Periods are a big part of a woman’s life, and, as a woman, I’ve always wondered how to make that part of my life more sustainable, economical and even a bit more - dare I say it - fun?
This is why I made the eco-friendly switch to reusable menstrual pads.
It is without a doubt a whole different experience when you wear a comfortable cotton pad, rather than a disposable pad that is not only less breathable but can also cause toxic shock syndrome.
Of course, reusable pads can be bought online, or in some stores (check my list of the best pads out there), but I thought I’d try a fun alternative and make them myself. A few weeks ago I was just like you, wondering how to make reusable menstrual pads.
But I took the plunge, did some experiments, and now am happy to share my findings with you. Just follow this tutorial and you'll be creating your very own pads in no time at all.
Before I get to that, I’d like to tell you a bit more about reusable pads and why I love them so much.
Well, to me, one of the essential qualities is that they’re sustainable, and I’m always aiming for zero waste.
You won’t have to buy countless packages of disposable sanitary pads because cloth pads can last up to 5 years - and even more, if given the proper care (click here to read my article on how to wash reusable pads). The only thing you have to do is give them a wash and they’re ready to be used yet another time.
Another benefit is their eco-friendliness.
Disposable pads are packed with plastic that pollutes the earth when you throw them out, and if you think about that per year a woman - on average - uses over 200 sanitary products per year. Over a lifetime you could build a pad pyramid!
Cloth menstrual pads, however, are made out of biodegradable materials (such as cotton) and will last years. When the day comes to wave goodbye to your pad, you can safely throw them out.
Cloth pads are also incredibly comfortable. And because they are made out of biodegradable materials, they are far more breathable - which means no yucky skin irritations or humidity - and, unlike disposable pads, they reduce the risk of any unwanted odors.
That’s right, they are perfectly sanitary and I find that wearing them I feel fresher throughout the day, compared to disposable pads.
These are some of the main reasons reusable pads have been an amazing addition to my life and I hope you’ll find that it’s true for you as well. But if you want to know more about reusable pads and how to actually use them, you can read my article on how to use reusable pads.
There are some super cute and effective cloth pads out there, but if you feel a bit more creative and would like to try something new - or if you can’t find the design that fits your personality and taste - you can just make them yourself!
It’s fairly easy and personally, it’s becoming a bit of a hobby of mine.
Here’s what I’ve learned to help guide you through every step.
If you aren’t a master seamstress and, like me, start off as a beginner, make sure to have a couple of spare hours to do this as it can be a bit tricky the first couple of times. But don’t worry - once you’ve done it 2 or 3 times it’ll be almost effortless.
First, we’ll make a template for the pads.
For the template:
For the pad itself:
Take your paper and put it on a flat surface, then trace a 6.5” x 10” rectangle and cut it out.
Fold the rectangle in half. First lengthwise, then widthwise. Draw another 1.2” x 1.7” rectangle at the corner where the paper is only folded on the short side, with the longest side drawn parallel with the fold.
Then you’ll have to draw a straight line that follows the 1.2” side, and at the very top, draw another line that curves to the corner where the paper is only folded on the long side - that will be the front and back edge of the pad.
After you’ve drawn the curved line, cut off the area at the top right corner and voila, you’ve finished your template.
Tip: wash your fabric before cutting and sewing it. That way the fabric gets to shrink and won’t become deformed later on!
Now it’s time for the fabric with the pretty pattern.
Cut out two 8” x 11.5” rectangles of patterned fabric. The extra fabric will prevent it from scrunching when sewing your pad.
Put one piece of the fabric on top of the other so the edges are aligned, and make sure that the sides with the pattern are pressed against each other.
When you’ve done that, hold your patterned fabric still and use the pad template and chalk to draw the pad shape onto it.
Use your pins to secure the fabric so it doesn’t move around when you sew it, then sew all around your pad (the wings too).
After you’ve sewn the shape of the pad you can cut off the extra fabric. Don’t get too close to the stitches - since one of them might pop - but don’t worry about ruining your pretty pad by not cutting very straight; this part will not be visible when you’re done.
Almost done with this part of the pad. The only thing left to do is to cut a small opening in the middle of one side on your pad (make sure not to cut both sides!) and push the fabric through it. Be careful not to do it too rough and quick - you don’t want to ruin the pattern by tearing the fabric.
Sewing the liner is almost the same process as sewing your pad, so nothing too complicated.
Once again, cut out two 6” x 11.5” rectangles of your solid-colored fabric (or one of your own choice).
Place the two pieces of fabric on top of each other and make sure the corners are even (remember that if you use a patterned fabric for this as well you’ll have to place your fabric so the printed sides are touching each other.)
Now, take your initial pad template and fold the wings, Put the folded template on top of your fabric and draw around it with chalk.
Use the pins again to fasten the two pieces of fabric and sew along the chalk.
And for the final step: cut an opening in the middle of one side on the liner and push the fabric through it.
You’re almost done!
The only thing you have to do now is to sew the liner onto your pad, making sure that both sides of both fabrics are facing each other.
To finish it off, you’ll need to add something to the wings of your pad so it stays in place. There are multiple solutions: velcro, buttons, metal snaps. I go for the easier (and cheaper) options - which would be a button or velcro - but you can invest in a snapper tool to attach some metal snaps to your pads.
Remember to remove the buttons, velcro, or metal snaps when throwing out the pad. You can easily reuse them for your next batch of cloth pads if you want to.
And that’s it! You’re done. You have now made your very own, sustainable, pretty, reusable cloth pads.
When it comes to washing the pads, soak them in cold water overnight (or till laundry day) before washing them - to get the best result - then throw them in the washing machine and finish off with the dryer. Avoid using high temperatures and fabric softeners when washing your pads - if you’re wondering why, I wrote an article on how to wash reusable pads here.
As for the storage, after I’ve used my cloth pad, I put it in a little machine washable purse - which is also made of cotton - till I come home.
I’m nailing my pad to the mast: I LOVE reusable menstrual pads.
I would never go back and I hope that after you try them out, you feel the same. Of course, if you don’t, that’s fine too - this is a no-shame zone!
I love my cloth pads - both the ones I made myself and the ones I bought - and I hope you’ll give it a shot as well, and take this small, yet helpful, step towards a greener earth.
You now know how to make reusable menstrual pads, but if you aren't confident of your DIY skills - I also reviewed the best reusable menstrual pads online, so you can still take a step towards your zero waste goals.