My first reaction when I heard about the growing trend for cloth feminine hygiene products was scepticism. In the same way I could never quite get on board with reusable nappies, reusable sanitary pads just don’t appeal.
But maybe I’ve been too hasty. After all rapidly growing numbers of U.K. women can’t be wrong.
Cloth sanitary pads (CSPs) are made from natural, absorbent materials, like cotton and bamboo. As you would expect, they are washable, meaning they can be reused. Which does seem far more appealing than forking out on disposable sanitary pads or tampons every month.
My interest piqued, I spoke to Christine McRitchie, director of Earthwise Girls, which sells a wide range of reusable feminine hygiene products (including menstrual cups and sponges) as well as eco-friendly toiletries and pet, household and maternity products.
“Most people’s initial response when they hear about reusable menstrual products is ‘ewwww!’” said McRitchie. “That hasn’t changed. However what I have noticed is that younger women in particular are far more open to the idea than they might have been 10 years ago. And our sales of reusable sanitary products are increasing significantly year on year.”
The demand for CSPs is there, says McRitchie, the problem is that most women don’t even know such products exist. I certainly didn’t. But a quick search unearthed more sites selling reusable feminine hygiene products, including Luxury Moon and Honour Your Flow.
Across the different websites are an enormous range of CSPs. In every colour and pattern under the sun and in different shapes to meet a woman’s changing needs throughout her period. A paisley print thong CSP? It’s there. A rainbow velour maxi pad? Ready and waiting for you. A “light flow” day pad with poppers? That too. If you’re the type of woman who won’t leave the house unless your underwear is matching you can now coordinate your sanitary pad to your outfit as well.
Even more important than the fact that CSPs are way prettier, softer and more comfortable than their disposable counterparts is that they’re more environmentally friendly. They may also make the whole period experience much more bearable.
“A recent poll found that nearly half of respondents reported reduced pain and/or blood loss since moving to reusables, and several who had previously had regular thrush found that it was reduced or had stopped entirely,” said McRitchie. “It is likely that many women suffer from reactions to disposable products without even realising it and, by switching, many of the symptoms they associated with periods will go, as the symptoms were actually related to product sensitivities rather than their period.”
Tempted to make the switch from disposable to reusable pads? I reckon I am. The following tips from Earthwise Girls will help:
- Measure the length of a disposable pad you’re happy with. Most women have a length they like, which is a great starting point. Then consult the pad sizing chart to see which products might be comparable.
- Take your time reading the product information to see what product most appeals to you. Some women prefer natural fabrics like cotton or bamboo next to their skin, while others much prefer a fleece or minky fabric, which tends to also give more of a “dry” feeling as the wetness tends to wick through into the core of the pad.
- If you’re not sure what to go for — and have no allergies — buy a selection of different pads to try out (perhaps 3 to 4 in total), and see how you get on. You may find you like one pad for heavy days and another for lighter days.
- If you want to try a menstrual cup you may want a handful of panty liners to use as backup while you get used to using the cup, or for use on lighter days when you’d prefer not to use an internal product.