Reusable Period Products 101: The Beginner’s Guide

Many moms who start using and loving cloth diapers, eventually realize they can apply the reusable cloth mentality to their period products as well. Reusable pads, period underwear, and menstrual cups, all offer alternatives to buying and throwing away endless disposable period products every month.

Here’s a quick rundown of the popular reusable period products that many are using to replace their conventional pads and tampons, you’ll find links scattered throughout for more information should you think one of these products might be worth switching to on period day.

Reusable Cloth Pads

Reusable pads are the first reusable menstrual product I tried, and once I was able to find a really good brand, they were life-changing!

Just like with cloth diapers, cloth pads are far more comfortable than disposable menstrual products, they don’t smell like disposable products, and they save a ton of money over the long run.

Like disposable pads, washable pads come in different sizes and different levels of absorbency to match your menstrual flow. Pantyliners, light- and regular-flow pads, overnight pads, and postpartum pads are available in different prints and fabric combinations.

Postpartum pads are very popular as many moms, myself included, want to use something more comfortable when healing from childbirth.

Cloth Pad Care

Thankfully, reusable pads aren’t as temperamental to wash and care for as cloth diapers. Because they are only holding relatively small amounts of menstrual fluid (and not large amounts of urine and waste like diapers) they can even be thrown in with your regular laundry without much cause for concern, though fabric softeners should still be avoided.

Machine washing is all that’s needed to clean pads, and blood stains are infrequent and only affect some materials. Specifically, an organic cotton reusable pad may stain, but a pad topped with a layer of minky material will not. Stains can be easily removed by soaking the pad in cold water, or by using the same stain removers you use on cloth diapers (including the sun!)

Where to Find Good Reusable Menstrual Pads

Many good cloth diaper manufacturers like Lil’Helper, Mother Ease, and Charlie Banana now make reusable menstrual pads. My personal favorite, the one that finally made me make the switch, is TreeHugger Cloth Pads, which is a brand that makes only reusable pads and period underwear. Their soft, Minky-topped pads are described as, “fluffy pillows for your vagina.”

Period Underwear

One newer innovation in cloth period products is period underwear.

The awesome thing about period underwear is that you wear it just like underwear, there are no extra steps of snapping things into place or anything at all.

Of course, changing your underwear in the middle of the day is a bit inconvenient so they work best on light-flow days or alongside tampons, menstrual cups, or even cloth pads. Nonetheless, reusable menstrual underwear are a convenience many are growing to love!

Period Underwear Care

Like reusable pads, period underwear is very easy to wash and care for and come clean with regular machine washing. Most period panties are lined in black fabric and feature fabrics that won’t stain.

Where to Find Good Reusable Period Underwear

Probably the most popular brand of period panties and underwear is Knix, but there are now several competitors with great options such as Thinx, TreeHugger Cloth Pads and even Hanes.

Menstrual Cups

Ok, I know, menstrual cups aren’t a cloth period product, but I’d be crazy not to include them in this round-up of disposable pad and tampon alternatives.

Unlike reusable menstrual pads and underwear, menstrual cups don’t go outside your body but are actually inserted into the vagina like tampons. These small, flexible funnel-shaped cups are made of rubber or silicone and can hold more than regular tampons or disposable pads. You can also wear a menstrual cup for 6 to 12 hours, depending on your flow. This means you can use a cup for overnight protection.

Menstrual Cup Care

In order to ensure that your reusable menstrual cups are clean, they should be washed with a gentle soap and wiped clean before being reinserted. You should empty and clean your cup at least twice a day.

Once a month you can soak them in boiling water to sanitize them as well.

Where to Find Menstrual Cups

Keeper Cup, Moon Cup, Lunette Menstrual Cup, DivaCup, Lena Cup, and Lily Cup are some brands of reusable menstrual cups. Disposable menstrual cups, such as the Instead Softcup, are also available. You can often find a brand or two at your local pharmacy or of course can find them online.

Is It Possible to Wear a Menstrual Cup or Tampon with Reusable Pads or Period Underwear?

Absolutely! Cloth menstrual pads and period underwear make excellent companions to tampons, sponges, and menstruation cups. They provide the perfect backup protection if an accident happens.