Having a Zero-Waste Period is Possible
Warning: If you don’t want to read about menstruation and the non-disposable products I use for that reason, this is likely not the blog post for you. I will be returning to my usual product reviews and rosacea-friendly blogs very soon!
It has been a full year since I have used a disposable pad, panty liner, tampon or any other disposable product of that nature. In January 2018, I started using reusable products and only reusables.
For me, reusables means reusable pads, reusable panty liners, and a period cup. All washable. Nothing to throw away. I was nervous. I wasn’t fully sure whether or not I would like it. Now that it’s a year later, I’m fully confident in my choice, and I don’t intend to go back to disposables.
Why I Switched to Reusable Period Products
When I first heard of reusable period products, I thought they were the most disgusting thing people could possibly do. Why would anyone want to do that? Disposable products get rid of the mess, so it’s no longer something I’d have to “deal” with. And, isn’t washing your pads unclean? Isn’t there some risk of infection or something?
Turns out: nope! I started off with a period cup, then panty liners, then I finally got a full set of washable pads of different sizes, just like I’d have if I purchased disposables. I did my research, reading blogs, product websites and watching YouTube videos (by the way, I’m not a period blogger and don’t intend to become one. If you want to see a great one who can teach you a wealth of information about reusables, I highly recommend the Precious Stars Pads YouTube Channel).
What made me change my mind enough to give reusable period products like washable pads and period cups a try? Here are the main reasons:
- Eco Friendliness – I have a very short cycle but usually face at least one to two days of very heavy flow. This means that I was purchasing pads very frequently and using a lot of them. That’s a lot of trash. As someone who uses reusable totes while shopping, reusable jars at the local bulk store, and who recycles and composts, I felt a lot of guilt filling my bathroom trash can every twenty-one days or so. Even worse, disposable pads – and their packaging – is heavy in plastic. Using reusable pads requires less waste in manufacturing, less waste in transportation (since my pads would need to be shipped from the manufacturer only once every several years and not once per twenty-one days), and they produce less trash because they can be reused many, many times over.
Did you know that it is estimated in the United States alone, over 13 billion pads and 7 million tampons are used once and disposed of every year?
– Tree Hugger Cloth Pads
- Never run out – One thing I absolutely adore about reusable pads is that I never run out! Every cycle, I take out my pretty lidded basket full of neatly-folded reusable panty liners and pads, and I’m set to go. No trip to the store required.
- Savings – Yes, the initial purchase requires a bit of an investment. That said, my full set rapidly paid itself off because once I’d bought it, I don’t need to buy any more for years. Check out this awesome calculator that can show you how much you’ll save based on how much you typically spend on disposables every month.
- Comfort – I find disposable products very uncomfortable. I feel a lot of pressure while wearing tampons, and I get very itchy from disposable pads (TMI?). I also find that disposable products smell disgusting. The itching and smell – believe it or not – aggravated my rosacea every month. I think that was from the stress it caused me, since stress is a major rosacea trigger for me. I found organic disposable pads that didn’t cause itching, but I couldn’t afford to use them. I would have had to pay three times more every 21 days.
- No adhesive – The adhesive on the back of pads has been a nuisance from the very start. It wore out my underwear. The cheaper brands (which I used a lot because of how many I had to buy) also sometimes ripped as I was pulling them off, and they left their adhesive behind, ruining my panties. I also don’t miss the surprise unwanted waxes I occasionally received if the adhesive side of the pad ever stuck to my skin. Nope, don’t miss that at all.
- No diaper feeling – Pads can make crinkling noises (both when changing them and sometimes even while walking around), they get smelly, and they were uncomfortable, making me feel like I was wearing a diaper all the time. They didn’t feel like clothes. They bunched and leaked. They were a constant bother. I was tired of being embarrassed when I didn’t need to be.
Zero-Waste Period Anxiety
Still, even though I had a lot of great reasons to switch to reusable pads, I was nervous. In my opinion, there were quite a few things to be anxious about! Here were the main ones:
- Expense – Reusable period products aren’t cheap as an initial investment. Now that I know I love them, they’re saving me a small fortune. However, before I knew that I’d like them and want to continue using them, I was afraid that I’d drop nearly $200 (Canadian dollars) for a full set only to use them once or twice, hate them and have to go back to disposables. That’s a lot of money, so for me, it was also a big risk.
- Messes – Never having used reusable period products before, I was afraid that they wouldn’t perform as well as disposables. I was nervous that I’d end up ruining a lot of clothing and sheets.
- Storage of soiled pads – If not in the garbage, where would I put the used ones until they’re washed? (I just toss them in a salad spinner that I bought for the purpose. That way, I can give them a short soak, spin them and pour off the extra water without having to get my hands in there).
- Getting them clean enough – I’m a bit over the top when it comes to keeping things clean. My kitchen, bathroom, clothing and linens are among the things I need to keep very clean in order to be happy. Since these would be items getting very dirty and that I’d be wearing against extremely sensitive skin, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to get them adequately clean and sanitary for reuse. That said, by simply rinsing them (using the aforementioned salad spinner method) and laundering them in the same way I’d wash anything else in the machine, they come out looking like new every time!
- Judgment – I feel odd admitting this, but I felt as though if someone found out I use reusable pads and period cups, people would judge me. It’s not as though I advertise what type of product I’m using…not sure why that was an issue, but it was something that worried me. Now that I’m using them, I’ve realized that it’s not really something that comes up much…what was I worried about?
- Gross factor – They sounded disgusting. I was supposed to put WHAT in my beautiful new washing machine? I was not partial to the idea of a bloody mess. The reality, however, is that it’s not at all gross. I was as shocked as you are.
My Review: Reusable Pads and Period Cup
Tree Hugger Cloth Pads
Tree Hugger Cloth Pads are my favorite brand of reusable pads for regular everyday use. I first heard of them when they were on an episode of Dragon’s Den (the Canadian show on which the Shark Tank was based). It wasn’t until several years after that show, when I decided to give washable pads a try, that I looked to them to make my first purchase.
Fortunately for me, this occurred during the Christmas holidays, when the company always holds great sales. I got a discount on the set of three panty liners I purchased, and enjoyed free shipping on top of that. I chose panty liners because they seemed the easiest way to start (since I still had all those anxieties, listed above).
After using them and washing them one time, I was convinced that these were for me. I made another order with different sizes, including the Heavy Day Pads and the Night/Postpartum Pads. They also have Light Day Pads, but I didn’t require that size, simply because of how my cycle/flow works.
I chose the minky fabric because it is the easiest to care for. Tree Hugger Cloth Pads also come in bamboo, but that fabric can stain, so I opted not to get it.
Tree Hugger Cloth Pad Pros
- Soft and comfortable minky fabric that doesn’t stain
- No plastic or PUL barrier
- Lots of sizes, making it easy to create the perfect kit with everything I need
- Very absorbent (made with an interior core of non-allergenic Zorb, which dries quickly and doesn’t bunch or stiffen over time)
- Worn fun-side up (and since it doesn’t stain, that’s not a problem)
- Tons of great patterns from which to choose, or save money by letting the company “surprise” you by picking the patterns themselves
- Very easy to clean (toss them in the washing machine and dryer like you would with any other laundry)
- They sell their irregulars on sale (perfectly usable, just aren’t perfect. They’re the cloth pads made by the new trainees) at different times of the year for great savings
- I love the company’s fun and whimsical attitude toward pads, periods, and the environment
- Made in Canada by hand by work-at-home moms the company carefully trains
- They plant a tree for every single pad sold through the WeForest organization!
Treehugger Cloth Pad Cons
- Not cheap to buy a full set (though it does pay itself off over time)
- You need to spend $99 to get free shipping (though you can buy free shipping for life for $20)
- Sold only online (and I think only on their website)
This is a brand I discovered more recently through their unique social media angle. Lotus Liners has managed to make reusable pads seem chic and stylish. I’m highly impressed with these pads and my experience with them.
I purchased their Metal Bloom Luxury Collection set. It contains one panty liner, one medium pad, and one large pad, as well as a travel bag (which is a wet bag that can hold either your clean or used pad). These are the pads I wear if I’m going out somewhere. If I still worked in an office, I’d have purchased more of these for wear at work. These are the ones I consider to be the “good” pads.
I was very impressed with the speed of absorbency of these pads, as well as with how well made they are. The ends are rounded so there’s less of a risk of “visibility” at the back if worn with yoga pants or something else fitted (I admit I wear yoga pants all the ding-danged time). The packaging is also very attractive, though I would have preferred to avoid its plastic, since that’s one of the main reasons I chose to switch to reusable pads.
Lotus Liners Pros
- Very attractive
- Very well made
- Compact and discreet
- My set came with a (pretty) matching wet bag for easy travel
- Easy to care for (rinse, then toss in the washer and the dryer)
- Returns to like-new after washing and doesn’t get stiff or worn quickly
- Extremely fast absorbency for high confidence while wearing
- Very well sized for comfortable wear
- Patterned side is worn away from you so it is not soiled
- Also sold on Amazon.ca, which made it much easier to save on shipping as there aren’t any free shipping offers on the official website.
Lotus Liners Cons
- The patterned fabric is very smooth and shifts/slides easily against underwear, meaning that “adjustments” are sometimes required. I always wear cotton panties and there is still a little bit of shifting.
- There aren’t as many size options as I need. I’m simply not comfortable without an ultra-long option overnight on my heaviest days.
- Quite costly to buy a full set. Not a lot of options for savings, for instance, not many multi-pack opportunities for a reduced price.
- They refer to all their pads as “liners”. Perhaps I’m a particularly literal person, but this made it difficult for me to understand which products were the equivalent to panty liners and which ones were the equivalent to pads. I would have found this even more difficult to understand if I was new to cloth pads when I was shopping with Lotus Liners.At first, I thought the brand sold only pantyliners in different lengths.
In my earliest days of shopping for reusable pads, I made the mistake of thinking that they’re all essentially created equal. I bought a number of them from several different sellers on eBay. Though they seemed great when they arrived and for the first few uses, it didn’t take me long to discover that this was a mistake.
The fabric didn’t wear well, it turned out that some contained a plastic layer that was not identified in the product description, they took forever to dry and some of them started to smell! Yes, they were cheaper as an initial investment, but I didn’t get a full year out of them, which meant I produced more waste and had to buy more to replace them. I would not recommend using the cheap-out method as I did.
Please note that I shopped from 4 sellers. This review reflects my experience from those 4 sellers but may not also reflect the products put out by others. I’m lumping them all together because the experience was the same across the board.
eBay Cloth Pad Pros
- Cheap (if you want to buy 1 or 2 to test the experience before investing in good ones, these are an affordable short-term starter product)
- Cute patterns
- Adequately absorbent
- Some of the fabrics didn’t stain
eBay Cloth Pad Cons
- Didn’t perform well in the dryer (they warped and twisted, never flattening out right again)
- The absorbent core stiffened up over time until it had hardened substantially. I’ve read it’s because they’re made with a bamboo core, which is notorious for that.
- Several started to get a stinky compost-like odor over time (much to my complete horror). I drowned them into vinegar, water, and baking soda to kill the smell – which it did – but this didn’t soften them up at all or reduce the warped shape.
- It took eight weeks to ship from China to Canada, so I had to wait two cycles before receiving them.
- Some of the fabrics stained easily and never looked new after the first wear.
- Some contained plastic without disclosing it in the product description.
The Diva Cup was a different experience altogether. I’d never been a frequent tampon user, but that’s what this product is meant to replace. Essentially, instead of using an absorbent material on a string that must be thrown away, the Diva Cup uses a natural, un-dyed silicone in a bell shape.
It was extremely easy to keep clean (I bought the Diva Wash because you can’t use an oil-based soap to clean the Diva Cup, and I didn’t want to mess around). It took a bit of experience to feel confident with my use. I found it just as comfortable as a tampon, I liked that it could be safely used for up to 12 hours, and I liked that it can’t get lost in there like a tampon can.
The official product website has a lot of info in text and video form, including care instructions, usage instructions, and advice for selecting the right size (there are three sizes, and it’s not really tough to know which one is right for you).
This isn’t the daintiest product in the world. If you don’t like the sight of blood, this is not for you. That said, it’s really not very messy at all. I’ve never had an accidental spill upon removal. That said, if you’re anything like me, you will feel like you need to scrub your hands like crazy to get them clean after removal…maybe that’s just me.
As someone with one day and night of exceptionally heavy flow, I appreciate the added protection of the Diva Cup. I was using this well before I started using washable pads. On ultra-heavy days, I could wear this and a pad as backup (yes, that first day and night is just that bad), and it would reduce the risk of daytime disasters or having to scrub stains out of sheets at 3am.
There are still times when it doesn’t perfectly seal for me, but even then, it’s far better than what it would have been with a disposable tampon or pad alone.
My main complaint about this product is that when I’m on my heaviest day, I’m also very sensitive “down-there”, so it can be painful to remove. Throughout the rest of my period, it’s fine, but on sensitive days…ouch!
When all is said and done, I greatly prefer the overall experience and the peace of mind I get from using washable pads. Reusable period products are great for reducing waste (I’ve cut back a 20 pack of regular disposable pads with wings and about 8-9 disposable overnight pads with wings).
Please note that this is an honest review based on 12 months’ worth of use of reusable pads. It doesn’t mean that this will be everyone’s experience. It’s just what I’ve gone through. I have not been paid to make any statements or claims about any of these products. None of these products were provided to me for free. I paid for them all, personally, with my own money for my own personal use. This post contains an affiliate link. None of the companies mentioned in this post have endorsed any of these statements.