A lot of people ask about how much work is involved in using cloth sanitary pads (CSPs). Are the used pads messy to deal with? Is there a lot of extra washing involved? Do they take ages to dry? They worry about all of these things and it can put people off from making the switch.
I’ve also seen threads on some of the AMPs (alternative menstrual products) forums talking about rinsing each pad immediately after use, then soaking in a pail of water (sometimes with extra cleaning products added) and having to drain and change that water every day until wash day.
Now of course everyone has their own way of doing things and whatever works for you and keeps your pads stain-free is absolutely ok by me. It’s really none of my business.
But I’m lazy. I have enough laundry to do with a husband and two kids (the youngest still wearing cloth nappies at night). So all this rinsing and soaking? Too. Much. Faff.
We are also on a water meter now, which means our bill isn’t estimated any more. We pay for exactly how much water we use. So filling a bucket with clean water every day for a week each month would make quite a difference to our bill.
So here is my lazy guide to caring for your CSPs. This is how I do it and it works for me.
While I’m on my period I have a zip-up wet bag hanging on the back of the loo door. When I change my pad, I fold the used one in half (messy side facing inwards) and zip it into the wet bag. Easy.
My period was always seven days long. For the last few months it has been five days long. Either way, I store my pads in the wet bag until the end of my period. Contrary to common opinion, they don’t smell, they don’t go mouldy, and it doesn’t set the stain into the fabric.
I unzip the wet bag and put the whole thing into the washing machine. I don’t have to touch the used pads at all. I also wash any out-and-about wet bags I might’ve used during the week. I can usually throw a load of nappies and washable wet wipes in at the same time so I’m not running a whole wash cycle just for a dozen or so pads. You can even chuck them in with your towels or do a separate wash just for your pads, if you prefer.
I wash the pads on 30 or 40 degrees, using half a cap of non-bio liquid and a tablespoon of soda crystals in the main wash section of the drawer.
NO fabric conditioner because it can cling to the fabric and reduce its absorbency. Then I set the machine to do a pre-wash, main wash, then an extra rinse cycle.
3. STAIN BUSTING
Occasionally when the machine has finished there’ll be a pad that has a slight stain. If this happens, I rub on a tiny bit of Ecover stain stick while it’s still wet and leave it for a few minutes before doing another mini wash cycle.
I’ve recently bought a bottle of Ruby’s Red Wash, which is an American product specifically for blood stains that is slowly being stocked by some UK sellers. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet but my pal Tamsin has and had good results. You can read her review here.
If either of these fail, leaving the pad out in the sun for a good few hours can help to naturally bleach out the mark.
Most of the time I hang my pads out on the washing line. Even the heaviest night pads dry within a few hours on a clear day.
In the winter it isn’t always possible. As long as your pads don’t have a waterproof PUL layer, they can usually be tumble dried. Some makers say it’s ok to tumble dry their pads, even with a PUL layer. Many makers send out washing instructions with their products so it’s worth referring to that info if you have it. We don’t have a tumble dryer so I lay my pads flat on a clothes airer and they still dry fairly quickly within 24 hours.
So there you have it. Not as complicated as you thought? Using cloth has so many benefits for your health and for the environment so it really needn’t be a chore. Any questions?