Which reusable option is right for you: cloth pads or menstrual cups? Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Keep on reading to find out all the details you need to know!
Cloth Menstrual Pads vs. Menstrual Cups
There are two key things that are common between cloth menstrual pads and menstrual cups: both are eco-friendly and reusable.
Have you ever wondered how your grandmothers and their mothers managed their periods? From your grandmother’s days till the modern age, there had always been environmentally-friendly solutions to feminine hygiene products.
However, menstrual cups are the latest thing to come onto the market. We’ll give some brief information about these two reusable feminine hygiene products, and then get down to the head to head comparison between cloth pads and menstrual cups.
Keep on reading to find out which one will work best for you!
Cloth Menstrual Pads
Cloth menstrual pads make an environmentally friendly and safe alternative to single use pads or sanitary napkins. These can be washed and maintained for reuse.
They are the best if you are a person who doesn’t wish to fill the landfill with your synthetic menstrual wastes like disposable pads or tampons.
Over the course of a lifetime, this can really add up. Imagine the possibilities if you made the switch from disposables to reusables in your teens? That’s a lot of waste not going to the landfill!
Cloth menstrual pads are available in different sizes, colors, composition and shapes to suit any kind of requirement you may have. Most often, this kind of pad is made of soft and breathable organic cotton, hemp etc.
The absorbency level of different models of cloth pads is different to suit various flow types, ranging from panty liners to overnight reusable pads. They are very similar to disposable sanitary napkins in this regard.
What are the Best Cloth Pads?
Best Cloth Menstrual Pads
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Sensitive Skin? Try Cloth Menstrual Pads
Here’s something that you maybe didn’t know…
Disposable pads and tampons contain trace amounts of toxic chemicals. They come from the manufacturing process, as well as the pesticides used to grow the cotton in them.
Sure, they are in small amounts. But, exposure to this stuff can accumulate over time so it’s best to avoid these toxins if at all possible.
Apart from being environment-friendly, cloth menstrual pads are much better for your body and health. They save your body from TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) and other allergic reactions. These are caused by various chemicals and processes involved in the traditional products such as tampons and disposable sanitary pads.
Review of Cloth Pads and Menstrual Cups
Reusable Cloth Pads: More Affordable than Disposables
In addition to saving the earth from being dumped with harmful wastes, you also save a significant amount of money by opting for a cloth menstrual pad. Once you invest in a cloth menstrual pad kit, you can reuse it for up to 5 years.
Some people don’t want to invest in reusable menstrual care products because of the up-front cost. But in general, you’ll recoup your money back in only a few months. Disposable pads are expensive, and many people spend $5 a month on them.
It can be more than $5 a month if you have a heavy, long, or irregular period.
Of course, you have to take care of your cloth pads properly in order to make them last as long as possible. This way, you can get the maximum value from them.
Menstrual cups are eco-friendly alternatives to disposable sanitary pads and tampons. Like a cloth pad, a menstrual cup too is available in different colors, sizes (XS-XL), shapes, materials (latex, TPE, silicone) and textures.
There is a huge range of variation in these cups to suit all kinds of flow and body shape. If you try one cup and it leaks, try out another one. There really is one that will work for you. The key is finding it!
We recommend checking out our popular menstrual cup quiz for help in finding the best one.
Or, just head over to Amazon to check out our #1 pick, the Lena Cup. It’s made in the USA from top-quality, medical grade silicone and has some excellent user reviews over on Amazon.
Have a look today:
All about Reusable Menstrual Products
The Difference between Menstrual Cups and Cloth Menstrual Pads
There are some basic differences in the features and usage of menstrual cups and cloth pads. Unlike a cloth menstrual pad, a menstrual cup has to be inserted into your vagina. This cup collects your menstrual fluid, rather than absorbing it like a cloth pad.
You can think of a menstrual cup as kind of like a reusable tampon.
Thus, reusing a menstrual cup is easier, as it’s possible to use just one reusable cup throughout your menstrual cycle. You do this by emptying the contents into a sink or toilet, washing the cup and reinserting it again. At the end of the cycle, simply wash well with soap and water, let dry and put it away until next month.
Cloth Pads: Change more Frequently than Menstrual Cups
You may have to change cloth menstrual pads more frequently, especially if you have a heavy flow (check out these Dutchess Cloth Menstrual Pads that are designed for heavier flows).
However, with menstrual cups that offer protection for up to 12 hours, you can stay comfortable for a much longer period of time, including overnight so they’re better suited for this purpose than cloth pads.
Cloth menstrual pads to suit heavier/overnight flow as well as the postpartum varieties can often become absurdly large. This would be uncomfortable and difficult to use if you are planning to go outdoors and get involved into some physical activities. Menstrual cups, with their small size and snug fit, are ideal for such situations.
Menstrual Cups vs. Cloth Pads when Away from Home
Changing cloth menstrual pads, when you are out of your home, will require you to carry a wet bag or something similar (see this Dutchess Wet Bag, set of 2). You put the soiled pad into the wet bag and then throw it in with your regular laundry at home.
However, a menstrual cup is way easier to deal with when not at home than cloth pads. You just take it out (wash your hands first), empty it into the toilet, wipe if off with paper towel (or clean with soap and water if you have access to it), and then reinsert it.
People with very heavy periods find that menstrual cups are a lifesaver because they no longer have to carry about multiple pads or tampons with them. They’re just wearing what they need inside of them!
Away from home: it’s menstrual cups for the serious win over cloth menstrual pads.
How to Clean a Menstrual Cup in Public
Cloth Pads: You Can Make your Own!
If you’re handy with a sewing machine, you can make your own cloth menstrual pads. This might be the cheapest feminine hygiene option we can think of besides newspaper or pine needles!
You can take a look at a place like Pinterest for patterns and ideas to get you started.
Or course, you can’t make your own menstrual cup, and you’ll have to spend $10-40 on one at a place like Amazon. In general, we don’t recommend those $10 cups, because all the top-quality ones that you should actually consider putting into your body are $20+.
DIY Reusable Cloth Menstrual Pads
Ease of Use: Cloth Pads for the Win
One of the reasons some people don’t like menstrual cups is because there’s a steep learning curve associated with them. Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky ones and you’ll just pop it in there and it’ll work.
That’s not the case for most people and it takes them 3-4 cycles to really get the hang of things. By this, I mean that it doesn’t leak and it’s easy to insert and remove.
On the other hand, cloth pads are just as easy to use as disposable pads. You snap them into place on your underwear and then change them when they get soiled.
You do have to wash them, which can be a minor inconvenience. They can however be thrown in with your regular laundry.
Menstrual Cups: More Hygienic
Things start to smell “down there” when menstrual fluid is exposed to air. Because a menstrual cup is completely inside, you’ll almost never notice any sorts of odours, unless you have some other problem like bacterial vaginosis.
On the other hand, cloth pads are just like disposable pads in that they can start to smell if not changed frequently enough. This is because the fluid is exposed to the air. But, this problem is easily solved by changing your pad!
Care and Cleaning of Menstrual Cups vs Reusable Menstrual Pads
Another factor to look at is care and cleaning of each of these products.
Cleaning a Menstrual Cup
Menstrual cups are reasonably easy to look after. You just have to clean them with a mild soap or menstrual cup wash every time you remove them. If you’re away from home, don’t worry about and give you cup a good scrub next time you are.
At the end of your period, or before your next one, it’s recommended that you boil your menstrual cup in a pot of water on the stove for 5 minutes to sterilize it. You can also get an old toothbrush and scrub out the stem and air holes as well.
Learn more here: Menstrual Cup Care Guide.
Cleaning Cloth Pads
With reusable cloth pads, it’s very easy to care for them if you aren’t worried about staining. In this case, just throw them in with your regular laundry.
If you do care about staining, buy dark-coloured pads. But beyond that, soak your reusable pads in cold water before laundering. You could also consider using some commercial stain remover.
Learn more here: Cloth Pad Care Guide.
Looking to Go Green? Check this Out
If you’re looking to go green for your period, then you’ll probably wonder what the better choice is: a menstrual cup, or reusable cloth pads.
As far as how long each product lasts, here are some general guidelines:
- Top-quality menstrual cups that are made from medical grade silicone usually last for around five years. You only need one of them during that time.
- Cloth pads also last for around 5 years, or perhaps a little bit longer. Because they can only be worn for a period of time before having to be replaced, you’ll need at least 5 of them to make it through your period.
It’s for this reason that we give the slight edge to the menstrual cup over reusable menstrual pads in terms of which one is more eco-friendly.
Go Green for your Period
Do you Usually Opt for Tampons or Pads?
What is your preferred form of period protection: pads or tampons? This could be the deciding factor as to which one you should consider.
If you usually go with disposable pads, then you might be happiest with reusable cloth pads.
On the other hand, if you generally use tampons, try a menstrual cup. Both of these are internal forms of period protection.
Menstrual Cup vs Pad: Risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome
Toxic Shock Syndrome is a serious, sometimes deadly disease that is usually associated with tampons use. When you consider the number of people who use tampons around the world, the overall risk is actually quite low.
What about with reusable sanitary napkins and something like the Diva Cup?
With cloth pads, or disposable pads, your risk of TSS is basically non-existent. That is, unless you did something crazy like this:
- Had a big cut or abrasion on your labia, and then wore a pad for 3 days straight without changing it. But, this is something that nobody does, so probably nothing to worry about with this.
What about the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome with a menstrual cup? To date, there’s only one person who’s gotten TSS from using one. So although the risk is indeed there, it’s extremely low.
This is especially true if you take out your cup every 8-12 hours to clean it. Also be sure to not use a menstrual cup if you have any abrasions or cuts in your vagina. In this case, opt for pads until it heals.
Reusable Sanitary Pads or Menstrual Cups: What’s Better for Young Women?
If you have a young women in your life who’s just beginning to menstruate, what option could work better for them: a menstrual cup or reusable sanitary pad? Both of these are eco-friendly, affordable and better for our health, so it makes sense to get started early.
In general, we recommend sticking with reusable pads if you’ve never used tampons before. This is because a menstrual cup is significantly bigger than a tampon, and it can be quite intimidating if you’ve never had anything in your vagina before.
However, if you’re comfortable with tampons, then consider making the switch to a menstrual cup. Just be sure to start with a very small one such as the Lily Cup One that’s specially designed for teenagers.
You’ll find these smaller, shorter ones easier to insert and more comfortable once inside of you.
Conclusion: Cloth Menstrual Pads vs. Menstrual Cups
The bottom line is to identify what suits your body, menstrual flow, lifestyle and pocketbook the best and take your pick accordingly. In general, we actually recommend having one menstrual cup, and a few cloth pads in your bathroom cupboard!
Most people wear some sort of backup to a menstrual cup in case of leaking. It could be disposable panty-liners, period panties, or reusable cloth pads.
Reusable pads, including panty-liners make a nice back-up to a cup.
You might also consider a heavier cloth pad for when you’re wearing a menstrual cup at night. You might actually be able to sleep through the night without having to get up to deal with your period!
Reusable Cloth Pads vs. Menstrual Cup: Have your Say!
What do you prefer, reusable cloth pads or a menstrual cup? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with us.