Roadtesting reusable washable fabric menstrual pads.
Over the last year I committed to avoid as much single use plastic as possible to come good on my resolution to be more ecological. That included changing from using regular menstrual products like disposable pads and tampons, which are terrible for the environment, to using either a menstrual cup, period briefs or washable reusable pads which are often biodegradable and can help you reduce waste by a factor of 600 to 1000 compared to using disposable period products.
If you’re interested in a short overview, just check out the graph with how I rate the options here or read on for a more detailed explanation of the experience. All of the opinions in this blog are based on my personal experience and opinión and different women and girls may have different experiences.
100% Cotton reusable menstrual pads with no PU lining
Bamboo charcoal and polyester reusable menstrual pads with PU lining
Period briefs / panties
Ease of use
Free of health risks
Works for light urinary incontinence
As you can see, I did a fair bit of experimenting this year. I started by purchasing the leading brands of menstrual products, got about testing and taking notes. There were clear winners and losers.
My personal favourite was the charcoal bamboo menstrual pads from EarthForAll, which I rate as 100%. The menstrual pads came in a set of 9 pieces in three sizes of each which equated to a slip for light and daily use, a regular flow pad and a larger and longer overnight or heavy flow pad.
The pads have a top layer of bamboo charcoal which is beautifully soft and gentle on the skin. In the middle are ultra absorbent microfibre layers to adsorb the blood and keep you dry followed by a fine layer of biodegradable PU which forms the barrier which stops any blood from soaking through the base of the pads and onto the underwear. Then the whole pad is covered in a base layer with a lovely flower print which is colourful in case of any spotting around the edges but I did not experience any. The comfort is the main factor for choosing this product as a winner but I also really liked how the dark grey bamboo charcoal always adsorbed the blood in a way that I not only felt clean and dry but that the blood was virtually invisible on the pad itself looks clean as it adsorbs the blood into the middle layer really fast.
Menstrual pads adsorb up to 3 X more blood than regular pads and I felt very safe with them on. I used one in the morning, one in the afternoon and another for night. Even as a pretty heave bleeder at the heaviest 24h of my period, the capacity of the pad was never maxed out.
For washing the menstrual pads it was really easy. At home I would simply rinse it in the sink for a minute until the water ran clear and then wring it out tightly and throw into the wash basket to wash with colours on a regular cycle later. When out-and-about, it easier to just fold the used pad up into a little purse shape and use the snap to close it in place, chuck it in the wet bag that came with the set which I keep in my handbag. The waterproof wet bag keeps them safe and contained. When I get home I rinse and wring out and throw them into the wash basket. If I know I am not going to be washing for a day or so, I sometimes leave to soak in a tub next to the washer. Washing menstrual pads is compatible with your regular colours washing cycle at cold to 60ºC, peg them to dry and no ironing needed.
After trying these pads I felt that by previously using disposable pads, I have been ripped off all my life until now. I never questioned that disposable pads were the most hygienic and comfortable option but they are not at all. We’ve fallen for powerful marketing that has led us think that there was no better option. I didn’t realise until I changed, just how uncomfortable, irritating, odorous and ugly normal disposable plastic and paper pads are, not to mention how they’re a disaster for the environment!
I tested and rate highly the cotton washable pads as a top option too. They are ideal for the hard core eco lifestyle warriors in that they are 100% biodegradable and only a little less soft compared to the bamboo pads. Being a light colour, the blood made unsightly stains in the light coloured fabric (the same way as in disposable pads). They did wash-out well but I still prefer the EarthForAll brand pads for the bamboo charcoal layer.
In third place, I rate the period briefs as comfortable, and ecological as the menstrual pads but I was worried they would leak and I found they were best used in conjunction with say the menstrual cup so they were a second line of defence of sorts. I rate the menstrual cups fairly highly and will continue to use these in combination with the menstrual pads or period briefs in the future.
Since my roadtesting I have continued happily caring for myself and caring for the planet by using reusable washable fabric menstrual pads. Before plastics were invented, women in the 1950’s were using some rudimentary version of today’s super adsorbent pads. It’s funny isn’t it that many of our efforts to go green in some ways has an air of how things used to be pre plastic.
Written by Amy - EarthForAll Founder & Director