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Cloth Pads?? Why I Started Using Cloth Pads (and Why You Should Give Up Disposables Too!)

Okay ladies, let’s talk. Yes, we’re going to talk about *that* subject. No! Not THAT one…the OTHER one. Get your mind outta the gutters! Recently, I made the switch from disposable to cloth pads. I know. That was more TMI about me than you ever needed to know, but this year I’ve been on this massive quest to lower our costs and this is one area that I felt I could lower. So yes, I ordered cloth pads and honestly? I’m thrilled! In fact? I will never go back to disposables.  This post was originally written in 2014. Since then, there have been a lot of questions about the use, care, and just in general about using cloth pads so I’m updating it (March 2016) to include the answers to a lot of those questions. Honestly I should have put the answers in the original post but it simply didn’t occur to me to do that. I’ve learned a lot since then which is why if you read a recent post? They’re much more informative than this post originally was.

A lot of you know that I dream of homesteading someday and for most homesteaders, the need and want for a simple life is a large portion of why they want to homestead in the first place. I know that in my case, it’s a very large portion. Frankly, having to rely on disposables with an uncomfortable plastic cover that is REALLY bad for the environment and can be super expensive at the same time just isn’t something I want to keep in my life forever. So when I had the chance to pick up a few cloth pads, I did. I had been wanting to try them out for a while and as they say, “there’s no time like the present,” I went for it.

Why I Started Using Cloth Pads - I recently made a change that I never thought I would. From disposable to cloth. See Why I made the switch to cloth and why I'm keeping them!


I realize that for some people, this is just drawing a line that they would never cross. After all, this topic can be a fairly gross one, but here’s how I look at it. Some folks don’t think twice about putting a cloth diaper on your babies bum so why not your own?  Seriously. This was much less gross than a cloth diaper. It’s WAY less gross than using say a…menstrual cup? I’ve been down that road and no…never again. They’re just not right for me. For some, they love them, but for me, they are painful and just not something I want to mess with.

Why I Started Using Cloth Pads & Why You Should Too!

With these, there really isn’t any mess so if you’re squeamish, no worries. They’re not as hard to clean as you might think and the gross factor is no less than changing a disposable one. It’s toss and go. Yes, you have to wash them but really there’s not much “yuck” there either since you soak them before they’re washed. Caring for them is simple. You just need a bucket, lingerie bag, water and Borax. Keep your bucket under the bathroom sink (or where ever works for you) and soak them in the Borax water until you’re ready to wash. Wash them in the lingerie bag to protect the snaps in the washer.

Anyhow, I don’t see much of a difference between these and cloth diapers so I went ahead and made the leap.  They’re fairly cheap to buy if you know the right place to get them from. I LOVE shopping Tree Hugger since they have great prices and the quality is amazing. I know that seems like a lot but this post was originally written in 2014 and I’m updating it in 2016 and those original purchases are still going strong. I have had only one that I had to repair and that was my fault. I washed without a lingerie bag so I had to repair the snaps. While it was more out of pocket at first, the savings in the long run has been huge. I’ve long admitted that I rarely use coupons these days so for me, buying disposables would be more expense than I have paid for my cloth pads over the long run.

Aside from the money saving factor, cloth pads are crazy comfortable. A lot of the time, you can tell you have a disposable on and God forbid you need a thicker one because you’ll walk around feeling like you have a diaper on. With cloth pads, a lot of them are made with Zorb as their absorbent core. This means that they are much thinner but absorb the same. In other words? I can’t even tell they are there and that is huge for me!

The other thing that convinced me was the fact that they take up less space. I’m not talking about a little bit of space either. I use 5 shelf shelving systems for our stockpile. The amount of disposables that I had to store for a 1 year supply took up an entire shelf and considering I prefer to keep a 2 year supply of that type of thing? I was losing 2 shelves. Now? They store in a small tote with a lid. Getting back that shelf space was huge for me since it meant I could stock up on other items that I was missing.

Finally, my last reason for making the switch to cloth pads was emergency preparation. The simple truth is that anything could happen at anytime to any of us. (Did that make sense?). My own family went through significant financial issues in 2014 due to a loss of income, I have been homeless, I have lived through 500-year floods, tornadoes and blizzards. Sometimes you can’t just run out and get what you need. Sometimes putting out the trash each week is an issue because of water or snow or whatever. Sometimes you really just don’t have the money to buy the items you need. Cloth pads takes all of those issues away since you have them at home already, there’s no need to replace them each month and since they really could be washed with very little water if you absolutely needed to.

One of the questions that a lot of you seemed to have was how you handle them when you’re traveling. The answer to that is a wet bag. Rinse them, fold them, store them in the wet bag until you get home and are able to soak them for washing. Another question that was asked was where I get them. The truth is that I don’t want to tell you. Not because I don’t want to share but because the government has imposed crazy fees for people that make them. Fees above and beyond what a small time seller who is just looking to make a few extra bucks each month should have to pay. The short answer to this question is that I get them off of sellers who sell in Facebook groups. You can also find cloth pads and wet bags on Etsy too without too much work.


So what do you think? Would you ever consider making the switch? I hope I’ve answered the questions that you may have but if not, leave me a comment and I’ll get it answered as best as I am able. I will tell you this though. I would never go back to disposables.

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Stacy Barr
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Stacy Barr

Stacy Barr is the face and brain behind the frugal living and lifestyle blog Six Dollar Family . By the age of 30, she had overcome an alcohol addiction, a drug addiction, divorce, survived domestic violence and had built a life for herself and her daughter after spending 10 months in a homeless shelter. Her book, also called Six Dollar Family, has sold more than 7,000 copies since its release.

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  1. Where did you purchase them?

  2. I have never even considered that there would be such a thing?!? Do they really, really work? I would be afraid of leaking or something. Sounds interesting. Stopping by from Frugal Friday. Have a great day!

    • LOL! I had the same questions Quirky Homemaker. I’ve had no issues with leakage and they do really, really work.

  3. Well they survided years ago jyst using old turn up ragsso why not if im home and not leaving ya why not i do enough laundry everyday it would not make a difference but no:-)hanging them:-)on the line lol

    • Jada, I use them full time now, even if I leave the house. If you get good quality and well made ones there’s no worries about leaving. As for laundry, I soak in a bucket with Borax then toss into a lingerie bag. No additional laundry issues just be sure not to use ANY fabric softener on them. It will make them repel water.

  4. this is a pretty awesome switch. I’ve considered it as well, but I’ve yet to make the leap. where did you purchase your’s from?

  5. Jennifer Roberts says:

    I’d like to try them. Unfortunately they don’t seem to have caught on in the UK so I have to pay more to get them shipped. I haven’t tried etsy though, so I’ll have a look on there. Thanks for the tip.

    • Jennifer, try Facebook groups. Just search for cloth pads. I know there are a few UK sellers in them. If you can’t find them, shoot me an email to stacy at adventures in coupons dot com (remove the spaces and replace the @ and . symbols) and I can link you to the ones I know of. 🙂

  6. Hmmm …. very interesting! Not sure if I could go there or not … the part about soaking them and then having to get them out of the bucket kind of grosses me out. Where do you keep the bucket? I can just imagine protests from my son now;0)

    • LOL I keep the bucket beside the toilet. It’s a covered pail (think a diaper pail type of thing) so there’s nothing showing, etc. As for getting them out of the bucket, its as simple as dumping the water into the toilet and grabbing them. By that point they’re fairly clean so no yuckies to worry about.

  7. Angela Tillman says:

    Do you add anything to the water to soak? How are they for overnights?

  8. Angela, I soak them with a little bit of Borax, but I know other use other things. Peroxide is good for getting stains out should that happen. As for the overnights, you can buy specifically for overnights, liners, regular, heavy and even postpartum. Just like the disposables. 🙂

  9. We made the switch in my house about a year ago by sewing our own. The first ones weren’t that great, but we kept making adjustments. Then found ZORB! This stuff if great for absorption. I have to admit, at 40+, I’m just not budging, so I keep both in my house. My teenagers always choose the cloth. They snap them closed after using and let them dry out. (No bacteria, no smell). Then we wash with BIZ.

    • LOL I never thought I’d switch either Janice, but I guess my thirties are a prime time for me to try new things. 🙂 Zorb is great too! I have a few that are made with Zorb! Love them!

  10. Christine says:

    I’m all for saving money but my question is when your at work or not at home what do you do with the used cloth pad when you change

    • Christine, the pads snap together so you fold them up and put them in what is called a wet bag. It keeps them from floating around in your purse, etc. When you get home, you clean them however you choose to and toss in the wash. 🙂

  11. Hi I’m older and have a different problem with bladder leaks would these work for that also

    • Hi Carol, I do know of some women that use them for bladder leakage with no issues. Try going for a pad made with PUL for extra absorbency.

  12. I’ve used cloth pads for years because I am allergic to the ones you buy in the store. After my menopause I continued to use them for inconvinance pads…I paid about $8 for 2 dozen of them [ I did have to make them myself ] and a couple hours of sewing…that was more than 40 years ago and I am still using them. I have put new covers on them several times but I never spent any money on fabric I used old clothes that were worn out in spots…I use a bucket with water and old fashion borax in it until I wash them. Then just dump the whole thing in the washer -your hands never touch a mess. I would hate to think of how much money I would have spent over the years buying those things!

    • I would love a pattern and where do you get the absorbent part?

      • Wendy, I found the one I’m now with a quick Google search. There are a lot of shapes and things out there so it’s really a personal decision which one you use. As for the absorbent material, it’s called Zorb. I get mine HERE for a fairly decent price.

  13. I’ve made and used cloth before and found them to be easy and comfortable to use but I kept struggling with keeping them in one location after they were laundered. I teach at a university and my students have told me about the Diva cup which is also reusable and you insert it inside you, but you can leave it in for up to 10 hours! So, there is no worrying about changing at work or anything like that. I plan to buy one. The students are all in love with them.

    • Buy it! I switched to menstrual cup 3 years ago, and I love it! I can go swimming, I can go on long trips, and I no longer have to panic and run to wc to check if all is okay. And you have to see “the mess” 2-3 times a day, as oppose to every time you go to pee.

  14. I’ve used cloth pads for several years now and love them! I have sensitive skin so they are much more comfortable. The brand I use also has night pads that are wonderful. I’ve never had one leak at night. I don’t even bother with a pail for soaking, I rinse them out and hang them on my shower (so they dry out) and then I’ll throw them in the wash when I do laundry.

  15. I think the cloth pads are a great idea! If I wasn’t of “that age” and needed them still I would seriously consider them. I am kinda sad reading the comments, though. People are saying “yuck” to touching them to get them into the washing machine. Why? It is blood, not poo and it was a part of you. I am not saying you need to celebrate it but one should not disparage a natural part of life.

  16. Having 2 kids back to back and breastfeeding full time- it had been a while since I had a period. I was cloth diapering so I used the same logic but they were pricey. During our military move, my cycle started! I’m guessing because of the stress of being “homeless”. Lucky for me I brought my sewing machine with me. A quick trip to Walmarts fabric remnants section and less than $10 later- I made myself 1 overnight pad, 4 heavy pads & 2 light pads/panty liners. I’ve made more since and I’m totally with you! Never going back to disposables. I do a quick rinse by hand in warm water with hand soap and I throw it in our laundry basket. It gets washed & dried with the rest of our clothes so no extra special steps or yucky water floaties lol

  17. I have seen a few people mention overnight pads and day pads. Is there any specific difference between the two?

    • Melanie,

      Overnight pads generally have more PUL in them making them thicker and able to handle overnight better. Day pads are thinner, easier to wear, etc.

  18. So. I went on Etsy to check these out. I did not realize how many options there would be. So my question is….. Are they all made equally? Or are some types/kinds better then others. I am considering trying these, but I need directed in which ones to invest in. Thanks

    • Carol, I’m sure that different makers make them differently, but basically you want one that has a middle made with PUL. Also be sure you get the right size. Usually the smaller in inches, the lighter it is made for.

  19. A question I have that I didn’t see, how do they ‘stick’ to stay in place. I am a firm tampon user, have an iud so I can’t use the cup thing, but I use panty liners at least one a day, so it adds up! I’m crafty so I can see making reusable panty liners and saving money.

    Also- beginner question- do you rinse them just in the sink before soaking them? And on the go, do you rinse them before putting them in the wet bag?

    • Jennifer, the vast majority of them have wings that have snaps on them. Fold down and around like the commercial ones and you’re good to go. As far as rinsing them, we keep a bucket of soapy water under the sink. Drop them in when you’re done and then wash in a delicate bag. The care for them is A LOT like cloth diapers. You are totally correct for on the go care. Rinse well, ring out then store in a wet bag until you get home and can wash or soak.

    • Where do you get a wet bag from?

  20. I purchased some and they arrived today. I do wear a menstrual cup but I do like a bit of back up when I leave the house and wearing a disposable pad kind of defeated the purpose of the whole green thing. Perhaps you were wearing the wrong kind of cup? I was never a tampon wearer as I could never get comfortable so trying a cup was a bit daunting. but after taking the leap I would never go back. It did take me a few brands to find one that was really comfy (I found juju to be the best). as for the pads, I can’t wait to try them. I also bought some liners. Now I just have to get my girls on the wagon!

  21. Ok not sure if anyone knows but….i get really bad yeast infections and sometimes it follows my period like clock work i also have skin allergies. im wondering if maybe cloth pads would help lesson either of my skin allergy problems or maybe help prevent some yeast infections(my doctor said to stay dry down there and use cloth underwear so just wondering) and also there are so many on etsy i can’t figure out what i need.

  22. I used to get yeast or UTI infections about every month right at period time. I felt really yucky and itchy and gross. I would wake up many, many times a night leaking out. Even though I changed them every time I used the bathroom and would wash the area during the day with a spray bottle, the plastic liner on my pads would cause the whole area to stay moist making a breeding grounds for bacteria and fungi . So I switched to cloth. I haven’t had a yeast infection or UTI since. I actually use a cotton washcloth folded in thirds and I can double it triple it or even throw a folded hand towel in there at night according to my flow. I keep the used ones in a gallon size ziplock bag in my purse and soak them as soon as I get home. I do wash them in the regular laundry the same way that I would have washed blood soaked panties in regular laundry.
    So the benefits to me are . . .
    #1. Health. I am much healthier using cloth than disposables.
    #2. I am far more comfortable.
    #3. My bedsheets and panties no longer get nasty.
    #4. I no longer feel the need to wake up in the middle of the night and sleep much more soundly.
    #5. I am causing less pollution to the environment.
    #6. I never run out.
    #7. I don’t feel weird putting some poor male teenage cashier through the experience of handling my pack of pads and I don’t have to ask my husband to grab some for me on his way home from work which he always felt awkward doing.
    #8. $60.00 savings a year for basically doing nothing, that’s like making $60.00 extra bucks a year except I don’t get taxed on it. $60.00 is three hours of my husband’s work year that he gets to spend on something that we don’t throw in the garbage. Not to mention all the money I would have to spend combating yeast infections and UTI’s caused by nasty unbreathable disposable pads so the savings is even greater like in the hundreds of dollars and all because I spent $4.00 on a pack of cotton washcloths. Gravity holds them in the panties, no need to even buy or make pads.

  23. Menstrual cups are really amazing, what issue did you have? I can’t imagine the mess you’d have with an uncontained cloth pad; blood everywhere. With a cup you just clean it out when you shower and there’s practically nothing to do and nothing to feel.

    • Kyra, let’s just say that I found out very quickly that I am allergic to silicone. Once that happened, I was actually unable to find a size that fit well enough that I could wear them or even insert them. As for the “mess,” there really isn’t one. Most cloth pads are made with an inner core of Zorb which does exactly what a store bought pad does, absorbs. I’ve never had one bleed through and I’ve never had one create any kind of real mess. Thanks for your comment!

      • What an unfortunate way to figure that out! As far as the absorbancy issue however, that’s good to hear. Are they about equal to an average pad?
        The only other problem I’d worry about with any type of pad is the physical existence of them, I suppose is the only way of putting it, which is why I ever used tampons then a cup; pads always felt like menstrual diapers. Also, when it’s hot, there’s a smell.

        • Kyra, I know what you mean with the diaper feeling and I haven’t had that issue with the cloth. I imagine the thicker ones (usually called for use in postpartum situations) might feel that way but the regular ones haven’t done that. As far as a smell, I actually asked my husband if he had noticed one since I made the switch and he says no lol. I honestly like them better than a store bought pad. They’re more comfortable and there’s actually less sweating and uncomfortableness (is that a real word? LOL) since it’s cloth against your skin vs. that mesh liner that most store bought pads have over them.

  24. Janet melzark says:

    What do you suppose woman used before store bought? Cloth not a new idea.

  25. I’m a plus size gal, and I tend to be heavier and have to wear 2 pads during my cycle, especially at night, would you still recommend cloth?

    • Wendy, I’m plus sized as well. What I would recommend would be to try the thicker ones at first. If those aren’t strong enough, you could try postpartum ones. They’re usually made much thicker and can handle a heavier flow.

    • I was just looking on Amazon and I noticed that they come in different lengths as well. I am plus size as well and I’ve had trouble finding just the right placement for my disposable pads so I don’t have small leaks. I never thought of cloth pads, but with another 15+ years ahead of me that I probably will need them, it does sound like a good investment.

      • Ashley, I would recommend Etsy or a private seller on Facebook before Amazon. They both will offer more customization options. Try Made by Mother on FB. I’ve ordered from her (those are actually her work in the post picture) and she does really nice work. 🙂

  26. what about if you want to go swimming in the summer? i very active and i found with store ones they bunch up on me and irritate me. so i use playtex sport tampons. i like the idea of the cloth pads.

    • Lacey, for something like that I would use a store bought tampon, but I prefer the cloth during normal times. 🙂

  27. Hi,

    I would love to make this switch both for environmental reasons and because like other commenters, I get infections after my period very often. One question I have is, I most often wear thong underwear–would these work with that or do you have to wear regular underwear during that time of month? I’m not a fan of panty lines and when wearing professional clothes struggle with finding a full panty that doesn’t show.

    • Danielle, I believe (although my be totally wrong on this) that there are some sellers who can do them for thongs too. If not, you could find a seller that you like and see if they were able to. Never hurts to ask!

  28. I cloth diapered my youngest baby, but have never thought about doing cloth for myself. To me, buying disposable diapers was like literally throwing money away. I spent about $250 for the diapering kit, but it lasted years but paid for itself in just a few months. Was super easy to take care of also as far as washing. And my baby hardly ever had a diaper rash! 🙂 Anyway, I’ve always mindlessly grabbed feminine products off the shelf without ever considering that there’s got to be a better way. Thank you for writing this, I’m going to look into ordering some soon!

  29. Both myself and my daughter made the switch about 6 months ago and think they are great. We have already more than saved the initial costs. I say, go for it!

  30. I am a senior with bladder problems so I wear a disposable pad every day. I did purchase several cloth pads but for a reason not mentioned here. I tend to think ahead and like to be prepared and wondered what I would do if there was a catastrophic disaster and there were no stores around anywhere to purchase more of the disposable pads. I have some in my “bug out bag” but they would n’t last very long. I found the cloth online and now feel much better about dealing with that problem.

  31. Ive used cloth since i had my first 24 years ago and used cloth nappies. Wasnt a big leap! Much comfier, safer CHEAPER. just rinse in COLD Water then shove in machine. I have used a mooncup for 15 years so now just use cloth liners. Perfect combo i have saved a fortune over the years.

  32. So glad to see someone talking about this who is not in one of my fb groups. I’ve been using cloth for over a year. I make my own because I’m not willing to pay that much for them. However, if you go to some of the B/S/T groups you can get them far cheaper or even trade for something else. It is so much better for your body (many ladies have shorter/lighter/less painful cycles after they switch), your pocket book, and the environment. I switched because I’m allergic to the chemicals in paper products. This means I even use cloth toilet paper. I know many would draw the line at that too but it is so much cleaner than paper and no different than cloth diapering. Anyway, just giving a shout out to say thanks for talking about this and letting more women know there is an alternative.

  33. I have sewn up my own and I will never go back to disposable pads. I used pul (it is basically waterproof material) as my base layer and I have never leaked. My daughter is only 4 and has already picked out fabrics that she wants me to use for her pads because she watched me sew mine. I had to explain that it will be a while before she needs to use them. I sewed her some skirts instead.

  34. My daughter wants to be a homesteader some day also and this sounds like a good idea, but I’m not sure she could handle a bucket of bloody water under her bathroom sink. How she had a VERY heavy flow and I am envisioning literally a bucket of blood and guts under the sink. And how do you get the blood out? Do they leak? How often do you have to change them? It sounds really gross. Can you explain it a little more? Thank you!

    • 1. No bucket of bloody water. 🙂 Hot water, Borax and that’s about that. 2. Borax gets stains out. 3. I’ve not had issues with leaks. Actually had bigger issues with leaks with commercially made products more often than these. 4. Gross is relative. If your daughter wants to homestead, I’m positive that there will be more gross things to deal with than her own bodily fluids. 🙂

  35. I looked Zorb up on Amazon and it’s fairly inexpensive and so are the PUL and a snap kit. With some flannel or mink cloth for the top cover it looks fairly simple to be able to make your own for around $50 for one yard with, which I imagine could probably make about 10 homemade pads. Why didn’t you make your own instead of spending $250?

    • I will be honest with you. 1. My time is extremely limited. I run 2 companies full time and homeschool my daughter. I already push it with the (over) 60 different items we make at home instead of buying.

      Then there’s the fact that I’m actually still learning to sew. For me right now, it was better to buy from someone who knows how to properly sew than to attempt myself and waste the materials. Eventually though I will be making them instead of ever buying them.

  36. Crystal Olson says:

    Wow, I am definitely interested in this. Thank you for your honesty and information. We like to be prepared as well for who knows what! And the savings!

    • Stacy Barr says:

      You’re welcome. We prepare too so that was one of the reasons that I initially tried them. 🙂

  37. I took the leap to doing this probably around five or six years ago. I just couldn’t put the money out for supplies (cheapo!), so I found a random pattern online and sewed some up out of an old flannel sheet I had lying around. I still have some of those. I did “treat” myself with some tie-dyed flannel a year or so later to bulk up my stockpile a bit. I can’t tell you how much I would NEVER EVER EVER go back to “disposables” now! These are so much more comfortable, and the only extra liner I have in them is a double thick layer of heavy flannel in my heavy day pads.

    I’ve only had one issue with the switch: I have all teen/young adult boys (none of whom are fazed by mom and her weirdness), so when my SIL and her nieces were over for a party (they are all teens/young adult too), of course doesn’t one of them come to me needing a pad. I just looked at her….’cause I certainly couldn’t SHARE!! 😉 That said, I will have a stash of some on hand from now on, just in case! If I’m fortunate enough to get granddaughters at some point, I plan to whip them up a batch when they get to that age, whatever their parents have to say. No one should need to wear diapers once they’ve gotten past potty-training!

  38. Michelle Anglin says:

    I myself would use them, but I no longer need them. I’m going to try to get my two grown daughters to switch. I have been in your same situation and had to make shift with some wash clothes. This is great. Thank you so much.

  39. I made the switch just this past month due to a reaction that I developed to the disposable. I am a homesteaders so this is just plain smart. I made my own with scraps that I had left over from making my granddaughters cloth diapers. double win! I love them and will never go back. I plan on making a lot more and sending them with our pastor the next time he goes on a mission trip.

  40. Anne Marie says:

    I am slowly making the switch. I can sew so I am trying different patterns and techniques at the moment. I still use disposable for like 2 days but then my home made ones for the rest of the time. I really like the cloth better, feel like I am not wearing a diaper.

  41. I have a few different questions…you say they are absorbent but how long can you realistically wear one if you have a heavy flow? Also when wearing them, do they absorb quickly? Is there any odor? I mostly use tampons when I am not home, so I’m hesitant to try these if I’m at work, etc.

    • Stacy Barr says:

      Andrea, they make different absorbencies so yes, you can get them that are made specifically for those with a heavy flow. The heavy flow ones tend to have more Zorb in the middle so that they can handle a heavier flow. As far as absorbing quickly, they are about the same for quickness as a disposable. I’ve never had an issue with them not absorbing or with odor. The well made ones pull everything into the center core so there isn’t any really bad wetness or smell. What I would suggest is that you give them a try at home. You’ll know within a day or two of one cycle if they’re “right” for you. 🙂

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