Friday, March 22, 2013

A Non-Hippie's Guide to Reusable Pads

Ok full disclosure, I guess the title isn't entirely accurate, since I was kind of a hippie in high school. And though I no longer wear a bathrobe as a coat, or that sick Janis Joplin t-shirt with the purple darts, and my hair is only moderately long and I no longer smell like "marijuana and salad" (actual friend's opinion on what I smelled like in high school), I do still just want everyone to love one another and, like, chill out. So I guess I'm not completely a non-hippie. But the point is, I am a reasonably together person with a real job and a bank account, and I am easily grossed out by shit hippies love, like, you know, reusing things, and dumpster diving etc.

The point is, I love reusable cloth menstrual pads. And if I, a lady who does not enjoy camping, can get into them, you can too. Here's how!

1. Figure out why you're doing this.
Just because if you do, you're more likely to stick with it. My own personal reason, as is often the case, was a sudden guilt attack related to the environment and over-consumption, etc. as well as my growing identity as some kind of feminist crusader who might need to be doing something suitably hippy-dippy regarding her period. Ok it doesn't seem like a great plan but I've been motivated by less. I recently allowed my hair to hang greasy and unwashed for eight weeks out of similar environment/consumption guilt, with less positive results. But the point is, having a reason (or reasons) that works for you will make it easier to stick it out.

2. Find out what works for you. 
I definitely had a disappointing and frankly guilt-inducing experience with the cup/keeper, chronicled here (yes, read not one but TWO internet articles about my vagina!). I think even if something seems pretty perfect for you on paper, it's hard to know how it's going to work out. Unfortunately, a lot of these alternatives are expensive to just buy and try them out if it turns out you won't like them. But do what you can - it might involve a lot of research and asking around as an alternative to buying a bunch of pads right away.

There's also a lot of different kinds of reusable pads - different designs, patterns, shapes, price points, etc. If it's within your budget to do so, I suggest buying a couple, maybe even from different vendors, to see what you like. A lot of vendors offer sample packs, which include an assortment of styles and sizes to help you figure out what you like. Also, don't be afraid to ask around - you might be surprised how many people are already using them and can give you recommendations.

3. Don't cheap out
I know, this is something that is easier said than done depending on your economic situation. However, if you can do it, buy good soft, thick pads from recommended sources. Don't just search Etsy and buy the cheapest thing. Trust me, I made that mistake. A thin pad is not a great companion; neither is one that doesn't secure properly and slips all over the place in your underwear. Reusable pads can be costly ($12-15 each generally), so a good strategy might be to buy one at a time as you can afford them, and slowly wean yourself off pads and tampons as you build up a full set.

4. Take care of them!
My first attempt at using reusable pads ended in disaster because I am extremely lazy. I was just throwing them in the laundry basket with my clothes, and so they got really stained and worn out and were no longer comfortable. Taking proper care of your pads will make them last way longer and be a lot more hygenic (and less smelly!). Most reusable pad companies offer care instructions, but in the absence of these what I recommend is designating a big bowl or tupperware for pads only (don't use it for anything else once you've picked one!) and putting used pads in there with cold water to soak until laundry day. I change the water each time I put a new pad in, and at the end of my period I wash the container.

5. Travelling
I don't know. If I have to travel while on my period I generally bring disposable pads and tampons because I just haven't found a way to travel with reusable pads. How/where would you soak them? What about washing them? Any tips?

That's all I got. There are lots of great reusable pads out there - I recommend Party in My Pants, which is what I currently use and they are super awesome.

Happy bleeding!

1 comment:

PensiveFashionista said...

Travelling is the worst part. That's the big reason I switched to a menstrual cup. I plan on going out of the country this summer, and I didn't want to have to bring my cloth pads with me NOR did I want to use disposable pads. Disposable tampons are not even an option. Ugh. I find them really uncomfortable.
Some people put their used pads in a plastic bag or a plastic container but not everyone has that option available or even feels comfortable doing that in a space that isn't home.

I would have preferred to start out with one but at the time I switched to cloth menstrual pads, using a menstrual cup was not much of an option.

The burn factor is lower with cloth pads but I do have a few cloth pads in my stash that I later feel were a waste of money.
My favorite seller is Mimi's Dreams. I've never had a leak with her pads, and I love the customization. You can request a hemp core or a thinner pad. The owner is great. Plus her pads are reasonably priced, a big plus in my book. I wish I had a nickel for every expensive ugly looking pad on Etsy I've seen.

I used the same care instructions and haven't had much of a problem. I once added plain vinegar to the wash and found that made a big difference in terms of removing stains and brightening the pads. Just an extra tip.