Introduction to Cloth Menstrual Pads


Cloth menstrual pads are an excellent alternative to disposable pads. Menstruation since the beginning of time has been a taboo topic, we seldom discuss it, even with out most intimate counterparts, and it’s seen as ‘disgusting’ or other such synonyms. Even when you’re comfortable with your own period, discussing some one else’s will have you scrunching your nose in distaste. It’s just what we’ve been socialised as a society to do. I make pads and can talk about periods online all day long, but mention it in person and suddenly it gets all weird.
Disposable pads in Australia are not considered a medical item, and haven’t been since the beginning of their commercial production. You’ll note until just recently, they’ve been subject to GST as a ‘luxury item’.
Not being a medical item, they are not regulated the way that they should and contain chemicals that really should not be in contact with your lady parts, from preservatives to bug repellents. In cloth communities on social media numbering in the thousands, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence of women with endometriosis, or other inflammatory based uterine conditions, experiencing less pain and inflammation on cloth pads. It is hypothesised that this is partly to due the lack of exposure to chemicals, but also the removal of microfibre particles in which these women are particularly sensitive to. Microfibres do dislodge, you will note this issue in media about microfibres from clothing making their way through laundering into the ecological system and into the digestive systems of fish. Microfibres can do the same thing with the vagina. 
Women with sensitive skin, who experience itching, or rashes on disposable pads often have their issues resolved when they switch. There’s also discussion of women experiencing less painful, and lighter flow periods. The apparence of a difference in bleeding could also be as a result of how the pads catch, absorb and display fluid differently to their disposable counterparts.
Cloth pads aren’t a one size fits all product. A lot of women will find that a standard, symmetrical, moderate 10” pad will suit them just fine; and it’s a really good starting point, essentially it’s what most women were buying as a disposable item.
Once you trial them, you’ll find you:
  • Either bleed more to the front, back, or middle
  • You may need more or less absorbency, or want specific pads for overnight or liners for vaginal discharge
  • Your pad may need to be longer or shorter
  • You may need a wider or narrower flare
  • You may need a wider or narrower snapped width.

What’s in a Cloth Pad?

A lot of that honestly depends on the maker. A dedicated pad seller will do custom orders to suit your individual needs. There’s heaps of wonderful makers out there.
Topping fabrics (the bit that sits against your lady parts), usually consist of a choice of:
  • Minky
  • Brushed polyester knit (my personal preference, low care maintenance, no stains. Not as hot as minky)
  • Bamboo or cotton velour
  • Woven cotton, flannelette (I don’t usually sew these)
  • French terry or jersey knit
Cores (what absorbs your flow), I do bamboo fleece, it I find provides maximum absorbency for minimum bulk.
Hidden PUL inside. Some people don’t put PUL in their pads, and have more absorbent cores, I always do PUL, I don’t like leaks.
Backing. Really individual. Essentially you want something that’s going to be grippy so it doesn’t slide about in your undies. I usually use brushed polyester knit. It’s trim. With pads I don’t really want to feel like I’m wearing a nappy. The goal is to feel like you’re not wearing anything at all.

Washing

Synthetic fibres don’t require stain maintenance the same way that natural fibres do. All you have to do is rinse them out in cold water, dry pail them and wash all in a batch at the end of the day in 60 degree water, and line dry. You can wash them in with the towels or with your MCN following the same pre-wash and main wash cycles.
For natural fibres like cotton or bamboo you will have to rinse, stain treat, either chemical, or natural like lemon juice. And do the above. Like MCN the sun will help to treat stains.

How many Pads do I need?

Essentially you want to be changing your pads every 3-4 hours, the same as you would with a disposable pad. If you’re finding you need to change more frequently than this, you may need more absorbency. Any longer and you risk breeding bacteria cultures. So conservatively say you require 5 pads a day and an overnight pad i(t’s always better to have a bigger, more absorbent pad overnight); and your cycle is 5 days long. Depending on your washing habits for a full stash you would want:

  • 3-5 overnight pads
  • 15-25 day pads.