Updated: Nov 21, 2019
Reusable menstrual pads are not just menstrual products. They are part of a global movement, led by women with an intention of living healthy, environmentally conscious, and economically sustainable. “The ongoing expense of buying pads [is] $3,635.45 spent on products that will continue to be a detriment for our environment for 500-800 years” said Megan McNamara. Having the opportunity to have a natural product that is harmless to our bodies, skins, hormones, and the environment is our basic right as menstruators!
Today, I talk with Megan McNamara, a fertility Awareness educator and a reusable menstrual pads user, to help me better understand what does it look like to use the pads on a cyclically basis.
Zainab: To someone who haven’t heard of reusable menstrual pads, how would you describe them?
Megan: A reusable pad is a sustainable + Eco-conscious period care option. Cloth pads are made of soft, absorbent cloth that come in all colors, shapes, sizes, and designs. They're comfortable, convenient (no more running to the store to pick up disposable pads), and they eliminate the sticky, wasteful, toxic plastic of disposables.
Z: How long can a pad last?
M: With proper care, each cloth pad can last up to 5 years (or more!)
Z: Since reusable pads are a sustainable option, how many pads are enough for personal use?
M: This depends on the individual's unique flow + their willpower to resist buying even more pads than necessary. #clothpadgoals
I personally have about 20 pads: I typically have 5-7 days of bleeding, with 1 heavy, 2 medium, and 3 light days on average.
I encourage people to start off with 1-2 pads bought from a few different brands or Etsy creators to help them decide which product they love best (colors, comfort of the material and shape of the pad, shipping time, etc). Once a person finds their preferred brand, they may want to stock up on 7-15 additional pads to add to their original few.
I also think it's important to remember that you can wash + dry used pads to be re-used later in the very same bleed! You don't need to buy ALL the pads you'll ever need for your very first try.
Z: What is the difference between reusable and conventional 1-time-use pads?
M: Conventional pads are made of bleached-white materials, plastics + toxic chemicals, which can take 500-800 years to decompose. Yup, you read that right!
The concern with conventional pads is multi-fold:
• the effects of toxins on the body (the skin around the vulva and vagina are especially permeable and susceptible to toxins from period products and sex toys with toxic ingredients)
• the use of plastics, which we know take hundreds of years to degrade in our landfills or oceans and affect our earth negatively
• the time you spend buying them (running out late at night or during your lunch break is a drain on your time and energy)
• the ongoing expense of buying pads (let's say a pack of disposable pads costs $7.99... $7.99 x 13 menstruations per year x 35 years of menstruating during one's reproductive life = $3,635.45 spent on products will continue to be a detriment for our environment for 500-800 years -- no, thanks!)
Reusable pads are made from eco-friendly, sustainable materials like bamboo fleece, cotton, and snaps made of metal or resin.
(Learn more here:
You can also create DIY cloth pads made from recycled materials like old pillowcases, sheets and towels. 100% cotton fleece fabric (like the fabric found in most jogging wear) is great for both comfort and absorbency.
Z: Many women were concerned about sanitation and bacterial infections. What are your tips on cleaning and sanitizing your pads?
M: To care for your cloth pads best, be sure to follow the creator/manufacturer's instructions to help them last as long as possible.
I soak my used pads (either immediately after use or a couple of days later) face-down in plain cold water in a plastic bin (or bucket) for about 3 hours to allow the blood to flow out. This water can be discarded or you can use it to water + fertilize plants or gardens!
Once soaked, I rinse them in cold running water until the water runs clear.
If I've waited too long to launder the pads, they can begin to smell after a couple of days -- it happens! The key here is to allow them to soak in Oxyclean or hydrogen peroxide for a few hours to eliminate any smell. (Additionally, drying pads on a clothsline in the sun can also help eliminate any smells.)
After soaking, they go into the wash with a gentle, organic detergent (either on their own in a small load, or with other clothes).
Then I pop them into the dryer on low or hand them to dry, depending whether I'm at home or traveling.
Some may think this is a lot of effort, but I choose to view it as a self-care ritual that's special to menstruation. Plus, it only really requirements a few minutes of active effort total -- the rest of the waiting time can be spent on other activities, of course.
Z: Do you know a brand that makes their reusable pads with organic / natural materials?
There are also TONS of Etsy creators using organic materials.
I personally prefer Homestead Emporium pads for excellent comfort and absorbency - they're made with organic materials, but most are not 100% organic.
Z: How do you change your pads on the go? And where do you keep them?
M: I carry clean + used pads in this small Planet Wise wet bag in my tote bag whenever I'm on the go.
If I'm full-on traveling, I bring my large Planet Wise wet bag in a backpack and store used pads in a ziploc bag.
If I do have access to a washing machine, I simply soak them and wash them as normal.
Z: Where can one buy reusable pads? Have you made some yourself?
M: I've never made any myself, but if you're handy with a sewing machine, I'd highly encourage it. I do have a couple of homemade pads that were gifted to me by a friend and they're a couple of my favorites!
Please see the links above to EcoFemme, Homestead Emporium, Hannah Pads, and Etsy is always amazing!
Z: What is your advice to women considering reusable pads?
M: If you're hesitant to start, choose just 1-2 pads to try out. I recommend starting with a Heavy absorbency one so you can really test it out. Once you experience how they work, go ahead and order more colors, styles, and absorbency levels to fit your needs! If you don't like the texture of the first pad you try, don't be afraid to try another brand. I absolutely love bamboo fleece for comfort and absorbency! It feels SO soft on my vulva -- even softer and more comfortable than my normal underwear.
Megan is a certified FAM educator and the co-founder of the Cervical Mucus Project. She helps women all over the globe through a unique and powerful transformation: going from a fear of the unknown, confusion about cycle myths, and worries about unintended pregnancy to charting confidence, empowered ovulation, and straight-up body literacy so they can read their cycles like a book. You can find Megan McNamara on instagram