Sizes and Absorbency
How to care for my cloth pads?
Soak your soiled pads in room temperature water for 30 mins for easy washing. Do not soak it in hot water as it sets the stains.
Wash and rinse the pad under water until the blood and soap is completely removed. Hand wash the pad with a mild soap or machine wash it at 30° celsius.
Dry & Store
Pull your wet pad into shape to avoid shrinkage and then dry it on the clothes line in full sunlight or tumble dry on low heat. Store it in a clean and dry place.
What’s special about Eco Femme cloth pads?
Eco Femme pads are special! Made from soft organic cotton flannel by local and small-scale women tailoring units. The pads are absorbent, thin and designed to last!
Frequently asked questions
What & Why of Cloth pads
What are cloth pads?
Cloth pads are just like disposables, except you can wash and reuse them many times, therefore saving money and creating less waste.
Why use a reusable cloth pad?
Unlike disposable pads, our cloth pads don’t contain toxic chemicals like chlorine which produces dioxins that are harmful for your body. They are a one-time investment and can be reused for about 5 years which means that you also save money. Last but not least, as a resuable product they significantly reduce waste – a single cloth pad represents the equivalent of 75 disposable pads.
What are the pads made of?
Our pads are made of GOTS-certified organic cotton. The topmost layer of the pad is made of soft flannel cotton. The insides are 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 PUL (polyurethane laminate) leakproof cover. However, we do have a few products that do not have a PUL cover and are therefore 100% plastic free.
Is it easy to use and maintain reusable cloth pads?
Cloth pads must be changed, soaked, washed, and dried properly. This routine may take a cycle or two to get used to, but its as easy as maintaining your undergarments.
What is the difference between our natural and vibrant ranges?
The natural range pads have an unbleached natural cotton colour flannel top layer. With this women can notice the changing colour of their blood and experience a connection to their natural menstrual blood. The Vibrant range pads come in lively colours, as if celebrating menstruation. The inner absorbent layers in both ranges are made of unbleached cotton flannel.
How long do Eco Femme cloth pads 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.
Are Eco Femme pads organic?
The answer is ‘Yes’. And here are the details:
When we started Eco Femme production in 2012, we knew there was a need to make cloth pads affordable for women with limited means of income. This information was important for us to make a 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 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 of WFTO (World Fair Trade Organisation) certification.
Are cloth pads 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 are nature’s best disinfectant. They should be totally dry before reuse or storage. Learn more in our full care instructions.
How of Cloth Pads
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 to keep it in place.
How do the pads stay in place?
Our pads have wings that fold around your underwear and are fastened 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 the pads?
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 20-30 minutes before washing them. Washing water must not be over 40 degrees Celsius, or else it may damage the leakproof layer. Most of the blood comes out in the soaking process. After that, it’s just like washing your clothes.
How do I dry the pads?
Pull your wet pad into shape to prevent shrinkage and then dry them on the washing line in full sunlight for best results, or tumble dry on low heat. Check out our product demonstration video to see how it’s done.
Are cloth pads comfortable?
This is a personal matter and the answer would depend on the user. However, we have very good feedback from our existing customers with regard to the comfort of our pads. The feeling of cotton against your skin and between your thighs instead of disposable plastic is welcoming. Users have also pointed out that they don’t experience any rashes during their periods.
Some like the breathability of cotton as compared to plastic in disposables that traps heat.
Doesn’t the cloth in the pad leak?
The back of the pad is made of a leakproof PUL layer to avoid leakage. Whether disposable or reusable, a pad needs to be changed in time before it leaks, depending on 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 bodies as compared to 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 8 hours, as needed, depending on your flow. You will easily learn when it’s the right time to change.
How many pads do I need?
We suggest a minimum of 4 pads to change, wash and dry. Most people 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 at which you wash your pads. Factor 3 is the time needed to dry it. If the climate where you live allows fast drying, you need fewer pads. You need enough dry pads readily available.
Does the pad stain?
The secret to ensuring the pad remains stain free, is to first soak the pads in Cold Water for 20-30 minutes before washing. This is because blood contains iron and protein, which rinses easily in cold water, while warm water coagulates protein, making it set into the fabric. You must rinse the pad under running water until the water runs clean.
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 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 them, and it will help the liquid get absorbed into the inner layers of the pad.
Initial shrinkage is also normal for 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.
Can I wash the pads before their first use in hot water?
Yes, it’s recommended that you wash your pads before wearing them for the first time but not in hot water (hot water damages the leakproof layer-PUL). You only need to wash them one time before wearing them. It will enhance the fabric’s absorbency.
Caring for cloth pads
Can I wash the used cloth pads in hot water after soaking them in cold water?
You can wash your pad in hot water below 40 degrees Celsius after soaking it in cold water for 20-30mins. However, if the water is hotter than 40 degrees, it will damage the PUL layer (leakproof layer).
Can I soak the pad used in the evening in cold water for the whole night and wash them in the morning?
Yes, it is totally fine to soak the used pads overnight and wash them the next morning. Soaking for very long periods of time can make the water and pads smelly.
We generally suggest washing the used pads within 24 hours. If you keep the pads unwashed for a longer period of time, your pad could become moldy.
Should the used pad be initially soaked in just cold water or with any detergent?
You can just use plain cold water to soak the used pads and detergent isn’t necessary.
Can we iron the pads at minimum heat?
Ironing is not actually necessary. If you are ironing the pads, make sure the heat is less than 40 degrees Celsius. Do not iron on the leakproof layer side (printed side).
Sorry to be gross, but do reusable pads smell?
Actually, Cloth pads tend to stay fresher than disposable pads. That’s because their fabric breathes which allows moisture to evaporate. Less moisture means fewer bacteria to produce unwanted smells. If you do notice an odd smell, common bacterial imbalances could be to blame. That’s something to check out with a doctor. You can also use special techniques like adding OxiClean, vinegar, or essential oils when soaking pads to help eliminate lingering smells.
Do they have a different smell compared to disposable pads?
Absolutely yes! With disposable pads – there are heaps of chemicals that are in them to try to keep them sanitary and white (usually bleach). This reaction to your skin, sweat and blood actually create that distinct smell we are probably all too familiar with. Although periods still smell, the smell isn’t as bad as a disposable pad. The reason is that fabric is more breathable than plastic (which is what disposable pads are backed with to act as a water-repellent layer), so any smell that your period has won’t be trapped in the small space.
Does washing them in warm water help kill the bacteria?
By soaking used pads in cold water prior to washing them in warm water, you 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 (on low heat) or in direct sunlight (best as UV kills germs) and you’ll be sure that it is safe to use!
Can you put cloth pads in the dryer?
The majority of pads can be machine dried on a low or medium setting. Just make sure you don’t use high heat or dryer sheets. You can also air dry pads but, just like with any item that’s air dried, the pads might feel slightly stiff initially. Sunlight can kill any lingering bacteria and help stains fade, but try to avoid leaving your pads in direct sunlight for extended lengths of time. The sun can bleach out the colors of your pads or damage waterproof backing materials.
How do I keep my pads soft?
When you feel that repeated washing in ‘hard water’ areas has made your pad a little stiff, you can follow these simple techniques to keep them soft. Soak them in water and add a little baking soda, vinegar, or a squirt of lemon juice, and a drop of essential oil. Then, when it’s drying, scrunch the pad a little before it is fully dry and proceed to pull it into shape. This should help keep your pads stay nice and soft. To make your own natural laundry conditioner, visit this link.
Why is there a bleached spot around the vaginal area at the top layer of my Eco Femme pad?
This is possible when your vaginal secretions of blood and discharge become more acidic in pH. The natural vaginal flow is acidic in a healthy state but it can become more acidic at times. For example, towards the end of menstruation, you will notice 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! Not all women experience this discolouration on their pads.
We use eco-friendly dyes and have found that this can happen in those colors that have the colour red in their spectrum: red, pink, purple – not blue. The red colour is sensitive to acidity. We have been doing research on the dyes while being firm to work with eco-friendly and healthy dyes.
I found some green spots developing on my pad. What is it?
If you’re noticing some green spots forming on your cloth pads, then it’s likely that the pad(s) have become mouldy.
The reason this has occurred is that the pad(s) was not completely dry (inside layers and top sheet) before storing away. This is likely to happen during winter months, hence; it’s important to keep in mind that drying time could take 24 to 48 hours during this time.
You must ensure that the top sheet including internal cotton layers is completely dry before storing pads away.
The affected pad(s) can be treated to remove mould spores. Here’s how:
- Put affected pad(s) into a bucket
- Sprinkle bicarb soda (sodium bicarbonate) directly onto the beige cotton side
- Boil vinegar and pour over the pad(s)
- Leave to cool completely in the solution
- Once cooled, go ahead to pop them into a regular cold water wash in the machine
- Do a spin cycle on the pads to remove as much moisture from the pads as possible
- Hang dry completely (24-48 hours) in a dry place preferably indoors near a big window where the sun gets in
The above treatment will kill mould spores but there might be slight discolouration that can be lifted with sodium percarbonate available at the laundry section of local health/organic stores.
It is each individual’s responsibility to wash and maintain their pads once purchased.
Common User doubts
Isn’t the leak proof 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 while using cloth pads. PUL is an international standard used in reusable cloth diapers and other reusable cloth pads and is 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 pad’s top layers are dyed with colours that are in line with 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 changed in 2017 to also be organically certified.
We do have a fully certified organic range. This range is unbleached and undyed and comes in a natural cream colour.
Can you feel the snaps when wearing the pad?
We haven’t yet had any customers say that the pads were uncomfortable because of the snap fasteners.
Because the wings with the snaps are wrapped around and snapped on the outside of the underwear, your skin will only touch the soft, comfy cotton and cushioned by the layers of cotton sheets that make up the core of the cloth pad.
How do I recycle the pad when it’s worn out?
When your pad has reached its limit of use (usually after 75 washes), recycle it as much as you can. Simply remove the press buttons, and 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 is “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 or can be reused.
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 their 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. However, 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, as awareness is growing in the past few years, there has been a spike in the trend to choose cloth pads and menstrual cups!
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 take just about as much water as washing underwear or any other cloth of the same size, especially if you use a washing machine. After the initial cold water rinses, you can add the pads to your regular laundry machine load.
If a woman does 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 to the environmentally harmful alternative. Just consider that a disposable plastic pad will, in turn, contaminate the water in the environment as it takes up to 800 years to decompose. Even when burnt, the fumes will come back down with the rain.
Times have changed and we aren't living in the pioneer days anymore, why do people use cloth pads?
While it’s a personal choice, there are several good reasons for switching to reusable cloth pads. You can:
- Keep thousands of disposable feminine hygiene products out of landfills.
- Save money by not having to buy pads each and every month.
- Experience the comfort of wearing soft, non-synthetic fabrics next to your body.
- Have less exposure to potentially unhealthy chemicals that often cause allergies and rashes.
- Never again deal with an adhesive wing getting stuck in the wrong place.
Moving around with Cloth Pads
How can I manage using cloth pads when I am out at work (or school) all day?
To become a confident cloth pad user, 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 a couple of clean pads into our attractive travel pouch. You can discreetly 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 discover your own washing routine. You can make it a 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 or staying in a hotel room or hostel, you can manage using your cloth pads just as you do at home. It can be managed as you would when you are 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 buttoned flaps to wash them at your convenience. And if anyone does see your drying pads in your 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 going to live in a more basic environment and you do not have your ‘own’ place or the time to wash and dry your pads, it will require you to be more pragmatic. For those who are comfortable with an internal product, we recommend using a menstrual cup. This makes travelling during your menstruation easy as you only need to rinse it and you can reuse it immediately. For those who prefer pads and feel they really can’t wash a reusable pad, we recommend an eco-friendly disposable brand of organic cotton with biodegradable leak proofing made out of, for example, cornstarch instead of plastic, But 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 of.
Can I wear reusable pads when swimming?
Unfortunately, no. Just like disposable pads, cloth pads will absorb the water, making them soggy and ineffective for period protection. However, a menstrual cup or period-proof swimwear are great alternatives when you want to go swimming during that time of the month.
Engage with Eco Femme
Can you provide training for me to start a production unit to provide a 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 becoming 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 leak proofing), stitching charges and overheads associated with pad production make a cost price of below Rs. 100 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 understanding and appreciating the upfront cost of 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 below 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 to begin to make this a viable income-generating activity. It is more important to focus efforts on building the market by 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 to mitigate financial losses that will come with a gap between cost price and the willingness to pay.
Contact us for more information.
How can I become a Retailer of Eco Femme pads?
Please write to us at email@example.com
I want to distribute/sponsor pads to girls/women who can not afford them themselves. Can I get a discount?
We will try our best to help you through our non-profit programs. Please fill out the screening form so we can better understand your needs.
"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 firstname.lastname@example.org stating your skills, interests and approximate date of arrival in Auroville.
Who is an Eco Femme Ambassador?
Eco Femme Ambassadors are individuals who are actively committed to promoting washable cloth pads and revaluing menstruation in their communities through advocacy, education (formal and informal), discussion groups, and/or selling Eco Femme pads. You can learn more about them here.
What is the atmosphere like at Eco Femme?
At our office, we strive to create a welcoming, fun, caring, and creative atmosphere 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 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 other’s work and related global movements, news articles, documentaries, books, and resources of interest. This helps us create a balanced work environment with a 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 fulfilment 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.
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