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Asking Your Daughter to Use Cloth

Are you modern enough to ask your daughter to use cloth pads for managing her periods? Yes, you read that right, I used the word ‘modern’ with a very traditional product. And the reason is that cloth pads available today are much more advanced to the layers of cloth that have been used by women since ancient times.

Cloth pads are slowly gaining popularity, and women are now more open to this concept (of going back to basics). After reading numerous articles in the paper, and speaking to some of their friends – who are proud users of these contemporary cloth pads – they are ready to learn more about the product instead of being grossed out. If not for themselves, then for their daughters. Most moms are opting for menstrual cups for personal use (along with a few cloth pantyliners) and cloth pads for their daughters. There are some, who totally understand that hymen and virginity are not connected and are OK with their daughters using small / teen size cups that are now easily available online.

All the moms who love their menstrual cup and want their daughters to use cloth pads, have numerous questions in mind and I would like to jot them down together and answer them as efficiently as possible. Believe me, using cloth pads in no rocket science. It does sound like a lot of work with washing and storing them, but once we get the hang, it becomes a part of our routine. Women have been managing very well in office and girls can handle during school hours too. Do not underestimate your little girls, they can handle more than what you think, especially if it concerns their health.

Reusable Menstrual Cloth Pads – FAQs

How long can these be worn / how often do we need to change?
Just like regular pads, duration will depend on your flow and capacity/size of the pad. On an average, they need to be changed anywhere between 3-7 hours. You should opt for longer pads with higher capacity for heavy flow days. Below are a few videos that compare capacity of cloth pads with disposable pads and also with different brands of cloth pads.

Do they smell?
Smell of our menstrual blood is very mild and not bad, it also varies with the amount of exercise we do and kind of diet we take. We de experience a “stinky” smell while using disposable pads as the blood reacts with toxic chemicals in these. While using cloth pads or menstrual cups, you will notice the actual smell of menstrual blood.

Are they healthy and hygienic?
Yes, totally. The use of cloth in itself is not bad, it is inadequate washing, drying in closed spaces and storage that makes the use of cloth unhygienic. The newly designed cloth pads give a ‘new look’ to the old cloth method, and can be easily washed and sun-dried.

What is wrong with disposable sanitary napkins? Why should I switch?
The slick ads on TV don’t tell us the ingredients of a modern sanitary napkin – the super absorbent polymers, the acrylic based gel, the leak proof layer which causes itching and skin rashes. Many women complain about rashes and burning, but continue to live with this discomfort. Many young girls and women in the rural areas who are given free sanitary napkins under various schemes, continue to use the same pad for over 10-12 hours. Furthermore, to give tampons and pads that pristine, “clean” white look, the fibers used must be bleached. Chlorine is commonly used for this, which can create toxic dioxin and other disinfection-by-products (DBPs) such as trihalomethane. Considering that these pads are in direct contact with the highly sensitive area of the body, there are concerns of various health risks.

How many times can I use each pad?
Depending on the brand you use (as each brand uses different fabrics) and how you wash and dry your pads, they can be used anywhere between 50-120 times each.  If you buy a set of 8-12 pads, they can last you around 3-5 years. Again, this will depend on your flow and how you wash and take care of them.

How do I carry a used / soiled menstrual cloth pad?
If you are out for a long day at work / school etc. and are unable to wash the pad after use, you can fold the pad and close the snap buttons with the soiled side inside and keep it in a wet bag or a zip lock bag. You can also buy leak proof travel pouches that are specially designed for this purpose.

Do cloth pads leak? How can I avoid leaks?
Any pad (cloth or disposable) will eventually leak if it is not changed in time. Cloth pads come with and without leak-proof layer but that does not mean “pads with leak-proof layer” will never leak. It simply means that a pad with the extra protective layer will last you longer as compared to the ones without the leak-proof layer.

There are 3 kinds of leakages that can happen (and trust me, these also happen with both – cloth and disposable pads)

  1. Through the pad – this is common with pads without leak-proof layer. When not changed in time, pads can leak through. It is a good option to keep extra inserts in you are using these pads.
  2. Side leaks – common in pads with leak-proof layer. When the pad has reached its full capacity and you are unable to change, it starts leaking from the sides / wings.
  3. Compression leaks – common with both styles of cloth pads – when pad is saturated, and you sit down, blood oozes out from top.

Best way to avoid leaks is to change in time, but I will be writing a separate article on reasons for leaks and how to avoid them. Yes, there are few more reasons behind these nasty leaks!

How do I store them between cycles?
This is more of a personal preference. You can keep them all flat in a drawer / along with your undergarments or you can fold them with snap buttons closed and stack them in your drawer. You can read Varsha’s cloth pad sorting story.

What is the best way to wash cloth pads?
You can hand wash them or chuck them in the machine. A good scrubbing by hand keeps them soft and free from being strained unnecessarily, making them last longer. Machine wash is rather rough on cloth pads. If you still feel like going for a machine wash, just put them in a lingerie bag first and then put them for a machine wash. This will be easier on them.

How do I dry them? I don’t want others to see my pads.
Line drying under direct sunlight is the best option, if we can kill the taboo and let them dry in open then nothing like it. Sunlight also helps in killing any bacterial. You can also cover the pads with a thin cloth while line drying them out in the open or you may choose to dry indoors (in your washroom) in any airy space, preferably near a window.

Do they retain their softness?
This again depends on which brand / fabric you use. Some pads will become a little rough after repeated use. To avoid this, use vinegar. soak your pads in cold water, add a couple of tablespoons of vinegar and a couple of drops of essential oil. This will freshen them up and keep them soft. Do not use fabric conditioner / antiseptics. While line drying, you can ‘scrunch’ the pads a bit before they are fully dry to soften them up.

I hope this was helpful. This PADstrologer can guide you in selecting the right kind of pad, do use your own judgement too. You can also take a look at this comparison chart.

Have a happy period!

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