Frequently Asked Questions
Here we have collected your most commonly asked questions about Eco Femme pads and compiled our answers for you.
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Cloth pads are just like disposables, except you can wash and reuse them several times, therefore saving money and creating less waste.
For the environment and to save money. In our blog you can find more information on this.
Women have been using cloth for thousands of years before you. Which doesn’t mean it is old fashioned or even outdated. In fact it is all the opposite, absolutely up-to-date: eco-friendly, health beneficial and cost convenient. You quickly incorporate the routine of using, changing, soaking, washing, drying and reusing. Many users have reported benefits of feeling emotionally more connected to themselves and their cycle.
The plain uni-coloured fabric is worn facing your body and the patterned leakproof side faces your underwear. The buttons are fastened around your underwear.
Our pads have wings which fold around your underwear and are fasted with a press button below. We recommend wearing well fitting underwear whilst using our pads to ensure the pad fits snugly against your body.
Cloth pads can be washed easily by hand or in the washing machine. The secret is to first soak the pads in cold water for 30 minutes before washing in up to a maximum of 40 degrees Celsius. Most of the blood comes out in the soaking process. After that, it’s just like washing your clothes.
Pull your wet pad into shape to prevent shrinkage then dry on the washing line in full sunlight for best results or tumble dry on low heat.
Check out the product demonstration video below to see how it’s done.
Our pads are made of organic cotton. The top of the pad is made of soft flannel cotton. The inside of the pad is made of ultra-absorbent cotton flannel (the number of layers differs according to the pad model). The back of the pad is made with a PUL (polyurethane laminate) leakproof layer.
This is a personal matter and the answer would depend on the user, but we have very good feedback regarding the comfort of our pads. The comfort of cotton against your skin and between your thighs rather than plastic, less feeling of wetness, less skin irritation, less smell, and our customers love their softness!
The back of the pad is made of a leakproof PUL (polyurethane laminate) layer. Beyond that, using cloth pads is just like using disposables. Whether disposable or reusable, a pad needs to be changed in time before it leaks, according to your personal flow.
The blood doesn’t stay on the top flannel. The liquid gets absorbed into the inner cotton layers. If your body expels clots during your period, you will find these on top of your pad. If your pad starts to feel wet it means it’s time to change it with a fresh one, just as with any other product. In fact many users report feeling less wetness and more comfort with cotton against their body as compared to sticky plastic pads.
You should change your pad about as often as you would change a disposable pad, every 4 to 6 hours, as needed, depending on your flow. You will easily learn when it’s time to change.
As with all new garments, especially underwear, you should wash new pads prior to using them. And there is another reason for this: New cloth pads are similar to new towels; after the first few washes cotton absorbency will increase, which is exactly their job to do! We have observed, to increase the absorbency of new pads, wash them 2-3 times with soap, soak them overnight or machine wash, and it will help so the liquid gets absorbed into the inner layers of the pad.
Initial shrinkage is also normal to natural cotton material in the first few washes. We have added a few centimeters to each new pad to compensate for this. And we suggest that after washing, you pull your wet pad into shape before hanging it to dry, just as you do with other cotton clothing.
We suggest a minimum of 4 pads to change, wash and dry. Most women have an average of 6-8 pads. A few factors influence the number of pads that you need. Factor 1 is the intensity of your personal flow. Factor 2 is the frequency you wash your pads. Factor 3 is the time needed to dry. If the climate where you live allows fast drying you need fewer pads. You need enough dry pads readily available.
To become confident using the pads, as well as discover how often your personal flow makes you need to change, you might like to begin by using the pads at home. Before going to work / school you can put clean pads in our attractive travel pouch. You can discretely carry it to the bathroom when you need to change. Soiled pads can be stored by folding the two ends towards the middle, fastening the buttoned flaps and placing them in the carry pouch. This is a clean way to carry them home to be washed at your convenience.
You will find out your own washing routine. You can make it your habit to wash your pads one by one after every use, or collect used pads and wash them all at once when your period is over. Do whatever works best for you. Experiment and create a routine that suits you.
If you are travelling comfortably, staying at a hotel room or youth hostel, you can manage using your cloth pads just as you do in your home town when you are in a regular daily routine being out at work/ school. You can use our attractive travel pouch to carry your fresh and used pads. Soiled pads can be stored by folding the two ends towards the middle and fastening them with the buttoned flaps to wash them at your convenience. And if anyone does see your drying pads in your youth hostel dorm, it might serve as a great opportunity to open an inspiring conversation about reusable menstrual products to spread the word!
If you are travelling more basic and you do not have your ‘own’ place or the time to wash and dry your pads we can be more pragmatic. For those who are comfortable with an internal product we recommend to use a menstrual cup. This makes travelling on your menstruation easy as you only need to rinse it and you can reuse it immediately. For those who prefer pads and feel they just really can’t wash a reusable pad, we recommend an eco-friendly disposable brand of organic cotton with biodegradable leakproofing made out of for example corn starch instead of plastic, but to switch back to reusable whenever possible as even eco-friendly disposable products induce more burden to our environment and health in their production, shipping and disposing.
The secret is to first soak the pads in cold water for 30 minutes before washing. This ensures the pads to remain stain free. This is so, because blood contains protein, which rinses easily in cold water, while warm water coagulates protein, making it set in the fabric.
When wet, squeeze the water out of your pad. If the water is transparent, it means that the blood has been washed out of the inner layers of your pad.
Yes, cloth pads are perfectly safe and hygienic to wear when they are washed well, dried in direct sunlight and stored properly. Cloth has been used by millions of women across the world to manage menstruation for generations. The real question is not whether cloth is hygienic, but whether it is cared for hygienically. Are panties inherently unhygienic? Issues related to cloth pads are linked to unhygienic practices such as poor washing or drying, rather than the cloth itself.
Learn more in our full care instructions.
Soaking used pads in cold water prior to washing in warm water, is to ensure the pads remain stain free. Blood is washed out easily when initially rinsed in cold water. After that you can wash the pad in warm water. However, harmful bacteria can develop when the pads stay moist. It is not so much the washing but the drying of your clean pads that matters! Dry your pad in a tumble dryer or in direct sunlight (best as UV kills germs) and you’ll be sure that it is safe to use!
We have found that washing cloth pads doesn’t take much more water than washing underwear or any other cloth of the same size. Especially if you use a washing machine, after the initial cold water rinse, you can just add the pads to your regular laundry machine load.
If a women do not have access to reasonably clean water or enough water to wash their clothes, then maybe washable cloth pads are not the solution. We have found that most regions in rural India do have the resources to continue their traditional practice of using washable cloth for menstruation, and more importantly draw attention on the eco-dangerous alternative: Just consider that a disposable plastic pad will in turn again contaminate the water in the environment as it takes up to 800 years to decompose, or even when burnt the fumes will come back down with the rain.
Our decision to use a layer of PUL (polyurethane laminate) is the trade off we have made in order to make our pads functional. We needed a leakproof solution for women to be confident using cloth pads. PUL is an international standard used in reusable cloth diapers and other reusable cloth pads while being the best option to minimize waste at present. The ‘pantyliner pack without PUL’ is our option without PUL. One of our cloth pads is the equivalent of approximately 75 disposable pads so it is a much more eco-friendly option than disposable pads.
Our Vibrant range pads’ top layers are dyed with colours, that are in line within the organic standards used per international regulations. The inner layers are unbleached and undyed.
Our Natural Organic range is fully certified organic. This range is unbleached and undyed, in natural cream colour.
The answer is ‘Yes’. And here are the details:
When we started Eco Femme production in 2012, we decided there was a need to make cloth pads affordable for women with limited means of income. This informed our choice to start with conventional cotton.
We then set out to find ways to offer our product in organic quality. We wanted to stay within our values of providing a product that is healthy for our bodies and our environment. And it turned out to be feasible!
From January 2016 all the cotton flannel in our Vibrant Range was switched to organic cotton, except the striped backing fabric. Since late 2017 the striped fabric is also of organic cotton.
In July 2017 we launched our undyed Natural Range with organic certification from GOTS : Global Organic Textile Standard and in 2018 we received certification for our coloured Vibrant Range.
Eco Femme is also in the process for vegan PETA certification: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
The leakproof layer of PUL (polyurethane laminate) will last for approx 75 washes. So Eco Femme washable cloth pads can last 3 to 5 years, depending on how frequently you use them and if you care for them properly. For example: Do not use a brush to wash the pads, so the quality of the fabric is well maintained, and stick to the rinse-in-cold-water-first-rule to keep them clean.
When you feel your pad is no longer working well, recycle it as much as you can. Remove the press buttons (you can hammer them to open), separate the PUL layer (polyurethane laminate) from the remaining cotton layers. The cotton can be recycled with other waste fabric or composted as it is made from organic cotton. The PUL layer can sometimes be removed from the cotton to which it has been fused. In that case the cloth can be recycled and the PUL layer can be added to the plastic waste. If not, the PUL with the fused cloth are “mixed waste”, which generally gets burned or landfilled by the municipality. The press buttons are made of metal and can be given for metal recycling.
When you feel that repeated use in ‘hard water’ areas, your pads might have become a little stiff you can do the following: To help keep your pads soft, soak them in water adding a little baking soda, vinegar or a squirt of lemon juice and a drop of essential oil (another idea is to wash the pads in water where neem leaves have soaked over night). Then when drying, scrunch the pad a little before it is fully dry then pull it into shape. This should help to keep your pads nice stay nice and soft. To make your own natural laundry conditioner, visit this link.
This is possible when your vaginal secretions of blood and discharge become more acidic in pH. The natural vaginal flora is acidic in a healthy state but can become more acidic at times, for example towards the end of menstruation where there is more vaginal discharge along with the period blood. This is not necessarily a concern, but can also be a healthy sign of natural cleansing of the body! So in fact, not all women experience this discolouration of the pads.
We use eco-friendly dyes and have found that this can happen in those colors that have colour red in their spectrum: red, pink, purple – not the blue. The red colour is sensitive to acidity. We have been doing research on the dyes, while being firm to stay with eco-friendly and healthy dyes.
In India, women have traditionally used scrap cloth from old saris or towels, folded and held in place by underwear or a string “belt.” These cloth scraps are generally used for 2 to 3 months, then burned or buried. To this day, most – an estimated 74% – Indian women are still practicing this traditional method of managing menstruation. Some women improvise using locally available materials such as sand, ash, rice husk, plastic and paper – with such practices hygiene is a concern. As Indians have more disposable income, there is a trend toward the use of commercially available disposable sanitary napkins, but even better, as awareness is growing in the past few years, a trend for cloth pads and menstrual cups!
- Firstly, cloth pads are not a cheap product to manufacture – the raw material costs (pure cotton and leakproofing), stitching charges and overheads associated with pad production make a cost price below Rs100 difficult to achieve.
- The next problem then becomes selling the pad due to the stiff competition with disposable pads which are seen as more cost effective, convenient, and also seem cheaper (although in the long run cloth pads are actually cost saving).
- Lastly, women often have a hard time to understand and appreciate the up front cost for cloth pads – explaining this requires a serious time investment and makes cloth pads a rather “hard sell”.
Eco Femme has developed a cross subsidy model, where we sell the cloth pads for a premium price to a high end market which enables us to cross subsidise for economically disadvantaged women at a price they are comfortable to pay (usually about Rs. 50). Check the programme page for more information.
We often have volunteers working with us and find it to be a wonderfully enriching experience for all involved. As of August 2018, we are unable to take new volunteer applications but will do so again when we have an opening.
At our office we strive to create a welcoming, fun, caring, and creative atmosphere in which to work productively and be together. Our weekly team meetings start with sharing something a team member has found inspirational and beautiful over the past week, and we always love to have a good laugh, too! We are always happy to welcome visitors, groups of students, and interested individuals to our Open House hour and to arrange information sessions to learn more about our work. In this way we try to always keep an open door, as we are often pleasantly surprised at how just the right person walks through at just the right time! While we are each focused on our specific areas of work, we also value learning together as a team about each person’s work and related global movements, news articles, documentaries, books, and resources of interest. This helps us create a balanced work environment with structure that allows us to meet our goals and grow as a business and the fluidity to bring our full selves to our work and receive fulfillment in return. When you work or volunteer with Eco Femme, you are included in the team and much more – you are welcomed into a supportive community and invited to share your gifts.
You can share the articles from our blog to give information, such as, that a woman produces 150kg of sanitary waste in her lifetime, or that chemicals from plastic pads and tampons can be found in the blood stream. You can connect and share our work on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And if you are enthusiastic, we can send you some flyers to distribute and you can join our ambassador network. Help us to spread the word and join the #ClothPadRevolution!
Eco Femme is a registered unit under Auroville Export Trust which operates as part of the Auroville Foundation under section 20(4) of the Auroville Foundation Act, 1988.
All accounts of units/trusts under Auroville Foundation are consolidated and one single income tax return is filed under one PAN: AAATA0037B. All trusts are recognised as non-profit, non-governmental organisations.
Auroville has FCRA recognition making it eligible to receive foreign donations.
The executives of Eco Femme are Kathy Walkling and Jessamijn Miedema who are responsible for ensuring fiscal accountability. Eco Femme maintains rigorous book keeping and accounting of each transaction and can provide detailed reporting on expenditure against donations.
Our accounts are audited annually by a representative of the Comptroller and Auditor General of the Government of India.
As a social enterprise, Eco Femme’s commercial activities selling premium priced cloth washable pads, generate a surplus – 33% is contributed towards Auroville as part of our social commitment to the community while the remaining surplus is ploughed back into the organisation.
Firstly, we question the need for laboratory testing as it typically focuses on the sterility of menstrual products when the real issue is safety. In reality, menstrual products are not intended to be sterile (this is also the standpoint of the global assocation EDANA in their Guidelines for Testing Feminine Hygiene Products, Dec 2018), nor are vaginas which rely on many bacteria to promote vaginal health. As well as being impractical, an emphasis on ideas around sterile menstrual products plays into unhelpful attitudes claiming that menstrual blood is “dirty” or “unhygienic”.
Any critical examination of menstrual products should be based on safety, where safety relates to materials and appropriate use such as thorough washing and drying. Eco Femme cloth pads are made from GOTS (Global Organic Trade Standard) certified cotton flannel. In our personal experience, and from the experiences of many other women, cloth pads are safe to use when cared for properly. We do not believe in discounting these experiences. In this context, emphasis on clinical or laboratory testing simply for the sake of testing, when there have been no issues, risks perpetuating a menstrual culture that alienates women from their lived experiences and common sense.
One last note on laboratory testing regarding cloth pads, as this is a not uncommon question. It is curious that the onus lies with cloth pad producers, when cloth is widely accepted as a known and safe material, especially so with organic certification. Compare this with disposable pads, where manufacturers are not legally required to disclose the ingredients. In 2014, US organisation Women’s Voices for the Earth commissioned laboratory
The short answer is ‘no’.
Fabric softener or conditioner can damage the PUL (leakproof) layer of your pads as well as actually reducing the absorbency of the cotton. To keep your pads soft, we recommend adding a tablespoon of vinegar to your soaking water and to scrunch your pads a little before they are totally dry to help loosen the fabric.