We have sold reusable menstrual products for a number of years now, and when customers come in to consider their options, we often chat about our own experiences using them. I have dabbled with the Diva Cup, and it wasn't for me, but I'm the exception to the rule, and I really only gave it a 2-hour test drive one time (yes, one time!). I know that it takes at least a couple of cycles to get used to a menstrual cup, there is a bit of a learning curve in terms of positioning it properly, and if I'm perfectly honest, my Diva Cup went missing basically immediately after that one time I used it, and I'm fairly certain it probably became a Barbie hat. But that's beside the point.
Anyhow, I have been using cloth pads for a long time now -- I've had the same set of pads in rotation for close to eight years. My initial investment was approximately $60.00; like buying cloth diapers, there can be a little sticker shock when getting set up with reusable menstrual products, but when you consider their longterm use, you can be sure you'll save $$$ in the longrun. Things cost a little more now, but you could still comfortably get set up with a set of cloth menstrual pads for approximately $75.00.
I have six cloth pads in rotation, which is more than enough for me. As a family of six, we (read: me) are always doing laundry. My cycle is approximately five days long, and to go five days without at least a couple loads of laundry would be nothing short of a miracle. I usually use two-three pads a day -- I can comfortably wear the same pad for 4-6 hours (even on those heavy days at the start of my cycle). Cloth menstrual pads typically come in light/regular/heavy variations, I only use the 'regular' pads, they are sufficient for my needs.
Do they work?
How do the menstrual pads perform in comparison to their single-use counterparts? Just fine! I have never leaked through a pad, in fact, I find less 'mess' ends up in the pad by comparison. Single-use menstrual pads contain super-absorbing polymers (the same chemicals used in disposable diapers) to draw liquid from your body. Using cloth menstrual pads, I find most of my flow ends up in the toilet. I'm confident in this theory enough that I don't even use a pad at night -- as long as I go to the bathroom immediately when I wake up, I have no issues with leaking (I absolutely detest wearing a pad at night!).
|Öko Creations hemp/cotton menstrual pads|
Are they comfortable?
In terms of comfort, cloth pads are a little bulkier, but not enough to bother me. Some customers have switched to using cloth pads because single-use menstrual pads chafe their lady bits (yes, I said lady bits). Cloth pads stay in place well as long as I'm wearing underwear that fits properly (when I wear underwear that's too loose on me, the pads can move around, which is not ideal, but completely avoidable).
Do I have to switch entirely?
The only time I favor single-use menstrual products is when I play soccer (and not necessarily always, just sometimes), and occasionally when I run (which is rare because I hate running, but I'm only mentioning it so you think I'm actually more active than I really am). Like cloth diapers, switching to reusable menstrual options doesn't have to be an 'all or nothing' commitment.
How much work is it?
Honestly, none. I know there's lots of information 'out there' about how to 'properly care for' you cloth menstrual pads, but I'm going to let you in on a little secret. You don't really have to do anything special. I don't soak mine in a bucket beside the toilet because the idea of doing that makes me what to throw up (for realz). I toss my dirty pad into the laundry hamper (out of care and consideration for my family, I will bury them under other pieces of dirty clothing because I don't want anyone to faint from horror if they are confronted with a reminder that I still have a properly functioning uterus). In our family we (read me:) wash everything on hot, and dry everything on low heat. Even though our kids are well out of diapers, I still use CountrySave detergent because it is gentle, but effective at cleaning everything, including my soiled menstrual pads. When my pads come out of the dryer with all the other laundry, they are thrown into my underwear drawer where they shall remain until I need them again 28 days later.
So that's it, what do you think? I hope I've made it sound as easy as it truly is. Now that I have two teenagers who have periods, I'm reminded of all the waste that single-use menstrual products generate, and how much $$$ they cost (seriously! They are so expensive!). My girls know that I use cloth menstrual pads, and I know that they are horrified at the idea right now (and to be honest, at their age, I would have been too), but it's my hope that one day they consider switching to reusables. I think for a lot of people, it's just getting over the 'ick! factor', once you get going, it's really NBD (no big deal).