How to use reusable pads.
So you have made the decision; you are making the switch to reusable sanitary pads! Congrats to you for making the earth a little bit cleaner! But how do you find the perfect pad for you? And how many pads do you need? What do you do with your used pads when you are at school or at work? Let me answer some of these questions :)
First things first; choosing the right cloth pad. The most important factor here is the absorbency level. When you use disposable pads or tampons, what type do you use? Do you use products for a heavy flow or a light flow? Do you use a special pad or tampon for nighttime use? Or are you maybe using postpartum pads because you have just given birth? Do you need pads for light incontinence? Or do you just need some backup when you use your menstrual cup or tampon? Do you need everyday protection? If you have answered these questions, you probably have a better understanding of what you need from a pad.
I make three types of sustainable pads. The (thong)panty liner, the day pad and the night pad.
Panty liners are great for everyday use. You can use them as everyday protection, as backup for your cup or tampon, for lighter days or with light incontinence.
Day pads are perfect for regular everyday use. Those can also be used for everyday protection or for light incontinence.
Night pads are extra long and offer extra protection when you sleep. Most people use only one night pad per night, so no need to get out of bed and change. Of course this also depends on how heavy your flow is.
I also make the panty liner, day- and night pads in three different widths. The “Light” pads are a bit more narrow and a bit shorter than the regular pads. You might want to pick these if you are very young and you have just started your period, if you are very small built or if you simply like to wear smaller sized pads. I make the light pads in different fun shapes, so these make a nice first period gift!
The regular pads are, like the name says, of a standard width. Those are about the same width of most disposable pads and will work well for most people.
And then there are the heavy pads. These are extra wide, which makes them extra absorbent and prevents leaking from the sides. They also are a bit longer than the regular pads, to give you extra protection. The heavy pads can be used postpartum or when you have a very heavy flow. They also can be used when you like to wear undies with a wider gusset, like boy shorts.
I make most pads asymmetrical. The reason for this is that people either tend to bleed more to the front (“frontbleeders”) or to the back (“backbleeders”). I myself am a front bleeder, so when I use my pads I place the longer side towards my front and the shorter side toward my back.
How many pads you need, depends on how often you change and how often you wash your pads. I like to change my cotton reusable pad every time I go to the bathroom, but I can easily do this because I have SO many pads (yes, I am a paddict). The number of pads you need is roughly the same as the amount of disposable pads you normally use. But you can also buy pads for just two days and then wash and dry them at the end of each day until your period ends. Your budget is also a very important factor here. You don’t need to 100% switch to reusable pads overnight. You can slowly start to replace your disposables with washable pads until you don’t need to buy disposables anymore. In general I’d say that 12 day pads, 4 night pads and 6 panty liners will get you through your period without having to wash along the way.
Now you have picked your perfect pads and placed your order. When the postman finally comes to deliver your new set of pads, you are probably very excited and want to try out your pads right away. However, it is important to be a bit more patient and go and wash them before the first use! The absorbent fabric that I use isn’t very absorbing until after it has been washed. I pre wash all fabrics before sewing, however the core fabric cannot be washed on its own. I also sometimes use fabric markers in the sewing process, this disappears when you wash the pad.
When you wash your pads for the first time, simply wash them in your washing machine (low temperature; max 40c) with the rest of your laundry. Don’t use any fabric softener. Fabric softener leaves residue on the fabrics and will reduce absorbency over time. That’s not what we want! Some people like to use vinegar as a fabric softener but I highly discourage this. Vinegar can do some really bad damage to your washing machine. It also damages the waterproof fabric of your pads and it dissolves the non slip layer.
After washing, it’s best to let your eco menstrual pads air dry. Putting your pads in the dryer can damage your pads; the snaps can melt and the non slip layer might come off. I personally like to snap all of my washed pads together, and then hang the chain of pads out to dry. One of the reasons I chose Zorb as the core fabric is that it dries quickly and it also stays soft and supple after washing.
So now you have washed and dried your new pads, it’s time to finally use them! When I first started using my pads, I couldn't wait to get my period. I never thought I’d live to see the day, LOL! When my period is about to start, I carry a few pads with me everywhere I go. I also use reusable panty liners or thong liners to avoid any messy surprises. I make my own undies and I’d hate to see those ruined. I also like to use my menstrual cup (the Merula cup is my favorite) in combination with a reusable panty liner.
Wearing your washable pads is pretty much the same as wearing a disposable pad with wings. You simply place the pad onto your underwear and snap the wings around the gusset. The non-slip side of the pad goes against the underwear and the side with the fun print goes against the skin. The wings fit around the gusset of most styles of underwear. It’s important to wear snug fitting underwear when you are using your pads, because if your underwear is too loose your pad will not stay in place.
I store my clean pads in a wet bag, as well as my used pads. I fold my clean pads with the print on the outside and the used pads with the stain on the inside. That way I can see immediately which pads are clean and which are used. It also makes sure that the wet bag and the clean pads stay clean and dry. When you are out and about, you can keep your used pads in your wet bag and then clean them when you get home.
The amount of time you can wear a pad, depends on how heavy your flow is. In general, I’d say you have to change your reusable pad as often as a disposable pad. That’s about every four hours or so. I personally like to change my pad every time I use the bathroom, but of course this is personal. It also depends on how many pads you have and how often you wash them.
There are a few different ways to clean your used pads. What I personally do most of the time, is throw my used pads in a bucket of cold water right after using them. I add some stain remover if necessary and then I let them soak for a few hours. Then I simply pop them in my washing machine with the rest of my laundry. When I am out, I keep my used pads in my wet bag and soak them when I get home.
Another method is to keep all your used pads in a large wet bag and wash everything all at once when you finish your period. I find that the best way to do this is to soak the pads overnight in cold water with some oxi stain remover. Then wash them in the washing machine.
Sometimes you might find it easier to wash your pads right away. You can rinse your pad under cold water and then wash it by hand or in your washing machine. Some people like to wash their pads while they are taking a shower. This is also a good option when you don’t have a lot of pads; you can quickly wash and dry and then use them again.
And of course if you are lazy (like me, lol) and you don’t mind some stains, just throw them in your washing machine right away.
It is very important to always use COLD water to soak blood stains. When you try to wash out blood stains in warm water, the proteins in the blood will bind together and adhere to the fabric. Think of when you are boiling an egg; once the egg is boiled, it has become solid and you can’t make it turn into a liquid state again. The same thing happens to blood; heat it and you will make the stain permanent.
When I wash my pads in the washing machine, I always wash them at a low temperature. People often ask me if it isn’t better to wash the pads at a high temperature, to kill any bacteria. I personally never do this as this might ruin my pads. I do however add a laundry disinfectant (think Lysol, Dettol etc.) to get them squeaky clean and remove any odors.
When you are suffering from any type of vaginitis (caused by bacteria, fungi, parasites etc.) it’s best to temporarily switch back to (natural) disposable pads. It’s definitely not the most comfortable, but this way you can avoid re-infection.
I hope this blog will help you to find your perfect set of pads! You can always order one of my starter sets so you can try them out. If you are in doubt of whether or not you should make the switch, just go for it and try reusables. You won’t regret it, I promise!