I use washable cloth menstrual pads.
(Ha! How's that for just jumping into things without any preamble?)
Squeamish people, this post is filled with details about something that comes out of my girly bits every month. If you’re a girl, then there’s a pretty good chance that stuff comes out of your girly bits every month too. Or it used to. Or it will someday. So if you’re bothered by talk of menstruation...skip on by this post. Either that, or read it with the same sense of fascination and horror that overtakes us when we’re driving by an accident site and have no choice but to slow down and look.
(please note: I have no problem with the word vagina. I just think "girly bits" is funny.)
I use washable cloth menstrual pads. And look: they’re pretty!
I haven't always used cloth pads. A few years ago, I probably would have shuddered at the thought. But one day I was in the health food store, feeling utterly depressed about choosing between pads (which give me a rash) and tampons (which multiply my cramps by a thousand). I saw a cloth pad from lunapads on the shelf, thought "why not?" and bought it. It was like a revelation! I will never go back to disposables again.
Now, before you wrinkle up your nose and say “eeeeeew”, let’s stop and think about the ick-factor of disposable products:
- disposable pads and tampons are bleached and contain chemicals whose long-term effects on the human body are unknown
- pads give certain women (ahem: me) an awful skin irritation akin to diaper rash
- some women (ahem: me) find that already bad cramps are made much worse by tampons
- approximately 20 billion pads and tampons find their way into North American landfills every year
- the average North American woman will go through 16,800 disposable pads or tampons in her lifetime
- a disposable pad snugly wrapped in its plastic packaging will take hundreds of years to decompose
- tampons absorb not only menstrual blood, but also natural moisture. Have you ever experienced that awful dry pulling when you use a tampon close to the end of your period?
- you have to go back and buy more every single month, which will cost thousands of dollars over your lifetime
So why do I use cloth pads?
- They’re comfortable. They’re made of a soft, absorbent, breathable cotton fleece that feels gentle next to my skin. I feel cleaner when I’m wearing them than when I used to wear disposables.
- They’re pretty. Who decided that something that I have to wear every single month for 35 years had to be ugly?
- They help me bleed green. Yes, cloth pads are still made from natural resources, and yes, washing them uses water – but nowhere near the amount of natural resources and water that go into manufacturing plastic-laced pads.
- There’s no odour. For some reason, I thought that menstruation smelled a bit funky. Now I realize that what smelled wasn’t me – it was my disposable pads.
- I’m more in tune with my period. I am more aware of my body’s patterns. I just feel more comfortable with menstruating in general.
- They allow me to opt out of one aspect of our disposable, wasteful, money-driven world. Believe it or not, washing my own pads is empowering.
- They save me money. Yes, there was a significant investment at the beginning, when I ordered 200 dollars’ worth of pads at once, but I’ve now been using those for going on three years. They show absolutely no sign of wear and tear, so I fully expect to be using these for up to 10 years.
- Anecdotally, my cramps seem less severe since I’ve started using cloth pads. They’re still bad, but I’m no longer curled up on the bed or doubled over in pain. Personal stories of milder cramps with cloth pads are all over the internet.
- When I’m wearing them, I get the urge to ride bicycles and horses and go hot air ballooning – all in white pants. OK, not really.
But do they work?
Yes, they do. On my heaviest days, I have to change my liner every few hours, but if I were wearing disposables I’d be changing those as well. I use an extra-long heavy-duty one at night. Yeah, I kind of feel like I’m wearing a diaper with one of those, but I have never leaked when wearing one overnight. Multiple stained sheets throughout my life tell a different story about disposables (ooooh...that’s what we like to call an “overshare”, kids!).
My periods are really, really heavy. Really. Lunapads are the only menstrual product that I’ve ever felt comfortable wearing during the heaviest days of my cycle.
But isn’t washing them...you know...the most disgusting thing you’ve ever had to do?
Please. I used to leak onto my underwear every single cycle, and I didn’t feel the need to throw those away!
When they're soiled and awaiting a wash, I give my pads a quick rinse in the sink. I soak them in a plastic bucket with cold water and change the water morning and night. The cold water soak gets out most of the grossness. I wash them and dry them along with my other clothes, so I don't do a special wash just for my girly supplies, although I do make sure that I wash them within 3 days or so.
Honestly, it's no big deal!
Probably the only uncomfortable thing about washing them is that you have to make sure that they’re put away when you have company. Let me tell you, going down to the basement to find that your mother-in-law has folded your clothes and carefully piled up your cloth pads will not be your life’s proudest moment. I speak from experience here.
So, what do you think?
Would you ever try reusable cloth pads?
Just in case someone might think that this is a cleverly-placed advertisement, I assure you that it is not. Lunapads doesn't know me from a hole in the wall.
Stephanie blogs about health, balance and learning to love life more deeply at Love Life Project.
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