FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Here we have collected your most commonly asked questions about Eco Femme pads and compiled our answers for you.

For questions regarding delivery and shipping timing for our online shop, or your order status, view our order information.

Can’t find the answer you are looking for? Do contact us! We are happy to answer you.

What is it?

Cloth pads are just like disposables, except you wash and reuse them, therefore saving money and creating less waste.

Why would anyone want to wash and reuse a menstrual pad?

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 Which doesn’t mean it is old fashioned or even outdated.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.

How do I wear my pad?

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.

How do they stay in place?

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.

How do I wash it?

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.

How do I dry it?

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.

What is it made of?

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.

Are they comfortable?

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!

Doesn’t cloth leak?

The back of the pad is made of a leakproof and breathable PUL 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.

Do they feel wet?

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.

How often should I change my pad?

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.

Is there anything I have to do before I start using the pad?

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 cm 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.

How many do I need?

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.

How can I manage using cloth pads when I am out at work (or school) all day?

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.

How can I manage while travelling?

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.

Does it stain?

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.

How do I know the pad is completely clean?

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.

Is it hygienic?

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.

I thought we had to wash in very warm water to kill bacteria!

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!

Doesn’t washing cloth pads use a lot of water? What about places where people do not have access to clean water?

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.

Isn’t the leakproof layer (PUL) made of plastic?

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.

Are the dyes used in the coloured fabric safe?

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 undyed. The backing  fabric is woven by small-scale weavers with conventional cotton, which will change in 2017 to also be organically certified.

Also Eco Femme is developing a fully certified organic range. This range will be unbleached and undyed, in natural cream colour.

Are Eco Femme pads organic?

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.

After January 2016 all the cotton flannel in our standard range was made of organic cotton, except the striped fabric (fabric was made on a handloom by small-scale weavers who did 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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How long do they last?

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.

How do I recycle them when they are worn out?

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.

How do I keep my pads soft?

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.

On the top layer of my Eco Femme pad I see a bleached spot around the vaginal area, why?

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.

What do women in India currently use for menstruation?

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!

Can you provide training for me to start a production unit to provide livelihood for rural women in my area?
We do not train in production as we have found that most organisations are interested in this activity to generate income for rural women and we have learned that unfortunately, cloth pad making ends up being a loss making undertaking when the target group for the product is economically disadvantaged women.
There are a number of reasons for this –
  • 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 (not beyond RS:50). Check the program page for more information.

The only way manufacturing cloth pads as a rural enterprise can be viable is if an organisation has funds to offset the losses incurred in production. Another very important point is that to begin to make this a viable income generating activity, it is more important to focus efforts on building the market through educating women and girls about the benefits of cloth pads – in other words, building the market is a crucial step towards creating the conditions for a potentially successful income generation activity.
We therefore encourage organisations to really look towards encouraging women and girls to switch to cloth pads for health and environmental reasons first and when there is sufficient uptake of the product, production may be viable down the track, especially if there is institutional support for mitigate financial losses that will come with a gap between cost price and willingness to pay.
Finally, in 2017, Eco Femme is preparing to make available a production knowledge kit for organisations who do feel committed to manufacturing for a non commercial market. This product knowledge kit should be available in the second part of the year – contact us for more information.
Can I volunteer?

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 info@ecofemme.org stating your skills, interests and date of arrival in Auroville.

What is the atmosphere like at Eco Femme?

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.

What can I do to inspire others to use reusable pads?

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 FacebookTwitter 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!

What is Eco Femme’s legal structure?

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.

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