Cloth Menstrual Pads

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Eight Myths about Washable Menstrual Pads Dispelled
housepoet wrote in cloth_pads

Eight Myths about Washable Menstrual Pads Dispelled
by Emira Mears, first published on

Menstruation.It's kind of my thing. On that first day that I got my period, my gangly teenage self would never have imagined that I'd end up here, spokesgal for alternative menstrual products. But then a lot of things didn't really turn out as I would have expected, did they?

My journey down this path began sometime around 3 years ago and was solidified when I met and started working with Madeleine Shaw of Lunapads (you can read more about that here ). However, for the purposes of this article the journey itself isn't what's on my mind.

After a few years of being the postergirl for alternative and naturalmenstrual products — writing articles, being interviewed, doing workshops, selling washable pads to women and getting involved in toomany party conversations on the topic to possibly count — something isstarting to give. The truth is, I'm starting to get a little bit tiredof being nice. I've lost my patience with trying to pussyfoot aroundthe issue until women are willing to talk about their own blood. Andso, as a form of cleansing for me and education for you — should youchoose to engage in it — I have penned the following set of argumentsdispelling the myths about washable menstrual pads and your period.

1. They Smell:Yes they do. And, I'm sorry to say so do you. That's right; I'm willingto go on the record as admitting that women's bodies have odours. Anadmission that is more revolutionary than you might know. Having anodour is all part of the human package. Menstrual blood has an odour,it's a bit different from the odour that you have at other times duringthe month and in fact unless there's something medically concerning theodour isn't all that noticeable. Washable menstrual pads do not enhance that odour;by allowing for adequate air flow — unlike their plastic-backeddisposable cousins — they can actually reduce the smell. Now if youleave your washable menstrual pad on for an inordinate length of time,that smell will increase. Solution: change it before that happens.

2. They're Unsanitary:Stop and think for one minute. Think about your underwear. That'sright, that's what I said: think about your underwear. Is yourunderwear unsanitary? Do you boil it after every wear? Hopefully youdon't. Same goes for washable menstrual pads (and all alternativementsrual products for that matter).

So why then, you maycorrectly ask, does the disposable product industry rely so heavily ontheir “sanitary” image? Same reason that toilet paper is white, becauseit has become normal. There's a complex historical argument behindthis, but basically somewhere after the second world war, white becamea symbol of sanitation. In actual fact, the tampon and disposable padindustry operates under no regulations that ensure sanitation and theyaren't really all that sanitary. They are just white.

3. They're for hippies.Yep, they're for hippies. They're also for mothers and daughters,butches and femmes, graphic designers, waitresses, small businessowners, CEOs, doctors and nurses, and well you get the picture. Hippiesand the goddess gang of gals have been more inclined to stick to thewashable pad routine throughout the eras of Tampax marketing, much likethey've been doing yoga and drinking Chai for decades now. Hippies canbe wise folks; learn from them.

4. They're a pain in the behind. Your period can be a pain in the behind. Having to go out in the middleof the night because you realize that you forgot to buy tampons andthat bloated feeling tells you your period will be here before sunriseis a royal pain in the behind. Using washable menstrual pads simplymeans taking a few extra minutes out of your day to rinse out somepieces of cotton and hang them somewhere to dry. I won't lie to you,sometimes that can be a pain in the behind. However, sometimes havingto get up to brush your teeth when you're already in bed reading a bookis a pain the behind. You'll get over it.

If you're likeme, and many of the alternative menstrual product users I've spokenwith, you might actually grow to enjoy the time you spend dealing withyour washable menstrual pads. Unfortunately our lives as busy urbanwomen on the go don't really allow for enough time to stop and thinkabout what's going on in our bodies. Sometimes while I'm washing mypads out, I think about how inconvenient my period can be, or sometimesI think about what a crazy, weird but cool thing my body is. Othertimes I think about what to make for dinner or how I really need to geta hair cut. It's no big deal. You get used to it.

5. It's like wearing a diaper.No, it really isn't; it's like wearing a washable menstrual pad. Yes,it is bulkier than an ultra-thin maxi-absorbent disposable number, orone of those “thong panty liners” (would someone please tell me what isup with those!). You can get different kinds of washable pads, some ofwhich rely on bulk of material for absorption, while others usespecifically absorbant types of cotton to help reduce the bulk. Iactually prefer a little fabric bulk over those plasticy, syntheticdisposable maxis on the market which chafe and irritate like nobody'sbusiness.

If you insist on wearing your white stretchcapri pants while you have your period, then yes your leopard-printwashable pad will show, but I can't help you with that. Myself, Iusually tend to gravitate toward looser items of clothing anyway whenI'm bleeding and if I have an event that requires a slinky blackcocktail dress smack in the middle of my period, then I just use TheKeeper menstrual cup or an unbleached cotton tampon for a few hours.

6. They don't fit into my lifestyle.This one is really a combination of 4 and 5 above and all I can tellyou is this: it isn't such a big shift to make. Before I did it, Ithought it would be huge inconvenience. It really only takes a fewextra minutes of your time and a shift in attitude about social taboos.

Don't have laundry at home? Neither do I. Just rinse themas you go and take them into the laundromat with your towels. Guesswhat? No one will notice. No one will care.

Maybe you area lifeguard/aerobics instructor/yoga instructor/vegas show girl. Fine,wear an unbleached cotton tampon, sea sponge tampon or The Keeper whileyou're at work or riding your bike around town, or whatever. Lots ofwomen just wear them at night. If you start using washable pads atnight you will cut the amount of garbage you produce and money youspend by about one-third. That's a great place to start.

7. They're too expensive.Buying premade washable menstrual pads can be an investment certainly.Start off slowly. If you're handy with a needle and thread maybe thinkabout making your own; there are lots of patterns out there on the web.Then invest in some fancy pre-made models in the coming months. Or buya few to start, wear them only at night and buy a few more every coupleof months or so. The long term savings are massive and chances are allthe money you spend is going to smaller women-run businesses ratherthan a big company that isn't concerned with your body or the planetyou inhabit.

8. They'll ruin my sex life.(AKA “Well I think it's an ok idea but I can't imagine what my partnerwould say!”) If you honestly think that your partner is going to takeissue with you using alternative menstrual products then it's time torethink your relationship. I hate to be all Dr. Laura about that, butit's true. I'm going to assume that your partner, regardless of theirgender identity, likes your vulva the rest of the month, and so it'stime they dealt with the few days that it might not be as appealing tothem. Besides, you would be surprised. In the many years that I've beendoing this, I have learned to not assume that men in particular will begrossed out by it and there have been many men along the way who havebeen some of my biggest allies.

So there you have it. Ifeel better now. Remember, ultimately it is your choice and I don'treally care either way what choice you make for you and your body. Butplease, just make sure you're doing it for the right reasons and notbecause of some outdated social taboo. Because in the end, the mostimportant aspect of the whole discussion around alternative menstrualproducts is making sure you really know what your choices are.

Emira Mears is the co-editor of a former e-zine turned blog, that deals with women's passions andpolitics and all the rest of the things that cross her and herco-editor Lauren's minds. Emira's company, Raised Eyebrow Web Studio, also designed this here web site.


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(Deleted comment)
This is a great post, but could I make a suggestion? I'm guessing you've got a keyboard problem or something's gone wrong with the HTML formatting or similar, but either way a lot of the spaces between words are missing, which makes it hard to read, and as someone with visual difficulties I find this pretty awkward. Any chance you could edit it to put the spaces back in?

I just noticed that spacing issue. Thank you for pointing that out. At this time I don't have the time to fix it. (getting married this month, pregnant and I have a toddler and a business to run.)

I'm really sorry, but it will be fixed once things die down.

Thanks for posting this, i'm thinking about getting a luna pad set. I'm tired of using 'always' knowing it clogs up the landfill sites, and after seeing all the reviews for them, i can't wait.

Thank you.
I will be directing people to this post when they say these things. I have been using cloth since I realized that it was silly to use paper/plastic pads for me, and cloth diapers for my kids.

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