A lot of people are freaked out by the idea of reusable menstrual products. Some people are downright disgusted by the idea. I am here to tell you that it is not disgusting at all and has made that time of the month not only greener, but also happier.
First, just look at the pretty colors and patterns. You don’t get that from Always or Tampax, do you? Next, look at the soft fabrics. Trust me, it is far more comfortable than plastic and a “cotton-like” plastic.
So what’s the hang-up? Is it about coming in contact with your bodily fluids? The good news is that doesn’t really happen if you change your pad or empty your menstrual cup in a timely manner. Is it about seeing too much? I don’t look when I empty my cup and cloth pads wick fluid to an inner core so you see less than if you use white disposable pads.
In this post I am going to go over all of the things you will need to get started with reusable menstrual products and to (hopefully) take the ick factor away for you.
What you will need for a greener period
There are several options when it comes to reusable menstrual products, but the most common are menstrual cups and cloth pads. These are also my products of choice. I use them both either together or alone depending on the day of my cycle.
If you choose to go the menstrual cup route, you really only need a menstrual cup. You may also want some cup wipes for when you’re out and about as well as a gentle wash for your cup. You shouldn’t use soaps with a lot of harsh ingredients that can potentially cause irritation and infections.
If you choose the cloth pad route you will need cloth pads in various sizes. How many cloth pads you will need depends on the length of your cycle and how heavy or light your flow is. You will also need a wetbag for storing your dirty pads as well as a washing machine, of course. I like to have some Muffin Mist on hand as well. It has cooling properties and also helps me feel more fresh. I spray a little directly on my pad and I’m good to go.
Okay, now that you know what you will need for a greener period, you probably want to know how they work and how to clean your reusable menstrual products. Really, it’s not as big of a deal as it may seem at first.
How a menstrual cup works
If you are unfamiliar with a menstrual cup, it is similar to a tampon in that it is inserted, but unlike a tampon, it collects your flow instead of absorbing it. This is better for several reasons: menstrual cups won’t leave you feeling dry, there is almost no chance of Toxic Shock Syndrome, and you can go a lot longer with a menstrual cup than you can with a tampon. Some women can go 10-12 hours before having to empty their cup. Find out how to use a menstrual cup.
How to clean a menstrual cup
Of course, you need to be sure that you keep your cup(s) clean. When removing your cup to empty it, you can either use some toilet paper to wipe it out or warm water to rinse it before putting it back in. If you feel more comfortable, you may want to use a menstrual cup wipe.
While I’m in the shower, I like to wash my cup with a gentle wash. My favorite is Taylor’s Woo Woo Wash, but Diva Wash is also a good choice. Both products are also good for washing your intimate areas as well as your menstrual cup.
At the end of my cycle I boil my cup(s) for about five minutes in water and a few splashes of white vinegar, dry them and put them away in their pouch until next month. Nothing to it.
How cloth pads work
Cloth pads go into your panties just like a disposable pad, but instead of using adhesive, cloth pads have snaps. Yes, they do stay in place and you don’t have to worry about them riding up, shifting, twisting, or coming undone. For a better fit, you will want to be sure that your panties fit you properly and are snug, but not tight.
As far as absorbency goes, I have found that cloth pads are just as, if not more absorbent than disposable pads. Of course, for the best performance you will want a quality pad. When it comes to the potential for shifting or inferior absorbency, I don’t skimp on quality when it comes to buying my mama cloth; I only use pads from Pink Lemonade Shop.
How to clean cloth pads
This is the scary part for a lot of people. “You want me to put dirty pads in my washing machine?! Eew!” I get it. Really, I do. That was my exact reaction for many years, but it’s really not a big deal at all. Your washing machine is a self-cleaning appliance and if you put the pads in and close the lid, there’s nothing to see here. It’s really not a big deal. Honest.
When you are ready to change your pad, simply unsnap it and put the dirty one in a wetbag, zip it up and forget about it. Repeat as necessary throughout your cycle then wash them when your cycle is done. If waiting that long skeeves you out, you are certainly free to wash them more often. The sky won’t fall either way.
Now it’s time to wash them. I take my closed wetbag down to the laundry room, unzip the bag, and dump the pads in the washing machine. I do not rinse my pads before wash day, though some people do and it is a personal preference. Once my pads and wetbag are in the machine:
- Rinse cycle with cold water and no detergent to get the majority of stuff out of the pads first.
- Warm wash on the power wash setting with a scoop of Tide powder detergent. * Whatever detergent you are currently using for your laundry is fine to use with pads as long as it doesn’t contain fabric softeners and/or bleach alternatives. ** Do not use the sanitize cycle for your pads. It’s too hot and isn’t necessary.
- Dry in the dryer on medium and put them away until the next month.
That’s it! It’s really not scary or gross at all. In fact, I find using reusable menstrual products to be far more convenient than using disposable ones, but that’s another post for another day.
For more posts on natural feminine care and reusable menstrual products, check out my other posts on the topic. If you would like to know what fabrics cloth pads are available in as well as their pros and cons, I talk about that here and here.