Cleaning & Hygiene, Women's Topics

Reusable Menstrual Products

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I’ve seen some people try to stockpile enough disposable products to outlast any potential emergencies.

Disposables aren’t smart or healthy. Many preppers or SHTF resources act like in end of the world scenarios disposable products would be worth their weight in gold, but they wouldn’t be. We can see in third world countries now what happens when they aren’t available or affordable. We can see what people do instead and look at history to see what people used to find effective.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate disposable products to an extent and do advocate stocking SOME for when you aren’t in a position to wash anything, but recommend having reusable options as well. It is a MUCH better use of your money and storage space to be able to get more of items like food, water filters, or batteries instead of trying to have enough toilet paper to outlast the zombie apocalypse.

For women there are a couple options I’d like to discuss primarily. These are items you can get used to using now so there is no adjustment period later. Many find that by getting away from the disposable pads and tampons their cycle ends up lighter and/or less painful. Some have sensitivities/reactions to disposables and find the following options to be more comfortable in general. Plus the long term monetary savings. So while many may go, “yuck, that’s just not sanitary,” I’d like to encourage you to reconsider. We don’t throw out our clothes if a disposable product leaks (or at least most of us don’t). It’s really no different and many discover that they love the reusables for the reasons I mentioned above and more.

Cloth Menstrual Pads

Cloth pads are taking the concept of “on the rag” which our grandmothers experienced and refining it. Modern cloth pads are shaped like disposables, including wings if desired, and very user friendly. There are many fabrics which can be used in them and they can be made to have just as much absorbency as the disposable counterparts, from panty liners to overnights. The top layer can be made of flannel, velour, minky, or other super soft materials that feel quite comfortable against the skin. The core might be made of terry, flannel, zorb, etc. For those who feel more secure, some are made with waterproof bottom layers to further protect against leakage, though many women find that unnecessary. For women with incontinence issues, even those no longer getting a cycle compliments of menopause, cloth pads can also be a good option.

If you already like to sew, you may well find that there are enough scraps in your sewing supplies to make a small set. Old clothes, towels, and sheets can be repurposed for this. Or you can buy fun prints at the fabric store to add a bit of novelty to your cloth pad stash. They can be fastened with snaps, buttons, safety pins, or made without wings.

Free patterns:
http://lunawolf.co.uk/wordpress/
https://theecofriendlyfamily.com/mama-cloth-plus-free-patterns/
https://www.littlehouseliving.com/homemade-cloth-pads-tutorial-and-pattern.html
https://putacupinit.com/free-cloth-menstrual-pad-patterns/
Or draw out your own!

Further resources:
Menstrual Pad Fabrics Comparison – https://ecoladyuk.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/menstrual-pad-fabrics-comparison/
Cloth Pads 101 | Basic Construction & Fabric Breakdown – https://pixielovesitall.blog/2016/10/17/cloth-pads-101-basic-construction-fabric-breakdown/
Absorbency Requirements – http://www.clothpadshop.com/main/absorbency/

If you aren’t one for sewing, there are a number of options for buying them already made. There are many available on Etsy as well as companies like GladRags (https://gladrags.com/) or Luna Pads (https://lunapads.com/). As with cloth diapers there is a significant cost up front but then over time you can more that recoup your money.

For one cycle you’d need about as many pads as you typically go through in disposables if you intend to just wash them all at once when Aunt Flo leaves town. If you plan to wash daily or hand wash after each use then a smaller stash of 4-5 in the appropriate absorbency may be enough for you. If you want to wash all at once and have a few to spare you might want 40 or so in varying absorbency.

What about washing? How do I get them clean?! It is really easy, actually. There are a few methods used by different people.

Dry method – Some put them straight in a wet bag or other container until ready to wash. In between use and washing any blood dries and so you MAY find yourself with more staining issues than you’d have otherwise. Of course, staining depends on the fabrics used for your pad as well. Once ready to wash you’d just do a pre soak of all pads at once and then wash them like you’d wash your regular clothes.

Wet method – Some put them in a bucket of water to soak until ready to wash, replacing with fresh water as needed. You’ll find these probably stain less or not at all but otherwise the method can be a bit messier. At least, not as portable. Once ready to wash just pour out the water and proceed to pre soak if needed then do a regular wash cycle.

The As-You-Go Method – As someone who doesn’t have laundry facilities on site, I prefer to wash pads by hand as I use them and hang in the shower to dry. This only takes a couple minutes of effort each time I change the pad, or if I’m especially busy with kids I’ll leave a couple to soak and then hand wash whenever I get a minute of free time that day. It really doesn’t require much effort.

Cold Water vs. Hot Water – Cold water is the most “energy efficient” way to wash and minimizes the chance of staining so most of the cloth pad community advocates for this. Hot water will wear out the fabric faster but some feel more comfortable with this option and it’s also a good idea if you’re having any issues with candida. (See related post: Candida in Clothing/Reusable Products)

If you can’t tell, I’ve been using these for awhile and have found I greatly prefer them to disposable. There are also some who have used cloth or crocheted yarn to make reusable tampons. I have no experience with those so have chosen not to cover the topic here. It may be worth a search if you just really, really want to stick with a tampon-esque option. There are also menstrual cups, which I briefly cover below.

Silicone Menstrual Cup

A menstrual cup, Diva Cup being one of the more well known brands, is a silicone device that can be used internally to catch your flow and then simply emptied as needed throughout the day. At the end of each cycle you’d sanitize and set aside until the next month. Some people love these from day one, some need practice, and for some it’s just not their cup of tea. You can expect a menstrual cup to last for about 2-4 years of use which makes it quite affordable, and realistically you COULD use one for significantly longer if needed. Cloth liners can be nice in conjunction with menstrual cups if you’re concerned about leaks. And because there are so many on the market, I’m going to drop some links below breaking down the differences between menstrual cup options.

Further Resources:
Menstrual Cup Comparison Chart – https://putacupinit.com/chart/
Wirecutter: The Best Menstrual Cup – https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-menstrual-cup/

Youtube Tutorials:
How to Insert and Remove a Menstrual Cup – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CBh6cAKapA
An “Inside” Look at Menstrual Cups – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgdPI7oqmRE

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