We have collected your most commonly asked questions and compiled our answers for you.
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Cloth pads are just like disposables, except you wash and reuse them, therefore saving money and creating less waste.
Women have been doing it 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 Which doesn’t mean it is old fashioned or even outdated.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 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 first soaking 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.
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.
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. Less feeling of wetness, the comfort of cotton against your skin rather than plastic, less skin irritation, less smell and our customers love their softness !
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? When cloth pads are washed well, dried in direct sunlight and stored properly, they are perfectly hygienic. Traditional knowledge tells us that the UV rays from the sun is nature’s best disinfectant. They should be totally dry before reuse or storage.
Learn more in our full care instructions.
Your blood in itself, is clean! However, bacteria can develop when the blood stays at room temperature. For that reason, 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! Soaking used pads in cold water prior to washing ensures pads remain stain free. This is so, because blood contains protein, which rinses easily in cold water, while warm water coagulates the protein, making it set in the fabric.
The secret is first soaking 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 inner layers of your pad are blood free!
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.
The back of the pad is made of a breathable PUL leakproof 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. Also, new cloth pads are similar to new towels; the fabric absorbency will increase after the first few uses.
The blood doesn’t stay on the top flannel. The liquid gets absorbed into the inner cotton layers. If your body expels a lot of 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.
Sometimes with repeated use or in ‘hard water’ areas, pads can become a little stiff. To help keep your pads soft, when soaking them in water, add a little baking soda or vinegar and a few drops of essential oil. Then when drying, scrunch the pads a little before they are fully dry. Then your pads should stay nice and soft. To make your own natural laundry conditioner visit this link.
We suggest that you need a minimum of 4 pads to change pads, 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 your washed pad. If the climate where you live allows fast drying you need fewer pads. If the climate where you live has less sunlight you need more to have enough dry pads readily available.
Some people like to begin by using the pads only at home to become confident using them as well as discover how often your personal flow makes you need to change. Before going to work or school, you can put clean pads in our attractive canvas travel pouch. It can discretely be carried to the bathroom when your pad needs changing. Soiled pads can be stored by folding the two ends towards the middle, fastening them with 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.
Beyond that 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 and 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 canvas travel pouch to carry your fresh and used pads with you. Soiled pads can be stored by folding the two ends towards the middle and fastening them with the buttoned flaps to carry and 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 conversation about the inspiration of using 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 a disposable brand of organic cotton with biodegradable leakproofing made out of for example corn starch, 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 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.
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 health dyes.
Our pads are made of 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 of a breathable PUL leakproof cover.
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 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 un-dyed. The backing fabric is woven by small-scale weavers with conventional cotton as for now, while we are researching an organic product option.
Eco Femme is developing a fully certified organic range. This range will be unbleached and un-dyed, 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.
Since January 2016 all the cotton flannel in our standard range is made of organic cotton, except the striped fabric (this fabric is made on a handloom by small-scale weavers who do not work with organic materials).
In 2017 we will be switching the striped fabric to be also of organic cotton and we are launching a new organic line of different design. These pads will have organic certification from GOTS : Global Organic Textile Standard.
Eco Femme is also in the process for vegan PETA certification: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
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We have found that washing cloth pads doesn’t take much more water than washing underwear or any other cloth of the same size. We are not saying that everyone should use washable cloth pads all the time. If a village doesn’t have access to reasonably clean water or enough water to wash their clothes, then maybe washable cloth pads are not the solution. We believe that most regions in rural India do have the resources to continue their traditional practice of using washable cloth for menstruation.
When you feel your pad is no longer working well, recycle it. Simply remove the press buttons, separate the leakproof layer and the remaining cotton layers. The cotton can be recycled with other waste fabric, the PUL layer with plastic recycling, the press buttons could be reused for something else, or, if they do not function anymore, place them with metal recycling.
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 recent trend toward the use of commercially available disposable sanitary napkins and even better, as awareness grows in the past few years, a trend for cloth pads and cups!
We are not training in production as we simply don’t have the bandwidth to do so and furthermore, as a livelihood project, it needs extensive market development for women to be able to make a living from making AND selling the pads. In principle, learning to stitch cloth pads is not difficult but without market and women ready to pay for the products, no livelihood. We have found that a single woman can stitch approx 450 cloth pads a month but she needs to keep finding new customers as the product is reusable for many years. We are able to sustain this because we have worked extensively to build an international and premium market which enables us to subsidise the cloth pads for rural women – but without this extensive market, we could not be able to provide subsidised pads to rural women.
One strategy we have to try and make cloth pads more accessible, and hopefully create conditions whereby more women would like to use them which may make livelihood potential increase, is create the ‘make your own kit’. If you would like to know more about this product, please visit our Pads for Sisters page.
We often have volunteers working with us and find it to be a wonderfully enriching experience for all involved. If you would like to volunteer at Eco Femme (ideally for a minimum of 4 months), you can contact us at email@example.com stating your skills, interests and date of arrival in Auroville.
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 Houses 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.