The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Drop the disposables: Sanitary pads

Cloth sanitary padsHave a happy period.

If you've got television, you've most likely seen the Always commercial telling you how their plastic pads are going to make your life easier, fresher, and yes, happier.  The truth is, plastic disposable pads aren't all that great--they're full of all sorts of chemicals, very pricey and make weird noises in public restrooms.  They're also totally not breathable and they're boring.  Yup, I said boring. 

Cloth pads make sense in many ways.  They're a much greener choice--no weird gels to soak up exponential amounts of Aunty Flo, no pads piling up in your local landfill.  They're highly breathable and I no longer experience the grown-up diaper rash that I had with plastic pads.  Some women find their periods are shorter and lighter with cloth pads, and this has been true for me.  Like other cloth items such as napkins and diapers, you buy or make them once and use them for years.  You can even use them postpartum.  For less than $200, you can have menstrual protection to last five years or more. 

Now to the unboring part--cloth pads come in a myriad of colors.  There are Cloth sanitary padsmany options on the internet, but one of my favorites are GladRags.  They use fun batiks and florals.  There's nothing more cheery than pulling out a bright and soft flannel pad during a somewhat challenging time of the month.  There are countless patterns available online for making your own and you are only limited by your imagination and local fabric store.  All you need are some basic sewing skills and an $8 snap setter (if you're feeling fancy).  Some women add PUL to their pads for extra waterproofing, but this does compromise breathability, so it's your choice.  In my experience, the PUL isn't really necessary if you just stay aware of your flow patterns.

Most folks cringe at the thought of washing cloth pads, but the technique is rather simple and involves very little actual handling of the pads.  Some fabrics will stain, but I've had very little issue with this, especially from my GladRags.    Just place used pads in a small bucket (perhaps with a lid) that contains cold water and a few drops of tea tree oil or Dr. Bronner's.  Change the rinse water daily and wash the pads as often as you need.  When you go out, just carry a plastic bag or a neoprene wet bag to keep them till you get home to soak them.  Stick them in the washer, do a cold rinse and then a warm wash.  Be sure to avoid fabric softeners, since they have waterproofing properties.  That's all.  Super simple.

Here are some on-line resources for making your own cloth pads:

style="font-family: Bitstream Charter;">Brandy and her daughter
Brandy seeks self-sufficiency on a little lot in town, tending her most sincere pumpkin patch and borrowing the neighbor's clothesline.  She lives with her husband Mike and daughter Willow, both of whom love it when she knits for them.  Check out Brandy's blog and her etsy shop (full of hand-made napkins and other goodies to help you ditch the disposables.)

This post is part of our Drop the Disposables lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I have now ordered some of these online and also plan on trying to sew some myself. I'm excited! Told my mom about, trying to talk her into giving me a sewing lesson and she mentiod her mom and grandma talking about sewing their own.
Comment by Kristie Boucher Thu Mar 26 15:06:00 2009
I'm glad to hear that Brandy's made a convert. I wouldn't trade mine in for anything!
Comment by anna Thu Mar 26 20:48:09 2009
I knew there was a pre-plastic way to do this back in the day. I just always feared that if I found it, it would be scary and disturb me. This isn't scary at all! I must try it... (And it gets bonus points because it WILL disturb the man of the house.)
Comment by maggie Sun Jul 26 22:08:40 2009
I highly recommend cloth pads --- very easy, saves a bunch of money, and avoids that pampers-like crinkle....
Comment by anna Mon Jul 27 07:25:11 2009

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