Muff fluff

WARNING: If you don’t really want to think about my menstrual cycle, you probably should’ve stopped reading by now.

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while but wasn’t sure how it would be received. Coz, you know, it’s all about fannies and periods and stuff. Not your average chit chat is it.

But then I tweeted this photo:

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This is my stash of cloth sanitary pads (CSPs).

I fully expected to lose loads of followers and get a few “eeew, gross!” replies. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Understandably I didn’t get any replies from my male followers. But the response from the ladies really surprised me. Some people were already cloth users and asked where I’d bought certain ones. But lots and lots of women had never even heard of them and were fascinated and intrigued.

I’d never heard of them until last year. Thirty-two years old and I never knew that an alternative to disposable pads existed! One of my babies wore cloth nappies but it never occurred to me that a similar product might be available for me.

I’d heard of menstrual cups. The Mooncup brand is fairly well-known these days isn’t it? I know many users who adore theirs. But I’d never been able to get on with tampons and I really didn’t want to be faffing about swilling and rinsing.

But I hate hate hate disposable pads. Plasticky, rustly, itchy, nastiness. And (this is probably the TMI bit I’m dreading but here it is) every month I finish my period with a bit of a nappy rash from wearing them. Yes. I know. Now you’re thinking about it aren’t you. Sorry.

So, after being bombarded with tweets and messages from curious people, I thought I’d answer their questions here and use this space to spread the word – there IS an alternative to disposables!

 

What are they made from?

The inner cores vary depending on absorbency. There is usually some combination of fleece, zorb and flannel. Some also have a layer of waterproof PUL fabric inside for extra security.

The backing fabric is usually some form of water-resistant fleece, although some makers offer a visible PUL layer as the backing fabric.

There is a range of fabrics you can choose from to top your pads, all have their pros and cons. I’m going to run through the three most commonly used by UK makers here, although cotton flannel, cotton jersey, sherpa, raw silk, procool, and suedecloth are popular options too.
 
Minky is very soft, doesn’t stain easily and is really good at sucking the liquid into the core. But it is quite bulky and can get a bit warm! It’s still a synthetic material so not all women can get on with it.

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Bamboo velour is slightly more absorbent than minky and less bulky but takes longer to dry. It’s a natural fibre but I do find it’s not as soft after it’s been washed a few times.

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Cotton is my favourite. It’s thinner and more breathable. It can stain more easily but I must say I’ve never had any problems. I find it the most comfortable to wear.

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Really it’s just personal preference. All of them come in all manner of prints and colours. So many gorgeous fabrics to choose from. It’s very easy to become a bit obsessed!

 

How do you use them?

You wear them just like a disposable pad. They sit in the gusset of your knickers. I prefer pads with wings and they have a popper to fasten them, in place of the adhesive strips you find on disposables.

You can buy wingless pads. They tend to have a more grippy fabric on the outer bottom layer to stop them sliding about in your pants!

They come in a range of lengths, widths and absorbencies, depending on your needs, from panty liners right through to post-partum and night pads. You can wear them for the same amount of time as disposable pads but without throwing them away after one use!

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How do you wash them?

Anyone who has used cloth nappies for their babies is probably already well-versed on this.

Some people like to soak their used pads in cold water until wash day. This can help reduce staining.

I dry pail mine. I already have a nappy bucket and a mesh laundry bag from before my youngest was potty trained. The bag sits inside to line the bucket. I put my used pads in here until I’m ready to do a wash. Or you can just use a waterproof wet bag hanging on the back of the loo door. Just pick up the whole bag, unzip it, and pop it in the machine. No mess. No fuss.

I wash at 40 degrees with normal laundry detergent (I use non-bio but I don’t think it matters) but NO fabric conditioner or softener because it can reduce the pads’ absorbency. I usually add a scoop of oxy stain remover or soda crystals too. As long as there is no PUL fabric in your pads, it is fine to tumble dry them on a low heat.

I wrote a whole separate post about washing your pads here.

 

What about when you’re out?

I have some little waterproof bags. You can get all sorts of different sizes and styles. Single pockets (one bag for clean pads, one for used). Or double-pocketed (separate sections for clean and used in one bag). All perfectly washable. I keep a small one in the bottom of my handbag. Easy peasy.

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And because the pads have poppers, you can fold the used ones in on themselves so there’s no mess at all.

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How much do they cost?

Compared to the price of a pack of disposables, the cost probably seems quite a lot but remember that each pad will last you at least five years.

Panty liners are usually just a few quid. Single pads range in price from about a fiver for a light or regular pad, up to around £14-ish for a super heavy night time or postpartum pad. Most makers offer starter bundles or multi-buy packages, as well as regular sales or discounts for free postage.

There are also online Facebook groups where you can buy and sell second hand, which is massively cheaper. Some people don’t like the idea of using pads that are pre-loved but you really can get some bargains and some of the American, Canadian or Australian brands are much more affordable this way.

 

Where do you buy them from?

There are lots and lots of UK makers. Usually work-at-home mums and, in my experience, always really helpful and friendly. I’ve written a post listing the brands I’ve used with links to their sites. You can read that here.

If you’re tempted to give them a go, I’d recommend buying a few liners in different fabrics to see which you prefer. Check the length and absorbency of your disposable pads and use that as a starting point to build up your own stash of cloth pads. The great thing is that you can buy pads that are tailored to suit you, depending on whether you need more coverage at the front or back or both!

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So what do you think? Any questions? Anyone tempted? Or just totally weirded out? I love them. Really I do. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say they have changed my life. A large part of it is all the pretty patterns and colours. Another part is because I’m doing a tiny little bit to save the planet. But mostly they make me feel a bit better about myself when I’m full of raging, seething hormones. And that’s got to be a good thing, right?

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35 thoughts on “Muff fluff

  1. emilytealady February 3, 2014 at 15:24 Reply

    I’m intrigued, and it makes perfect sense. I’ve heard that using CSP can help reduce pain etc. Saving the planet is good. What’s not to like. I may give ’em a go

    • The Pie Patch February 3, 2014 at 15:31 Reply

      Do it! I have heard anecdotally about women gradually finding their periods become lighter, shorter & less painful. There are an awful lot of chemicals in disposable pads so it is possible, I guess.

  2. trkingmomoe February 3, 2014 at 22:19 Reply

    My mother all her life folded cotton fabric to wear for her period. This is what she wore as a young girl on the farm and just continued to do so. Great Idea.

    • The Pie Patch February 3, 2014 at 22:29 Reply

      Makes perfect sense. It’s so much healthier for our bodies and the environment. It’s incredible that disposable products are such a modern invention and yet the reusable alternatives are almost unheard of! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment 🙂

  3. Bree February 4, 2014 at 11:19 Reply

    I’ve been using CSP for almost a year now and my periods are lighter and shorter. I think they may actually be more regular as well! Im 16 so I think anyone can do it 🙂

    • The Pie Patch February 4, 2014 at 11:26 Reply

      That’s great to hear, Bree! I wish I’d known about cloth when I was 16 & I wish more young women now knew there’s an alternative & that there’s nothing icky about it! Thanks for reading.

  4. anitaswelt February 4, 2014 at 21:01 Reply

    Thank you so much for this wonderful post! I made the switch around 11 months ago and cannot imagine ever to go back to disposables again. Cloth pads are much more comfortable and my cycle got remarkably lighter since the switch.
    I think about a similar post for my pad anniversary 🙂

    • The Pie Patch February 4, 2014 at 21:05 Reply

      A lot of people say they’ve noticed a change in their cycles since switching. Can’t say I have but I definitely feel better in general wearing cloth. Thanks for commenting.

      • anitaswelt February 4, 2014 at 21:47

        Yup, I also often read that. Mine is not only lighter but the cramps are totally gone – just awesome 🙂 I’m happy but sometimes I’m a bit sad because I wish having known about cloth pads when I started menstruating.

  5. MrsB February 5, 2014 at 00:05 Reply

    I LOVE these! However I will not be parted from my Moon cup! Great to know that many more people embrace the reusable lifestyle.

    • The Pie Patch February 5, 2014 at 07:45 Reply

      I know a lot of ladies who swear by their cups. It’s not for me but it’s great that at least one reusable product is becoming more well-known. If you like the pretty fabrics of CSPs, did you know you can buy little wet bags and coasters for cups too? I’m told the coasters are really handy if you’re using a public loo & there’s often nowhere clean to put the cup down while you change it.

      • MrsB February 5, 2014 at 12:47

        No I did not know about the coasters – that’s a great idea! Thanks for sharing.

  6. How to be a superhero | thepiepatch February 8, 2014 at 13:58 Reply

    […] on from my post about cloth sanitary pads (CSPs), I wanted to share with you a few other ways you can reduce your household waste AND fill […]

  7. Mrstuteyblog February 11, 2014 at 19:07 Reply

    i have done it. i have ordered 2 pads from eco rainbow to try. if i get in with them i figured if i ordered 2 ish a month i would have a stash in no time. 🙂 thank you for such an informative post.

    • The Pie Patch February 11, 2014 at 19:10 Reply

      Yay! Good on you! Which fabric did you choose? I hope they suit you. It can take a few purchases to get to know what you like. And the buying is the best bit! 🙂

      • Mrstuteyblog February 11, 2014 at 19:14

        i chose a cotton one and a minky one. 🙂 will let you know how you get on.

      • The Pie Patch February 11, 2014 at 19:19

        Oh, good. Can’t wait to hear. Thanks for coming back to tell me!

  8. MummyOfSeven February 17, 2014 at 17:18 Reply

    I don’t often menstruate any more since I have the Depo jab every ten weeks. I wish I’d known about these when I was having my children though. The weeks after giving birth is hard enough on the body, without the added stress of developing an itchy rash caused by the sanitary pads.
    I have two teenage daughters. They’re a bit prissy about things like this, but I’ll certainly keep it in mind for when they’re a little older.
    Great post. Thank you.

    • The Pie Patch February 17, 2014 at 17:37 Reply

      I know a lot of women swear by the postpartum cloth pads. Better coverage & much comfier than disposables. And don’t get me started on the rash! I wish I’d known about cloth pads years ago.

      My oldest daughter is only 7 but she saw a picture of a Dr Who tardis print pad last week & is now excited about the prospect of cloth pads! Maybe find some cool prints to show your girls?

  9. Sarah M March 7, 2014 at 12:25 Reply

    What a fab blog!! I have and love my eco rainbow CSP 🙂 In today’s society where people are so hell bent on everything being quick and disposable I think they seem to forget that going back 50/100 years that reusable items were the only ones available for both nappies and ladies sanitary protection! If I am lucky enough in the future to have any daughters I will certainly be introducing them to CSP when they start to menstruate 🙂 xx

    • The Pie Patch March 7, 2014 at 12:27 Reply

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. My 7 yr old already has her eye on some fun prints she’d like when the time comes!

  10. rachelradiostar March 22, 2014 at 08:36 Reply

    Here from The Kraken.
    Wow, I’m 42 and never even knew these existed! I want some! The patterns are gorgeous. Today’s mission is now find and buy a few to try. I wish I knew about these earlier! Now I’m going back to read and note the ones you’ve recommended! Great post. Cheers!

    • The Pie Patch March 22, 2014 at 08:44 Reply

      Yay! Hello, Kraken. My blogging hero! Thanks for reading. I’m properly turning into a bit of a hippy muff activist coz the vast majority of women don’t know there are alternatives, me included til last year!

      I’d say start with whichever disposable you use & find a cloth pad with a similar length & absorbancy. Then work from there. Buy a few in different fabrics from different makers & see how you get on. There are pages where you can sell on any you don’t like so you’ll get some money back for buying more. Let me know how it goes!

  11. […] is a follow-up to my previous post about cloth sanitary pads (CSPs), which you can read here. That is an introductory “how-to” type piece and is probably our most popular blog post […]

  12. familyfever April 14, 2014 at 12:57 Reply

    I have used cloth nappies on my babies for years, but I have no idea why using CSP hasn’t occured to me before? I am tempted to give it a go – there seem to be so many rave reviews! #bloggingmumscarnival

    • The Pie Patch April 14, 2014 at 13:01 Reply

      I don’t know anyone who has gone back to disposables after trying cloth. Give it a go! Even if you just buy one or two pads to start with. Let me know how it goes!

  13. Jaime Oliver April 15, 2014 at 11:21 Reply

    OMG this sounds amazing! although i have an implant i dotnt tend to have many periods but when i do disposable products tend to give me thrush! these are an amazing idea and i am going to look into them! thank you xxx #bloggingmumscarnival

    • The Pie Patch April 15, 2014 at 11:24 Reply

      You’re welcome. I love reading comments like this. I’ve heard a lot of stories of recurring thrush from disposables that massively improves or disappears altogether after using cloth. Good luck. Let me know how you get on!

  14. Jade Pirard (Late For Reality) April 16, 2014 at 10:29 Reply

    I am hoping to be reviewing some of these for a new company soon so was fantastic to read your post. Most people I mention it to have said ‘eww’ including the other half who advised they are not being washed with his clothes (men!) but I think they are a great idea, I use tampons but would feel reassured wearing one of the pantyliners for leaks and for those last couple of days where a tampon isn’t necessary or comfortable. Great post! #bloggingmumscarnival

    • The Pie Patch April 16, 2014 at 17:34 Reply

      I have a few pads on the way for review too. I honestly haven’t had any negative reactions at all yet! If you prefer tampons but like the idea of a reusable alternative, you might get on well with a menstrual cup. There are lots of different brands, Mooncup is probably the most well known.

  15. Lorraine September 23, 2014 at 15:25 Reply

    Thank you for your interesting article. I am completely new to cloth pads and I was wondering: if you use for example cotton pads, doesn’t it feel “wet”? Like it would feel when you would just wear a cotton panty?
    Also, the link you have in this article to another post of yours with a list of sellers you have bought from, doesn’t work. Could you name some of the sellers once more? Thank you so much!

    • The Pie Patch September 23, 2014 at 16:26 Reply

      Hi, Lorraine. Thanks for reading. I’ve had a fiddle with the link. Hopefully it’ll work for you now.

      Personally I find cotton very dry and fresh feeling, particularly in the summer. Most makers use excellent absorbent materials for the central core so any wetness sinks into it fairly quickly. Of course, if you’ve been wearing the pad for several hours on a heavy day, it will feel wet but that’s your cue to change to a new pad! Admittedly if you are a very fast bleeder, cotton may not work as well for you. A sudden gush might not have a chance to absorb quickly enough and could lead to leaks. If that’s the case, I’d recommend minky or bamboo velour – they have a longer, fluffier pile to trap fluid and absorb faster. Hope that helps but do let me know if you have any other questions! 🙂

      • Lorraine September 25, 2014 at 14:55

        The link works now, thanks for fixing it!
        Thank you so much for your clear answer. As I said I’m completely new to the world of cloth pads, so I’m reading and learning a lot these days about this subject. If I have anyh other questions I will surely come back to your site, I find it very useful!

  16. Amy April 2, 2015 at 10:45 Reply

    Thanks for the great article – am going to start sewing my own soon 😀 For people who are keen to keep using tampons – apparently you can buy/make crochet reusable tampons! Who knew!

    • The Pie Patch April 2, 2015 at 12:19 Reply

      Yes! I’ve seen them before but never tried making them. And sea sponges are a good alternative too.

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