There are several ways to go about cleaning them, it depends on what you prefer. Basically the idea is you take them off, put a new pad on and deal with the used pad in your preferred manner.
When you take your pad off
When you first take your pad off to change it for another pad, you have several options of what to do.
- Put them straight into a laundry basket/bag (keeping them dry)
- Put them in a bucket of plain cold water and leave them to soak until you wash them
- Put them in a bucket of cold water with disinfectant, baking soda, teatree, soap or something added and leave them to soak until you wash them
- Rinse them out, and pop them in your washing basket to go with your next wash.
- Rinse them out, and then put them in a bucket of water to soak until you wash them
- Wash them straight away (by hand or machine)
- Spray a cleaning solution onto the pads and place them in the washing basket until your next wash.
Washing your pads
Once it is time to wash your pads, you have several choices.
- Wash (by hand or machine) without any pre-rinsing
- Rinse out the pads until mostly clean (or put through a rinse cycle), then wash (hand or machine)
- Rinse out the pads until mostly clean, then treat any stains, then wash (hand or machine)
- Take the pads into the shower with you and place them on the floor of the shower. Stomp on them to help rinse them out while you shower.
Drying your Pads
Pads with PUL and Plastic snaps can usually be put in the clothes dryer for up to 15 mins to dry them (be careful touching the snaps until cooled.) However drying PUL can reduce it's lifespan, and you should always consult the manufacturer before putting waterproof pads in the dryer unless the care instructions have states it is ok to do so.
- Follow the manufacturer's washing instructions
- Fabrics like silk may need hand washing, some may not be tumble dried, others may be machine washable and tumble dryable. Your pads should come with washing instructions which may be different to other methods listed here.
- Line drying (on a clothes line, outside) allows the sunlight to help fade any stains and act as a mild sanitiser, and is the most eco-friendly and economical option
What to wash with….
Many women simply use normal detergent and don't catch deadly illnesses off their pads! So just normal washing methods are fine for most people, but there are some options.
- You can wash them in normal detergent
- With Baking soda, which can help remove stains
- Vinegar. Adding some vinegar in the wash works like fabric softener, (but without the residue that can effect the absorbency of the pad, that fabric softener has). PUL is however effected by repeated washes with vinegar.
- Hydrogen Peroxide. This works well for removing stains, and is safer than chlorine bleach.
- Lunarinse. This is a product designed for spraying onto your pads before washing, a sort of pre-wash stain remover I guess.
- Scarlet Secret. As above, this is a specially designed product
- NEVER use chlorine bleach or other abrasive chemical cleaners, including fabric softeners! They will shorten the lives of your pads, and they are bad for your health and the environment. For more information on what detergents are recommended for cloth pads, see Diaper Jungle's Detergent Chart.
Some women have problems with stains, others don't… this could be from washing methods or differences in the composition of their blood. Some ideas for avoiding stains or what to do if you get them.
- Cold water rinse. If you rinse them out in cold water straight away, they are less likely to stain (Hot water sets a stain). …. The longer the blood is left to dry before you rinse can make them more likely to stain for some people.
- Cold water Soak. Some women find they get less or no staining by keeping the pads soaking until they are washed (eg always wet), others find they get staining if they soak, and have better results if they leave them to dry.
- Baking soda. You can take your wet pad (rinsed until no more blood comes out) and sprinkle the baking soda on the stains. Rub it with your finger (or rub the pad against itself), and then rinse the Baking Soda off and hopefully the stain will simply disappear.
- Bar soap. Get a bar of something nice and simple, such as olive oil soap. You can cut it into smaller pieces to make it last longer, and unless you buy a rectangular bar, you'll need to do this anyway. Choose a piece with a good firm edge on it. Rinse your pad in cold water, then rub the edge of the soap over the stains. This will loosen and scrape away blood/residue, and is gentler on the fabric than scrubbing. (It'll look like you're "erasing" the stains.) Finish washing it then, or throw it as-is into your soaking container.
- Choose your pads well. Obviously a white or light coloured pad is going to be more prone to staining than a darker coloured pad. Some say hemp is good for not staining….. however it can discolour to a grayish colour. Synthetics (eg fleece, suedecloth) should not stain. So if you are picky about having unstained pads, use a darker colour, dark red (well it's the obvious colour isn't it ;)) or a highly patterned fabric..
- Sunlight. Hanging your pads out in the sunlight can help fade any stains.
- Oxidizing Agents. Many health-food stores sell oxidizing agents which act as a bleach without being harmful to the environment or your health.
Keeping used pads around, particularly when soaking, can get smelly if you're not careful.
- Add something to the soaking water, such as a little teatree essential oil (or disinfectant) in the bucket you soak them can help kill the bacteria that cause the smell, and mask any smell.
- For a little cleaning and deodorizing boost, add some baking soda and/or liquid soap to the bucket or jar. Dr Bronner's makes some scented options, including tea tree and lavender, and you only need a few drops. Give it a good swish or shake to distribute.
- Change the soaking water frequently (every 1-2 days, or more often). You'll probably need to change it more in summer than you do in winter.
- Rinsing your pads before you soak them, and/or when you change the water can avoid the water