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Cloth Menstrual Pads

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Using "batting" in pads (don't!)
bellydance
purple_obsidian wrote in cloth_pads

It comes up from time to time.. so I thought we probably should have a full post about it.

Batting (sometimes called "wadding") is a felt-like fabric designed to be used for inside quits and other things that need to be "poofy".  It's designed to trap air.... if you trap air in something like a quilt, it traps warm air which keeps you warm.  That is its function. It's very good at doing that.  It is not appropriate for using in pads. Not even bamboo batting.  Bamboo batting is not like bamboo fleece.  It may look somewhat similar, but it's not the same in function.

Batting is made from thin fibres, felted together to include a lot of air.  It's thick and bulky because it is very fluffy and full of air.  You want a poofy thick quilt so it can trap a lot of warm air and keep you warm underneath it.  You don't want a poofy air-filled cloth pad. Batting is designed to trap air, not liquid.  It is simply not absorbent enough. A poly batting (just like using polarfleece as a pad core) is not "absorbent" as such and should never be used. It will hold some liquid if there is nowhere else for it to go, but it's not absorbent in the same way a natural fibre is.  Bamboo batting will be absorbent because it's made from bamboo, but it will not be as absorbent as using something that is designed to absorb liquid.  Fabrics designed for absorption are thicker, denser and made in a way that will trap and hold liquid, and will be durable through repeated washes.

Batting is designed for making things like quilts and craft things that are not frequently washed and not frequently worn.  Cloth pads are subjected to frequent washing and wear.  Pads may need to be scrubbed and soaked and are not washed gently.  The fibrous way batting is made is not particularly durable through frequent washing or wear.  You can usually pull batting apart with your hands.  When the batting is subjected to wear, it can tear apart within a pad, and your pad is going to end up with a weirdly lumpy core.

Look at the care instructions for batting, they talk about setting the machine on gentle or even not agitating at all. :
http://www.backtobackalpaca.com/SearchResults.asp?Cat=13
http://www.fiberco.com/care/bamboo_blend/bamboo_blend.htm

A cotton terry in contrast is manufactured for the sole purpose of absorbing liquid.  It has thicker fibres, more densely knit/woven together.  It doesn't have a lot of air included to poof it up.  It is heavier which means there is more actual absorbent component per square inch.  It is made for frequently laundering and frequent use.

Bamboo and hemp terry/fleece has been made to be used in applications like cloth diapers, where high absorbency, frequent washing and trimness (non bulkyness) are essential to the items being made from it.  That's what makes those fabrics the best choice for cloth pads.  They may cost more to buy and be harder to source than things like batting or cotton terry, but you get what you pay for.



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Thanks so much for this post. I've been meaning to do this for a long time. This is a big problem and I hope folks stop using batting. I have some pads that were claimed to have "organic cotton" in them, but once I messaged the seller and asked what TYPE of organic cotton it was, she said batting. I was very angry and still am, it's so deceiving and rips off customers and leaves a useless pad.

Come to think of it, I actually want to take apart the pad and show the inside and how the batting is all shift and falling apart.

But I hope this picture will show people what batting looks like:

Photobucket
Unlabeled photo

It's just better to use all natural woven/knit fabrics. For something that is focused on for absorbency and re-usability...batting is a total fail.

And I keep biting my tongue because I don't want to sound rude but it really does make me angry that I have useless batting filled pads.

And also to note, I only have batting because I became interested in quilting. I have yards and yards of organic cotton sherpa, bamboo fleece, organic cotton fleece, cotton flannel, and some bamboo flannel. I use only these fabrics that are woven/knit for cloth pads. Pretty much in short detail..I use the "expensive" good stuff for my pads only.

:D

I don't know if it is against community rules, but I really feel like there should be a post calling out pad sellers that use these materials. I've bought pads from one seller on ebay, that I am pretty sure uses batting, because it got all weird and out of shape. I wish this could happen particularly for people new to cloth pads.

I would like to do that, but it's kinda harsh to be honest. There is one seller out there that was mentioned heavily in this community but isn't selling at the moment, and I do keep holding my tongue whenever someone suggests the shop.

It's just not right to deceive customers like that. But, your suggestion should be discussed though.
:)

I don't believe there is anything stopping people making a factual, non-inflammatory review on pad brands they have tried.

If pad makers are using this, customers have a right to know.

If they mention they use batting in their listings, then it's not telling anyone anything that isn't already publicly available. if they don't mention it, then customers have a right to know what is in the products they may be buying.

So please feel free

Pads with batting were among my first cloth pad purchases, and I bought them because they were cheaper than other pads. Cloth newbies tend to be the most price sensitive, since they don't necessarily know how to distinguish good and bad pads and may just be trying cloth as an experiment. I think I would have given up on cloth if my first experience had been thick pads that saturated quickly and bunched up horrendously in the wash; I shudder to think what happens to the enthusiastic newbies who buy a "complete stash set" from a single seller that uses batting, just to save a few bucks.

One place that's good for publicizing who uses batting is the Cloth Pads Wiki. Every seller has a page that includes factual information about their materials, and those keywords are tagged. So you can get a list of all the sellers who use batting: http://clothpads.wikidot.com/system:page-tags/tag/cottonbatting. Unfortunately, the site's fairly out of date because I've been focusing on school, and I'm not likely to have time to update it again until the end of next month. But anyone who wants to is free to volunteer! If you ave any questions about it, just send me a message.

I didn't know Vaj Pads used cotton batting until now due to the wiki link.
Ugh, this makes me so angry! I'm so disappointed and feel ripped off.

after seeing your post on fb, i went to etsy and researched some of the pads listed. interesting what you find there. thanks for this post!

Thank you for sharing this!

Quality materials are important, nay, essential, to a quality cloth pad. As a (reasonably) long-time pad maker whose done a lot of research into fabrics, I appreciate when other makers and users understand the importance of quality.

Hear! Hear!

Well good to know, just a little too late for me.
I own batting-filled pantyliners (2 layers flannel, 1 layer quilted cotton in the middle AND batting) that were my first, not intended for bleeding on, they've only been through a few washes and so far they're holding up. I'll see how it goes. Worst case the flannel and cotton might still do the trick ? It's a pity because the shape is by far my favourite of all the various models I own. I'll keep them just for that reason. :(

I would only use those pads for a light flow. The batting material is not absorbent as claimed to be, think of it like compressed cotton balls. Overtime such as a couple of years, you may notice the pad looks funny where the absorbent part is or it is shifting.

Just be super picky, you have a right to know what your pads are made out of and what you are paying for :)

Thanks for this post!!

What's the consensus on ZORB?

I've tested the absorbency of my pads using my Fleurcup filled with warm water and the one pad I have with ZORB absorbed a ridiculous amount of fluid. I don't trust it as much as bamboo fleece or hemp because it seems like it can cause compression leaks.

I wanted to know if you or anyone else here knows what it is made of?

I felt some zorb fabric when my sister was making nursing pads for herself and it does have the same kind of non-woven structure as batting but it's much more sturdy almost like felted wool so I don't think you could pull it apart like batting - I doubt it'd have the same problems.

This article explains what zorb is made of (about halfway through):
http://allaboutclothdiapers.com/what-is-zorb-do-you-know/

What I don't get is their beef with hemp. What?!! I know we're not talking diapers but they're kind of in the same boat. What could possibly be evil about hemp fabric?

I wouldn't choose zorb, as I prefer to use/buy bamboo or hemp for their properties and the fact they are natural... but I know some people swear by it.

I'm not really sure how zorb compares with microfibre for absorbency. In my daughter's cloth nappies I used to use a trifolded microfibre square on top (to quickly grab the wee) and a bamboo folded booster under that (to hold the wee)... personally I think zorb is probably just a posh version of microfibre (in absorbency).

The only issue I see with it (as with any too-absorbent cloth pad), is that the thicker and more absorbent the core is, the more water it's going to hold during washing, so the more time it's going to take to dry (so the more potential for going musty). That's why I don't use more than 3 layers hemp/bamboo in my pads, because I don't believe it is a good thing to make a pad any more absorbent than that - for drying reasons. (I have a couple of non-waterproofed pads I bought and they are 4-5 layers of hemp and take an eternity to dry.... FAR longer than a 3 layer waterproofed one)

Their beef with hemp is probably because of 2 things...

Firstly (and most importantly to most) wee+hemp can make smelly nappies. I never had it happen, but I've seen a lot of people complain about it. It must be something to do with how they are washed... or maybe something in a particular infant's wee.... not sure.

The other thing is hemp nappies and boosters and things go stiff as a board if not either scrunched before hung on the line or dried in a tumble dryer (or I found washing them with soapnuts).... so while hemp was touted as the best thing when it first came out, as soon as bamboo hit the market most nappy manufacturers dumped hemp as soon as they could because of those 2 issues, plus the fact bamboo is quite a lot more absorbent.

I've never used or tried Zorb, but I'll never buy it. I heard that it is made of ground up fibers of bamboo and cotton and other synthetics for absorbency. Wazoodle carries it. And also, it should be sandwiched between two layers of fabric or else it can give a compression squeeze issue like a sponge. There is also Zorb II which can be used without sewing in between the layers, and this type of zorb gets thicker after washing.

Pretty much, I'd only use natural fabrics! Starting with cotton flannel, cotton terry, and then onto the organic fabrics such as bamboo fleece/terry/jersey/sherpa or cotton fleece/terry/jersey/sherpa or hemp fleece/terry/jersey/sherpa.

I've also heard some complaints about odor with pads that contain zorb. Ick.

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Zorb is incredibly absorbent, it's why it has problems with odor, washing, and drying. Not everyone can afford fancy special detergent..in fact I use "Tide" brand and have no issues. Though I am looking into a more earth friendly cloth diapering detergent for my clothes and pads.

When the flow runs off to the sides, it's perhaps the pad is too saturated or not absorbent enough to deal with more menstrual flow. Bamboo and hemp are some of those fabrics that need to be washed many times to increase absorbency.

The source and quality of fabrics is very important to cloth pad making. I know it is something that we are all just bleeding on, but the quality and source of a fabric determines how well it will function and last!

Cheaply made, badly made, and batting filled pads are just not the way to go. If one wants "cheap" pads, they should make it themselves and I bet they will be far more better and more functional.

I'm lucky, I went through my stash..and there is only around 6 pads with batting in them, though I don't use them anymore as I was very suspicious about them. I was a huge fan of Punky's Pads..until I found out she used batting. And that makes me very angry.

:)

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I'll be sure to look into the homemade detergent.

I went through a lot of disposables a few years back. One pack would have just a few pads left when I was finished, so I would need another pack. And the feeling of wearing a clumpy, bunchy, sticky "diaper" every month didn't make me happy.

:)

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There is nothing wrong with cotton terry, it might not be quite as absorbant as hemp or bamboo, but it works well.

I don't want people on a budget to think that they can't use stuff around the house to make pads or that they should not buy pads with less costly materials, albeit not batting.

I have pads I hand sewed using old towels and flannel remnants that are over three years old, and they work just great.

I agree! I love cotton flannel and especially cotton terrycloth. These fabrics are so traditional and easy to find, too!
I have very heavy menstrual flows, and so I really need the organic fabrics or else I would need thicker pads :/

organics don't absorb more than non-organics.... it just means the crop has been grown and processed to organic standards.

Eeek! I keep mentioning the organic fabrics in place of saying bamboo and hemp. :)

I wasn't meaning to say don't use cotton terry - I said that it is a fabric designed to hold liquid. It is perfectly fine to use. I was meaning to show that if you're thinking of using batting or cotton terry - go the terry, as it's actually designed to do what you want it to do.

However, hemp and bamboo are thinner and more absorbent...(and probably more eco friendly) so cotton terry isn't the "best" fabric to use for the inner core of a pad, based on it's absorbency to bulkyness ratio. Also cotton is not an environmentally friendly crop to grow. They use pesticides, fungicides and a bunch of chemicals on growing the cotton, then comes processing, bleaching, in some cases dying...

Unless you're using at a 100% organic cotton terry/fleece for it's organic properties... but then that's a bit of a grey area anyway because hemp a much more environmentally friendly crop than cotton is. Even organic cotton. (doesn't need as much water, doesn't need pesticides etc. and ALL of the plant is usable for different things) Bamboo is an even greyer area, as the plant is very eco-friendly to grow but it's processing involves chemical process....

Since I use a cup on my heavy days, super duper absorbancy is not an issue for me, which is probably why I don't have the desire/need to pay for hemp or bamboo fabrics in my pad making. I also don't use PUL for similar reasons. I find that cotton terry, flannel, and old t-shirts work great for my use, and if I am having a heavy and cup free day I just change more frequently, and don't have any issues.
I like using what I have as it doesn't have to be shipped, is free, and can be repurposed, so for me it is more eco friendly to use old towels and such. But I totally agree that hemp is a more eco friendly fabric compared to new cotton terry. Bamboo is basically rayon, so I am not sure on that as I haven't done the research.

Rayon more refers to the way a fabric is made, rather than it's ingredients. Which is why I think calling it bamboo rayon is far more confusing for the consumer. As before I looked into it, I'd always assumed rayon was another name for polyester... but it's not. The confusing part is that a "synthetic" fabric means it's man made (not natural), but a rayon is man made in a way, but it's made from natural fibres.

Essentially something like cotton or hemp fabric is made by collecting the fibres of the plant (cotton has cotton balls that get picked, hemp is the fibres inside the stalks of the plant) and spinning them into a thread - much like how you'd spin sheep's wool to make something you can knit with. That thread is then woven or knit into the fabric.

The "rayon" process involves taking the fibre, soaking it in a solvent to make a bamboo soup type thing, and then I believe the threads are drawn from that mixture and then the process is the same as knitting/weaving any other fabric.

I think they do it the rayon way when the fibres aren't able to be spun into a thread on it's own. They do make cotton rayon, so I wonder if that's the leftover bits or something...

Because bamboo fabric production involves the use of the solvent chemicals to make it, it's said to be not eco-friendly at all... but it depends on how it's done and it depends on if you're comparing it to organic cotton production or regular cotton production. More and more, bamboo processing factories are using what they call a "closed loop" system where they don't just dump all the chemicals, they reuse them and filter them and so on... so there is then minimal environmental impact from that process. By contrast, a lot of cotton fabric processing uses chemicals and dyes that are just dumped into surrounding waterways.

This is also why WHERE fabric is made is important. The vast majority of fabric in the world today (mainly all the conventionally-grown cottons) come from China where there are few standards in place and the working conditions can be abysmal. But it's not just the cottons, there's a lot of hemp and especially bamboo that is grown there as well. Co-op bought bamboo from China is environmentally no better than buying cotton at your local fabric store.

I believe researching WHERE and HOW the fabric in your pad is made is just as important as choosing a cloth pad in the first place.

Thank you so much for this post. I'm very new to cloth pads and this has been very helpful!

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