“Naturalizing” Your Feminine Hygiene Routine

by Merissa on May 19, 2012

in Green Living

Post image for “Naturalizing” Your Feminine Hygiene Routine

Warning: Very girly post ahead. Guys, feel free to avert your eyes to something more manly, like Chocolate Cake.

If you’d have told me a few years ago that I’d even be considering a cloth feminine pad I’d have thought you’d lost your marbles. Even though we eat organically and try to live as natural as our budget will allow. Never did I ever think cloth pads would fall into that category of products that I’d use.

And now, after just a few months of trying them out, I’m hooked. And no, I don’t care how “crunchy granola” that makes me, it’s one of those things that you can’t “knock it til you try it.”

Alright here’s my story…

Let’s just say that at the end of each month, I am not a happy camper. Previously, I could barely get out of bed and if by chance I made it all the way to the couch I would be stuck there until I was able to move again. The cramps were awful. I even saw a doctor about it and they couldn’t figure it out. Of course their suggestion was, “Oh just take this and this and this pill and you won’t even be able to feel your toes!”

Sure, I’ll get right on that.

So I did some research and for some reason ended up reading all about cloth pads and how they differed from regular pads. This is the part where the light bulb starts flashing…I found out that regular pads and tampons contain chlorine, something I’m very allergic to! No wonder by body hated me every month, I was basically subjecting it to torture, poor thing.
Here’s some other things I learned:

  • Cloth pads(or at least the ones you should be buying!) are made with no chemicals and you can even get some with no dyes.
  • Cloth pads remove the risk of TSS(Toxic Shock Syndrome) since you aren’t putting any chemicals into your body.
  • Some women find reduction in length or heaviness of periods, or reduced cramps, clotting, ect while using cloth vs regular pads.
  • Since fabric is more breathable than plastic, using cloth reduces your risk of rashes or infections.

Cloth pads require an initial up-front investment. I paid around $40 for my starter kit (and since cloth has reduced the length of my “down time” I use less!) but cloth pads should last at least 5 years so in the long run, using cloth will be cheaper!

And if you are into “being green” cloth pads are much healthier on the environment since you are reusing instead of throwing away.

After I started using cloth I also realized that it wasn’t as “icky” as I thought it would be. Pads are soaked in a little bucket in my bathroom in cold water until they can be washed. (Or just tossed into the wash right away) I don’t even use anything special to soak them in, just water works great. And as far as detergent to wash them in, I simply use the same detergent I wash all my clothes in. (Which is just a fragrance free, chemical free powder.)

As far as different brand of pads go, I’ve personally tried Glad Rags, Luna Pads (who also make the Diva Cup if you aren't a "pads" person), and Party In My Pants. I bought the kind with inserts so they are easily adapted from a light to heavy flow day. You could even try your hand at making your own! (And if someone does make your own I've love to feature you in a guest post, let's talk!)

Before you buy, decide if you want to go with organic fabric or a regular cotton or hemp. Also you will have to decide if you want un-dyed or dyed. Think about the various sizes that you normally use and make sure you get the same (ie: liners, long, ect.) Also remember that they will most likely shrink when you firts wash them so buy them a little longer.

After you buy your new cloth pads don’t forget to treat yourself with some organic chocolate. You’ll be saving so much on your feminine products that now you can splurge on that chocolate you’ve been craving!

Do you use "natural" feminine hygiene products? Do you have a favorite?

Learn more about thrifty and natural living!

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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tami Lewis May 19, 2012 at 9:28 am

i do use cloth and i love the difference! i simply go on etsy to buy mine because they are a lot cheaper.

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2 Erika May 19, 2012 at 10:15 am

I have been using cloth pads for years and REALLY like them. Mostly for the comfort factor because disposable pads were really irritating to my skin. I primarily use Lunapads or make them myself.

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3 Rebecca Jolley May 19, 2012 at 10:57 am

This has been on my to do list for a while now. After we get adjusted to cloth diapering the baby (due in aug) I am going to make the leap. I totally believe it helps because just switching to the natural balance disposables helps a bit. My midwife thankfully gave me one “secret” that helps a whole lot try taking some magnesium ( I use Natural Calm). It’s amazing how much it helps out after being on it a month or so, I am wondering when I combine the magnesium with the cloth what that difference will be.

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4 Little House on the Prairie Living May 19, 2012 at 11:14 am

I’ll have to look into that. I started using an all natural progesterone cream as well and it seriously works miracles:)

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5 Amanda May 19, 2012 at 11:17 am

I use the diva cup and it is awesome. After I had my baby tampons hurt really bad to wear and the diva cup is comfortable, and I stay clean and dry!

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6 Michelle Barnes May 19, 2012 at 1:47 pm

I have not used any commercial products for over twenty years. Used glad rags when they first came out! Love them! I have also used the diva cup…These were changes I made to stop UTIs and other such loveliness! Ladies, make the switch! Thanks for the post!

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7 Jen May 19, 2012 at 2:21 pm

I was the same way as you at first, when I hears about “mama cloth”. I use cloth diapers on my son, and it dawned on me, why not try it? I made my own though, found a pattern that worked best, and added some snaps.

I too found that the week long ordeal before is now only a few days, the cramps are not really to be found, and I’m saving a ton of money! If you want to email me (assuming you see my email, I don’t know how to get back to you?) I’d love to help out or try to with some tips on making your own. I also know a lot of other women who make some too!

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8 therese January 1, 2013 at 1:17 pm

I would like to know how to make them please

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9 Merissa January 1, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Well you have perfect timing because I have a step by step picture tutorial coming up tomorrow!

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10 Aneah E. May 19, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Not pad related, but period related point about cramps: blackhaw tincture is wonderful for easing cramping. In older times it was used to help stop pre-mature labor and I have used it for years with severe cramping. I also mix with feverfew (for uterine pain during the day) and jamaican dogwood (at night for muscle relaxation). I get mine from Quantum Herbals.

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11 Beth H May 19, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Thanks for this information. I have always wondered about using the pads. Now I will have to try them before I say anything bad about them. I too do not like having rashes from regular pads.

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12 Amanda May 19, 2012 at 6:11 pm

I have used cloth for almost two years now, and I’m never, ever going back! I love them and they just get softer and more comfortable with every wash. I bought all of mine on Etsy from a variety of sellers, and I was not disappointed with any of them. I have everything from light, to medium, to heavy flow. Since I have had two kids and am pregnant with my third, *ahem* I have to wear one every day, and I can’t imagine how much I would shell out every month if I had to go with the disposable option.

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13 Haley May 19, 2012 at 7:15 pm

I have used cotton pads for many many years now. (and a diva cup) I’m allergic to the store bought disposible pads. When I first told my grandma that I was using these she thought I was NUTS! Why would you want to use “rags” when you have the nice new stick on store bought ones! :) Mine maybe glad rags and I bought them probably 8 years ago and they still work fine. At one point I did make some extra inserts out of a old worn out flannel sheet with a pattern found online. Still using those too. Funny I got your email with this subject today. My daughter was here and we had this very discussion! She is moving to all cotton products for her and her new baby. What goes around comes around!

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14 Anne Walthall Lehnick May 19, 2012 at 8:53 pm

I made a “cloth curious” purchase from PIMP and listed your blog as who recommended me. Not sure that it gets you any recognition, but I let them know I was sent by you.

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15 cindy r May 20, 2012 at 7:09 am

Love my Diva Cup. Had The Keeper before I had my two sons, but like the Diva cup better – it is a bit more flexible, and so easier to insert and remove. The “ick” factor is not as bad as it seems. I will NEVER go back to tampons. I use cloth liners/pads, too, and love them.

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16 Sav Fromsb May 20, 2012 at 5:53 pm

for those who aren’t comfortable with going all the way and picking cloth, at the very least do your body a favor and pick chlorine-free, organic cotton pantiliners, pads and tampons. the difference is incredible – you will see how differently your body acts after just a few months. i’ve tried a few brands. i find natracare to be the best. hope that helps.

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17 Angie May 25, 2012 at 12:49 pm

I love Natracare, too! I was going to make the same recommendation. Thanks for being there ahead of me. :)

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18 Sav Fromsb May 20, 2012 at 5:53 pm

for those who aren’t comfortable with going all the way and picking cloth, at the very least do your body a favor and pick chlorine-free, organic cotton pantiliners, pads and tampons. the difference is incredible – you will see how differently your body acts after just a few months. i’ve tried a few brands. i find natracare to be the best. hope that helps.

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19 Little House on the Prairie Living May 20, 2012 at 8:20 pm

Good advice Sav! I did that before I started cloth as well:)

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20 Kim May 21, 2012 at 1:57 am

This sounds like something I would like to try but I have a question, how do they keep from soaking into your cloths? If they as you say I am definately going to try them.

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21 Merissa May 21, 2012 at 9:04 am

You can get inserts for the pads so you can basically make them double or triple thick. I’ve never had an issue with them leaking yet.

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22 Mairi Smith May 21, 2012 at 8:28 am

I really like the ones from http://www.theessenceofeve.com. If anyone needs more ideas… : )

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23 Keri Spicuzza Cowart May 21, 2012 at 3:28 pm

I prefer these :) (She uses Minky fabric which doesn’t stain!) https://www.facebook.com/TreeHuggerCloth

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24 Charity May 22, 2012 at 8:04 am

Interesting….I’m not where everyone is here, but it something to think about. Thanks for this very interesting post!

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25 Jan May 22, 2012 at 10:33 pm

This is something I’ve been pondering on… I love reading posts like this – I think they are bringing me closer to actually giving cloth pads a try!

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26 Miriam May 23, 2012 at 8:02 pm

I personally cant get into using cloth. I know that is what was done for centuries, its not some new “crunchy granola” thing. Its just not for me and doesnt fit my lifestyle. I do however agree with going chemical free. I use natra care products. I always had trouble with tampons. I would get cramps so bad they would “push out” my tampon. Not good. I then found the organic cotton tampons. No issues. No Horrible cramps. And no issues with the tampon being pushed out. If nothing else try going these.
http://www.natracare.com

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27 Leta May 27, 2012 at 6:13 pm

I use cloth. I got them when I was pregnant for my daughter (before I learned to sew) because I needed pads for after her birth. I got mine from Ama’z Cloth Padz, and they are all going strong, six+ years later. I spent about $80 on five pantyliners, three overnight winged snappy things and nine pads that snap to the winged things, plus a wet bag. In hindsight I overbought but it was still a tremendous value, and the prorated cost will be under $10/year for *more pads than I need*. I started using a diaphragm 12 or 13 years ago. I read about using a diaphragm as a menstrual cup in the original edition of Our Bodies, Our Selves, and since my insurance covered it, it seemed like a no brainer to at least give it a shot. It’s the best. Better, even, than the Diva Cup because you can, uh, be intimate with it in. Clean, comfy, secure, no towels needed. I have not bought tampons or pads in 12 years! Though, to be fair, for the six years after I got my diaphragm but before I had my daughter, I did spend about $1/mo on disposable pantyliners, but I haven’t even bought those in over six years. When I did use tampons and disposable pads, I got UTIs and yeast infections MUCH more frequently, produced way more trash, and spent about $25/mo. I can’t even imagine how expensive those goods are now! Not to mention the fact that I never worry about running out, and I never have to make a special trip to the store.

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28 erin May 30, 2012 at 8:40 am

I LOVE my diva cup. I forget it’s there! I have to change it about every three hours when heavy, twice daily when reg/light. It is only slightly more invasive than tampons, IMO. It would be a bit more tricky to change in a public restroom, though I know people who do without trouble. I use cloth pads as well and really like those.

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29 Jane May 30, 2012 at 9:04 am

I have thought about cloth, but am definitely going to think more about it now! I have some of the same symptoms as you … really bad cramps and pain all over! I’ve been told it is “normal” but I do not think this is normal! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences!!

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30 Sarah May 30, 2012 at 10:30 am

I decided to switch to cloth pads last year – and I’m never going back! I made my own from flannel and old burp cloths we had stored away so they were FREE! I used to also get rashes from disposable pads, but the cloth ones are great – comfy and soft! It’s a little different at first, it weirds some people out! I know it made my roommates think I was a crazy hippie, but it really saves money, resources, and gives you a boost! I think using cloth helps change your mentality about your period – before that time of the month was always something to dread, but I don’t feel that way anymore! This is a little weird – but I think using cloth helps connect you more to what your body is doing and why, instead of disposing of ‘it’ as quickly as possible, you are accepting and working with it more. I think that is why switching to cloth helps with cramps!

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31 Misst May 30, 2012 at 11:37 am

I used to get rashes from disposable pads and yeast infections from tampons. I switched to organic cotton disposables for awhile but was finding it was getting too expensive. I heard about lunapads, bought a few and have never turned back. Before I bought them, I did some research on different cloth pads, but found I like Lunapads design the best. I;m not a fan of having wet pads, so with Lunapads I bought a ton of extra liners, use one pad in the morning, one at night, and just change the liners several times a day (more than I need to, but it leaves me feeling cleaner). Some of the other designs, the liners go inside the pad so while you can switch them out when you’re close to soaking through, you still have the wetness next to your skin. I’ve been using lunapads for 2 years now and have not once had a rash or yeast infection since I switched.

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32 Jana May 30, 2012 at 7:19 pm

WOW! Thanks for sharing your story. Very much like my own, been a problem most of my life and nothing has worked. Been on pills for a few years now, but I don’t want to do this any more so willing to try anything natural, new and healthy.

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33 Sydney June 22, 2013 at 6:52 am

Since this was over a year ago, you may have already made the switch, but a word of encouragement… the switch is hard on your body and it will take a while to regulate. Be patient and know that as difficult as the switch from birth control to natural is difficult, the payoff is wonderful and you will understand more about yourself and how your body operates. I recommend the book with a super awkward title “Understanding your Fertility.” Sounds lame, changed my life. Best of luck!

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34 Hannah May 30, 2012 at 10:24 pm

I am making the transition to cloth pads now. I love them! The only problem I am having right now is that they tend to smell, even after I wash them several times (I always soak them beforehand in baking soda). Maybe I just have a really sensitive nose or maybe my situation is not the norm, but I wish I could figure it out! It has been so nice not having to buy pads! Does anyone have any thoughts/advice?

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35 Merissa May 31, 2012 at 7:04 am

I use BioKleen’s BacOut for mine (and my cloth diapers!) http://amzn.to/LioqLZ

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36 Michelle June 30, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Try soaking them in tea tree oil, or just rinse them and let them dry out before popping them in the washing machine. I’ve had mine for awhile now, and if they’re rinsed right away, they don’t stain or smell. The only time I’ve had odour issues was once when I soaked them (back in the beginning, because everyone said to…) and left them in the water for two days. Good luck; I hope it works out well for you!

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37 Ann October 29, 2012 at 1:33 pm

How insightful!

My favorite eco-friendly, biodegradable, female products are Scensibles Bags.

They are delightfully discrete disposable bags for feminine care products.

They save on embarrassment and they also double as feminine care storage bags, mini trash bags for the car, and a sweetly-scented place where I throw away my nail-polish cotton balls.

What do you all think?

http://www.scensiblesbags.com

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38 Chantel February 5, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Recently got a Diva Cup and LOVE it! Easy to insert and remove, comfortable, forget it’s there, easy to clean, no smell as with pads, no leaks…just awesome. My husband calls it my “red solo cup”. Now just try hearing that song and not thinking about a Diva cup!

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39 Merissa February 5, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Oh my, I’m seriously laughing like crazy over the Red Solo Cup!!

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40 Monica April 12, 2013 at 10:25 pm

Me too. lol. Just wondering though, I have never heard of the diva cup. Is it a natural product? I have been reading that a lot of woman since going cotton have had shorted periods, less cramping and do not have as heavy a flow. Is this the same with the diva cup do you think?
I have extremely heavy flow for at least 1 day. It gushes, sorry. I don’t know if it will happen day 2 or 3 and it just hits and can make an enormous mess if I am not in a good place. It prevents me from going to work for those 2 days. And it can last for up to 8 days and at times comes every 3 weeks. Horrible! I’m scared to cloth pads wont be enough but if they slow it down maybe they will be.
Thanks so much for your post and everyone’s comments
Monica

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41 Merissa April 13, 2013 at 6:53 am

The Diva Cup is natural but I have never used it so I don’t have experience with whether it would help. I’ve also heard from other women that switching to cloth pads does shorten and lessen their periods though! (Mine are not heavy enough to test that theory personally.)

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42 Sarah W. May 4, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Thank you for posting this! I’m looking to switch to cloth pads and/or menstrual cups after my baby is born in September. I hate that I’ve been literally flushing money down the toilet every month with store bought tampons for 22 years. I’m thinking of sewing my own cloth pads and also cloth diapers for the new baby, I just need money for the fabric(s). I have a 15 month old son and I’ve already switched to homemade cloth wipes and wipe solution. As a matter of fact, I was looking for a recipe for homemade diaper rash cream and discovered your wonderful blog. Thank you, Merissa, for sharing your experiences.

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43 Monica May 18, 2013 at 5:26 pm

I’ve been using cloth pads for five years. I made my own (pattern from Hillbilly Housewife) with a flannel sheet, old wash rags at first. I made about six to try. Then I broke down and bought some cute flannel, natural cotton quilt batting and cute snaps. I have about 18 now. I love them! I have a few “tuck in insert” types for normal period, some trifold for overnight, and a couple of liners for “going into” “going out of” period days.
Yes, my husband, sisters, best friend, all thought I was nuts. But I have eczema and those monthly breakouts from the bleach infused disposables (I’m allergic to bleach) was just horrible. Nothing like steroid creams and your period…. Ugh! I haven’t had a break out since I started using cloth.
Cleaning is super easy too. I soak in a bucket of cool water with about a tablespoon of Castile soap (do NOT use peppermint, your tender girl parts will HATE you if you do!) and about 10 drops of both tea trea and lavender oil. When my period is over, I dump everything into the machine with bathtowels, fill the downy ball with vinegar and then dry them.
If they smell, or get a “funk”, try soaking in a gallon of cool water with two cups of vinegar added. Soak a few hours, then wash. I’ve only had that happen once, and the vinegar took care of it.

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44 Heather January 11, 2014 at 3:16 pm

I know this is a way past the post date reply, but I’ve just found your site today. And I just wanted to say THANK YOU! for this entry. I have been having some pretty bad reactions to commerical pads, and have been looking for more natural alternatives, but in my searches actually never ran across cloth pads. I am going to certainly give these a try and see if that stops the reactions I’ve been getting.

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45 Susan January 23, 2014 at 7:16 am

I too, have made the switch and couldn’t be happier! I had suffered with constant yeast infections with at least 2 bv infections a year. Every year since high school. (I’ve been finished high school since ’93). That was awful for me. My mom said I must have inherited it from her, getting yeast infections all the time. No, I didn’t. She didn’t create that bit of hell for herself either. She’s since stopped having her periods, but we had a candid conversation about her periods and what type of products she used. My mother wore disposable pantyliners every day of her menstruation years. Every month she had a yeast infection. Every freaking month! I have 2 daughters, one of whom started her period a year ago (not yet regular). I was worried about her getting the ‘yeast gene’ and after doing a lot of research, we both switched to our own cloth pads and pantyliners (and also for me, sea sponge bcuz I can’t wear cups, they leak due to tilted uterus) and we love, love, love how breathable they are! No more foul odor from a pad and whatever chemicals make that happen. No more yeast and bv infections. Less of a period and less cramping. We also love hunting for fun, cool fabrics online and in craft stores (dare I say, I almost like shopping for the material for my pads more than I love shoe shopping!) It’s become a fun thing for us, bonding over our period and our favorite pads lol. No more feminine hygiene products for the landfill. (Did you know the average woman will contribute about 6 shopping carts FULL of tampons and pads in her lifetime to a landfill?) Every woman who menstruates and uses disposables will contribute this amount. That’s what we will leave behind. A big effing pile of disposable diapers and feminine hygiene products. (And some of you might have thought the idea of reusable menses gear was gross.) Do what you can for Mother Earth. Be kind to your cooter, get informed on those disposables and make the switch. You won’t be sorry.

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46 Kendra March 23, 2014 at 6:21 pm

Hi,
I’m very new here, and I’m also a very recent convert to cloth pads. I’ve tried New Moon Pads, a cottage business in Canada, and Pink Daisy. I really like them both. The Pink Daisy uses undyed organic cotton velour against the skin. It is really soft. They use microfiber terry for the absorption and laminated polyester for the leak-proof layer. I really like these because of the rounded edges and the longer wings. The downsides are that the polyester layer is slick and has a tendency to slide around in looser panties. Also, as I said, the organic cotton top layer is really soft, but it doesn’t release the blood stain as easily as New Moon Pads and I can’t use bleach. The New Moon Pads are made by a cool lady in Canada, and I am always for supporting the small businesses. The new moon pads are also very soft, you have your choice of cotton or brushed flannel for the top layer. The absorption layer is made of double brushed flannel and the leak resistant (bottom) layer is made of Sherpa fleece. That Sherpa fleece is really water resistant. When I’ve been rinsing out used pads, the water just forms into droplets and rolls off the fleece. I haven’t had any problems with bottom leaking with either one. The upsides for New Moon Pads is that I can choose the pretty. I know that I’m just going to bleed on them, but I don’t see why they can’t be pretty. The flannel releases the stains really easy, there are no markings on these pads. I also love that she uses a naturally water resistant backing rather than PUL. And the backing isn’t smooth, so it “grabs” onto the panties nicely and doesn’t shift though I got the ones with “wings” for extra security. The downsides are that the tips aren’t as rounded and the sides aren’t sealed, they are nicely sewn, but not sealed. I’ve been having a bit of a problem side leaking with these ones mainly on my heavier days. She does have a bit of a more expensive style called Ultra pads that the edges are sealed with the Sherpa fleece. I’ve ordered a couple of them and we’ll see how it goes. I’ve also got the panty liners from New Moon Pads and I love them. I’ve never used panty liners in my life, but I’ve started to have a bit of a “plumbing” issue in the last few years. These are nice and soft and absorbent and I don’t even notice they are there.
Like some of you, I was kind of grossed out by the thought of having to “mess with the mess”. I was especially grossed out by the leaving them in the “pot” for a week before washing. So the solution for me was to purchase the Wonder Wash. It’s this kind of plastic egg shaped thing on a stand with a crank. It is kind of big for just pads, but you only put the amount of water and soap you need for the load you are doing. What I do, is put in detergent and water in the Wonder Wash and put my pads in through the day. Before I go to bed I follow the wash instructions, literally only takes 10-15 min tops, then wring them out and hang them up. This silly little machine gets them really clean, so clean I don’t feel the need to re-wash them once a week when I do the regular laundry.
This system has really made me a convert to cloth pads. When I think of all the money, garbage and rubbing rashes I used to get with the disposable pads, I only wish I had discovered these earlier when I was younger.

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