Consumer Goes Green: That Time of the Month

I feel like we have talked a lot here about the Diva Cup and its cohorts, but we haven’t spent much time talking about reusable pads. I’ve never been comfortable with tampons, and they have a tendency to give me horrible, doubling-over-in-pain cramps. Since I do not care for heinously painful cramping, I stick to pads. 

When I first read about washable pads, in Luci Furious’ post about the Diva Cup ironically enough, I immediately said “No way, nohow, no thank you.” The idea of rinsing out my menstrual pads to reuse them took me back to my twelve-year-old self and just seemed gross. However, after the initial reaction wore off, I started thinking about 25 years worth of my used pads, hanging out in landfills, not biodegrading because they are made with plastic. The image stuck in my mind, and my idea of what’s really gross began to shift. I still wasn’t ready to make the change, though, because they seemed like kind of a pain in the ass. Then one of our commenters mentioned Party In My Pants pads.

Party In My Pants Deluxe Starter Kit, $32.99

With a name like PIMP, I had to check them out. As soon as I got to their website, I was hooked. Because of their design and construction, there is very little difference between the cloth and the disposable experience. They have a nylon back, so you don’t have to mess with liners to ensure they won’t leak. If you have to change one while away from home, you just fold up the used one and toss it in a bag to wash when you get home – no need to rinse in a public restroom and carry around a baggie full of soggy cloth all day. They are really pretty AND they offer a free pad to new customers who are “cloth curious.” They seemed perfect.

I broached the subject with Mr.B one night, partly because switching to reusables requires a bit of an initial investment and partly because because we share a bathroom. As I have tried to explain to my happily single friends, I didn’t have to ask permission, it just seemed polite to make sure the little basket of pads-to-be-washed wasn’t going to totally freak him out. He spent about 10 minutes telling me that it was my stuff, and he was totally cool with it, and why did I keep asking him about it? Translation – he was mildly uncomfortable, but he felt like he shouldn’t be. Imagine my surprise, then, when he came home from work the next day and said “I thought some more about all this, and I think it’s a really good idea. I just ordered you a full starter kit from Amazon!”

I managed to smile and say thank you (my go-to response when I’m not sure what to do), but inside I was thinking “PIMP doesn’t sell through Amazon! What the hell did you just get me?!?” Turns out, he had gotten me a Gladrags starter kit. They follow the classic all flannel, envelope and liner configuration. I had already ordered a smaller PIMP starter kit, with a free pad, so when the shock wore off, I decided that this was my opportunity to compare and contrast. You know, for science.

Here is what I noticed right off the bat:

  • The PIMPs are a little stiffer when they are new, and they need to be washed a few times to reach maximum comfort level, while the Gladrags are soft from the start.
  • PIMPS are definitely less likely to leak, and they do a better job of staying in place if you are walking around a lot (getting accustomed to the lack of adhesive was the hardest part of the transition).
  • Both are awesome compared to disposables.

You get used to ignoring it, but wearing a maxi pad is like wearing a tiny diaper. Cloth pads, on the other hand, are like tiny sweaters for your vagina. Yes they are a bit more bulky, but they are also soft and snuggly and it’s kind of awesome. “But aren’t vagina sweaters hot in the summertime,” you ask? Not really. Since the cloth is breathable, it is cooler than having a piece of sweaty plastic in your crotch when the weather gets hot. My favorite thing, though, is that cloth pads don’t rustle. It’s silly, but I was always self-conscious wearing loose pants or skirts with a pad because I would hear that little *crinkle* and feel like I was yelling “HEY EVERYBODY, I’M ON MY PERIOD!” every time I walked into a room. This is no longer a problem.

There are a couple of questions that everyone seems to ask about cloth pads:

  1. Isn’t it kind of weird to rinse out your pads? Not really. At this point in my life, I have had to rinse blood out of underwear, pants, sheets, towels and pretty much anything else that might have come near my crotch during my period. It surprised me a bit, but rinsing out pads is just more of the same and it was very easy to make that part of the bathroom routine.
  2. Honestly now, don’t they get funky after a while? Again, no. It is another benefit of fabric being breathable. Not only are they cooler in the summer, but you are less likely to create the warm, moist environment that bacteria like to breed in. The blood dries out and the odor level stays low.
  3. Seriously though, don’t they leak? I have had some leaks since switching, but not much more than any other pad transition. Whenever Always changed their design, there would be leakages while I figured out the best placement for the new pads. The adjustment involves a little trial and error, but nothing traumatic has happened.

Like I said, I was surprised by how easy the transition has been. I get more laundry done while I’m on my period than I ever did before, because I want to make sure I don’t have to break into the emergency stash of disposables I kept when I got the cloth pads. I am more comfortable on my period than ever before, and it is surprisingly fun to choose between the butterfly pad and the hedgehog pad when I need to change. The only drawback, the one thing I never saw coming, is that the Gladrags come out of the dryer crumpled up into little wads of fabric. They really do work better when they are nice and flat, and ironing my menstrual pads is something I have yet to get used to. It’s just another point in favor of the PIMPs; the nylon backing keeps them flat, so no ironing needed. All in all, they get a big thumbs up in my quest to be more environmentally conscious, and I get a kick every time I walk by the Feminine Hygiene aisle and think about how I never have to hunt through all the different boxes looking for the one I want ever again.

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[E]SaraB

Glass artisan by day, blogger by night (and sometimes vice versa). SaraB has three kids, three pets, one husband and a bizarre sense of humor. Her glass pendants can be found at www.etsy.com/shop/AngryOwlStudio if you're interested in checking it out.

21 thoughts on “Consumer Goes Green: That Time of the Month”

  1. i first found out about cloth pads while researching cloth nappies for my son. same initial reaction. however i am a total convert, for the same reasons too. can’t use a diva cup/tampons due to cramping. i first started looking into cloth nappies because i was sick of the constant buying/throwing out disposables. and so tried cloth pads for the same reasons. the only downside is that they are bulkier and that takes a bit of getting used too, but now when i go back to disposables, i find them uncomfortable because they are not a flexible and too wide.
    if you are interested in trying cloth but don’t know if you will like it, just buy a starter pack. you don’t have to use them full time (you could always change back to disposables to go out if you are worried about leaking), even just using a few each period will help the earth and save you money :)

  2. I bought a bunch of Luna Pads about 6 months ago (then a bunch more a few after that), and I’m a total convert. One thing I love is that I don’t have to remember to buy new every month, so I never get caught by surprise with nothing in stock. Some of the lighter color liners have a little bit of staining, so if I buy more I’ll probably get black ones. That’s pretty much my only complaint. I’m pro-vagina sweater.

  3. Me: giggles to self.

    Husband: “What?”

    Me: “I’m reading about reusable menstrual pads.”

    Husband:”That’s all I need to know.”

    Me: “They are little little sweaters for your vagina!!!”

    Husband: “Thanks I needed that.”

    No, Sara, I needed THAT!! Love your descriptions. I have a few flannel pads- I used them when I was cloth diapering my son. After that, I never got around to ordering a big enough kit to make a go of it. Now that my flow is super light, maybe I’ll try out the PIMP version- I like the idea of nylon backing!

  4. Thanks, this was an interesting read. Tampons feel uncomfortable to me and I doubt any cup would feel any less uncomfortable, so unless I’ve got a “shared showers at the gym!” situation on my hands, it’s pads all the way. I might give disposables a try if my living situation gets more suitable to such experiments before I hit menopause, I guess. Much as I think I would like to try cloth diapers on my hypothetical offspring. (I know jack shit about what dealing with infants and their excrement actually entails, but hey, I grew up with cloth diapers and seniors swear that almost every child in the Soviet Union had the motivation to get potty-trained way earlier than the ones growing up nowadays with too-comfortable disposables.)

    Around here, some supposedly more eco-friendly disposable pads have been popping up on the store shelves. I gave one brand a try, but they had a persistent odour problem not advertised on the package, and I’m not prepared to put up with that. Thankfully there are more user-friendly options. But not Always, I hate Always. That is to say, I did when I last had to use them well over a 10 years ago, but if the horrid plastic net surface is still a thing, I still hate them. With a raw, sweaty, chafing passion.

    Another thing: with the advent of garbage-fueled power stations, landfills are actually becoming a thing of the past around here. We’re actually talking about looming garbage shortages nowadays. So there’s that.

  5. Yes! Reusable pads are great. I make my own now as I have a serger and flannel is cheaaap (compared to gladrags or other reusables you can buy). I totally agree that the reusable breathe so much better. Also, the lack of smell if you happen to not be able to change them in time is amazing! I remember with plastic pads they got super gross really fast, so much less so with reusable pads. That said, I just use a super thin flannel liner to catch any leaks left by my diva cup these days. Also crossing my fingers that in the next few months my period will disapear to none thanks to my friendly Mirena. As a point of reference, I’ve been using reusable pads for almost ten years now, and some I have from the first buying spree. So they last a long time too.

      1. I haven’t tried it but have you considered doing kind of a french seam with a pad? I imagine so long as you grade and clip well enough you’d be able to come out with a successful product. Not quite as easy as throwing it through a serger, but not bad either.

  6. Agggh! The crinkle!

    /flashback.

    I cracked up at “tiny sweater for your vagina” :)

    I’m a hardcore menstrual cup mafiosa, but it’s nice to know there are such good options if there’s ever a time I can’t use mine. (e.g.: inserting things is generally a no-no for a while after gynae surgery, miscarriage, abortion, or childbirth).

    1. They are a good option, and they have big ole’ pads for postpartum needs. They look a little intimidating, but when put one on and realize that there is no way you are going to leak, “scary big” turns into “reassuringly large.”

  7. I’m coming out of my hibernation for this, because, oh my. YES! I’m a Wee Notions lady, and I love them. The fact they call their cloth pads and liners Fairy Hammocks is only part of the love. Excellent point about the fabric breathes, too. I am considerably lazier than your good self, though, and don’t rinse. My pads just get put in Juniper Junior’s old wet nappy bag, and then get chucked straight into the washing machine with the nappy bag.

    1. Wee Notions are awesome! I have never seen them before, but now I am totally jealous of cloth users in the UK.

      (And I don’t always rinse. there are lots of times when I just spray everything down with hydrogen peroxide and throw them in the wash.)

  8. This made me smile. With every period I realize how big a part of the earth’s trash it has to be, but yet somehow I’m not ready to take of three days so I can walk around butt-naked and therefore not stain anything.

    But a) I would have to check if I can find these pads around here and I don’t really like pads and b) I need to get past ‘Iehl gross’ first. Maybe we could have recyclable tampons next?

    1. I get everything from the Internet, because there are very few options in actual stores. I’ll bet they ship to you. And anderscm is right, they are much less squicky than you would expect. I think if you want something like a reusable tampon, sea sponges are the way to go. Coco says they are pretty cool.

  9. As a tried and true menstrual cup* lover, I have no reason to switch, but it was interesting to read your experience. I can admit the “ew” factor is higher for me when imagining cleaning cloth than it is with my medical grade silicone. But reading your take on it makes me feel like I could happily recommend these to women who aren’t comfortable using a cup but want something more eco-friendly. It definitely sounds better than standard pads.

    I wish more people were talking about alternative products, especially to younger girls new to menstruation. If you started on them from the beginning, or if they at least know alternatives exist, it wouldn’t be hard to transition.

     

    *I say menstrual cup because my favorite brand is Lady Cup, but I do have a lovely Diva as well.

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