We are going to have to have some real talk here and at times this is going to be an open and frank reality check. Periods are the least favourite part of being a woman and sometimes all you want is to feel less horrible and uncomfortable.
Let’s talk a bit about the reasons why you would change over first of all.
- Environmental effects of each months waste products. Disposable sanitary pads get thrown away and end up in landfill. They are also full of plastics to begin with and don’t get me started with the packaging. With reuseable sanitary pads we can reuse what we have purchased with no plastics touching our delicate skin.
- Cost effective nature of a one off purchase. We are on a family budgeting challenge and using disposables can cost a lot of money each month. Now I am able to cut that cost to zero on a month to month basis. I think that large set up cost can be prohibitive, but how much does your period cost you each month? £10-£15? Maybe more if you are caught short in work and have to use the machine in the ladies toilets.
- I can’t be the only one who finds it unhygienic to have the plastic disposable pads so close to my skin? In the height of summer it can really start to gross me out, however cotton is far softer and less sweaty.
- Rustling, plastic scrunching sound. I hate changing my towel in a public toilet and the ripping sound when you pull off the plastic backing. I prefer to be discrete and as ladylike as possible!
If all this is true, what is holding us back?
So financially, environmentally and for our health and comfort it is on balance better to use reusable pads. I think of myself as an intelligent woman, so why have I not made the change? I’m going to go through my list of reasons why I was hesitant below, I will be as honest as possible and try to cover ever aspect, no matter how small.
Are our concerns around reuseable sanitary pads justified?
I really do not like the idea of the cup type of protection and have shied away from featuring that in this article. Instead I have focused on the old-fashioned cotton sanitary pads. Ones which are washable and reuseable.
What most companies have worked out is that we all have heavy days and then hopefully the lighter days towards the end of our period. Rather cleverly they have mostly invented packs for a flow for a period. So by buying Heavy flow / night time pads alongside medium flow / panty liners it can make for the right balance.
You know your period better than anyone else. I have a nightmare in the first few days and can hate how often i need to change my pads when out and about. Each of the kits mentioned above come with wet/dry zip bags. I will come to that in a minute as it is a lot less gross than you might be thinking.
Well you do not have keep to your period pants like normal. So I find that they fit in really easily with adjustable poppers. Much easier to get the right fit than the plastic type with sticky backing. When using the old fashioned type you can’t adjust the fit once you have stuck, with these you can. For me these are even better than the mass produced disposable ones. I don’t find I have too much movement once they are in place. The movement that I do have seems to go with my natural movement rather than against it.
The other benefit is that I am silent for the day. No more rustling when I turn or even walk. So a good fit, with no leakages and a more breathable experience from the natural cotton. I was really relieved the first time as it really plays into my worst nightmare of periods. I hate the idea of being in the middle of work and needing to change my clothes because of an accident. These do manage to give me a better level of discretion and I feel confident with them already.
I like to think that I am frugal in most areas and we certainly take it seriously with things like our No Spend Challenge and how we are looking to make real changes.
If I buy all of my sanitary pads from the cheapest places I still think each month would cost around £10-£15 depending on how shocked I was to find myself caught short. A pack of ten like these ones Women Hygiene Sanitary Pad, Feminine Reusable Panty Liner,Bamboo Cloth Mama Menstrual Sanitary Nappy Towel Pad (25.5 x 18cm) (10PCS) will cost less than £20. So I think I will need two of these for a full months period. This means I was a bit clever and bought one pack and mixed it up with the odds and sods I had left over. This also served to remind me how much I hated the scrunchy, crunchy, plastic, sweaty ones.
Three months in to the new way of doing things and you will have broken even. They will last around five years if hand washed. I intend to machine wash as I am not lazy, just realistic. But if I waned to hand wash each month I have information on that below as well.
It is not as gross as you may think, and now that I have done it a few times I do not know how I used to use the communal sanitary bin in works toilet. Totally unhygienic to get involved with others periods.
The reuseable sanitary pads are really made of cotton or bamboo cloth, so need treating like any other cloth items. Please see my step by step guide below for how to wash your reuseable sanitary pads.
Are reuseable sanitary pads a bit gross?
I needed time to get my head around this one. Basically I have had times when I have had to soak and wash bed sheets or pants, only when I have been taken by surprise but I have just got on with it. So what would be the difference here? Not to sound too much like a militant feminist but, who told us we had to spend all this money each month just to have a period? In the recent past, like my own mother’s time, we all used old cotton rags. Hence the rather lovely term ‘on the rag’. If we used to just deal with it then, why not now?
Three steps to clean your reuseable sanitary pads:
- A little water proof pouch. I have two, one for ready to use pads and one for used pads. Just fold the used ones in four and pop in to the pouch until I get home. Far more discrete than the ripping the loud plastic pads and opening up the grim and frankly unclean sanitary bin in a public toilet. This reminds me to say that just because we have become accustom to something does not make it alright! No matter how you control the communal sanitary bin with your foot, you still have to pop the towel into it and run the risk of touching someone else’s period. Don’t get me started about blood born viruses!
- I have a little water tight bin with a lid in my bathroom. This allows me to rinse the reusable pads and then leave to soak in cold water for at least 6 hours before washing. You can change the water as many times as you like. As I mentioned earlier the heavier the period you are having the more you will need in terms of protection. Be prepared to rinse away the main blood before soaking. It isn’t that horrible and as you do it as you go, even when you are out you bring it home and rinse immediately. It is easier and less off putting than you might think.
- Cold Process Soap. This allows me to get all of the stains out each time. You can also add the pads to your usual wash load. The main thing to remember is hand wash is easier, but always in cold water. If you do want to put them through the washing machine, remember to put them into the hand wash cycle on the coldest setting. This will help with removing stains. The soaking process will also help a lot! What I do is wait until the end of my period before doing any laundry then put them all in together. You can then pop some cute gloves on and do it all in one.
So I don’t think it is too gross and I would rather deal with my own reusable pads than have to use a communal sanitary bin ever again! Once they are washed out you just need to make sure that you have dried them thoroughly. Hang dry for the best results. I would not try tumble drying as it may stretch the fabric in unpredictable ways.
Are cotton sanitary pads more comfortable?
100 per cent yes! Like they move with you and there is no wedge or crinkle. They keep you less sweaty and that means you do not produce as much bacteria.
However some people claim that the cotton or bamboo type results in less cramping. I cannot claim to have found the same to be true. I am no medical practitioner and this could be a really obvious link, but I can only speak from my own experience. Just because I do not see any change in the levels of discomfort from my own body. Weirdly though, if I had not read an article stating that this was a link I would not have expected it at all!! So no hard feelings here, my sanitary pads provide me with confidence and allow me to get on with my day!
Why would you change to reuseable sanitary pads?
For me the main motivator was the fact that the plastic ones are not disposable. They do not just disappear once they have left my house. Some people used to flush them and I remember all sorts of horror stories about our oceans. Obviously now we know the real life crises we are all living through.
My thought process went “well if I have to suffer to save the Planet, so be it” then I tried them and now I want to use them. I tried https://luckypads.com/ and have been very happy with them. I may even try making more of my own in the future. You know life can surprise you, but I am glad to say that I have a much more affordable period each month now and can only imagine how much I will save across my lifetime.
Still counting the days to menopause though!
You may wish to learn more about different ways to live an environmentally friendly life and we have plenty to offer in terms of Zero Waste Bathroom Essentials or having a closer look at Zero Waste No Spend Kitchen Wins as we want to save our wallet as well as the planet!
This was such an interesting read! I’ve always been curious about reusable pads as I’m a cup user and never used sanitary pad previously. I’m definitely guilty of having some misconceptions about them but this has cleared everything up! While I don’t think I’ll be making the switch anytime soon, I think it’s still important to be educated. Thanks for sharing! xx
El // Welsh Wanderer