Who wants to cut the monthly garbage pile by more than half, save money, eliminate 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, and non-biodegradable. They are all dumped into 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 are nothing complicated. You just need a topper layer, an 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 sanitary pads were discovered. It is a great invention and absolved a lot of discomforts and bad feelings 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 washable, comfort, and easily dryable are all criteria when choosing fabric for making the pads. So of course, cotton, bamboo, and such natural fabrics are best. Never even think of synthetic materials for layers in touch with the skin.
Related post : 14 Best absorbent fabric.
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 waterproof fabric as an inner layer over the backer fabric to prevent leakage. You can use Rypstock nylon as a backer and as the waterproofing layer. Rip-stock nylon prevents leakage to an extent. 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 them 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.
Related post : Best Waterproof fabrics.
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 metal 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.
Related posts : Best eco friendly fabrics; How to practice Sustainable fashion
Updated on March 13, 2023 by Sarina Tariq
Can you have a look at the list of absorbent fabrics here.
Several layers of towel would be bulky and uncomfortable. Suggestions for a thin lightweight fabric?
Great instructions. Using old dbl layers of cloth diapers as inside. Made pads for bladder leakage. Noting your comment of drying layers not sure how long that will take with PUL inside. Might see if making a pocket to remove inside layer to wash and dry separately.
T.y. I bought it specially for this. Will have to line or rack dry as not much sun all winter here.
Could I use bee-wax cloth as the waterproofing layer? Thought I would make the pad in two part that can be joined together when in use and separated to clean. The bee-wax cloth can’t be washed in hot water so I would wipe it over with disinfectant and air dry. The absorbant liner will need to be rinsed in cold water and then washed in hot water to make it hygienic. Having two part also means that my sewing machine won’t have to cope with too many layers of fabric. What do you think??
You can dry them in a 100% dryer with low heat – If they are not dried properly they can cause infection.
In the UK and northern latitudes the sun doesn’t shine 5 months of the year. Suggestions?
I’ve been using cloth menstrual pads for a while now
Got them here: dearelements.com/pages/elementpads
For my waterproof layer, I used a baby changing pad, which has an absorbant layer and a waterproof backing.
The pul fabric cannot go in the dryer.
This is great! I’m a beginner sewer and this is a great first project, thank you!! I do have a question about the drying, can they be dried in a regular clothes dryer with the rest of the laundry (I get washing separately), or does it have to be air dried in the sun? We’re entering our rainy season where I live and that could be an issue…