How to Use Reusable Pads [Complete Beginner’s Guide]

You might be thinking “Hang on. Cloth pads? Wasn’t this a thing back in the 20th century?” - and you’d be right. Cloth pads might not be a new invention, but it is definitely not a bad one - as it brings several benefits.

For me, dumping disposable pads and switching to cloth pads was almost a life-changing experience. I love my cloth pads - they are great to wear, and I feel better knowing I’m contributing a little bit more towards a zero-waste world. 

Before we chat about how to use reusable cloth pads, it might be worth mentioning what they actually are, and what benefits they bring. 

What are they made of? 

How do you use them? 

Are they actually more sustainable?

Many women are asking these questions: if you are one of them, here are the answers you seek.

How long can you use cloth, menstrual pads?

The general idea of reusable pads is that they last. No more having to throw out the disposable pad. Of course, the number of pads you’ll want depends on the flow and length of your period, and the size of the cloth pad. It also depends on the number of times you’ll need to change the pad during the day, like with disposable pads, or how often you do the laundry.

Moreover, some pads actually come with a water-resistant lining, providing even more security. But -  to be on the safe side - my advice would be to change your pad at least two times a day. 

Personally, I like to put a new one in before bed time and change it in the morning, as you change your underwear. Then another 1-2 pads during the day, depending on your flow and where you are in your period. 

Reusable pads are made to be quite absorbent. They are also made out of breathable materials like bamboo and organic cotton. That means you won’t have to deal with any discomfort that may occur when using typical disposable pads - which won’t make it feel like you have to change the pad every hour.

Why you should use cloth pads

Is switching to reusable worth it?

Well, if you’re interested in zero waste and sustainable practices, absolutely! There are many reasons reusable pads could be a great addition to your life. 

As previously mentioned, reusable pads are made out of organic materials such as cotton and bamboo.  One-use pads come in plastic packaging, are plastic-based, and due to their single-use nature, making them more harmful to the environment. 

Another reason is to avoid spending a ton of money on countless amounts of one-time-use pads every month, plus the time spent stocking up on disposable pads (also see our article on how to make reusable pads!). 

They also come in all sorts of fancy patterns. Using cloth pads is actually quite fun - even if being on our period is certainly anything but!

Finally, even if you don’t care about zero waste, I feel that they are simply a superior product - a much better experience that lessens stress (of potentially bleeding through) and aggravation. 

So, if you want the best menstrual pad experience, that also happens to help save the environment - and your bank balance - the answer is: yes, cloth pads are definitely worth it. And many women are starting to see the light.

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Are reusable menstrual pads sanitary?

Yes! With proper care - and regular washing - reusable pads are perfectly sanitary. They are made out of breathable fabric which allows the humidity to escape and stay clear of unwanted odors and skin irritation. Disposable pads also carry undesired chemicals that might be unhealthy. 

The obvious difference between disposable pads and reusable pads is that one you throw out, and the other you have to wash. And although it might seem like an obstacle, there are actually quite easy (and quick!) ways to freshen up your pads again. 

How to pick the best reusable pad 

Before you learn how to take care of your pad, there are a couple of things you’ll want to do first:

  • Figure out the right size 
  • Choose your favorite print

Figuring out the size

Just like regular pads, cloth menstrual pads come in different shapes and sizes.

Figuring out which one is right for you would depend on how heavy your flow is, to essentially find the right thickness. And, if you’re like me, that’s really important (be sure to check out our guide to the best reusable pads). 

To determine the size for your reusable menstrual pad simply measure your disposable pad. Or - if you’ve never used a pad before - determine the size of your pad based on your blood flow. Although, if your pad doesn’t quite fit the first time, don’t worry. Actually, 60% of women wear the wrong fit. 

The popular disposable pad brand, Always, created this visual guide to help women with their pad sizing. 

My personal tip: Get a few different sizes to use for different times. 

For example, I keep lite flow pads snapped permanently in about 1/4 of my underwear. I love having an abundance of those to grab for in the mornings when I know my period is coming up soon but I'm not sure when. It takes away any worry of being caught off guard and you can hardly feel them in your underwear anyways so no reason not to. 

Lite is also great on the tail end of your period when you just aren't 100% sure it's over. 

Pick your own personal favorite

Menstrual products need not be as boring as the big brands make them seem.

Disposable pads are always plain and white, so why not get a bit of variety by using the more environmentally friendly and fun cloth pads? They come in different colours and prints; all you have to do is pick the one that suits your personality the best! You can even get small bags to carry your pads with you. And, yes, the cute prints follow as well.

How to wear and wash your new cloth pad

Okay, you're now thinking about a switch to cloth. But how to go about it? Here's how to take care of your new, sustainable and personal pads:

  • How to put the cotton pad on
  • How to change your pad  
  • How to wash your reusable pad

Putting on your cloth menstrual pad 

To get started, if you have used a disposable pad before, then you already know what to do. Just like disposable pads, cloth pads are easy to put on and pull off. They usually have wings that can snap on the outside of your panties, which keeps your underwear clean and dry. And - to be completely sure - some cloth pads even have waterproof linings on the back of their pads - for extra safety!

Changing cloth pads

How often you change your pad depends on your flow. If you have a heavy flow, the more often you’ll have to change it. Sometimes you might need to change your pad even outside the comforts of your own home, but you needn’t worry. This is where the small pouches come in. They’re perfect for storing your used pad and prevent any sort of odor or fluids from ruining your stuff!

In a pinch, you can also fold the two long ends inwards and flip the wings over to create a tight bundle with dry surfaces in every direction.

Washing your cloth pad

Washable cloth pads are a game-changer for eco-friendly people like myself. It's not only a much better alternative but also much less effort than you'd think.

Ideally, you should wash your pad before using it for the first time, as well as after you’ve used it. 

Washing them is just as easy as washing any other clothing item. You can do anything from throwing it into the washing machine to washing it by hand - or even boiling the pad. The choice is entirely yours. 

However, if you decide to wash your pads by hand, you might want to soak them in water before washing them - as it helps to avoid stains on your pads. Of course, if stains don’t scare you, go ahead and boil that cloth pad - to make sure it’s extra sanitary! 

Whether you prefer the first or the second, the main goal here is which option fits your timetable and works best for you.

If you want more details, make sure to check out our full guide on how to wash your reusable pads here.

The final word on cloth menstrual pads

If you've been wondering how to use cloth pads, I hope you have now found the answers to your questions. Whether you use them as day pads, night pads, or both. Whether you use them to supplement your disposable options or you use them every day - the fact that you are here and even considering using reusable, tells me you're on the right track!

To me, one of the most important factors of cloth pads is that they are more environmentally friendly and sustainable - being made of organic cotton or bamboo (which means less waste, resulting in sustainability). 

If this is something that you value as well - and you are in fact considering using cloth pads - I’ve put together a guide to the best reusable menstrual pads that I’ve found so far. 

I also recommend combining with a menstrual cup for heavy days. It does take some getting used to (a little bravery goes a long way) but it really makes a massive difference. 

And if you're interested in other sustainable menstrual products and tips, please enjoy the guides below.

So ditch the disposables and join the reusable pad revolution!

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