Washable pads, Mooncup and period pants

This blog post will cover 3 eco-friendly alternatives to disposable pads and tampons. Washable pads, Mooncup and period pants, what each one is and the benefits of using these rather than disposable pads.

I have been using washable pads and a Mooncup for 17 years. I first found out about it when I was a recycling and waste minimisation officer at a local council. I was researching washable nappies and came across the WEN (Women’s Environmental Network) website and there was an article about reusable san pro and it mentioned the Mooncup. I recently found out I was one of the early users as it only came out in 2002. I use a Mooncup and washable pads because I have a very heavy flow.

Firstly what is the problem with traditional disposable pads and tampons, here are some facts.

  • The average woman uses 11,000 disposable sanitary products in her lifetime.
  • In the UK that adds up to 200,000 tonnes of waste.
  • Most disposable pads are made from 90% plastic.
  • Figures from the Marine Conservation Society reveal 4 pads, panty liners and backing strips are found for every 100m of beach cleaned, along with 1.2 used tampons and applicators.
  • Disposable pads contain chemicals

For more information about this check out the Women’s Environmental Network website. So what are the alternatives?

Washable Pads

Washable pads or cloth pads are made from fabric and can have wings with poppers to secure them. They are designed to be washed in a washing machine and used month after month. There are lots of different brands of washable pads available online, they come in different colours and different fabrics, they also come in different absorbency. So you might have a couple of pads that are for light flow to use at the beginning or end of your period and a couple of pads that are for heavy flow to use at night or on your heaviest flow days.

I like Honour Your Flow pads as they are very soft and come in lots of different colours and sizes, they are not the cheapest washable pads on the market but I like them. Below is a video about Honour Your Flow pads.

Earthwise Girls is a great website with lots of different brands of washable pads. If you aren’t sure which brand to go for you can choose single pads from different brands. If you are using washable pads exclusively I would say you need at least 8 pads, however, it will depend on your flow and the length of your period and how often you wash.

I usually soak or rinse my pads in cold water to remove some of the blood before adding them to a wash with my clothes. Don’t use fabric conditioner as this will make the pads less absorbent.

The Mooncup

The Mooncup is a UK brand of menstrual cup. A menstrual cup is designed to be inserted into your vagina, where it sits and collects the blood. You then remove the cup and empty the blood into the toilet. There are lots of different brands of menstrual cup, but I will be writing about a Mooncup as it is the only brand of cup that I have used.

A Mooncup is made of medical grade silicone and can be used for 10 years. As it is inserted into your vagina, you may find it good for going swimming. The Mooncup comes with detailed instructions about how to use it and care for it. Most people find that it takes practice to get used to inserting the Mooncup, however, if you stick with it and keep practicing, then it is the most cost-effective alternative to disposable pads and tampons. If you have bought a Mooncup and are having difficulties with it, you can phone or message the company for advice.

There are 2 sizes of Mooncup, A for after a vaginal birth and if you are over 30 and B for if you haven’t given birth via your vagina.

A Mooncup costs £21.99 from the Mooncup website and Boots, on other online websites it can be cheaper.

Below is a video showing you what a Mooncup looks like.

Period Pants

Period pants are a relatively new idea, the first ones hitting the market around 2014. I have to be honest and say that I haven’t used period pants, partly due to my heavy flow and the price of most brands. I also don’t know anyone else that uses them, so this information is based on reading various period pant websites and this Huffington Post Best Period Pants UK Review

The 5 brands that I have come across are Thinx, Modibodi, Flux, WUKA and Period Pants by Cheeky Wipes.

  • Thinx – Sizing XXS to 3XL, organic cotton range, prices start £23
  • Modibodi – Sizes 8 to 26, with a separate teen range, also a swimwear range, prices start at £23.50
  • Flux – Size 4 to 30, have side clasps for easy changing, prices start at £29
  • WUKA – Sizes 9-13 years then UK 4 to 20, Prices start at £25.00
  • Period pants by Cheeky Wipe – Sizes 4 to 18 Prices start at £8.00

Most of the brands say they last between 6 months to 2 years depending on how you look after them. You can machine wash them on a cold cycle, but you shouldn’t use a tumble dryer or fabric conditioner. Air dry and they can take a while to dry. I would advise you do to your research on the different period pants to work out, which brand would be best for you.

Benefits to washable pads and Mooncup

1) Save money

There are various different estimates for how much your period costs you each month, some estimates add on buying painkillers, chocolate, new pants and DVDs. But you know how much you spend on disposable pads or tampons each month.

For example if you buy a Mooncup for £21.99 and at present you spend £4 per month on disposable pads in 6 months of using a Mooncup you will have saved the money it cost to buy it and from then on you are saving £4 per month and if you use the Mooncup for 10 years that would save you £456.

Period pants are more expensive and only last about 2 years so they are less likely to save you money.

2) More comfortable

Spending 5 to 7 days with paper and plastic in your pants is not comfortable. Washable pads are very comfortable.

3) Reduce flow

A couple of my friends who have recently swapped to washable pads or a Mooncup said they felt that their period was lighter than when they were using disposables.

4) Less cramping and pain

Both my friends also said that they suffer fewer period cramps since swapping to washable pads. I very rarely have period pain and I do remember regularly hugging a water bottle and taking painkillers when I was younger and using disposables.

5) Fewer leaks

Another thing I remember from when I used disposable pads was on my heavy days waking up to blood on my bedsheet or blood on my pants if I had been sat down for a long time on my heaviest days. I can’t remember the last time I had to change the bedsheet because of a leak, since using the Mooncup and washable pads.

I hope you have found this article and the associated videos useful. Please let me know if you decide to try one of the alternatives based on this post.