Making the Switch to Reusable Menstrual Products

When I first got my period at age 12, all I knew about was the standard disposable pads and tampons, and I experimented with an assortment of them into my adulthood. I was never thrilled with them — the pads were goopy and crinkly and sometimes leaked around the edges; the tampons dried me out and trickled down the string and got painful to pull out toward the end of my cycle — but that was all there was. Right?

The first time I heard about alternative menstrual products that were reusable, I was intrigued but also a little icked out. Wouldn’t it be gross to have to rinse out a cup or launder cloth pads?

Then I gave them a try, and there’s no going back. Not just because reusable menstrual products are more sustainable — but because they’re awesome!

Here’s an overview of why to switch to reusables and what’s available. I encourage you to give one or more a try, choosing the style that’s right for you. Care for them is simpler than you think, and the increase in comfort is unbeatable.

WHY REUSABLES?

You’ll see some of the specific reasons as you delve into the different styles of reusable products below. Most offer increased comfort and safety, some offer less mess, and a lot are far more attractive than what they’re replacing.

Sustainability

However, the environmental reasons to switch from disposables are staggering. Here are some facts and figures:

From use of disposable feminine hygiene, an estimated 12 billion sanitary pads and 7 billion tampons are dumped into the North American environment each year (1998). More than 170,000 tampon applicators were collected along U.S. coastal areas between 1998 and 1999.

[DivaCup]

And how many disposable products are you contributing to that mess? More than you might think!

Women, on average, experience a lifetime menstruation span of 41 years (11-52). … For argument’s sake, let’s pick the figure of 4 tampons/pads per day, for 5 days. That’s 20 disposable products per cycle. Twelve cycles per year equals 240 tampons/pads per year. Okay, now if you menstruate for 41 years…that’s close to 10,000 tampons/pads you’ll use in your lifetime!

[DivaCup]

If you’ve been thinking it’s gross to handle the blood in reusable products, remember that “disposable” products are not disappearing products. That blood from all those users still exists … in our landfills, and going who knows where else from there.

Consider as well the costs in energy and water, and the effects on our air and land, when you take into account the manufacturing, packaging, transport fuel, waste disposal, and other elements of making, using, and throwing away so many items.

Affordability

Think also of a more personal cost: to your pocketbook. There’s an upfront investment to some sustainable menstrual products, but you’ll recoup your investment within as little as a couple cycles or, at most, a few years, and many of the items last for five years or more. You can make the cost almost negligible by making your own creations and reusing scrap material you already have at home.

Assuming you bought disposable products on sale, changed your pad or tampon (but not both) five times a day for five days, you might be able to keep your costs to $4.50 per cycle. (Many consumers would spend more.) Over a year, that would be $54, and in 41 years, over $2,200. A usable set of new, name-brand pads can cost under $100, perhaps up to $300 for a deluxe or heavy-flow set. A menstrual cup plus a few pantiliners will run around $50 or $60. These items can last five years or more. Over time, you will come out ahead, and any money you are spending is probably going to smaller, sustainable businesses, perhaps WAHM-led, rather than the big paper manufacturers.

I’ve also found reusable products to be space saving, not to have bulky boxes of disposables to cram into my bathroom cabinets. Easier on the wallet and a step toward simplifying!

Health

Disposable tampons seem to carry a higher risk of toxic shock syndrome due to their inclusion of bacteria-happy rayon and, not as frequently now, dioxins from chlorine bleaching.

Disposable tampons and pads are not sterile, so there’s no reason in that sense to prefer them over reusable products where you control the washing.

If you’re having any vulvar or vaginal irritation, paper products with their rough surfaces and chemical residues are likely only to make it worse. Think about it: Would you rather wear paper underwear or something soft and smooth like cotton? Why wouldn’t you want the same pressed against or within your most delicate tissues?

Disposable pads and tampons are made from many of the same materials used in making disposable diapers — bleached pulp or viscose rayon from tree cellulose, super-absorbent acrylic polymers and gels, and plastic backings (a petroleum product) — if you’re a cloth diaper devotee and realize the hazards and costs of disposable diapers, switching to cloth for yourself might suddenly seem easier!

Another user-submitted upside to reusable and natural products is that periods can be or at least seem lighter and of less duration, with less cramping as well. Whether that’s your experience or not, it can’t hurt to try!

 
If you’re convinced there’s value in swapping out your disposables for reusables, here’s what’s available to try:

MENSTRUAL CUPS

DivaCup menstrual cup with baglet
Menstrual cups are inserted internally and catch the blood, needing to be emptied regularly. Depending on flow, you can go up to twelve hours before emptying, though some people need to empty them more frequently.

I first started using a disposable menstrual cup (using the same one for my entire cycle) until I realized they made reusable menstrual cups that you could use for many cycles (for years), which was preferable.

Choices

Here are the most popular reusable brands available:

You can purchase any of these cups in Amazon’s personal care section, at the individual sites above, or at women’s or natural stores locally or online. For instance, our natural foods store carries a selection, and our sponsor GladRags does as well.

Menstrual cups come in different sizes, usually one that’s slightly smaller for younger users or those who haven’t gone through childbirth, and one that’s slightly larger. The difference in size isn’t substantial, but it’s best to read the information and reviews thoroughly to make sure you get the one you want.

They also come made of different materials, although many are of healthcare-grade silicone, which is safe for allergy-prone individuals.

Upsides

Cups can take a little bit of fiddling to get comfortable, but by a few cycles in, and perhaps with some judicious web surfing to learn the best techniques, you’ll be a pro. I love the long time I can go between emptying my DivaCup; I just empty it once in the morning and then again at night before bed. If I’m near a handy faucet, I rinse it out with cold water before putting it back in, but if not (such as in a public restroom), it’s OK to put it back in after it’s simply emptied into the toilet. You might be surprised at how much collects during your cycle, but emptying it isn’t unduly disturbing. My four-year-old actually thinks it’s kinda neat, and who could blame him?

The care for your cup between cycles is a gentle wash and (ideally) a short boil on the stove to disinfect it. Many users are known to skip that step, but it’s a particularly good idea if you’re prone to infections.

I also love how the cup doesn’t affect the rest of my internal moisture, keeping me comfortable my whole cycle long. It’s less messy than pads, and the odor is kept to a minimum, since blood smells only when exposed to oxygen. I rarely leak, and usually only a few drops toward the beginning of my cycle from blood that was already below the cup when I inserted it.

‘Becca in the comments mentioned that she likes that the cup doesn’t allow absorption of water during a bath or swimming.

Downsides

You have to be comfortable with sticking fingers inside yourself and just in general becoming intimate with your body — this is not a bad thing, though. Reusable cups are somewhat of an upfront investment, running about $35-$40 full price, though over time the savings is obvious. It’s challenging to impossible to have vaginally penetrating intercourse with most types of menstrual cup inserted, though some have tried.

The biggest complaint about cups, though, is that it takes some time to get used to putting it in and pulling it out, and you might even need to try more than one cup to find the right one for you. Some tips on those fronts:

  • Cut the stem down to a comfortable level so it doesn’t scratch you. I also filed mine smooth. Some people use theirs to help pull it out; I found mine completely useless since I just grasp the sides once I’ve pushed it down within grabbing distance.
  • Fold the cup up tightly before inserting. Here are some very useful pictures of various folds to try. I prefer the first, the “C” fold. Don’t be delicate about squishing it up tight, whichever you choose.
  • As you’re inserting your folded cup, begin to rotate it, letting it unfold inside you. Push it up further if it feels too low.
  • Don’t be afraid to take it back out and try again if it feels uncomfortable.
  • To get it out, bear down like you’re pooping or birthing a baby. Stick a finger up the side to break the seal. You will not lose a cup inside yourself; that’s physically impossible, so don’t worry about it. It shouldn’t hurt to pull it out, so break the suction if it’s painful.
  • Make sure you clean out the side holes (if your cup has one) before reinserting. This will help make sure it seals properly inside you.
  • Sometimes I have an “off” cycle where nothing I do makes it feel right, and then the next cycle everything’s fine again. Don’t fret about that. Just try again the next month! You’ll love it probably 95% of the time.

CLOTH PADS

cloth menstrual pads from GladRags
Once I had a reusable cup, I knew the next step was trying out reusable pads. For some reason, I was more squeamish about this step. I was picturing uncomfortable wads of smelly rag between my thighs. The modern reality is discreet, plush, and — dare I say it? — even chic.

Choices

There are so many options for menstrual pads out there. For one, you could make your own, either going the super easy route of folding up some absorbent material into your underpants (yes, it’s that easy — just don’t drop it in the toilet!1) or constructing bona fide pads with wings and other fine features from patterns available online or in your imagination. Materials for pads include something absorbent (of course), which could be cotton, hemp, wool, bamboo, microfiber, or the like, and, optionally, a water-resistant barrier for the back such as fleece or PUL.

There are also many commercially available pads. A few from well-known but still small and admirable companies are GladRags (an NPN sponsor), Lunapads, Party in My Pants (NPN giveaway here!), New Moon Pads, Willowpads, Mother of Eden, and Mommy’s Touch. Many cloth diaper companies also offer mama cloth, such as Knickernappies, Sckoon, Imse Vimse, and FuzziBunz. You can find a nice selection on Amazon. There are also a ton of fabulous WAHP-run sellers on Etsy, eBay, and HyenaCart.

What style, absorbency level, and materials you like is up to you. Fortunately, it’s easy to mix and match as you build a good set! There are day pads, pads for heavy flow (even ones suited to overnights or postpartum), pads that fit bikinis and thongs, longer-coverage pads and teensy panty liners, pads with and without wings, pads that swap in liners and pads that are simple all-in-ones. You can even buy specially made padded underwear in stain-camouflaging colors.2

Upsides

Cloth pads are comfortable! I can’t emphasize that enough. At first, I thought they felt bulkier than the disposables I was used to, but soon (within minutes) they just felt like underwear. The cloth moves with your body and is silent, unlike the crinkly paper and plastic of disposables. The cloth is also more breathable and less odorous, I find. It won’t tug or pull at tender tissue or stitches (such as postpartum).

Cloth pads are pretty. There are so many fabric colors and patterns to choose from, making you glad you’ll be seeing them every month.

Care for pads is so much easier than I’d feared. I just rinse or soak them in cold water to help with staining (this is optional), then toss them into either a cloth diaper wash or a regular wash, at whatever temperature. (I’ve had no problems either way.) They can usually be either machine or line dried. If stains bug you, a squirt of Bac-Out ahead of time will help, as will choosing busy or dark fabrics.

Downsides

You might find you need to change your cloth pads more frequently than disposables, particularly if you have a heavy flow. Some pads don’t have waterproofing at all, and though I haven’t found this to be a problem, that sort of thing might make you nervous as you first get used to the rhythm of changing cloth pads.

While I stand behind my assertion that regular cloth pads are not more obtrusive than disposables, the heavier flow, overnight, and postpartum varieties can become ludicrously large so are perhaps not the kind you want to sport when you’re trying to set a mood.

Cloth pads can sometimes migrate. Many commercial and other well-made brands have wings with one or more set of snaps to go around the crotch of your undies to help hold them in place, though the required width to be snug can vary depending on underwear choice. A Facebook commenter suggested safety pinning the front of the pad to the underwear if migration is a problem. I also find some fabrics stay more firmly in place than others.

The initial cost of cloth pads can cause sticker shock, but consider that you can use them for years, or make your own to save some dough. Consider also that you’re supporting smaller, sustainable businesses with your purchase.

Changing out cloth pads on the go will require use of some sort of baggie or wet bag system, so you’ll want to plan ahead.

And you do have to wash them, but if you’re doing laundry anyway, it’s no biggie. Plus, you can easily wash them in the sink if you’re sans machine.

SEA SPONGES

Sea Pearls Reusable Sea Sponge Tampons
If you’re a tampon fan, sea sponges are an intriguing substitute. They are actual sea sponges that you insert to absorb the flow, just like a … sponge.

I have never used sea sponges, so I direct you to my favorite review of them at Raising My Boychick, a thorough recounting of her experience therewith, and the article I’m basing most of this section on.

Choices

Your choices are Jade and Pearl Sea Pearls (also available at Amazon, natural stores locally, or places like GladRags), Jam Sponge in the UK, or potentially using a generic (clean!) and appropriately sized sea sponge for the purpose.

You simply pre-moisten the sponge, squeeze it smaller, and push it into place. It expands inside near the cervix to collect the flow until it’s full, at which point you can rinse it out and reinsert it.

Upsides

Sponges are inserted internally, so they are fully discreet as you go about your beeswax. If you’re a tampon user now and don’t relish the thought of a cup, this might be just the right next step for you.

They come in different sizes for various absorbencies. Sea Pearls are sustainably harvested and guaranteed free of toxins. They’re reusable for three to six months or more. They are wetted before use to be nice and soft, and they don’t dry out your normal moisture the way tampons do. This means they also likely don’t leave you at as much risk for toxic shock syndrome as tampons, since the bacteria in TSS need to get into the body through abrasions.

The sea sponge needs to be changed about every 4-6 hours, like other tampons. It reportedly becomes heavier and descends slightly as it fills, which will alert you that it’s time to squeeze it out. Care for them is easy enough: rinsing with water during use, and sanitizing with something like vinegar or hydrogen peroxide in between cycles.

I have been told you can have penetrative sex with these in — score! You can also swim and … well, whatever you want!

Jessica in the comments also mentioned that sea sponges are fully biodegradable and can be thrown into your compost pile when you’re done using them.

Downsides

Sea sponges aren’t reusable as long as cloth pads or most menstrual cups, but they do last for several cycles, and the cost of around $13-$15 for two makes them comparable to or cheaper than disposable tampons for the same three- to six-month duration. As with cups, you need to be willing to navigate your own vagina and not squeamish about rinsing out blood.

Emptying one in a public restroom could be tricky, which means you might need to have a wetbag or baggie on hand, plus extra clean ones to insert.

Sea sponges are technically animal skeletons, so you might consider the ethics of using them if that affects your value system.

REUSABLE TAMPONS

Washable Cloth Tampon instructions download
Another option I discovered on the site EcoMenses (which is a fabulous source of information on all reusable menstrual products) is washable tampons. They can be made out of absorbent fabric (such as cotton, bamboo, wool, or hemp), or knitted or crocheted out of absorbent yarn (cotton, bamboo, or wool). They are inserted vaginally, like disposable tampons, or worn interlabially, as a sort of hybrid between a tampon and pad.

Choices

There aren’t many reusable tampons on the market that I could find. There are a few on Etsy and Honour Your Flow in the UK.

It’s easy to make your own, though. You basically need rolled-up absorbent material, with or without a retrieval string attached. Born to Love suggests using baby socks. With a Tangled Skein offers three options: rolled fabric with ribbon, a knitted drawstring with inner batting, and a knitted roll. Fern & Faerie sells a 50-cent pattern of a “stuffable” design for knitting, crocheting, and no-sew methods (seen in the picture).

Upsides

As with cloth pads, cloth tampons must last quite a long time before needing to be retired. They also are quite cheap, considering you’re likely going to have to make them yourself.

Advocates report similar absorbency to disposable tampons once you’ve determined how much material you need.

EcoMenses suggests that cotton tampons would have a lower risk of TSS than commercial disposable tampons, which are made with bacteria-friendly rayon threads.

Interlabial pads can be useful for overnight when otherwise blood sometimes “channels” up the buttocks and causes leaks, as EcoMenses points out.

Downsides

It’s hard to find commercially available reusable tampons; however, making them yourself (particularly if you go for less fancy designs) should be fairly simple and inexpensive. You can even use scraps of fabric.

You’ll have to be comfortable inserting the tampons with your fingers, or you’ll need to rig some sort of applicator device, and you’ll need to be comfortable removing them manually if you don’t attach a retrieval string.

As with all tampons, the material will absorb all secretions, which might make you chafe toward the end of your cycle.

FREE BLEEDING

Butterflies menstrual blood
If you’re just considering more eco-friendly menstrual options, this final possibility might be too far out there even to consider, but I present it in the interests of thoroughness and also because it’s kind of cool. Some people prefer not to catch or absorb their blood at all and just allow it to flow.

I found interesting links on the subject at EcoMenses and especially appreciated the information on All About My Vagina: “Free Bleeding” and The Museum of Menstruation and Women’s Health: “What did women use for menstruation in Europe and America from 1700 – 1900, and probably earlier?” and “What did European and American women use for menstruation in the 19th century and before?”

Choices

Free bleeding has quite a range. If you live in a naturist commune or a home with dirt or straw floors, you might get away with wearing nothing at all. However, there are options even if you wear Western clothing and have upholstered furniture that you wish to sit on at some point during the day.

If your bleeding is light enough, you can make frequent trips to the toilet to expel and wipe. (I do find that bearing down helps “empty” things out temporarily, though I’m not otherwise a free bleeder … yet.) You can wear thicker or appropriately colored underwear (such as Lunapanties, which would be easy enough to engineer from a pair of your own red or black underwear by reinforcing the gusset), or no undies but a voluminous skirt or underskirt.

You might sit on a towel, puddle pad, or something like a Lunablanket (presumably many elimination communication families have something appropriate), or even outside, if you’re at home, then wear other protection when out or around other people. You might choose to bleed freely only at night or in the shower, when you can wear no clothing and have a towel handy.

Upsides

The benefits to free bleeding is feeling very, I suppose, free. You’re not tied to having a product around, and you can get to know your flow intimately.

You are not introducing any potentially hazardous and, at any rate, foreign entities into your vulvar or vaginal areas.

You might have nothing to wash except for the clothing you were going to wash anyway.

You might discover a new trust in your body.

Downsides

You might make a huge mess, particularly if you’re a heavy bleeder. I could see this being especially challenging to pull off if you’re not in a red tent for the week but are instead running errands, nursing a little one on the couch, sitting cross-legged on the floor to play blocks with your preschooler, going to work in nice clothes, etc. However, I could totally get on board with a little free bleeding at more relaxed times, such as at night and toward the end of a cycle.

I didn’t realize it, but I apparently already free bleed at the end of my cycles, when I pull out my DivaCup for the last time, put on some hot pink undies, and let things manage themselves. I haven’t yet made a bad decision about when to switch over to this method, and I’ve been pleased at how much of the final bleeding stays tucked within until I wipe.

 
When you switch to reusable menstrual options, it’s easier on the environment, yes — but it’s also easier on you. You’ll soon realize how deceptive the advertising is for the disposable products. If you’re anything like me, you’ll feel more comfortable, assured, frugal, grounded, and eco-minded if you only give one or more of the above options a try.

Have you tried any reusable menstrual options? How do you like them? Did I leave any out? Feel free to make a case for your favorite options or brands!

 

Disclosure: GladRags is an advertising sponsor,
and we have hosted giveaways for
some of the various products mentioned,
but we are posting on this topic independently.
You can see some of our menstrual product reviews here.
Amazon, GladRags, and eBay links are affiliate links.
We try to seek out only products we think you would find
relevant and useful to your life as a natural parent.
See our full disclosure policy here.
  1. I’m speaking from experience here in an ill-fated experiment with a washcloth.
  2. I’m wearing some right now. TMI?

About The Author: Lauren Wayne

Hobo Mama Hobo_Mama My NPN Posts

Lauren Wayne is a co-founder of Natural Parents Network. She works and writes at home with her husband, Crackerdog Sam, and their sons, Mikko and Alrik. Lauren blogs about natural and attachment parenting at Hobo Mama, offers reviews and giveaways of natural parenting products at Hobo Mama Reviews, and gives a behind-the scenes look at blogging and writing at LaurenWayne.com. Lauren co-hosts the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting and is the author of Poetry of a Hobo Mama: The First Three Years and What Will We Learn Today? You can find Lauren on Twitter, Facebook, her , her Google+ page, and Pinterest.

63 Responses to Making the Switch to Reusable Menstrual Products

  1. The Happy Womb  

    Great review of products, thanks Lauren. I have yet to make the shift to reusuable… But the more I read, the more I’m tempted.

    The topic of periods has been much on my mind these past few months as I have been putting together my first book Moon Time: A guide to celebrating your menstrual cycle. Doing the final proof today, it should be available in paperback in mid Feb from Amazon.com and in e-book from this weekend from The Happy Womb.com

    Lucy Pearce(also of Dreaming Aloud!)

  2. MrsWJAA

    I love my reuseable products:)

    I’ve used sea sponges in the past (when I had a job where I had free access to a private restroom) and loved them. You do have to be careful about laughing/caughing/etc. when they are nearly full though or you will have a temporary gush. I always wore liners with them for that reason.
    I am currently weighing my options on a cup, but until I find one I really like, I’ll keep using my cloth pads.
    -A note to anyone that wants to try cloth pads: Order one pad (or a small sample of pads) from the company that you want to try, because you may find that their particular style isn’t comfortable to you. This way you aren’t spending a lot on a style you don’t like and won’t use.

    • Lauren  

      That’s good to know about sponges, and a great tip for pads! I know a lot of companies have small sample packs available, and I’ve seen specials where some will comp you a liner to try out.

  3. Valerie

    Yep yep yep. I wish I had known about these products years ago, because they are not only greener but also much better. I use a cup and have done for 4 years and I have just made my own pads to re-use and they seem great. I tried the softcup for a month or so, but went back to the mooncup which I much prefer. The only thing I would mention for women trying the mooncup for the first time is to make sure you trim the stem enough and don’t be too timid with insertion. I was very uncomfortable the first few times, then a bit of re-arranging and it was brilliant. Thanks for the post.
    V
    xxx

  4. Laura

    Thanks for this article! I’m thinking about switching to a diva or something similar and this gave me alot to think about, esp since I have been having problems with tampons since since the birth of one of my kids.

  5. Nadia

    Wonderful review. I had never heard of free bleeding, and oddly enough it doesn’t irk me as much as it would have a few years ago. I’ve come a long way.

    I tried the Diva cup a while back and it was a disaster. I know you can’t technically lose it in your body but mine did get “sucked” up and I had a very hard time getting it out. Very hard. I was freaked out and never tried again. I haven’t had a period in almost 3 yrs (yay for extended breastfeeding) but when I do, I plan on mustering the courage to try it again…

    So, here’s a question. If the stem is useless, why do they even add one?

    • Lauren  

      Oh, no, it must feel frightening not to be able to retrieve it. One other tip I read was, in a case like that, to leave it alone for half an hour or hour or so in case trying to retrieve it has caused any slight swelling of those tissues. I hope it’s easier for you next time! Why the stem? I have no idea. Honestly. Maybe the manufacture process? Bizarre to me.

      I am, by the way, so jealous of your three years without a period. I got my period back at 6 months postpartum with my first, and 3 months (!!!!) with my second, barely after my lochia had ended. I was so mad. This was with exclusive breastfeeding on cue and cosleeping, too. Ah, well, at least it gives me fodder for articles like this. :)

      • Michaela  

        I use the Diva Cup and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for myself! However, from what I’ve read, the stem is supposed to help with removal since it’s easier to grip than the rounded base when it’s placed up inside. It’s helped me get mine out for sure.

      • Lauren  

        Thanks, Michaela! I rechecked the FAQ, and you’re right that it says the stem can help for retrieval. Huh! I’ve changed that in the article. It does say not to use it to rotate it when inserting, so that must be what I was remembering. Go figure!

    • Samantha Kirkpatrick

      So for those of you who occasionally have your sponge/cup/tampon sucked up too deeply for you to comfortably reach I have found that squatting really low or laying on your back with your legs spread like in the missionary position drastically shortens the vaginal canal and makes it SUPER easy to remove. Sometimes my bf takes me by surprise and after I find my sponge is as deep in my vagina as it can be and just squatting with my feet on the bathtub’s walls makes removal super easy.

  6. Rachael  

    Fab post- totally covers EVERYTHING!!! I’m a UK organic cloth pad maker…been promoting and making cloth pads for 20 years now, but also sell Moon sponges and cups cos it’s great for women to have choices and to find whats most comfortable for them. I’m a complete pad lover myself, but I do use a sponge on occasions! I’m also keen to promote a loving relationship with your period- which I think using cloth pads is a step in the right direction! Thanks Lauren :)

  7. Aunt Flo  

    Wonderful post, but you didn’t mention Jam Sponges!! Sponge Tampons with attitude! We are the Marmite of reusables…women either love us or hate us :) check out our website http://www.jamsponge.co.uk

  8. Rachel

    I’ve used toilet paper (rolled up) since I was a teenager and was stuck without a pad one day. I know it isn’t the most environmentally friendly option but it has been very effective and cheap for me. I have always wondered why more people don’t do this.

  9. Sylvia@MaMammalia

    Thanks for such a great collection of info! I bought my 1st menstrual cup recently and after one trial, I’m not sure I got the right one for me (Lunette). I had such a hard time getting it out that I had to have my husband do it!!! I’m going to experiment again between cycles, but I’m still kind of freaked out. I may end up ordering the smaller, more flexible size…or try something else because I’m determined to find a reusable solution!

  10. Martha

    Great article! Glad Rags brought me here from the FB page. And I have already passed your article on to a few friends! I LOVE love my reusable pads! I have an easy wash routine that has left me with NO stains after 2 years of use, even on my all white topped pads!! I rinse well in cold water then I splash on some hydrogen peroxide. Then I drop it in the special cute little can I bought for my period! :D Then wash after cycle over!!

    I also found I prefer my lighter topped pads cause I can really tell how much is there. On the dark pads it feels like I don’t really know how it is going and if it time to change.

    The other upside that I don’t think you mentioned is that my period and related symptoms have gotten less since using cloth! I have lighter (shorter and less flow)periods and NO irritation and rashes from disposable products that made me miserable days 2/3-6!! :D

    So as a user- thanks for helping get the word out!! :D

  11. Lori  

    Great blog! I didn’t need convincing to switch, but there were several options out there I didn’t know about. I’m most interested in the reusable tampon idea (I’ve used the DivaCup for 5 years, but I’d like to learn how to make the tampons for the nonprofit I founded – Empower Women in Africa) and might buy the pattern posted here and learn to knit!

    Thanks for all the info!

  12. Mocha Mama

    I’ve been using GladRags for 14 years now and have a friend who is exploring reusable menstrual products. When I first purchased them my mother was kind of shocked (I was in my 20′s) that I would even want to be bothered with having to soak them and wash them because that’s what she did as a girl (like mother, like daughter!). I’m sure the money I saved not buying disposables is what I used to pay of my student loans!

    And as a bonus, after giving birth, if you’re sore, soak some nighttime reusable pads in a tea of comfrey root and put in the freezer. Use that instead of an ice pack. Learned that from a male naturopath.

    • Lauren  

      That’s so funny about your mom’s reaction. The more things change, right?

      Great idea for the postpartum preparations. I froze some with diluted witch hazel and some with an herbal blend. They felt so soothing!

  13. Alicia C.  

    Great review! I love that I now have an all-in-one-place spot to bookmark for future reference. So far, I’m convinced that I’d love to have cloth pads and a Diva Cup-type product. I like tampons, but I just have a hard time accepting reusable one… right now. I may change my mind. Heck, I never thought I’d be on-board with cloth pads until I read the series of Mama cloth posts on Becoming Crunchy last year!

    • Lauren  

      It helps to read about someone else’s experience liking something, huh? It took me several times reading about cloth pads before I made the switch … and then I wish I had done it earlier! I’m not sure I want to try cloth tampons, either, but they do sound intriguing.

  14. Erica @ ChildOrganics  

    I am so excited about all of the options our daughters will have when the time comes! When I discovered the Divacup I thought it was the greatest thing on earth, I wanted to jump up and down and tell everyone!
    I’ve never heard of a few of these options and I’m excited about all of the safe and natural choices out there.
    Like Nadia, I’m going on 3 years with no cycle. I suppose my Divacup will still be good to go when it’s time.
    Thanks for all the info!

  15. Crunchy Con Mommy  

    I am still not sure I’m ready to make the switch totally, but I should sew some reusable pads for the end when I have light days but can’t go in just undies unless I want to change them often!

  16. Ashley

    For my last four cycles, I have used the Diva Cup, and cloth pads only at the beginning and end of the cycle. While wearing the Cup, there is no need to wear anything under it. These products have changed my life!! I actually, dare I say it, almost look forward to my period because I am so in love with my Cup! (FYI: I did need to trip the stem all the way off, but now I can’t feel a thing when it’s in.)

  17. Megan

    I have used a Diva Cup for years and love it. It is more confortable than any mainstream product I have ever used. Of course it is also more economical and better for mother earth! Thanks for the great article.

  18. Katie S.

    I just wanted to mention another cloth pad company. They are called Party In My Pants and were started by two sisters in Ashland, WI. Their website is: http://www.partypantspads.com/

    Thanks!

  19. Carol

    I have used the disposible cups, I did not like those ones. I had looked for the Diva cup which was supposed to be avaliable at Rite Aid, but wasnt. Im a little queasy about the cloth pads. I cant cloth diaper my kids without getting grossed out about the smell of the diapers after just a few uses and the fact they all ways end up getting rashes even with natural or Free detergents. I however hate having my period and wonder why they can’t just make toilets every home. I am currently pregnant with our 3rd child and am seriously thiking of the cloth pads, just because i hate having to wear pads that are like stuff twin sized mattress.

  20. 'Becca

    Great article! I linked it to my article on alternative menstrual products because you’ve reviewed some options I didn’t. I have been a happy user of reusable cups since 1997 and cloth pads since 2000.

    Sea sponges are animals. This is worth mentioning since some people do not use any animal products. Personally, I do use some animal products, but I am freaked out by the idea of putting a dead animal in my vagina.

    One of my favorite things about the cup is that–unlike tampons and, presumably, sponges–when I am swimming or soaking in a bath, it does not absorb water from underneath that will then dribble out of me slowly after I get out of the water as flow coming in from above displaces the water. I always hated that phenomenon!

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