Cloth… not just for nappies! (One for the mamas!)

WARNING: If you don’t really want to think about my menstrual cycle, you probably should’ve stopped reading by now.

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while but wasn’t sure how it would be received. Coz, you know, it’s all about fannies and periods and stuff. Not your average chit chat is it.

But then I tweeted this photo:

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This is my stash of cloth sanitary pads (CSPs). 

I fully expected to lose loads of followers and get a few “eeew, gross!” replies. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Understandably I didn’t get any replies from my male followers. But the response from the ladies really surprised me. Some people were already cloth users and asked where I’d bought certain ones. But lots and lots of women had never even heard of them and were fascinated and intrigued.

I’d never heard of them until last year. Thirty-two years old and I never knew that an alternative to disposable pads existed! One of my babies wore cloth nappies but it never occurred to me that a similar product might be available for me.

I’d heard of menstrual cups. The Mooncup brand is fairly well-known these days isn’t it? I know many women who adore theirs. But I’d never been able to get on with tampons and I really didn’t want to be faffing about swilling and rinsing.

But I hate hate hate disposable pads. Plasticky, rustly, itchy, nastiness. And (this is probably the TMI bit I’m dreading but here it is) every month I finish my period with a bit of a nappy rash from wearing them. Yes. I know. Now you’re thinking about it aren’t you. Sorry.

So, after being bombarded with tweets and messages from curious women, I thought I’d answer their questions here and use this space to spread the word – there IS an alternative to disposables!

What are they made from?

The inner cores vary depending on absorbency. There is usually some combination of fleece, zorb and flannel. Some also have a layer of waterproof PUL fabric inside for extra security.

There are a range of fabrics you can choose from to top your pads, all have their pros and cons:

Minky is very soft, doesn’t stain easily and is really absorbent. But it is quite bulky and can get a bit warm!

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Bamboo velour is slightly more absorbent than minky and less bulky but takes longer to dry. I also find it’s not as soft.

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Cotton is my favourite. It’s thinner and more breathable but not as absorbent as the others. It can stain more easily but I must say I’ve never had any problems.

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Really it’s just personal preference. All of them come in all manner of prints and colours. So many gorgeous fabrics to choose from. It’s very easy to become a bit obsessed!

How do you use them?

You wear them just like a disposable pad. They sit in the gusset of your knickers. I prefer pads with wings and they have a popper to fasten them, in place of the adhesive strips you find on disposables.

You can buy wingless pads. They tend to have a more grippy fabric on the outer bottom layer to stop them sliding about in your pants!

They come in a range of lengths, widths and absorbencies, depending on your needs, from panty liners right through to post-partum and night pads. They last the same amount of time as disposable pads but you don’t throw them away after one use!

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How do you wash them?

Anyone who has used cloth nappies for their babies is probably already well-versed on this.

Some people like to soak their used pads in cold water until wash day. This can help reduce staining.

I dry pail mine. I already have a nappy bucket and a mesh laundry bag from before my youngest was potty trained. The bag sits inside to line the bucket. I put my used pads in here until I’m ready to do a wash. Then I just pick up the whole bag and pop it in the machine. No mess. No fuss.

I wash on 40 degrees with normal laundry detergent (I use non-bio but I don’t think it matters) but no fabric conditioner because it can affect the pads’ absorbency. As long as there is no PUL fabric in your pads, it is fine to tumble dry them.

What about when you’re out?

I have two little waterproof bags – one for clean pads, one for used. Both washable. They live in the bottom of my handbag. Easy peasy.

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And because they have poppers, you can fold the used pads in on themselves so there’s no mess at all.

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How much do they cost?

Compared to the price of a pack of disposables, the cost probably seems quite a lot but remember that these will last you years.

Panty liners are usually just a few quid. Single pads range in price from about a fiver for a light-regular pad up to around £14-ish for a super heavy or post-partum pad. Most makers offer starter bundles or multi-buy packages, as well as regular sales or discounts for free postage.

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There are also online Facebook groups where you can buy and sell second hand, which is massively cheaper. Some people don’t like the idea of using pads that are pre-loved but you really can get some bargains and some of the American, Canadian or Australian brands are much more affordable this way.

Where do you buy them from?

There are lots and lots of makers. Usually work-at-home mums and, in my experience, always really helpful and friendly. My favourite UK brands are Eco Rainbow, Lady Days and Butterfly Cloth Pads. They have Facebook pages, websites and/or Etsy stores.

I also know of (but haven’t used) Precious Stars, Gaia Moon and Fluffy Little Pickles. I know of at least two more small businesses that are currently developing and testing their own ranges.

So what do you think? Any questions? Anyone tempted? Or just totally weirded out? I love them. Really I do. A large part of it is all the pretty patterns and colours. A small part is because I’m doing a tiny little bit to save the planet. But mostly they make me feel a bit better about myself when I’m full of raging, seething hormones. And that’s got to be a good thing, right?!

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Many thanks to Lucy for allowing us to post this blog as a special guest post. Lucy is a mum of two and this piece was first published on her own blog The Pie Patch

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