Reusable Menstrual Cloth Pads vs. Disposable Pads

I know the first thing to come to mind when you hear about reusable pads or cloth pads, is the gross factor in washing something that has been collecting your period flow. I get it, but it’s our body, and it’s something we have to deal with every month. So why not embrace it and adapt to make it a process we’ll feel better about?

Everything we do affects the environment in some way. Even the natural process of the monthly mother nature calls can have some kind of impact. With more people concerned about the health of the planet, these small switches we do can make a difference.

What are Reusable Menstrual Cloth Pads

Reusable pads or cloth pads are exactly as they sound. Pads for menstrual cycles that are made from different fabric materials like cotton, are used for a few hours (just like disposable pads) and instead of being tossed in the trash, they get washed to be reused again.

There are many different kinds varying from different companies, but the concept is exactly like the disposable ones. They are shaped the same and contain flaps that have clasps to be wrapped and lined with your underwear of choice.

Just like disposable pads, reusable pads come in different sizes, fabrics, and even absorbency. Picking the right size will differ from person to person to ensure you have the best experience. Application, and picking the wrong size and absorbency with a disposable pad will leak, so the same will apply to a reusable pad.

Are Reusable Pads Sanitary

Disposable pads and reusable pads should both be handled correctly to ensure maximum sanitation. Always wash your hands before and after handling. Without proper handwashing, both methods can be just as unsanitary.

Proper care and maintenance are what will ensure the sanitation of reusable pads. In general, you should be changing them out every few hours to prevent infection and irritation (just like you would be doing for disposable pads). Then the proper wash and care, which you can follow according to the directions the pads came with. Mainly, the enemy is moisture. As long as you dry the pads correctly and store them in a cool dry area, you will be fine.

How Can Disposable Pads be harmful

One of the biggest concerns with feminine menstrual products like tampons and pads is the waste they produce. “In 2018 alone, people in the U.S. bought 5.8 billion tampons, and over the course of a lifetime, a single menstruator will use somewhere between 5 and 15 thousand pads and tampons, the vast majority of which will wind up in landfills as plastic waste.”

Tampons and pads contain plastic and chemicals that do not biodegrade easily (more than 500 years). These products pile up in landfills creating greenhouse gases that are harmful to the environment including marine life. Not to mention the carbon footprint they already have by producing them. Periods occur every month and if women are constantly buying disposable plastic to throw away each time, landfills will pile up faster than they can decompose.

Anything that is created for our convenience is never in favor of the Earth.

Besides the environmental concerns, there are also health concerns when it comes to commercial disposable pads. Menstrual cycles is not a pretty process, they are known to smell, be messy, and be unsanitary, so commercial pads are created with chemicals, dyes and fragrance to combat those. A study done by WVE testing commercial pads showed that popular brands like Always contained toxic chemicals that are known to be carcinogenic.

Disposable pads can also be irritating for some people and without the proper application or maintenance (changing frequently), you can develop a rash similar to what babies get, a diaper rash.

The Pros and Cons of Each

Disposable Pads


  • Cheaper upfront cost – One pack of pads from Target can cost about $8-$10 for a pack of 30-40.
  • Convenient – Any convenient store or grocery store you walk in to anywhere will have them available for you to purchase. So if you ever forget to carry extras, you’ll easily have access to them.
  • Easier to travel – The convenience of throwing things away is that you don’t have the maintenance of carrying them with you. If you’re away traveling its easier to use and then throw away.


  • Toxic chemicals, fragrance and dyes – Potentially irritating and more harmful for you
  • More expensive in the long run – If you go through one box a month, then that’s about $8-$10 a month, which is the same as buying a streaming service!
  • Environmental concerns – All the trash will be added to landfills harming environment and marine life.

Reusable Pads


  • Doesn’t contribute to landfill waste – There’s no trash to be thrown away
  • Saves you more money in long run – Because it’s reusable, you don’t have to constantly purchase every month.
  • Quieter – Cloth is quieter than the plastic that disposable ones come in. If you must change in a public bathroom it’s less embarrassing.
  • More options and less plastic and synthetic materials – They come in many sizes and fabrics so you can find one that is most comfortable for you. They are also softer than commercial products.
  • Doesn’t use toxic chemicals, fragrances, or dyes


  • Higher upfront cost – You may have to pay a little more for a reusable one at the beginning, but it’s a one time purchase than can be used multiple times instead of repurchasing.
  • Not easily found in stores to buy – if you’re traveling and forgot to bring some with you then it will be hard to find in stores.
  • Have to properly wash and dry after using – They have more maintenance than disposable ones.

The Takeaway

The biggest factor that disposable pads have over reusable is the fact that it’s convenient. Let’s be realistic, it’s not going to always be convenient to use reusable pads. Life events get in the way and sometimes grabbing disposable pads is the better option, and that’s okay. If you use a reusable pad for half your menstrual cycle week or only use them at night, you are still helping.

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