Who wants to cut the weekly garbage pile by more than half, save money, get rid of the chances of many possibly horrible infections and save the earth, all at the same time? I am talking about using reusable washable cloth sanitary pads instead of the chemical infused disposable almost plastic menstrual pads we all use by the dozens, every month.
Millions of sanitary pads are being used by women every day in the world. They all have plastic in them which are noncompostable, non-biodegradable. They are all dumped into the landfill. They remain in the soil for years and years rotting the earth. If this goes on, after some time, the earth will have more plastic components on its ground than soil.
The huge environmental impact of disposing of used sanitary pads and its long term consequences is enough to make you read up this post and do what it says. Then there are the health concerns. The disposable sanitary pads are filled with many chemicals leading to many physical problems like allergies, hormone-related disorders, infection etc.
There are alternatives like biodegradable sanitary pads available in the market. Then there are silicon menstrual cups, period discs, period sponges, period panties etc. These are all good alternatives for disposable pads that you can buy.
But cloth sanitary pads are things you can make easily at home with simple things – fabric scraps. And they can be washed and used for many many uses. This means that, you can use these pads at a fraction of the cost that it would cost you to buy the store-bought ones.
How to make your own menstrual pads.
Sewing cloth sanitary pads is nothing complicated. You just need a topper layer, absrobent core layer and a base layer of waterproof fabric.
But it is not as simple as that. In the olden days, women did use fabric and they had enough of it that the sanitary pads were discovered. It is a great invention and absolved a lot of discomfort and bad feeling associated with monthly bleeding. Can you get the same feeling with a homemade pad? That is the million-dollar question. To answer this you have to take some extra precautions in preparing the fabric and sewing it. Ease of use, comfort, washability and protection from leakage are the most important concerns in using cloth pads. Changing more often and using really absorbent layers inside are the way to go.
Easily washability, comfort, easily dryable are all criteria when choosing fabric for making the pads. So ofcourse cotton, bamboo, and such natural fabrics are best. Never even think of synthetic materials for layers in touch with skin.
Topper fabric and backer fabric – Bedding weight cotton, flannel, bamboo, velour, cotton sherpa, athletic wicking jersey. Flannel is my preference. Use organic cotton if you want to go the eco-friendly fabric route.
Inside layer (Core) – 2-3 layers (medium flow) 4-6 layers (high flow) of cotton toweling (smooth dense and even toweling fabric) or flannel. Toweling fabric is my choice. But if you are using too many layers it can get very heavy to sew and difficult to dry.
Waterproofing layer – You may want to add a water proof fabric as an inner layer over the backer fabric to prevent leakage. You can use Rypstock nylon as backer and as the waterproofing layer. Ripstock nylon prevents leakage to an extend. You need good quality nylon. Or use microfleece bonded with PUL or flannel back with hidden PUL as backer
Basically you can use cotton as a topper and backer and use flannel as core and have a layer of PUL as an inside layer to prevent leakage.
Step 1 Wash and dry your fabric
Collect all your fabric. Wash them to remove all sizing and make it soft.
Step 2 Make a Template from an old sanitary pad
Trace the sanitary pad on the fabric. Extend the wings so that it will overlap so that you can fasten the snaps one on top of each other. Remember to add seam allowance as well.
You can make Size 10″ for a smaller pad and 12″ for a medium pad and 14-15″ for a bigger pad.
Step 3 Cut out your pattern pieces
As already said, you need topper piece and backer piece and as many layers of core fabric as you want. I am using a flannel topper and backer and toweling fabric core. You may also want to join a piece of good quality nylon as a layer to the backer fabric for waterproofing the pad against leakage.
Keep the nylon piece together with the backer piece and treat them as one piece.
Step 4 Sew the core pieces to the topper and backer on the back of the fabrics.
Keep the core fabric piece on the inside of the topper/backer fabric layer and sew along the edge with a zig zag stitch.
Basically, sewing a cloth pad is all about layering the core fabric layers inside the topper and backer fabric layers and stitching it together.
Step 5 Join the two topper and backer together.
Now keep the top fabric and backer fabric one over the other, right sides together.Sew along the edge around 1/4 inch from the edge. Leave 3 inch unsewn.
Clip all along the sewing allowance.
Step 6 Flip the pad inside out through the unstitched space.
Poke the corners etc to get good corners and curves.
Press in place with hot iron.
Step 8 Top stitch along the liner piece.
Step 9 Attach the snaps.
The wings are fastened around the underwear with the help of snaps or buttons.You can use metal or plastic snaps. You can hand sew these metals snaps on the fabric positioned as in the picture above.
How to clean the cloth sanitary pads
After you have made the pad, wash it once before using.
Rinse immediately as soon as you remove the pad – use cold water to rinse. You can use washing soda, Hydrogen peroxide, oxygen bleach etc to remove any stains. A soak in salt water for an hour or so is also useful to remove blood stains. A drop of disinfectant would destroy all germs. Check out this post on removing blood stains more details.
Dry in the sun completely before you use again. This is a very important thing in using cloth sanitary pads. You need these pads to be completely dried in good sunlight before use. For sanitary reasons. No compromise in that.