Reusable Pads 101: On Wear and Care

Mary Seph
7 min readJun 17, 2021


Four cloth pads on light pink background: one is completely white the other is aquamarine; the other two have, on the flaps,  a colorful design of red and purple respectively while the rest of the pad is cotton white.

After trying a period cup and utterly failing to assimilate it as part of my period product of choice, I wanted to get my hands on another eco-friendly menstrual product. I have used disposable pads for all my period life, so its reusable version was an eye-catching option. At first, I was skeptical of them because they would need to be washed and worn again. Perhaps that’s why it wasn’t the first non-disposable period product I chose to try. However, going back to disposable pads wasn’t an option anymore; the genital pain was too much of a concern.

I have been wearing reusable pads for about nine months now. Spending most of my period at home, being an online student and all, this routine is set where I feel the most comfortable and have the most comforts. In this article, I have summarized the past nine period weeks I have spent with reusable pads, the logistics behind wearing disposable pads, and how I care for them.

How many reusable pads do I own?

Currently, I have six pads, four regular-sized, and two large-sized — although I started with three pads. I find six to be a decent number for the following reasons: Line drying them leaves the drying time at the mercy of the “season.” South America has roughly two, wet and dry. When I got the first three, it was intensely hot and sunny, so there was no problem cycling through them. However, when days turned cloudy, the weather humid, and it poured constantly, the first pad hadn’t dried when I changed into the third. Thus, I needed to increase the number. Lastly, for health reasons, I wanted to make sure I was wearing a clean and completely dry pad. I bought two more regular and one large to make six. This way, I could choose the size depending on that day’s flow.

When do I use each type of pad?

This may not be very different from using disposable ones; the sizes’ names are similar. Regulars are recommended for light flow and large for heavy flow and wearing at night. My period is light the start and the end, so put on a regular one. The tough days are the second and third where I consider my flow “heavy”. I usually use the bigger pads at night to prevent stains on the bottomwear.

How long do I use each pad?

Recommended wear time is between four to five hours, as the gynecologist advised. I believe there’s both a health factor and a care factor involved in this number. The latter is to reduce the chance the pad will get badly stained. I mentally note the time I changed to a clean pad and calculate when I need to change out of it.

How does it feel to wear a disposable pad?

So much better than a disposable one. There are no ruffling sounds, no discomfort, and no genital pain. It doesn’t feel I’m wearing a diaper. It feels like another piece of underwear because it’s cotton cloth.

What are the disadvantages of wearing disposable pads?

I have considered a few situations and groups who might find reusable pads troublesome: traveling, work outside the home, and people with physical disabilities. As I mentioned at the beginning, I have spent these period weeks at home with all the amenities I need. I was about to be traveling during one period but by the time I had to leave, it was over. This means I do not have experience using reusable pads in another place, but I have some ideas I can share.

If I were to be outside during a trip, I would bring at least one extra pad on some pouch. The pad can be folded in a way the bloody patch doesn’t come in contact with the outside. Then, when I get to the place I’m staying, I would wash it in the sink or shower, preferably with a similar if not the same soap I use at home. The same idea would apply to working outside the home, as one would have to change pads at least once (assuming it’s an eight hour job). Lastly, The method I use to wash pads may not be useful for people with physical disabilities: standing, squeezing, and rubbing the cloth against itself requires muscle strength. All in all, I strongly recommend reading about people with experience in these topics. I would love to hear your thoughts about them.

How did I choose which pads to get?

My first choice was to go local, find a product made as close as possible by human hands. I didn’t find many options but what I found looked nice. Bioecolyn is a company of a group of seamstress that primarily promotes their reusable baby diapers. The basic design of reusable pads looked fairly similar to disposable pads but I have seen foreign brands with different general designs. These have a plastic clasp in place of the glue on disposable pads at the end of the middle flaps, going around the underwear. After the general design, the next point of interest was the particular color of each pad. Theirs, unlike the ones on the cover of this post, have a colorful design on the underside, the one that meets the underwear. They had quite a variety to choose from; this where I went with my heart instead of my head, choosing the ones that sparked the most joy. I was drunk in excitement each time a period arrived because it was an opportunity to wear the newest clothes I was fond of.

What do I use to wash reusable pads?

In a separate effort to make washing more environmentally friendly, I rediscovered the clothes soap people used to use before dry detergent. It. Works. Great! While it doesn’t leave the pad stainless, I trust the pad is clean. Additionally, as a block of soap, it takes more time to be used up than liquid or dry detergent, reducing cost in the long term (I think).

How do I wash them?

Taking the pad to the washing station (back of the house with a solid basin; I don’t know the English word for this), I place it under the open faucet and scratch any solid bits that have stuck to the pad, then squeeze it until the water comes out relatively clear.

Quick side note, I have read that menstrual blood can be used as a fertilizer. The product I purchased recommends dumping the squeezed out, diluted blood to nearby plants. You can gather this bloody water on a plastic basin or container during the previous step. This fertilizer is particularly useful for those growing plants to harvest food from. It is recommended to use the blood before applying any washing product.

Back to washing a pad, when the remaining stain looks rather transparent or the water comes out relatively clear, I wet the soap and scrub it on the stain until it’s all soaped up, then scrub the pad against itself for extra measure. Finally, I leave the pad soaking over the next few hours until I have changed out of the following pad.

What about drying?

After squeezing out the water-and-soap-soaked pad, I clip it on the wire to line dry. On rainy days or nights, I clip the pad(s) on a clothes hanger and place it/them in front of a fan. However, I feel air drying in full sun leaves the pads drier. The sun’s UV light is also a natural sanitizer. Drying time depends on various weather factors like time in exposure to the sun, temperature, humidity, etc. The larger pads tend to take longer because they have more cotton inside to absorb more blood. On good — sunny and hot — days, it takes about four hours or less to dry.

To summarize, reusable pads are an alternative to its disposable version, requiring a certain amount of care. The amount one owns can depend on how they chose to wash the pads or their environment if line drying them. Pads can come in different sizes and styles where a similar guideline like disposables can be followed: bigger, longer pads for heavy flow and night and regular size for the rest. It is recommended to use a pad around the five-hour mark. Reusable pads can be said to be more comfortable because it’s not made of plastic so there is little to no noise from movement. However, depending on the style and underwear size, the pad can move from its place so stains are a possibility. There can also be particular issues if traveling, working outside the home, or for people with physical disabilities. To wash a pad, this one uses a cloth-safe soap or blue soap, leaving the pad soaking after rinsing and squeezing out some of the blood. The pad is left to line dry until completely dry or there is no other choice but wear it. For me, the most wonderful thing about changing to reusable pads has been the chance to exercise mindfulness during the period: Instead of rejecting the situation, I’m present in every moment, thus feeling a deeper connection with my body.

I hope this article was helpful. Please feel free to share how you spend your periods or how you care for your menstrual products! Each body is different and they prefer different types of care. Thank you for reading. I hope you have a wonderful day!

Check the notes that made this article possible in Mary’s Mind Garden.



Mary Seph

Green-living | Productivity | Eco-minimalism They/them. 🌲 🌲