is nice to put a fresh pad on)…. and that of course depends on how often you go to the toilet ;) So its really up to you, but you can use that as a guide to find out how many you would need. Work out how many disposable pads you would use per day, and multiply that by how many days you'd like to go without washing your pads.

About 20 pads of different shapes/lengths is a good number to have in your stash, as it gives you plenty of pads if you can't or don't want to wash too frequently - plus the more pads you have, the less wear and tear they have, so they will last longer.. Without having the per pad cost that disposables have, you might find you like to change pads more often just because you can, and you don't have to feel like you are wasting pads.

"I'm confused… where do I start…..what I buy?"

Not every pad suits every woman…. our needs are varied and so are the pad choices. So there is no definitive answer for this. However it is helpful to ask yourself some questions before you start pad shopping, and don't just get drawn in by pretty pads.

You should shop around to begin with, and not buy too many pads of the one type. You may find through use that what you initially buy is not suitable for you. So rather than having 20 pads you don't like, if you've only bought one or two, you might still be able to use them for emergencies and not feel like you have wasted your money.

See the suggestions page for more information on this.

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