Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The Positives of Switching to Cloth

There are many simple things a person can do to be just a little bit greener. Not letting the water run while we brush our teeth is an excellent one, and choosing cleaning products both for ourselves and our homes that can actually be completely broken down into harmless nutrients for water living organisms and plants is another. It's not a hard choice to make. You just have to do it, which admittedly sometimes can be more difficult than it sounds.

Sometimes "greening" our lives and habits do take a bit more effort, however. Not much, but enough to cause pause, and sometimes stop us in our tracks. One such choice for women is switching from disposable pads to cloth pads.

Before we continue I think it is only fair to put in a warning right here, and give anyone who are grossed out by the very thought or who simply don't want to read about cloth pads a chance to run screaming in the other direction, or at least find something else to read. You have been warned.

To begin our discussion, I thought I would show you a picture of the first cloth pads I ever tried, taken by the owner of Yurtcraft. For me, it was the beautiful prints and bright, fun colours from Yurtcraft on Etsy that made me overcome my apprehension of cloth pads and so far I haven't regretted switching for a moment.

It might sound strange, but my period is something I look forward to nowadays. It is still as irregular, heavy and messy as ever, and still lasts me a good week but now instead of sticking on a plastic wrapped, plastic backed, chemical filled, boringly white and blue coloured pad to my underwear I put on a cotton topped, fleece backed, bamboo filled, colourful pad. It is a much better experience overall, putting on a cloth pad than a disposable one and I will tell you just why.

First of all, it is nice knowing that my pads actually do not contain any harmful chemicals. Well, not more harmful chemicals than ordinary fabric does that is which is fine by me. If you are concerned about even those chemicals you can always choose all organic cloth pads.

Then, of course, there's the fact that I am not adding overly much to the mountains of used disposable pads. Eventually even the cloth pads will break down and require to be replaced, but a good quality pad will usually hold up just fine for at least 3-5 years if not longer, and if you really are concerned about waste you can always cut it up and recycle the parts that can be recycled.

Environmental benefits however is really just the cherry on top.

The main reason I love my cloth pads is because they are so very comfortable to wear. Setting out on my journey towards a better period, or at least one where I could sleep through the night without worrying, I was a bit apprehensive ordering my first cloth pads because I imagined they would be bulky and heavy and very definitely there. The large pads do weigh more than disposables, there's no getting around that. My largest one, a 14.5" overnight pad, is a hefty piece that do require snug fitting, good underwear not to travel south. I will not deny this. However, this pad is extreme in every way. Normal pads, like my 9.25" ones and my favourite 10.5" do not require you to consider the elasticity of your underwear. Once they have warmed up to body temperature, and formed to your body, they just feel like your favourite pair of soft and warm underwear. Quite frankly, if it was not for the warmth I would forget I was even wearing them. That's how comfortable they are.

Of course, the most important aspect of a pad is actually containing your flow. There is no getting around this fact even though many of us probably would like to. This was another one of those things that kept me from changing to cloth for the longest time, because how on earth can a piece of cloth keep up with my heavy flow? When even an ultra absorbency pad have troubles to keep up with my flow for an hour, then surely nothing will, right?

It turns out that cloth is actually more absorbent than disposables. This might come as a surprise to some of you, especially if you have ever experimented a bit and folded up a towel and poured water on top just to see how much it can hold before soaking through. The result?  The water very quickly soaks through both one, and two, and three, and four and six and eight layers of towelling when the water is poured on the same spot. It sinks right through. Cloth alone therefore really makes for a rather useless, leaky pad, but to be fair so would the absorbent layers in a disposable if you removed the plastic backing. You see absorbency is not only about how much liquid the absorbent part can hold, but about giving the absorbent part a chance to absorb. This is best done with a waterproof or at least water resistant layer underneath. Think of it as laying your folded up cotton towel on the table. Most likely the water will not spread beyond the towel until it is really soaked through and through and the towel simply cannot absorb more water. Then it starts to leak.

A well made cloth pad can be custom made to contain as many absorbent layers as you need, unlike a disposable pad. If you happen to need five layers of bamboo and hemp because you have a heavy flow you can get it with cloth pads. Of course, that many layers of absorbency do cause troubles with drying, but still the option exists. With disposables you really only have two absorbencies: thin or thick pad. All the rest is a matter of length.

It is true that more length does add more absorbency simply because there is more material in the pad, but quite a lot of the time I've experienced that I have such a heavy, fast flow that the centre of the disposable simply becomes overwhelmed and the flow doesn't get a chance to spread properly. With cloth I get the absorbency I need for those first few days. So, cloth is more absorbent simply because disposable pad makers can't be bothered to actually give us heavier absorbency pads. I'm sure they could make them, if they wanted to, but of some reason thin pads is the thing because they are less likely to show under pants. Personally, I solve that issue by wearing dresses and skirts. They are more comfy during that time of the month anyhow, and much less likely to stain if there should be an accident.

To conclude switching to cloth is mainly a positive experience, but of course there are such things as cleaning the pads, being away from home etc. that are not as positive. I will post more about that in another post.

Until next time, bye-bye. :)

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