One of the Yule presents I gave out this year was a small trial set of cloth pads for one of my cousins. I totally forgot to include a set of instructions for them, and I'm sure she has no idea what to do with them. Well, beyond the obvious. :-P So, this post is mostly for my cuz, Sarah, but maybe it'll help others. The first question to answer is, "why cloth pads?" Well, they feel better, they smell better, they're cheaper and more sustainable. Point one, feel better, I make mine out of natural bamboo fabrics, both for smell and feel. They breathe more than disposable plastic/paper pads, which keeps things nicer down there. There's no risk of TDD or any other horrible reaction to the chemicals common in disposable choices. No sticky tape/glue to stick to skin or hair or anything else, just nice soft fabric. Point three, cheaper, if you menstruate for 33 years and you use a couple dozen pads per cycle, you'll throw away close to 10,000 pads. Not only is that expensive for you, but also expensive to the landfill.
The average woman will throw away almost 300 pounds of disposable menstrual products in her lifetime. That is 300 pounds of chemicals, processed wood pulp and petroleum based plastic. Not to mention the resources needed to haul all that stuff to a factory, waste created while the products are being made, packaging materials, and the fuel needed to haul those disposable products to a store - and the fuel and time needed to purchase them and take them home.
Tampons are no better than pads when it comes to the environment. Tampons clog plumbing (plumbers make a lot of money off those "flushed away" tampons). Tampons also contribute heavily to the sewage sludge problem that cities are dealing with all over the industrialized world. Sewage overflows lead to tampons and applicators washing up on beaches, in fact, tampon applicators are one of the most common sources of beach debris! Or look up the trash island in the Pacific, I bet a lot of them end up there too.
Cloth pads require only an extra small load of laundry or two each month and can last 5-7 years or more. That's much more sustainable than disposables. Producing cloth pads also requires less resource investment as there is minimal packaging, much lower fossil fuel cost for transportation, and far fewer chemicals and waste produced in their manufacture. Lower usage of petroleum will make your life easier, ask Aunt Jakie if she remembers the oil crisis of 1973, I know my mom still does. Fast forward 40 years and now we have even less reserves of oil, more industrialized nations wanting oil, and more barrels per day coming from foreign sources. Any supply hiccups at all, and the '73 shock will look like a picnic.
Hmm, I've strayed a little from the subject at hand. Let's just leave with this, even if you don't want to use them as your first line of defense, having some cloth pads around as a backup is never a bad idea. :-)
Care for them is really easy. You'll want a container, large enough to hold an inch or so of water and a couple of pads. Place your used pads in the container of cold water while you are between laundry loads. If you use a tupperware or something, you can keep the lid perched on it loosely, but air tight would be a bad idea. There are ceramic options out there, if you find you like cloth and want to invest in something discreet and functional. (Some ladies use old ceramic cookie jars) The blue bag I put your pads in has a waterproof layer sewn into it, but it can't hold water. Use the bag as storage or as the To Go option. Store used pads in it until you can get home and put them in the container/jar, everything stays neat and clean and contained, and then you can just wash the To Go bag with the load of pads and it's ready to go again. Wash them on hot, and tumble dry if you like. I usually wash mine on warm and air dry them where sunlight can get to them. The sun bleaches them white again. (That's not to say there's a crazy amount of staining, there really isn't.)
There you have it. Enjoy your new cloth pads, let me know if you ever want a different size or different absorbency or different color, I'll happily make you more. Love you!