When you are new to cloth menstrual pads, it can be a bit daunting…..where do you begin… what should you buy?
All cloth pads aren’t the same, you’ll find differences in absorbency (the number of layers in the pad and what those layers are made of), different shapes and styles and different fabrics. But if you’ve never used them before, how can you know what you need?
When buying pads I don’t suggest going out and buying a stack from the one place, or lots of pads in the same style or length. Buy one or two to test out to see if that style fits your body, your lifestyle and your preferences. We are all different, and what one person finds good in a pad may not work for you. Also you might find different pads suit different days of your cycle.
When you make the decision to go cloth it can be exciting and expensive, so buying packs where you save a few dollars is appealing (and combined shipping on a bulk lot is cheaper than buying one pad each from several sellers), but pads you find you don’t like, or don’t suit you, won’t work out to be economical in the end.
Working out what you need/want
First look at the disposables you have been using:
Are you using the super absorbent kind, or the light ones? – This might tell you what sort of absorbency you need in a cloth pad – a heavy absorbency or a lighter “liner” type.
How often do you change them? – This will again help you work out what absorbency you need. If you need to change them every few hours because they are full, then you’ll need a more absorbent pad. If you can go all day on the one pad, then you’ll probably be fine with a lighter absorbency pad. If you like to have a fresh pad on all the time, you can probably go for a lighter absorbency, and you’ll need a lot more pads.
How are they for length? – Do you find you need night ones for the extra length or you leak off the front and/or back or are regular fine? This will help you work out what length pad you like.
If you’ve ever leaked off the pad, where has that happened? – This might tell you what sort of shape you need. If you leak off the centre crotch area, then you’ll want a winged pad with wider wings (rather than shorter “tab” wings). If you leak off the front or back, then you’ll need a long pad, perhaps with a flared end for more coverage. If you leak off the sides towards the back you may like a pad with a wider back section.
Then think about your preferences:
Ease of use? – Do you want something you just pop into your underpants like a disposable. Or something where you can adjust the level of absorbency by adding more or less inserts into a cover, or other system that involves folding or doing something to the pad before use. (See the pad styles page)
Quick Drying? – Is speed of drying important to you? Most pads shouldn’t take more than a day to dry (on the line or hanging inside – using a dryer is of course quicker), however this may be a factor for you. There are some styles that are faster drying than the kind you simply use like a disposable.
Fabrics? – Do you want a particular fabric? Do you not want a particular fabric? Is organic or natural important to you, or do you focus more on softness or look? Or is stain resistance more important to you? See below for more on fabrics.
Shape? – Working from the last question on disposables… what sort of shape do you think would provide coverage in the areas you need. If you don’t leak off a normal shaped disposable, then that shape would be fine. If you leak off parts of a pad, then you might want a more shaped pad to cover those areas.
Waterproofing? – This usually depends on how heavy your flow is. A pad of just absorbent layers is all natural, but not leak-proof. Generally these need many more layers to achieve enough absorbency for a medium-heavy flow, which can result in a bulkier thick pad. With waterproofing, you are less likely to bleed straight through the one spot, and the pad can hold more as the blood can spread out more through the rest of the core of the pad – this is more effective with something “waterproof”, rather than “water-resistant”.
If your blood spreads out over the surface of the pad and you have a light flow, you are more likely to be able to use a non-waterproofed pad. If you flow mostly in one place , then you will probably find that without waterproofing you will leak though the pad in that place. If you have a heavy flow, you will probably find waterproofing essential. Your needs can also change through your period, so on heavy days you may need waterproofing but on lighter days you should be fine without it. Generally PUL-waterproofed pads are thinner (less bulky) than non-waterproofed pads or pads with fleece backing.
Lifestyle – Consider your lifestyle (how often you want to be washing) as well as your budget (and how often you would like to, and need to change the pads) when deciding how big or small your stash will be. If you want to wash less often (or perhaps only at the end of your cycle) then you will need a bigger stash than if you want to wash frequently. The more pads you have will also help reduce the wear on each pad if its used only once per cycle rather than 3 or 4 times.