Thursday, December 1, 2011

Going green. Period.

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.
Organic Undyed Day Pads (1 Piece) by Glad Rags
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!

Linking up to Simple Lives Thursdays!


  1. I've been thinking about doing this myself recently. Someone told me about using a sea sponge for a tampon if you really dislike pads. Have you heard of that?

    Here is a link to one specifically designed for it, although I'd heard you can just get a sea sponge and cut it just the same without paying for the name (similar to how you pay extra for anything with the word 'wedding' attached to it)

  2. OK, at the risk of being gross, I have never been SO GLAD to switch to cloth pads (I don't use a cup b/c I never used tampons either). I think they are easier, you are never at risk for "running out" because they are always on hand, and I never ever get yeast infections anymore. I think I've def. saved money now that I've used them for over a year. Yay! I hope every woman does it!

  3. Big D, I have heard of using the sea sponge but when I asked others about it, it sounded like it would be better for lighter periods. I do not have a light period, I bleed like I am gonna die. (sorry folks!) But a younger sister of a friend uses them and likes them a great deal. Try it! Let me know!

    Shalini, same goes for me, I was sooo thrilled with cloth I think I was an idiot not to try it sooner! They are more comfortable, I never get rashes (TMI, I know), and also, no yeast!

  4. Finally! Someone else who uses other options besides pads and tampons! I loveeeee my Cup! I also have two cloth pads for spotting days. LOVE! <3

  5. ok, now where do you get these???? Did I miss it?

  6. I've purchased organic flannel reusables on etsy, they are so soft and absorb wonderfully...easy to clean...all that! BUT they slide back and forth. Anyone else have this problem and figure out what to do?

  7. I love cloth pads! I make my own and I even posted about it:

  8. I got a Diva Cup years ago to prepare for a long trip abroad, but I've never been able to bring myself to use it regularly. I can't stand dealing with it in public restrooms, and I find it painful/uncomfortable putting it in and taking it out. Not fun for me.

    I've been interested in trying the reusable pads for years, but too intimidated to actually give it a shot. Maybe this is my year! Thanks for the inspiration!

  9. Anonymous12/02/2011

    ok, I get the idea of being more natural... I am an Earth lover myself.. The thing that isn't addressed here though is how much water do you waste cleaning these things?? How do you hold the flannel in place and what is the cup made out of?

  10. D :) I use flannel pads that don't have a nylon backing so the tend to stay in place better. The nylon ones I've used slid all over. I also use cotton panties to create a little more friction and less slip, and snug fitting ones help.

    @Knowledge Hungry, that is awesome!! I am definitely going over there! I have been meaning to spend some time at my machine (too neglected as of late) and this would be a great project in my line-up. Thanks for sharing!

    @Miriam, there is a definite learning curve to the Diva cup. I also prefer pads and find them much, much more comfortable! Give them a shot, just a few pads and try them for one day of your cycle and see what you like. My favorite pads are the Gladrags. You can accommodate different needs in your cycle by adding more or fewer inserts and being able to separate them makes it easier to clean and they dry faster on the line.

    @Anon, hmm, I am not sure why you think it a waste of water to wash these pads? Are you a woman? This is a natural, normal and healthy part of being a woman but it does require some accommodation. We can't just around bleeding all over ourselves and everything else. Also, when I wash clothes, the water is recaptured into a city water reclamation system and is cleaned and returned to nature. I am not removing it from the natural water cycle permanently. It's ridiculous to assert that we are wasting water!

    Anon, in my post I discuss the fact that the cup I use is made out of silicon. While this is clearly a consumption of resources for a finite period, so is the use of the computer or phone that you used to read this post and comment. It is all about limiting these consumptive uses. But again, this is a need women have and there is a need to accommodate it.

    Anon, the flannel pad product I prefer is made by Gladrags and is an organic cotton flannel pad held in place with wings underneath that snap. Yes, the snap is metal. There are also metal components to your phone or computer.

    I have to be honest, I am bothered by your tone. If there is a more environmentally appropriate method, other than just bleeding, let me know. And that method would entail more water usage and more cleaning, anyway.

  11. I love this post! I love that you're sharing about this. I was planning on writing about this on my blog, too, because it seems like something that people just don't talk about much but it's such a great way to reduce your environmental footprint.
    I agree with so much of what you said, too. My diva cup and pads are so much more comfortable, and I LOVE not having to worry about running to the store to buy pads/tampons. It's nice being freed from that constant consumerism.
    Rinsing the pads out in the shower is a good idea. I will have to try that. I've just been soaking mine overnight before I wash them, (no space in our tiny bathroom for a permanent soaking pot) but I bet washing out in the shower would be easier. Thanks for the idea!

  12. Anonymous1/05/2012

    This is great information. Great for the environment and easy to keep on hand. Great article. Simple...makes sense. T. Ramirez

  13. I love the shower wash method idea. I just tried a diva cup this month and honestly, it was a mess. But I am excited enough about it's potential that I'll give it another good try next month. And then probably switch out to reusable pads if it doesn't work. I've been a little too grossed out to try the pads (even though I do cloth diapers) but this was really encouraging so I'm going to give them a try. Thanks!

    1. There is a real learning curve with the cup! If you have a heavy period then dealing with a full cup several times a day can be a real hassle. You can email me if you want to discuss icky details and I can you tell my experiences? dynomomblog AT gmail DOT com

  14. Anonymous11/10/2012

    Have you used these successfully after you have a baby?
    It seems that I never actually cycle, or maybe just once per year, but I do have babies.

    1. I have, but honestly speaking, in the first couple of weeks after a baby you will need help with this. So, make sure you have the help from a close friend, your mother, or your husband. But they are far more comfortable, I promise.

  15. Anonymous11/28/2012

    So glad to find this. I've been contemplating Gladrags for almost a year. I live in an apt. and have to share the laundry room with 9 other units and pay $3/load. This has been a definate road block to making the decision to switch. I did get the cup and have had success but havn't found it comfortable and it is messy esp. at work. My goal is to have made the switch by the time my 10yr old daughter starts. I want her to never know anything other than using the re-usable. She is also very sensitve and I know the dissposable pads would be awful.

    1. Disposable pads caused me to have rashes as a teen and I wish I had switched earlier. You can easily wash these in the shower, so this might work for you. In fact a young, recently married friend told me her roommate (before she was married) did just that. I hope you stop back and let me know how it is going with the decision making process. Let me know if I can help in anyway.

  16. I wont do gladrags because I believe they are a militant feminist pro abort company. but I will do handmade ones. just as easy as diapers for the babies

    1. Anonymous8/23/2014

      If you don't want to use gladrags, have you checked out party in my pants company? They're sisters in WI who make all of the cloth pads themselves. To the best of my knowledge they haven't posted anything about their political beliefs on their website.


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