Switching to Cloth Menstrual Pads | Home with Willow | Katie Emmitt

Curious if you should try switching to cloth menstrual pads?

  • Do you experience yeast infections after your period? Or itchiness and rashes?
  • Would you like to save money every month on period products?
  • Are you looking to reduce your waste and carbon footprint?
  • Do you experience heavy cramping? Or have a heavy flow?

Then you should dEFINITELY try cloth menstrual pads!

What are cloth menstrual pads?

     A cloth menstrual pad is pretty much exactly what you might expect. Just like cloth diapers, they are reusable, washable, and last a long time. Cloth pads come in all shapes, sizes, and materials. Some are ‘liners’ and are typically made of a cotton or bamboo flannel or fleece. Some are actual wool fleece (although that is rare), and some are a polyester fleece. They are usually lightweight and breathable. Some have wings with snaps, and some don’t. Some are larger, hold more fluid, and have a PUL waterproof lining on the bottom to protect you from leaks. 
What is PUL?

     PUL is a waterproof fabric, often made with polyester and polyurethane (PUL = Polyurethane Laminate). Its used in cloth diapers, cloth pads, and things that need a waterproof lining or coating. It is designed to still be somewhat breathable, even though it is waterproof. On a lot of pads, you will just see the smooth polyester outer. The polyurethane laminate will be facing the inside. Any cloth pad that mentions polyurethane laminate or polyester, typically has a PUL lining.

     You are probably thinking – but Katie! Its plastic! And you would be right. Ideally, we would have a waterproof and leak proof non-plastic alternative.

     My theory on this is that a high quality cloth pad is going to last me 8+ years (possibly longer – I have some that I have had for 8 years that I still use, even though they aren’t as absorbent.) As long as I take care of it well by washing promptly and air drying. So, to have a small piece of synthetic/plastic lined fabric last me that long, while keeping me from using disposable products AND ruining/staining several pairs of underwear & pants – I can deal with that. Its not a perfect solution, but it is very close.

Switching to Cloth Menstrual Pads | Home with Willow | Katie Emmitt

What are the Pros of using reusable pads?

Reusable Cloth Pads Cost Less Over Time:

     The average woman spends about $7-10 per month on disposable period products like pads, pantyliners, and tampons.

     All of my pads (although after about 5-ish years they lose some absorbency) have lasted 6-8 years so far, and will probably remain usable for a while longer. If we say that, on average, they can last 6 years (and a set of 6 costs about $30, like this set I share below), we’re looking at a cost of $0.42 per month!

     So while the cost upfront is a little higher, you aren’t going to have to purchase anything for quite a while after that. Not to mention the convenience of always having them on hand! Or not having to run out to the store when you feel like garbage on that first day of your cycle.

They Are Better for the Environment:

     One thing that always frustrated me when I was menstruating was the amount of trash I created each month! It filled up the bathroom trash, sometimes it smelled, and when I was out, I had to worry about tossing it somewhere if there wasn’t a receptacle in the stall. This was a primary reason that I switched to a menstrual cup initially, and finally – to cloth pads in conjunction with the cup. 

    Tampons typically have plastic applicators and/or plastic wrappers. Pads and liners have plastic wrappers, wax paper backings, and plastic lining on the bottom to reduce leaks. Its not just cotton & rayon – there are a lot of single use plastics and synthetic materials in those products! 

     Additionally, the cotton grown for these products is not always farmed with sustainable practices. Typically, there are a lot of pesticides involved, and the cotton is GMO. While you can purchase organic cotton tampons (which helps) its not solving every issue. 

     Reusable Cloth Menstrual Pads are a fantastic low-waste, environmentally friendly option for your period.

Reusable Cloth Pads are Better for your body:

     Have you ever stopped to consider what’s in your tampons & pads?

     Because they are considered ‘medical devices’ by the FDA, manufacturers are not required to disclose the materials. Often there are pesticide residues, dioxins (caused by bleaching the materials with chlorine), “fragrances”, “gels”, and adhesives. These fragrances, gels, and adhesives are somewhat mysterious – we have no idea what’s in them. If you have sensitive skin, these things can become an issue for you. I was often left with rashes after each cycle from using Always brand pads (I imagine, from the plastic, bleached cotton, adhesives, and whatever else was in them). I was also very prone to yeast infections up until I completely stopped using disposable pads and tampons. There have also been some studies that have linked toxic dioxins to endometriosis in primates.

     Additionally, if you are someone who struggles with intense cramping, you may find some relief when switching not just to reusable products, but to cloth pads. When I first switched to a menstrual cup at the age of 18, I noticed less cramping after a few cycles. Several years down the road at the age of 24, I realized my cup was applying pressure to my cervix and causing more cramping. At that time, I stopped using my cup and switched exclusively to cloth pads. Several years later at 28, I am having the least painful periods of my life thanks to my own ‘period hacks’ and my cloth reusable pads. 

What are the cons of using reusable cloth pads?

Cloth Pads have to be properly cared for:

     There’s no tossing out and grabbing a fresh one out of the box with these. If you want them to last, you have to care for them properly.

     Each pad (at minimum) should be washed soon after wearing in cold water. For pads with PUL fabric like I mentioned above, you’ll want to wash, and then air dry or dry on low completely before putting away. Pads that are all cotton (I have some that are two layers of cotton flannel), can be washed and put in the dryer on hot. Ideally, you would want to soak in the sink in cold water for at least 15 minutes, and then hand wash them. If that is too inconvenient, you can do what I do and run them on your washing machine’s cycle that includes auto soak, then throw in the dryer on low.

     Typically, I do more laundry during my period. Usually once a day on my heavy days, and every other day on my lighter days. You want to be sure they are washed thoroughly and that no blood remains. You will also want to be sure that they are dried all the way through – this prevents any smells, helps with staining, and keeps them lasting longer. My cloth pads that are in the worst shape are ones that have been used, rolled up, forgotten about for days or weeks; then thrown in the wash, and put through the dryer consistently (don’t be like me!)

They may feel bulky:

     If you are used to standard disposable pads, they won’t feel too different. But if you are trying these as a standard tampon or menstrual cup wearer, they are going to feel bulky. 

     One of my biggest complaints is that some of the larger sized pads feel absolutely ginormous on me. Being a smaller framed person, they can take up over half the length of my underwear! This takes some getting used to. For me, the benefits far outweigh this downside. Often I wear dresses, skirts, and long shirts or sweaters to cover any lines that appear through my pants.

When you’re out, you do have to carry them with you:

     Unlike a menstrual cup that can stay in for 6-12 hours without needing to be emptied (even for a heavy bleeder), you’ll find that you need to change these a little more often to stay comfortable. This means carrying some with you. While this isn’t new for someone coming from disposable products, what is different is that you need to take the used ones along with you.

     Personally, I don’t find this to be an issue – but for some, it may take some getting used to. I keep a wet bag with me to hold clean pads, and my used ones. I roll the used ones up (as you’ll see in my review below) and toss them in the wet bag. I don’t notice any smells, and the black wet bag I have is very inconspicuous. Once I’m home, I toss them in the wash or let them soak.

What Reusable Cloth Menstrual Pads do you recommend?

     Check out this video review below where I talk about this HighOh. brand I have absolutely fallen in love with!

     HighOh. is a company started by two sisters – and with each purchase, they donate a reusable pad to a woman in need (which is really pretty awesome!) You can check out their site here: https://ilovehighoh.com/

     They also sell on Amazon, and you can check out their products here (the Period Starter Kit is the one I got).

     These are definitely the best pads I have ever tried – plus, they are made of bamboo fleece, so totally plant-based! If you don’t know where to start, I would highly recommend snagging a pack of these. You can also search on Etsy (there are a LOT of options there.)

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