As Kristin, who designed this pattern, says: "Landfill and pollution problems are on the rise and continue to be a world wide concern. In 1998, 7 billion tampons and 13 billion sanitary pads and their packaging made their way into landfills and sewage systems in the USA alone! The chemicals and other ingredients in pads and tampons can cause reactions in women that range from mild to extreme, including toxic shock syndrome. Many women suffer through the use of these products month after month, not realizing there are natural alternatives, but there is a better way! Natural alternatives in feminine care are better for the environment, less expensive, and better for you!"
It's purely unscientific, but we've heard many times that switching from disposables to cloth reduces chafing and can even reduce both the length of and the unpleasant physical symptoms of menstruation. (One of the NearSea folks, referenced below, went from being very crampy at "that time of the month" to nearly cramp-free once she started using cloth pads.)
The pattern recommends heavy flannel, and calls for snaps as the closure method. One yard of 60" wide flannel should make your choice of 9 pantyliners or 5 minipads with 5 inserts; two yards should make 6 regular holders with 7 inserts,5 maxi holders with 7 inserts, or 4 postpartum holders with 7 inserts. Instructions are included for an optional leak-resistant insert using PUL; we've never found them necessary, but it's always good to have the option. You can make these pads using a regular sewing machine with straight and zigzag stitches.
Note that although we've pictured pads and wipes, this item is the pattern only -- you'll need to make them yourself!
Cloth Pad FAQ
How many cloth pads do I need?
There's no set answer to this, but the general recommendation is 12 pads -- more if you have a very heavy cycle, and fewer if you will wash them every day. Make the amount you think you'll need, and use them for a period or two, to see if you've made enough. If not, it's easy to make more!
How do you use cloth pads?
It's easy-peasy! No need for any of the scary contraptions you may have heard or read about -- just put the insert inside the holder as directed on the pattern, lay the pad opening-side down against the crotch of your panties (so the smooth, seamless side is up), and snap the wings around your panties. Voila! For extra protection at night, when your flow is extra-heavy, or when you're post-partum, consider using two inserts. Just fold the second and insert it atop the first. It's recommended that you change the pads about as frequently as you would disposables; pay close attention during the first cycle or two to get a "feel" for how frequently you'll need to change them.
How do you care for cotton pads?
Always wash the pads prior to use, and always separate the inserts from the holders before washing so they're thoroughly cleaned. There are two general recommendations for washing: you can soak your pads in cold water (changing the soak water daily) until you're ready to wash, or you can rinse them until the water flows clear, and then wash them when you're ready. Wash as you would a flannel shirt. (A third option, not manufacturer-recommended but definitely field-tested, is to simply throw the pads in with your cloth diapers/any particularly gicky wash load and wash thoroughly. The results may not be as stain-free as doing it "properly", but it's a lot quicker and easier! This works best with a good washing machine.) Do not use bleach, fabric softener, or dryer sheets, as they can reduce both lifespan and absorbency.
How long will the pads last?
Your pads should last as long as any flannel shirt that you wear, wash, and dry, a couple of times each month. The above-mentioned NearSea worker has pads that have been going strong for almost fifteen years now. (Note, though, that she has quite the collection of cloth pads and they thus aren't used as frequently as they might be otherwise.)