Cloth or disposable- It applies to more than just diapers (this is a “girls only” topic)

I came across an interesting topic this morning that I thought I’d share with you, and I’d love to hear your feedback on this one!

It all started while visiting a new blog, and stumbling upon this post. The subject of menstrual pads is not one that is commonly discussed on blogs (let alone in real life!), but I think it’s relevant and worth a good discussion.

This is something that I have been thinking about a bit in the last year or two, although over the course of the past 4 years, I have not had a lot of opportunity to be concerned about this issue (pregnancy, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant, pregnancy, breastfeeding, etc.- I know many of you understand this cycle!). I’m still nursing at night, so it’s not a necessary issue for me yet, but it will be soon and it’s one that I wanted to explore in greater depth.

There are many worthwhile issues to think about when considering switching to a non-disposable option. I would say that the environmental issue of non-biodegradable waste would be my biggest reason for considering the use of something like cloth pads. Next to disposable diapers, disposable pads are one of the items that are filling up our landfills at the greatest speed. Secondly for me would be the health issues. Here is a brief excerpt from a company selling these products (whom I don’t necessarily endorse, but thought this quote was helpful):

The plastic and glue backing on disposable pads greatly reduce air circulation,

; ;; ;; creating a stagnant environment in which some bacteria thrive. This can cause odor and exacerbate any pre-existing vaginal irritation. This plastic sheeting also causes perspiration, sometimes rashes and other irritations, and can leave you more susceptible to yeast infections. Many women report allergic reactions to disposable pads, most likely caused by bleaching residues.

Low levels of dioxin have been found in almost every major brand of tampon (except 100% organic cotton). Dioxin is a known carcinogen and has been linked to cervical cancer, breast cancer, endometriosis, and immune system suppression. There is much scientific debate as to whether there is such a thing as a β€œsafe level” of dioxin exposure. For more information on dioxin, please see the Dioxin Fact Sheet, prepared by the scientists at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

Most women are aware of the risks of Toxic Shock Syndrome with prolonged

tampon use. What many women do not know is that the bacteria that causes TSS is naturally occurring in menstrual blood. When the flow of menstruation is cut off and held in the body, this bacteria has the opportunity to proliferate to toxic levels. TSS can cause serious physical impairment and even death.

As well, here and also here are some links to information about tampon safety.

And lastly, I think that reusable pads are worth considering for the cost- just like disposable diapers, this is a cost that can add up quickly, and I love to find new ways to save money wherever possible. When an issue touches on three such important areas (environment, health and budget), you can bet that I will strongly consider making a change in what I am doing!

Just for fun (yes, I know it might be strange to consider researching cloth pads to be fun– I have never claimed to be normal!), here are a few sites that I came upon, offering both cloth pads as well as some alternative products:

Baby Dreams Boutique

Glad Rags


Also be sure to check the original post for a great link to Hillbilly Housewife, for a tutorial for making your own cloth pads.

Now here’s my question- is anybody using any of these products? Would you share with us what you use, why and how you like it? Anybody else considering switching, like me?

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  1. Before you consider a cloth pad, and the extra laundering that they require, make sure you look at the Diva Cup or other similar products. Now THOSE are environmentally friendly and super easy to use. No laundering necessary!

  2. I have been using my own homemade cloth pads for almost 20 years. I use old towels. I cut them in squares, zigzag the edges, and fold them when I use them. I wash them in cold water and hang them to dry, normally. Sometimes, I use bleach and sometimes I dry them in the dryer. Some of them lasted 14 years before I had to replace them. Then, I bought new towels for the bathroom and used the old ones for pads. I love them and noticed that I stopped having painful crampy periods when I started using them exclusively. I even use them when I go out. I have so many that I just throw them away, if I need to change when I am away from home. I hope that is not too much detail.

  3. I have only recently found your blog and am really enjoying it.
    I am a HUGE fan of washable sanitary towels. I cannot rave enough about them. I use Lunapads and Peeweez pads. They are comfy, pretty, easy to use, easy to clean (I put mine in a special tub of cold water to soak so they don’t stain and then bung them in the wash every other day – normally with the nappies)and they also really work. I haven’t had any leaks at all. I have less period pain because you don’t get the dragging feeling you get with all those super absorbant gels. They just feel like slighty thick underwear – not all plasticy.
    A friend of mine (who I converted a little while ago) pointed out that she likes being able to change her towel more frequently without worrying about the cost and so having to get the most out of each towel.
    It sounds really daft but I really look forward to my period because they are so flowery and cheery.
    As I said I can’t recommend them highly enough. Do give them a go… I am sure that you will convert. Look forward to hearing the outcome of your investigations.

  4. After posting my first comment, I noticed someone mentioned a diva cup. I know some who use them and they love them, but the thing about them with me is that they are plugging you up and you have something unnatural inside you. I just don’t like that. I don’t know if it is necessarily bad, but that is my thoughts on that.

  5. I began using cloth pads, sea sponges, and the Diva Cup about five years ago and have been impressed with each of these. Although these items do have frugal and environmental benefits, I was advised to forgo conventional menstrual products by my naturopath when I was in the process of treating my ovarian cysts. Ever since I had first gotten my period, I had super heavy bleeding and cramps that would send me to bed for several days- even with the help of prescription strength pain killers. I tried everything to help ease this pain, but nothing would help. Then, I gave these alternative products a try and during that first month, my bleeding was much less heavy and cramps became less severe. As the time went on, I went from having a 7 day cycle to only a 3 day cycle and no longer needed to take *any* pain medication for my cramping- all from making this simple change. It was amazing, and really, I cannot rave about these sorts of products enough!

  6. I made some for myself after reading a post on the simple family. HH’s were a bit small for me. I did come around to her idea on the snapping wings, though. At first I thought the wings weren’t necessary, but after I flipped quite a few into the toilet I added them on. I just googled it and found several different ideas, then made one of each so I could try them out before making a whole stack.

    I use them in as a back up to tampons, or on the days when I’m waiting to start. They are SO much more comfortable! It didn’t even occur to me that the irritations I was having pretty frequently were connected to the disposable pads, until I was reading Rachel’s post and the proverbial light bulb went on. Sure enough–no more irritations with the cloth pads.

    Maybe at some point I’ll ditch the tampons altogether…baby steps.

  7. Wow! Reading all of your comments is very interesting! I always was a little turned off by the idea of using these products (kinda yucky sounding), but you are making me rethink that. Thanks

  8. Thank you, thank you for all the great comments! And really, none of it is too much info (to me, anyways). πŸ™‚

    Hmmm, the Diva cup… my thoughts on this (without having done any research, mind you) is that I don’t like putting something unnatural inside me (which is why I personally don’t do tampons). Seems that most are made of silicone. To me, there’s just not enough info yet on the effects of silicone. I won’t buy the silicone baking ware either, because I am concerned about ingesting it in my muffins, etc. I’d like to hear more thoughts on this, though. I’m still open!

    You gals are all making me feel better and better about making the switch. I didn’t realize that it could truly make such a difference, health wise. I am amazed to hear your tales of lighter and easier periods! Wow!

    Keep sharing, ladies!

  9. This is one thing I cannot think of doing…it weirds me out. I can’t imagine washing these products. I prefer the natural tampons (they are eco-friendly!). Don’t let me stop you though. πŸ˜‰

  10. I don’t have a comment on this particular subject (at 52yo and after 11 children…I finally don’t have to use Anything!), but I wanted to comment and say how much I enjoyed reading some of your posts tonight. It’s a breath of fresh air to see a younger woman take her job as homemaker with the seriousness and joy it deserves.

  11. Well I have to admit that using a cloth pad has always sounded a little gross to me(even though we use cloth diapers). I do use the diva cup and really really love it but now reading these comments I think I might need to rethink it…I have really been enjoying this site and the comments it brings, they make me think!

  12. Well I have to admit that using a cloth pad has always sounded a little gross to me(even though we use cloth diapers). I do use the diva cup and really really love it but now reading these comments I think I might need to rethink it…I have really been enjoying this site and the comments it brings, they make me think!

  13. I was weirded out by this idea at first, but when you consider that most women get trace amounts of menstrual blood in their panties and underwear can contain up to a gram of fecal matter and bacteria, it stopped seeming so gross. I use pads from Daisy Girl Designs (http://daisygirldesigns.com/) exclusively and I love them! I just wash them with our diapers.

    Like you, I don’t think I could stick something unnatural in me when part of the point of menstrual blood is for it to flow OUT. Every time you place ANYTHING “up there”, you introduce the possibility of germs, microtears, and other things. Yuck! No thanks. πŸ˜€

  14. I have to thank you for posting this and making more people aware of re-usable menstrual pads as an option. I switched while I was in college and have never gone back. I have extremely sensitive skin, and found regular tampons/pads very irritating after awhile.

    I’m a huge fan of Glad Rags and the Keeper (similar to the Diva Cup)–I found that by using organic unbleached pads, I had fewer skin problems! They’re so easy to care for, and it helped me to be more comfortable with my body and more in-tune with my cycles. I think it’s a shame that women are taught by drug companies and health companies that their bodies are gross and shameful!

  15. Okay, my two cents–
    I never really liked the paper/disposable pads (unpleasant memories from the early years included!) and by the second or third day I would start to feel uncomfortable. And then when I had children and used cloth diapers with them, I learned of Glad Rags and a little light bulb went off in my head. If I use cloth for my babies, WHY am I using disposable? I switched then (about 14 years ago) and have never looked back. As one commenter noted, I can change it as often as I like to suit my comfort level without having to feel guilty about being wasteful.
    I still use the original Glad Rags I bought all those years ago, along with some pads from tlc-pads.com. On heavy days and nights, I use those old cloth diapers my children used and I can’t begin to tell you how soft they are now! I also just use squares of flannel fabric, large or small depending on the day, folded up however I need them. These are the most fun because I buy the flannel in the remnants bin and so they are all kinds of different colors and patterns.
    I’ve heard about the Diva cup, but I just really don’t like the thought of something inside of my body, which is why I never really used tampons either.
    Now I am preparing for my daughter to start, and sewing up some cute and fun pads for her to use. It pleases me that from the beginning she will be using something natural and traditional, and not putting anything plastic or full of chemicals near her body.

  16. I ordered pads from Peggy at Homemade Mama. She’s Canadian and based on the island. Good products and reasonably priced.

  17. Ditto PPs re: Diva

    I’ve used a Diva Cup for 4 cycles now & I’m sold on it. $23 investment that will last me 5-10 years. I still use a panty liner for backup, since I’m still in the learning curve, but I’ve read testimonials from nurses who use the Diva & don’t use backup even w/ white scrubs.

    See the FAQ & testimonials on their site for more info:


    Here’s a very helpful online forum w/ every Q&A on menstrual cups you could think of, even comparing brands.



  18. Wow!!! Awesome discussion! I’ve been contemplating this a lot recently.

    First, I love the idea of washing pads with diapers…I’m always washing diapers, and I have no idea why I didn’t think of that!

    Second, has anyone turned ratty cloth diapers into cloth pads? I have a good half dozen large prefolds that are getting ratty enough that they are about to be retired…I just haven’t figured out a good design for them. I’d love to be able to make use of them and save some money by not BUYING cloth pads.

    Not being a tampon person, I have to admit that th Diva Cup and the Keeper don’t really appeal to me, but I think it is great that there are nondisposable options for women who prefer not to use pads!

  19. Hi there, Found this topic and was interested. I’ve never used cloth pads – I’ll have to look into those. I admit I’ve never used cloth diapers for my babies either. If you want a nice alternative to the regular plastic pad, I recommend Natracare pads. You can find them in most health food sections. They are non-chlorine bleached, perfume fee, plastic-free, biodegradable, extra soft covers, and natural materials. Find out more at http://www.whynaturalpads.com. I relate to what one lady posted earlier about looking forward to your cycle because the pads are so nice! That’s how I feel now that I’ve switched to these – they are SOOO soft! Just a thought for those not ready to go cloth yet.

  20. My 13 yr old dd uses Lunapads exclusively. She had two periods where she had to use disposables (her first two) and she hated them! She LOVES her Lunapads. If you go to my blog and search for “Lunapads” you’ll see several posts about them. I think more women need to know that it’s more than just the fringes of society that are using them! Great post.

  21. I don’t use cloth pads, but this post has inspired me to think more about it. I must admit, I didn’t even know there was such an option until a few months ago when I ran across some pads being sold on Etsy. I sell on Etsy (www.StitchinMommy.etsy.com), so I figured I’d put in a plug to buy from the folks on there. Here’s a link for the search findings for “menstrual pad” – lots to choose from! http://www.etsy.com/search_results.php?search_type=tag_title&search_query=menstrual+pad.

  22. Interesting discussion. I switched to cloth pads 3 years ago. At the time, it was to save money, but I’ve kept with them because they really are preferable to disposable ones. I too have noticed a decrease in cramps since switching.

    Hillbilly Housewife’s pattern is great. They are a little short though, so I drew up a longer pattern based on that one. It’s nice to have different options for different days too. They’re so comfortable that I made almost a dozen more long ones for postpartum pads. They are absolutely wonderful. Mine just get thrown in with a load of cloth diapers.

  23. So there have been several comments about Diva cups but I wanted to put my two cents in. πŸ™‚
    I bought my cup on a whim 18 months ago when I decided that I was worth the initial cost, even if I didn’t like it. I have used it exclusively since and while there was a short learning curve it was fairly easy from the start. I understand the inserting problem that some women have, I was a tampon user 100% of the time before so that wasn’t an issue for me. I will say that I have PCOS and used to have heavy cramps that made standing difficult. My cramps are nearly gone now, a little ibubrofen takes care of it. I might try cloth pads in the future when I have children, but right now my laundry is that last thing I need to add to!

  24. Has anyone used the Keeper (made of natural rubber)? What are your thoughts? Is it like the Diva cup? I was gifted a Keeper years ago by my sister-in-law and have been somewhat resistant to using it. I’m trying it out!

  25. What a wonderful thread! I switched to cloth pads over 5 yrs ago, just before getting pregnant w/my second child. I had many many issues with the bleaching agents and adhesives in disposable pads & tampons, so I bought one Glad Rag and made my own from there. When my dd (3 next week) is ready for her cycle to start I plan to have a wonderful set made for her so she does not have to ever use disposables w/all of her allergies. I am so encouraged to see so many others who feel the same as I do.

  26. i’m currently nursing my second baby, so i’m not needing anything for the time being. but i know that day will come, and i’m loving reading peoples comments so that i can plan ahead and know what i want to use when i begin my cycle again. i’m also super encouraged that so many women are cool with discussing these things! thank you for being willing to talk to others about something we are taught is “yucky”!!

  27. Hello everyone! I am new at http://www.keeperofthehome.org and am looking forward to meeting people here. A tiny bit about myself… I have had a exciting year, I recently moved to Lakeview from my hometown and more importantly I am new mom of a precious baby girl. She is the world to me! As a new mother the expensises add up rather quick. Does anyone have any cost cutting tips that they could pass along to a single mom with not a lot of extra income?

  28. well i have placed my order for cloth pads and am excited!! I sure hope that it will help with the heavy periods!! 2 weeks ago a friend mentioned that she uses them and it got me thinking…as i used cloth diapers for my wee one and that wasn’t so hard!

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