Cloth Pads vs Disposables

by Jackie Bolen

Menstrual cups like the Diva Cup, Mooncup, Lena Cup or Ruby Cup are all the rage these days. Period Panties, due to their huge advertising budgets are similar (have you heard of Thinx?). However, reusable cloth pads are another eco-friendly period product that aren’t getting a lot of attention.

I’ll compare these reusable menstrual pads to disposables in a few different categories: Cost, the Environment, Health Factors, Effectiveness, and Ease of Use to help you decide which option is right for you.

Should I usse cloth pads or disposable

Cloth Pads vs Disposables: Cost

A box of disposable pads costs around $5. Most people, if they use pads as their sole source of period protection will use an entire box each month. If you use them as a backup to tampons or a menstrual cup, you’ll need fewer of them.

If you have a heavy period, or an irregular one, then you’ll need more pads than the average person.

Let’s assume that most people spend $5 per month on these products, which adds up to $60 per year.

Compare this to cloth pads. There are some premium pads that cost $15-20 per pad. These are usually handmade and organic. However, there are cheaper options that sell for $5 per pad or even less. They generally last for five years or so, and most people need about six pads to make it through their period.

Let’s assume 6 cloth pads, at $5 per pad, for a total of $30. If they last for 5 years, that’s only $6 per year!

$6 per year for cloth pads vs $60 per year for disposables. That’s a lot of money saved.

Reusable cloth pads for the win!

Cloth Pads vs Disposables: The Environment

Of all the period products, disposable pads are probably the worst. This is because they’re made in large part from plastic which isn’t biodegradable. These products will still be hanging around the landfill in hundreds of years from now.

Compare this to reusable cloth pads which last for years. One cloth pad might potentially replace hundreds of disposable ones.

There’s more good news! Reusable pads are made from mostly natural materials (bamboo, cotton, charcoal, etc.) that biodegrade easily once thrown away.

Once again, it’s reusable pads for the win in this category.

A quick note: organic disposable pads are much better than non-organic ones. They are plastic-free and will biodegrade more easily. However, they still create waste that goes to the landfill.

Cloth Pads vs Disposables: Health Factors

Some brands of disposable pads contain trace amounts of toxic chemicals in them. They mostly come from the bleaching process, as well as the pesticides used to grow the cotton. Organic disposables pads are a nice option because they’re better for our bodies, but they are also more expensive.

Cloth pads can help reduce your exposure to toxins. Be sure to wash them first before use, but then you’re in the clear and well on your way to a healthier period experience.

It’s a clear win for reusable menstrual pads in this category!

Cloth Pads vs Disposables: Effectiveness

Like disposables, cloth pads come in a wide range of absorbency levels and sizes and you should be able to find some that work for you, even if you have a very heavy period.

In terms of effectiveness, most people find that cloth pads work just as well as disposables at preventing leaks because they have wings and a leak-proof layer in them.

The only time you might consider going with disposables is during exercise. Cloth pads can sometimes slide around a little bit because they don’t have a sticky backing on them. Instead, they stay in place with snaps on the wings. Something to look for are the pads that have the waterproof layer inside the pad, instead of on the back because these ones are not so slippery.

Effectiveness? It’s a tie, except if you’re exercising and then it’s disposables for the win.

Cloth Pads vs Disposables: Ease of Use

The final category to consider is ease of use. Disposable pads are certainly easy to use, and once you’re done with them, you just throw them into the trash.

Cloth pads are not so simple. The first thing to consider is what to do with them when you’re not at home. Where do you put the soiled pads? Some people use a Ziplock bag, but I prefer a wet bag because they’re more discreet.

You also have to wash them. If you don’t care about staining, just throw them in with your regular laundry. To extend the life of them, hang dry instead of using the dryer.

If you do care about staining, then get dark coloured pads. Or, you can soak the lighter coloured ones in cold water after using them. Commercial stain removers also work well for this.

For ease of use, it’s disposable pads for the win.

Let’s Sum This Up!

Cloth pads come out ahead in a few different categories: cost, the environment, and health factors.

It’s a toss-up for effectiveness, unless you exercise a lot during your period and then you’ll want to stick with disposables.

Finally, disposables are very easy to use, while cloth pads do take a bit of work.

For me, it’s an obvious win for the reusables. If you agree, and want to pick up a few for yourself, then you’ll need to check out: Cloth Pads on Be Prepared Period.

Read to shop? Click the link below to get started!

Jackie Bolen is the founder of the website Reusable Menstrual Cups. Her goal is to provide unbiased reviews of menstrual cups, reusable cloth pads, organic tampons, and organic pads. She hopes that one day a reusable period product will be found in the bathroom of every single person who has a period, because they have the potential to change the world for the better.


cloth pads vs disposable options

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