Make the Switch: Reusable Menstrual Pads


If you menstruate, you will typically use between 12,000 to 16,000 disposable menstrual products during your lifetime, and recent research suggests that this can add up to a staggering £18,000.


And it's not just your wallet that takes a hit: most pads contain polyethylene plastic which is a harmful pollutant, and many tampons contain chemicals such as dioxin, chlorine and rayon. Sitting in landfill, these chemicals can soak into the earth and enter groundwater. These disposable products also take hundreds of years to degrade, breaking down into micro-plastics that can now be found in drinking water, food chains, and some of the most remote places on earth.


Reusable menstrual pads are just one of several more sustainable alternatives to traditional period products. Similar in shape to disposable pads, reusable pads are designed to be washed and reused. They are usually made with a soft cotton top layer, an absorbent microfibre core, and a leak-proof PUL material backing. In this blog, we discuss some of the common questions that new reusable pads users ask, including:


  • How do reusable pads stay in place?

  • How do I know which pad is right for me?

  • How do I wash my pads and keep them stain free?

  • How do I dispose of a reusable pad?


How do reusable pads stay in place?

While disposable menstrual pads have a sticky strip on the back to help glue them to your underwear and stop them from moving around, you won't find adhesive on reusable pads, so they need to be worn a little differently.


The absorbent cotton material goes against your skin, and the waterproof layer sits against your underwear. Generally, the sides of the pad fold around the gusset of your underwear and close underneath with press-studs. If you're new to reusable pads, you may find that your pad moves around or rotates - especially when walking - but teaming the pad with the right type of underwear is key to keeping everything in place.


To stop a pad from slipping from side to side, or moving forward and back, think about the underwear you're wearing it with. They must be substantial enough to keep things in place - for example, if your pants are baggy or loose, the pads are more likely to move around. Choose a pair of pants that fit snugly to your body. It's important to also think about design - if your pants have frilly edges, they will have more 'give' in them and offer less for the pads to firmly grip around.


Another point to consider is the width of the gusset of your pants. If the gusset is narrower than the width of the closed pad, you might find that your pad spins around as it has nothing to 'grip' on to. Ideally, the best pants to wear with reusable pads will have a gusset that is around 1cm wider than the width of the closed pads. Again, a little trial and error is needed here too and the 'perfect pants' will vary depending on the brand and style of reusable pads you are using. Having a slightly wider crotch will also mean that the underwear material will bunch together a little when the pad closes around it - this added friction will further help keep the pad in place.


How do I know which pad is right for me?


Reusable pads come in many shapes, sizes and thicknesses. Reading reviews can be a good place to start, as you can learn a lot from other people's experiences. Just like disposable pads, you will also find reusable pads suitable for light, regular and heavy flow, as well as for overnight use. Trying out one pad in each size is advisable before investing in more. Switching to reusable pads for light flow to begin with is another good way of easing in to using these products, before trying them during regular or heavy flow. In general, reusable pads should be changed when they start to feel wet next to your skin, so depending on your needs, this might mean changing the pad once a day, or more frequently. Many people find that reusable pads are much more absorbent than disposables. It can take a bit of trial and error to find which size pad works best for you and when, but once you have that bit sorted, it's a great feeling knowing you won't need to buy any more menstrual products for years!



How do I wash my pads and keep them stain free?

To avoid stains, it's important to rinse your pads through thoroughly soon after use with cold water (hot water will set stains) until the water runs clear. If you aren't putting a wash on right away, the rinsed pads can be folded in half and put in a waterproof bag until wash day (although it is advisable to wash them within 48 hours to minimise the chance of stains). Most reusable pads are best washed at 40 degrees maximum in a machine, or alternatively, they can be hand washed.


TOP TIPS: Use non-bio liquid or powder as biological formulas can damage certain fabrics, including bamboo. Don't add fabric softener to the wash as this can create a film on fabric that makes it repel liquid - not what we need!


After washing, your pads can be air dried. If you choose to tumble dry them, do so on a cold setting (just like hot water, the heat of the dryer will set any stains that remain after washing your pads). Tumble drying can slightly shrink your pads and the "rough and tumble" of regular tumble drying can reduce the lifespan of fabric or stitching over time.


How do I dispose of a reusable pad?


On average, reusable menstrual pads last around five years (if they are well cared for, they can last longer - see above for care instructions). Considering how many disposable products would have been used during that time, it is pretty incredible to think of how much waste you have kept out of landfill!


When you feel the time is right to replace your worn out pads, you will need to deconstruct them. Mixed materials are often not recycled and end up going to landfill. If you separate out each part, you can responsibly dispose of each component . Remove the press studs first, which you can recycle with plastic or metal, depending on the type of pad - you can find an easy removal technique in this video. Next you need to unpick the stitching to separate the different material layers.


If you aren't sure which materials you can recycle or where, organisations such as the Textile Recycling Association can point you in the right direction. Some layers can go to textile recycling while others - for example, if the cotton section of your pad is organic - can be composted.

If you're ready to give reusable menstrual pads a try, our small pads are a great place to start (for light flow) and you can work your way up to different pad sizes from there. Alternatively, we offer starter packs with a small, regular and overnight pad, so you can find out what works best for you, and when.

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