“Naturalizing” Your Feminine Hygiene Routine

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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

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

  16. 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.

    1. 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.

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

  18. 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!

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. Pingback: Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #29
  22. 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.

  23. 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!!

  24. 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!

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

    1. 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!

      1. I sadly have not made changes. But getting serious now. Something has got to change. Thank you for input and will be looking into book

  27. 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?

    1. 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!

  28. 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?


  29. 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!

      1. 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

        1. 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.)

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. Hello,
    I just wanted to put in my two-cents about why I am switching to reusable pads as well. Many of my reasons are similar as above. I’ve noticed more often than not, the disposable pads lead to chafing and drying of my lady bits – which lead to little tears that hurt and must heal the rest of the month (only to come back the following cycle). Along the same lines, I tend to use more toilet paper during my cycle to stay “clean” feeling, but the dryness and roughness of the paper only enhances the above problem. Reusable cloth pads help solve this problem. They are not rough – heck some of them, the minky kind, are suuuper soft and luxurious I hear! (Still saving up for a minky, but I know the fabric and would love to have that on my most sensitive parts!) I’ve done calculations for myself and have found that after three years, I will have a 100% savings just by using cloth pads – and mind you, that is a low-ball number. That sounds good to me and will only increase as the years go by! Also, the pads are beautiful. You’d think this doesn’t matter much, but it does. If you have to wear something twelve (or more) weeks out of the year for 30+ years, it might as well be beautiful, comfy, and bring a smile to your face! I’d much rather wear something with a lovely floral print or happy animals than an ugly bleached and chemically filled bunch of cotton.

    I tried making my own pads, but that was an incredible flop, so now I’ve turned to buying from sellers on Etsy. I love this because I know I am supporting small, local businesses/families who care and provide excellent customer service. I also feel proud knowing I am contributing much less to the landfill problem. I read somewhere that it takes 1,000 years for a plastic bag to decompose. I’m sure that disposable pads take a similar rate. I hated wearing a disposable liner or full-on pad because I “thought” my cycle was starting and yet it didn’t – then I had to throw the pad away despite it not being used (I wouldn’t want to reuse it due to risk of UTI or other bacterial issues). Now I can just wear a cotton liner or pad and wash and reuse it the next day if my cycle doesn’t start when I expected. Overall, I am excited to continue my journey into ditching disposables. I have yet to ditch tampons yet… I know, I know, even worse than disposable pads as I am putting chemicals inside of me and there is not only a plastic wrapper but plastic applicator as well  I would love to try switching to a menstrual cup, but am nervous about paying $40 for a cup that I can’t insert/get to fit comfortably. I’ve tried the SoftCups, and they were a nightmare to insert and never fit right. One day I’ll make the switch though… when I have the money saved up!

    Another note, before I end my novella, for those of you also dealing with tears and dryness, I’d suggest trying “family cloth” (cloth toilet paper). I had heard about it and my initial reaction was NO WAY! Yet after some intrigue and research, I’ve recently made the switch to using it (only for #1… can’t bring myself to using it for #2 yet). Let me tell you, it is nice! The cloth – you can wet it if you want to feel cleaner during your cycle – is much softer and gentler on my bits than scratchy toilet paper. I was also having asthma issues from the toilet paper dust particles and no longer have that problem since using cloth. Not using toilet paper will also save your sewer and pocketbook. If it’s yellow, I often let it mellow to save even more pennies (brown gets flushed down… I’m not thaaat frugal!) Just something to think about! I know this was a terribly long comment, but I just wanted to share my experience so that others doing their “research” could finally make the plunge into the reusable world.

  36. I used G Diapers for my children and I used the washable liners. Now that my youngest has moved on to a lager size I was left with several liners in great shape. They are the perfect size for overnights and all I did was sew the wings on with a button. Just a thought for anyone who may have used cloth diapers or reusable inserts. You already paid good money for the item, repurpose it 🙂

  37. Hi,

    I just stumbled across your site while looking at reviews for cloth pads & pantyliners. Great info, I’m definitely making the switch. 🙂

    Just wanted to point out a common internet misconception – you don’t get Toxic Shock Syndrome from chemicals. It’s caused by two types of bacteria. Usually this bacteria is Staphylococcus Aureus (usually just called Staph – this bacteria also causes food poisoning & impetigo among other things), but it can also be caused by Group A Streptococcus (Strep). So using a cloth pantyliner doesn’t take away the risk because Staph can live on your skin as part of natural flora (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK7617/).

    The reason there was the big Toxic Shock problem with tampons a while back was due to the fact that the tampons were contaminated with Staph Aureus & not because of the chemicals. Putting the tampon in for long periods of time & not changing it also increased the risk of the bacteria being able to get inside & cause all sorts of havoc. They now use chemicals to kill off any bacteria that could infect it. So people may find they have problems with them if they have multiple chemical sensitivities.

  38. I use cloth pads for slight urine leakage. I will never go back to pads. My cloth ones are perfect for my need and I just throw them in the washer and air dry. I’m saving a lot of money over buying pads and filling up the trash dump.