Having a period can be pretty infuriating. On top of the cramps and mood swings, it’s frustrating to know that you spend so much money on chemical-laden pads every month only for it to go straight into a landfill. Luckily, there’s been a resurgence in reusable pads that are better for you, your wallet, and the environment.
But just like disposable pads, there are dozens of brands of reusable pads, and it can be hard to figure out what will work for you. In this guide, we’ll go over the different factors to look at when making your choice. At the end, we’ve also got a list of our 10 favorites to help you get started.
How to Choose a Reusable Pad – Buying Guide
Picking a reusable pad is, by nature, a very personal decision. So don’t forget to keep your individual needs in mind when looking at the options (even though there are a lot of good-looking brands that might distract you!).
Pick Materials Based on Where They Are in the Pad
Different fibers have different qualities, and to ensure that you’re getting the best functioning pad possible, pay attention to what materials the pad is made from, what purpose they serve, and where they are in the pad.
For Inner Materials, Look for Natural Cotton, Bamboo, or Hemp
Many people switch to reusable pads because of the irritating chemicals and synthetics in disposable pads. So, for the inner portion of the pad that touches you, it’s best to go with natural materials like cotton, bamboo fiber, or hemp. Cotton is the easiest to find and also the cheapest, but bamboo fiber and hemp are a bit more absorbent and odor-resistant.
For Middle and Outer Materials, Synthetics May Be Necessary
While most pads use natural materials for the portions that touch your skin, they’ll use materials like microfiber and plastic-coated cloths for the middle absorbent layers and outer water-repellent layers. Microfiber is extremely absorbent, and plastic coatings prevent leakage.
For those looking to avoid synthetic materials altogether, keep an eye out for pads that state they are 100% cotton. Note, however, that you might be giving up a little absorbency for a more fully natural pad, and to prevent leakage on heavy days, a little bit of plastic coating might be necessary.
Know Your Flow–Pick the Right Absorbency and Length
Just like conventional pads, reusable pads are made with different absorbencies and lengths to accommodate different periods. When it comes to absorbency, most won’t tell you exactly how much liquid they can hold (but honestly, do you know how heavy your flow is in numbers?). However, they will tell you the absorbency based on the normal conventions of light, normal, heavy, etc.
As with disposable pads, you might need to get a few different sizes to cover you through the different stages of your period.
If You’re Less Comfortable with Blood, Find a Dark Colored Pad
One of the hardest parts for a lot of people when deciding to switch to reusable pads is the idea of washing the blood out or having to wear a dirty-looking, stained pad.
Luckily for those who are uncomfortable with that thought, there are several reusable pads that come with a black or dark gray inner lining rather than white. While you’ll still probably be able to tell if it’s stained, it won’t be nearly as jarring and would be much easier to ignore than on a white pad.
For Changing on the Go, Find a Pad that Comes with a Wet Pouch
Unlike disposable pads that you can just throw away basically anywhere (anywhere meaning any trash can), if you need to change your reusable pad when you’re out of the house, you’re going to have to take it back home with you after.
Whether you decide to rinse it out first or just tuck it away, you’re going to need a waterproof pouch to carry it. Many reusable pads actually come with wet pouches, so if this is your first reusable pad, and you don’t have a wet pouch yet, check to see if your pad comes with one.
Top 10 Best Reusable Pads to Buy Online
Now that you know what to look for, here are our 10 favorite reusable pads. Remember that you’ll likely have to mix and match brands and styles to cater to each stage of your period.
10. Love My Bamboo Fiber Menstrual Pads (Set of 6)
Extra Long for Light Overnights
These colorful pads are made with an all-natural, unbleached bamboo terry cloth inner and microfiber middle layer to keep you feeling dry for hours. Its extra long length makes it great for overnight use.
However, some reviewers note that these may shift around in your underwear during day use. Others also note that they can feel warm and stifling during the hot summer months.
|Materials||Bamboo fiber, microfiber|
|Absorbency||Light to medium|
9. Jobebe Overnight Charcoal Bamboo Reusable Pads (Set of 10)
Super Long, Super Absorbent Overnighters
This set comes with more overnight pads than you’ll probably ever need, but if you have a heavy flow, these could be a lifesaver. They wick moisture away from your skin and don’t accumulate odors.
However, some reviewers note that the PUL outer layer can make the pad slip in your underwear. They are also rather thick, so they might not make the best day pads (or at least you might want to save them for when you’re at home).
|Materials||Bamboo, microfiber, PUL|
8. Wegreeco Bamboo Reusable Sanitary Pads (Set of 5)
Absorbent Pad with Adjustable Fit
This adorable matching set of pads are breathable and odor-resistant. Each pad has two connecting snaps for a more adjustable fit. If you really like this brand, it also comes in three other sizes to cover every stage of your period.
However, some reviewers note that the waterproof PUL outer layer can cause the pad to slip a bit in your underwear, so these might need to be worn together with spandex shorts for a more secure fit.
|Materials||Bamboo, microfiber, PUL|
|Absorbency||Medium to heavy|
7. Langsprit Absorbent Reusable Sanitary Pads (Set of 6)
Thick and Leak-Resistant
These bamboo fiber pads are extremely absorbent and leak resistant. They have two snaps, and despite their waterproof exterior, they move around less in your underwear than similar pads (though there is still some movement).
Some reviewers note that the thick, fleece-like fabric of the inner cloth is a bit thick and might cause you to sweat, and it can sometimes feel thicker than a conventional pad.
|Materials||Bamboo, microfiber, PUL|
6. WillowPads Cloth Menstrual Pad
All Natural Cotton and Hemp with No Plastic
This pad is almost as all natural as you can get. The inner layer is organic cotton flannel, and the middle layer is made from a super absorbent hemp insert. If you need higher absorbency, just add another insert.
However, it does not have a plastic outer layer, so if you need that sense of protection, then this might not be the pad for you. This also comes with just one pad and one insert, which, given the price, could make this an expensive system.
|Materials||Organic cotton and hemp|
|Absorbency||Light to medium|
5. Imse Vimse Reusable Organic Cotton Menstrual Pads (Set of 3)
Organic Cotton Flannel for Breathable Light Days
These pads are great for those lighter days when you want something a little more breathable. Made from organic cotton flannel, it’s much cooler than most fleece-stuffed pads while still offering security with a waterproof PUL center layer.
As they are made from mostly organic cotton, there might be some shrinkage with your first wash, so take that into consideration when considering what size to get.
|Materials||Organic cotton, PUL|
4. Thinkeco Organic Cotton Hanji Reusable Menstrual Pads (Set of 5)
Organic and Breathable for Easy Rest
This pad comes with four layers of certified organic cotton, one layer of Korean mulberry cloth, and one waterproof PUL layer to make a light, breathable, naturally antibacterial overnight pad.
As it’s quite thin and doesn’t have a fleece layer, this pad is best for medium flow days rather than heavy, but rest assured that the length should be more than adequate.
|Materials||Organic cotton, mulberry, PUL|
3. Pixie Cup Soft Reusable Menstrual Pads (Set of 5)
Soft, Absorbent, and Stay in Place
These bright pads from menstrual cup maker Pixie Cups are soft, absorbent, and slightly longer than average for a daytime pad. And you’ll feel good knowing that, with your purchase, menstrual supplies are sent to girls in need.
Unlike many PUL-backed pads, these don’t slide around very much. Although if you find that they do, they also come with a pack of small double-sided tape pieces to help them adhere to your underwear.
|Materials||Bamboo, microfiber, PUL|
2. Hesta Organic Cotton Washable Pantyliners (Set of 3)
Fully Organic Cotton for Sensitive Skin
These thin organic pads are as close to all-natural as you can get without worrying about leakage. Even the waterproof layer features a PUL coating on top of organic fabric rather than polyester. These are perfect for those with sensitive skin.
Despite the waterproof layer, they feel light and breathable. On top of that, they are made to last years of use–they are well-made, wash easily, and keep their shape when drying.
|Materials||Organic cotton, PUL coating|
1. Highoh. Washable Charcoal Bamboo Cloth Menstrual Pad
Leak-Proof and Slip-Proof
These reusable pads are specially designed to prevent leaks and stay perfectly in place in your underwear. They are soft and don’t have the microfiber layer most absorbent pads include, which cuts down on your exposure to synthetics.
On top of that, for each set sold, they donate pads to girls in need, and the company is also incredibly responsive to any questions and concerns.
|Absorbency||Medium to heavy|
How to Keep Your Reusable Pads Clean and Stain-Free
While stains don’t affect the effectiveness or longevity of your pad, it can certainly feel a lot better to have stain-free pads. Before putting your pad into the laundry, wash it out with cold water. The important thing here is cold water–hot water will set the stain. If it seems like the stain might be a bit tough, treat it with hydrogen peroxide and let it sit for 5 minutes.
If you have enough pads to get you through the next batch of laundry, just put it into the hamper and wash it in the washing machine with the rest of your laundry. To wash by hand, just soak it overnight in a bucket with a touch of detergent, rinse, and hang it in the sun to dry the next day. Sunlight kills bacteria!
So there you have it–a quick guide to finding the right reusable pad for you! Hopefully you’ve found one (or a couple) that you like, and you’re on your way to a more comfortable, eco-conscious cycle.
By Jacqueline Oshiro
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