Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a very loud and proud kind of person. If it’s worth talking about, you can bet I’m not shy about it. I’ve always taught my kids that bodily functions are totally normal, and there’s no reason to be ashamed of a penis or vagina any more than an elbow or nose. No, this approach may not work for everyone (and it does result in dinnertime conversations being peppered with words like uterus) but it works for us. I am not a fan of hushed conversations about things that are just a part of everyday life.
That being said, if you don’t want to read about periods, specifically MY periods, now may be a good time for you to click off the site.
I’m glad you stayed. 🙂
So, let’s dish.
When I was a kid, there wasn’t much conversation in my house about menstruation. I mean, I knew what was up, and when I got my first period my mom was like “yay!” and then kind of slid me one of those first period kids like a drug dealer would hand over a uhmm.. bag of drugs (I’m sorry, there’s probably a word for that but I’m at a loss). After that I don’t remember us really talking about things. There was no instruction other than the little pamphlets that came in the packaging, and forget any kind of discussion on tampons. THAT was left to middle school friends and locker room conversation. Thank goodness I never had anything akin to Carrie White happen.
Fast forward what seems like a kabillion years (but in reality, we’re only talking 20) and I’ve had three kids; 2 naturally and 1 via c-section. The ol’ lady bits have seen their fair share of use, and unfortunately menopause is still years off. Over the years, my periods have gotten crazier by far, and unfortunately, my skin has gotten super sensitive. My poor bottom can not STAND having any kind of plasticky nonsense anywhere near it. I literally break out into blisters, and it takes a good week afterwards to get everything calmed down again. That means that my menses is literally ruling my life half the time. That, coupled with the fact that I have such an insanely heavy period meant that I had to choose between allergic reactions or being able to leave the house. Such fun, this woman thing.
When GladRags offered to send me some of their sustainable cloth pads, I was super excited. I’m no stranger to reusables, having started using a Diva Cup shortly after baby #3. Tampons weren’t holding up to my heavy bleeding, and who wants to have to wear a pad WITH a tampon? Not me. The Diva Cup (and all of the other cups, which is a post for another time) are wonderful options. However, sometimes a cup is just not the right tool for the job.
I was sent both an organic pantyliner, and an organic day pad. GladRags pads are set up in a three-part style (similar to cloth diapers) — a one piece holder, and then separate inserts (the pantyliner has no inserts, and is simply one piece.) When you use both inserts, it is a maxi pad. When you use one, it’s mini for lighter day. If you are having an extra heavy flow day, you can place a third insert in the holder for a super maxi. The absorbancy of your pad is altered by the number of inserts you add to the holder. They have ready-made kits available for light flow, regular, heavy, overnight/postpartum, and even a “first period kit” much like what we were handed as youngin’s — except sustainable! If a kit isn’t your speed, you can pick and choose from single pads while you get a feel for what works.
Ok, so now you’re all wondering… that’s well and good, but… why? Why would I add extra steps and extra laundry to my life when I can just buy disposables and move on. And blood? Euucccchhh blood! Even if you don’t give a whit about the planet (I do) you should still care about your body. The average woman will use 12,000 to 16,000 disposable pads, pantyliners, and tampons in her lifetime. Choosing GladRags all-cotton pads means comfortable periods free from irritating materials and avoiding unnecessary exposure to the synthetic ingredients in disposable pads and tampons. That, and it can save you some serious coin!
My personal experience with GladRags was wonderful, although to be honest, a little awkward. Like I said, I received one pantyliner, and one day pad. Fab! The material is mostly soft (I feel like their regular colored pads would probably have a plusher feel than the undyed cotton), and absorbent. It didn’t bunch or twist or feel weird. It actually felt PLEASANT. (Why did women ever decide to stop using knitted pads? Get me a TARDIS, I’m headed back to the 1890’s to knock some sense into those chicks.) ANYWAY. So, having only one of each pad, I did have to use regular butt-blistering maxi’s between washings. The day pad was fantastic, and I eventually got over my fear that I was going to bleed through everything and have to tie a sweatshirt around my waist.
The washing process was easy peasy. I happened to dig up an old school Tupperware container in my mom’s basement, and I kept it filled with water and stashed in my bathroom. (GladRags has a lovely Enamelware Soaking Container on their site that probably works better since no weird plastic is leaching into your pads) When it came time to change my pad, I would simply toss it into the container, which basically was like a pre-rinse. Since I do so much freaking laundry around here (why? nobody ever has pants on!) it was simple for me to just toss it in a lingerie bag and in with the regular wash. I found it was best to not mention that part to my husband, because for some reason baby/dog/cat/poop/puke/pee/whatever is all good, but lord help us if my uterus gets near the washing machine. Ahem. I love him though. He’s a good guy.
The pads came through the washer and dryer with flying colors, multiple times. I see no reason why these wouldn’t hold up to their purported lifespan if taken care of properly.
From my experience, I can recommend these with limitations. I didn’t get to try the overnight pads, postpartum/heavy flow pads, or anything for an extended period (haha, see what I did there? period!) of time. I wish I had.
Just the FAQs
I just so happen to have an amazing group of about 250 women that I can bounce ideas off of. When I was drafting this post, I asked them what information they felt would be beneficial to a “reusable newbie” and this is what they came up with. I hope the combination of answers from my personal experience (and a little help from GladRags!) covers everything you want to know. It was quite a lively discussion!
How often do you replace them?
With proper care, GladRags are made to last at least 5 years.
Where are they sold?
GladRags are available for purchase on their website, and also at brick and mortar stores such as Whole Foods. They have a store locator on the site.
What is the price comparison to conventional disposables?
When compared to the amount of money spent on disposables, it only takes a few years to make up the cost of your GladRags. They are made to last 5+ years. Consider this — many moms choose to cloth diaper their babies, and that only lasts a couple of years. These pads are an investment that will last you much much longer than that.
Would you recommend these for younger girls?
Absolutely! Children are the stewards of our planet; teaching sustainability at a young age is important.
What sort of fabric are they made from?
GladRags are made from cotton. The regular pads: cotton flannel, cotton terry cloth, organic cotton care label, nickel-free snap. The organic cotton pads: Organic cotton flannel, organic cotton terry cloth, organic cotton care label, nickel-free snap. No weird plasticky materials!
How do you figure out getting the right size/fit, especially if buying for a younger girl?
The pads come in a bunch of different sizes:
pantyliner (6 3/4″ long by 2 3/4″ wide)
pantyliner plus (8.5″ long and 3″ wide)
day pad (9″ long and 2 1/2″ wide)
day pad plus (10 1/2″ long and 3 3/8″ wide)
night/postpartum pad (14″ long and 3″ wide at the middle)
GladRags even makes a “first period kit” which includes 3 day pads, 3 pantyliners, a carry bag, and a menstruation guide for girls.
In my opinion (experience with my teen) — the pantyliners are a great way to ease them into it. Most of the time their flow is so light while it gets its footing, they don’t need much more than that. Of course, everyone is different.
Where are GladRags manufactured?
GladRags are proudly made by hand in the USA.
How do cloth pads work?
There is a holder, and inserts. The inserts go into the holder, and the wings snap around your underwear. You wear them like a normal disposable pad.
How to you get them to stick?
Nickel-free snaps hold them around the crotch of your underpants, no adhesive or velcro necessary.
How many do you use during your cycle?
Depending on the length of your cycle, and your flow - 3 to 6 pantyliners, 6 to 12 day pads, and 1 to 3 night pads.
How thick are they, and how does that effect comfort level?
They’re thick enough to be absorbent, but unlike those bulky plasticky disposables, they feel plush, not bulky at all. My non-scientific opinion of this is because the fabric can conform to your body better than synthetic materials.
Do you change them as frequently as a disposable pad?
You’ll want to change your cloth pad about as often as you would change a similar disposable pad. For example, if you typically change your disposable pad about every four hours, you’ll want to do the same with your GladRags Day Pad. You can also check the pad (even remove it from your underwear and turn it over) to visually see how saturated it is. Like a disposable pad, if a cloth pad becomes fully saturated, it may leak.
Do they feel squishy, since disposables have that material that wicks the moisture to the center?
Not at all. The terry cloth core works the same way.
Can they leak?
As a mom, I have to say that over the years I have learned EVERYTHING *can* leak.. hah! Just be sensible about how often you change them. Learn your own body and what works for you.
Do you have to wear them for less time for sanitary purposes?
How absorbent are they?
The great thing is that you can literally change the absorbancy dependent on your needs. You know that insane collection of products you probably have stuffed in your linen closet right now? Light days, heavy days, overnight, sports, medium… you’ll only have to worry about how many inserts to add to the holder to adjust the absorbancy level.
Does it feel like you are wearing a diaper?
Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve worn a diaper (grin) but, no. At least not to me. I thought they were super comfortable.
How do you clean them?
Much like a cloth baby diaper, a quick rinse and a toss in a “soaker bucket” works great. Then when you’re ready to do laundry, toss them in a mesh/lingerie bag and add in with the rest of your laundry. The bag keeps them together and neat, so none of them go the way of those missing socks in the dryer. For me personally, I keep all my delicates in mesh bags when I do laundry because of my husband’s Army uniforms and their velcro. I have ruined way too many pairs of pretty underpants from snagging on his uniform velcro.
What do you use for laundry soap since blood is typically one of those fluids that stains?
GladRags (and other retailers) sell a plant-based stain/odor eliminator called Bac-Out, which when added to your soaker bucket gets a head start on any staining issues. I just use regular old laundry soap. Also, with the exception of the organic cotton holder/inserts, the rest come in patterns that you wouldn’t even notice any stains anyway.
How intense of a wash do they need?
How intense of a wash do you give your underwear? That’s about it. Actually, please DON’T use chlorine bleach or fabric softener. Bleach degrades fabric quicker than normal, and fabric softener makes it less absorbent.
Will a lot of water be used to wash them out?
I simply rinsed mine quickly in the tub (again, don’t tell my husband this stuff) and tossed them into the soaker bucket. I would say just off the cuff, the soaker bucket maybe had 4-6 cups of water in it or so, and I changed it every day. Otherwise, however much water your washing machine uses.
What do you do when you change a soiled one in a public restroom?
Again, like cloth diapering, you can use a “wet bag” to stash your used pad in until you get home and have time to rinse and launder it.
Do they come with some discreet way to change and carry them on the go?
GladRags sells a cute carry bag in different designs, or you can always use a small makeup bag. The best thing is, no more noisy crunchy wrappers while you’re in a dead quiet public toilet stall!
I hope this has been an informative introduction for you into the world of sustainable, eco-friendly, reusable menstruation products. Have I given you any food for thought? Any questions still lingering? Talk to me in the comments!