Why I Switched To Reusable Menstrual Pads

Written by Leah Wise
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As a teenager, I chose pads over tampons for a couple of reasons. Ever since I could read, I've been obsessed with parsing the fine print on anything and everything. So when puberty hit and I bought my first box of tampons, I curiously unfolded the pamphlet from the box and started reading, in graphic detail, about the risks involved with tampon use, namely toxic shock syndrome.

Already wary of putting a foreign object into my body, I recoiled at the data and, as a result, I've never been much of a tampon user. Pads just feel better to me.

But growing up in a conservative household, there was a lot of fear of the unknown, particularly when the unknown came off as "crunchy" — like cloth pads. So I stuck it out with disposables even when my conscience (and my sensitive skin) told me it was time to find ways to do better for my health and the health of the earth.

But a couple of months ago, I finally made the switch to cloth pads. After the Kotex pad I had used for years was discontinued — it was part of the line that gave TSS to former model Lauren Wasser — I decided I needed to make a change.

I've spent the last three years blogging about conscious consumerism, so it was about time I extended my ethics to everyday goods like pads. From both a financial and environmental perspective, it was the right choice for me, and I wish I'd made it sooner.

How I Made the Switch to Cloth Pads

After a few days of research, I bought my first set of cloth pads. Cloth pad prices vary by brand, but you can expect to pay around $7 to $15 apiece for a standard maxi pad. Since I didn't know what my needs would be, I bought a starter pack from an Etsy seller for about $35, which included one overnight pad, two maxi pads, one panty liner, and one mini pad.

I recommend reading reviews on cloth pad forums so you can get a sense of what brand, style, and thickness will work best for you. As I waited for my special order to arrive, I noted tips and tricks for cleaning and crossed my fingers that everything would work out.

But when my period arrived that month, I chickened out at first. I decided to opt for a couple of organic disposables the first day instead, but they didn't pan out in the worst way possible (leakage, ugh). And so I finally picked out a cloth maxi pad from my starter pack, put it in place just like I would with a disposable pad, and attached it to my panties with wings that snap together. It was so simple!

Switching to cloth pads empowers me to keep finding ways to live better.

On the first day I used them, I also used a disposable panty liner underneath just to make sure there wouldn't be any leaking, but I quickly realized that my cloth pads were just as reliable as any disposable product, if not more so. And if I need to change pads on the go, I just give the used pad a quick wipe, fold it up into its wings, and put it in a small, waterproof pouch I purchased from the same Etsy seller.

I'm still getting used to the thickness of cloth between my legs, but I've been pleasantly surprised by the durability, coverage, and absorbency of cloth pads. We've been told by feminine hygiene companies that our bodies are gross and that using more traditional methods like cloth during our cycles is somehow dirty — but using cloth actually makes me feel cleaner. Not to mention my sensitive skin is far less irritated since cloth pads harbor fewer chemicals and absorb sweat better than disposables.

Plus, I'm thrilled at the thought that I can officially stop buying cheap, disposable stuff that stacks up in landfills. And the best part is that the cleaning process isn't hard, or even very unsettling. I just throw them in a delicates bag and wash them with the rest of my clothes (you may wish to pre-soak in water with a bit of detergent, but I haven't found this to be necessary).

When it comes to living green, I'm a novice. But I'm learning that just because things may feel foreign to me doesn't mean they're scary or difficult to master. Being able to make a simple choice like switching to cloth pads empowers me to keep finding ways to live better.

So, I've mastered cloth pads. Now what? I'll be spending the next several months reducing my plastic waste and learning how to curb my clothing consumption with the help of a capsule wardrobe. Every step forward is a small win.

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