Clean Hippie: Reusable Feminine Products

10,000 pads.

A woman who gets her period when she’s 12 and goes through menopause at 45 will go through about 10,000 pads or tampons in her lifetime. I figure in the 19 (!) years that I had my period before I hit on this idea, I probably used about 5,000.

So much waste!

I have always advocated cloth diapers for babies. Less waste, easier on baby’s sensitive skin, fewer chemicals. Why not cloth pads for women? They could last a long time and be a lot nicer to our sensitive parts, what with the plastic, the chemicals, and the adhesive that are in disposable pads.

I read about them online one day, and I decided to try for myself. I always had trouble with the disposable pads I used, getting rashes or getting the adhesive stuck to me in places where I definitely didn’t need it. So, I ordered a few different varieties of cloth pads online. If you do a quick search, you can find lots of different companies selling reusable cloth feminine products. Some are big companies, some are work at home moms, some are foreign, some are probably in your back yard.

The pads I ordered were okay, but the square edges sometimes showed under my clothes. Maybe I need looser pants, but that’s beside the point.  I got to reading more online, and I saw how easy it could be to make my  own. Have I ever mentioned I’m crafty? Yep, I’m crafty all right. Of course, I’m not great at sewing, but what better way to practice than to sew something that no one else will ever see? I looked around, and finally found a couple of ideas I liked.

For panty liners, I chose the pattern here. It is very easy to make. For pads, I couldn’t find a pattern I liked. I looked at a lot, but I was afraid of leaking, or showing. When I first started this business, I worked at a place where I wore a white uniform to work every day. I didn’t want any color, pattern, or shape to show. I got some light-colored flannel, and I kept looking around. I finally found an idea I liked, here. But, I didn’t like the shape of their pattern. I decided to see what I could do. I got one of my favorite disposable pads, the kind I always had around, and I dissected it, making paper templates to match each piece.

Here are the pieces I ended up with:

Several layers of absorbent flannel and toweling (from an old washcloth) and a water resistant poly-fleece layer, all wrapped in a soft flannel covering. Add a snap to keep the pad in place, and the finished product looks like this:

I still have the original ones I made over a year ago, and I still make more from time to time, to wean myself off the disposables. For a while, every time I got my sewing machine out, B. would ask if I was making more! After use, they get rinsed, soaked with an oxygen bleach alternative product, and washed. They come very clean, they’re not gross after washing- I know that they are not rags that could be used again for some other purpose- they are obviously for a specific use!  I have never bled through one (and I have some heavy days) and I have never gotten any adhesive stuck to me.

Of course, some people don’t like pads. There are also reusable insertable cups that you can use to collect your flow. I thought of buying one, but they are not cheap, and since you have to empty it, wash it, and reinsert it, I knew that this product wasn’t good for clumsy me in a white uniform, especially since I never had access to a private bathroom where I worked (or indeed, where I work today). I have heard good things about them, but I am not qualified to comment, since I haven’t tried one.

So, people probably think this is pretty gross, but I am willing to have folks think I’m gross, in order to save a bunch of trash, and take better care of myself. I’m worth it.

So, would you try cloth pads or another reusable feminine product?

This post is linked to Simple Lives Thursday.

5 thoughts on “Clean Hippie: Reusable Feminine Products

  1. I came from Conversion Diary for your Quick Takes post, but saw this previous post as well. I switched to a Diva Cup in 2007 but still used disposables for back up. I made the switch to cloth in anticipation of post-partum needs after my daughter was born in 2009. I found the same pattern as yours and another one for all-in-one pads and love them! I used up leftover flannel from other projects and used terry cloth toweling that I got in the remnant bin at the fabric store. I tried the pattern used in the Glad Rags tutorial, but like you, I found the square edges kind of off putting and it was just too thick for my needs. I really believe that between using the two, it’s almost banished the awful yeast infections I’d get that would take two rounds of medication to beat. I have bought a few, but made the rest. (My husband called it my Amish phase)

  2. I’ve been using mama cloth for years and love it! Soft, comfortable, breathable and NO adhesive! What’s not to love?! By the way, my niece is convinced that disposable pads contributed to her problems with endometriosis because she’s hasn’t had a problem since switching three years ago. Thanks for the great post!

    • Wow! The possible endo connection is amazing. I know I have had fewer problems with cramps and what-not, but I have also made sweeping changes in my diet and other personal care, so it’s hard to tell what has been so helpful.

  3. Cool, I had seen re-usable pads on and had been thinking about them again. Since I started my mensas at 15 and have gone into peri-menipause after my last son was born, at 39. I eat maca powder to help, but pads are needed during this phase of my life. In the heat of summer commercial pads are not being nice to me either. Think I may take the plunge. Thanks for the reminder.

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