Warning: If you know me personally, or are male, especially if both, or are in any way squeamish about women’s health, then stop reading. If you want to continue reading, I am discussing reusable menstrual products for women.
I will admit when my first child was born 18 years ago, I saw washable reusable cloth pads for women and was interested but ultimately afraid of them. At some point, a few kids into my marriage I bought disposable menstrual cups but they failed miserably and I went back to the same old plastic pads and tampons. When I was pregnant with my youngest child, I bought flannel pantiliners when I had a cold and wet my pants while coughing so hard. They were a welcome relief and far better than I had expected. After she was born, I decided to try a reusable menstrual cup as well as heavy weight flannel pads from a variety of manufacturers. This post is less about specific reviews and more about jumping in and trying it. I am sure you have heard of the products out there, maybe even looked at some at the health food store or on-line. I just want to encourage your to try them because the hardest part is convincing yourself it isn’t so bad. Here’s what I found:
While I used cloth diapers for my oldest child, I simply could not imagine using cloth for me. What if it leaked? What if it smelled bad? What if they stained? As well as the standard fear of washing something gross. What made me ultimately try it was the two-fold problem of the hassle of turning over money every month to throw in the garbage as well as the mountain of garbage I was producing. What made me stay with it is the comfort above all, as well as the idea that I am conserving cash and finite resources. Because I am a half-full kinda girl, let’s start with the postives such as why you should try it.
At the risk of alienating you with my vulgar talk, there is nothing more uncomfortable than an unintended bikini wax from the wrong side of an adhesive pad. You’ve had it happen to you, I am sure, so don’t pretend it hasn’t. What’s more is the cheaper brands of pads as so plasticky that they are itchy and sweaty. Yes, I know, also vulgar, yet true. My personal favorite are the flannel pads which are soft, breathable, are stuffed from behind and the whole thing is changed. Some come with snaps and others use bands to hold another pad in place. Each woman is different and there are so many products out there, you are sure to find one that keeps you comfortable.
While it is true that there is certain upfront cost to switching to cloth menstrual pads or cups, there is a money savings in the long run which is why it is important to remember the comfort factor. While comfort is the immediate gain, there is a certain satisfaction to the long term cost savings. There is both immediate and delayed gratification here. I slowly made the switch to cloth at every pay check and more easily absorbed the cost. The first month that I expected my period, I didn’t run to the store or worry about running out of supplies. I was set. I felt freed from the corporate dependence I avoid in other areas of my life, and freedom is sweet.
Let’s face it, it is a terrible waste of petroleum to make plastic that has no possibility of being recycled or reused. I don’t want to live in a shanty cooking over dried dung but I also think that I should be responsible about the amount of materials I consume in ways that permanently drop them from resource availability. If polyester filling or wood pulp is being used in my pads and tampons, they cannot be recaptured by any means I know of and therefore are depleted resources. While my reusable cup is made of silicon, it will see years of use rather than hours. My cloth pads are almost all lacking a waterproof backing, making them compostable cotton. That’s good news to me.
But there are lots of reasons why not to try it, and here’s how I would answer them:
Is it sanitary?
Yes. For instance, my reusable cup came with instructions to wash it frequently (at least a few times a day) and boil it for twenty minutes at the end of my cycle. It is so clean after a soapy wash and boil, I could drink out of it (but I don’t). My pads are rinsed out as soon as possible and then washed in my clothes washer. That’s pretty clean. I reuse kitchen sponges that clean up all sorts of terrible messes just as soon as they are washed and dried. Why would this be different?
Does it smell bad?
No. No one notices. I promise.
Is it a hassle?
Well, it is more work than simply throwing something in the trash, it really isn’t so bad. As for the cup, I wipe it out with toilet paper every time I use the bathroom and wash it morning and night with the recommended soap. It is very convenient to wash it is the shower without worrying about mess. When I am not in the shower, I make sure I have a pad on so I can wash it at the sink. I recently packed it for a trip without needing to worry about running out of pads or tampons while I was on the plane if there was a delay. You can keep a small zippered diaper wet bag like cloth diaper users have for keeping soiled pads while out. A small bag or a covered pot with a lid for the bathroom at home works well, too. You can soak the pads in water, but I simply rinse them out very well while I am in shower having collected them the day before. I hang them over the top of the shower to dry and then put them in a net lingerie bag to toss in the wash later. I have a great deal of pads and don’t need to wash them daily. I use the cup for the first day when my flow is heaviest, and then only at night as I prefer the pads.
What about stains?
What about them? Are you showing your pads to other people and want them to approve of your laundry methods? Pads in darker colors and patterns hide stains, which will likely occur. But so what, really? As for clothes stains because of leaks, the typical advice of wearing dark colors during your period applies. Also, when getting used to them, I suggest you do the first trial run at home. You might be used to the wet feeling of a leak and confuse it for your pad. Frequent pad changes will prevent leaks and some pads come with a waterproof nylon lining. I also use a cup with a pad back up during my heavy first day just to avoid trouble. Snug fitting panties also help keep pads in place. I have a few darker colored granny panties just for my period. They are ugly to start with so I don’t worry about stains. But truly, I haven’t had much trouble at all.
I hope my very personal and very open experience helps you to feel better about going green. If you use cloth pads and want to tell me what you do, I’d love to hear it. If you are still afraid and have questions, I love to answer them. Talk to me. I am listening!
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