Even though I didn’t faithfully use them, years ago I sewed a large stack of reusable menstrual pads for myself (with a complimentary drawstring bag for storage) and packed them away in a “prepping – survivalist kit” to have on hand in case I ever needed them.
I did try them occasionally, first to see how it went (it was fine) and if they actually did a good job (they did), but also to see if it was something I was willing to do long term just for the money savings (wasn’t for me).
This article was first published in December, 2006, and since then we’ve had to deal with a worldwide pandemic and ongoing supply chain issues.
Anyone who can pull these out of their storage cupboard during troubled times are relieved that there is one less thing to worry about! And no more worries about late night runs to the drug store when you realize the box stashed under the sink is empty.
If you’re into the environment, reducing waste and saving money, this is a great tip–imagine never having to buy disposable menstrual napkins again!
But did you know there are reported health benefits too? For women who suffer from regular yeast infections or find manufactured napkins irritating (causing itchiness or skin irritation), these are definitely something to look at trying.
I’ve also come across many reports that those who suffer from menstrual cramps and/or heavy flows find discomfort dramatically reduced when homemade pads are worn. The theory on why some notice such a benefit is that there are less harsh chemicals introduced to the body (via the manufacturing process for commercial sanitary napkins) and the body isn’t working so hard to flush them out.
Considering how delicate the area is that they come into contact with, it makes sense that any chemicals or perfumes present would be rapidly and efficiently absorbed into the body. I haven’t found anything definitive yet regarding cloth pros/cons for fighting Toxic Shock Syndrome, but there’s plenty of speculation out there that fabric vs. paper is a better, healthier option.
Machine sewing results in a quicker product but you can certainly stitch these together by hand.
Recommended Supplies: Materials vary depending on the project but for the most part they are minimal and basic…
- cotton flannel (or some type of absorbent fabric like bamboo fleece)
- (optional) PUL – Polyurethane Laminate or other waterproof materials to make it leak proof
- plastic snaps or velcro
You can also pick through your old garments/rags stash to repurpose clothing and household linens making them even more eco-friendly.
- bed sheets/pillowcases
- wool sweaters and wool blankets (felt these first)
- terry towels
- cotton textiles
- fleece garments
- cloth diapers
- microfiber cloths
- linen toweling or sheets
- velour joggers (with high cotton fiber content)
Preference is for breathable materials with natural fibers (such as cotton, bamboo, linen) to prevent sweating but if you’re wanting a waterproof lining, polyester and synthetic fabrics can’t be avoided. Keep the top layer that comes in contact with skin a natural fiber when working with both.
This collection is mainly for sewing projects but I did include a couple yarn patterns to crochet and knit in case you’re interested. They all include directions for making your own templates or provide free pattern pieces to download.
The “Ick” Factor
These are so soft and comfortable, but I did have a hard time dealing with the washing aspect. I didn’t find them to be as “gross” as I thought I would, my problem was finding a place to keep these soaking that was convenient and out of the way until I could wash them (our bathrooms are tiny). I’ll post tips and instructions for cleaning at the bottom of this page.
My Verdict: Whether you plan on faithfully using them or not, every woman should have a stack of these made and ready to wear. At the very least, they’re an ideal backup that perform well and if you find that the little extra hassle (for cleaning) doesn’t bother you, they’ll not only save you buckets of money, they keep less waste out of our landfills.
Note that these can also be used to contend with bladder leaks and post-partum mommy pads.
How To Make Reusable Feminine Menstrual Pads
As always here on Tipnut, only those projects that provide instructions and any required templates 100% hassle-free are included in the collection. That means no fees are charged for step-by-step directions, no emails to submit or memberships required to gain access to required files. If that has changed since being added to this page, please let me know in the comments area below so I can remove it.
You’ll notice some are very similar but there are subtle design differences in each or in how they are assembled. Mix and match to find a favorite before building your stash.
Some you’ll find ideal to work as liners for light flow days, others you’ll want for extra protection on heavier days or for nighttime. Adjust sizing (width and/or length) as desired. Once you’re satisfied with the perfect fit, produce several so you have a large supply on hand.
- Quick Tip: If you’re opting for snaps, I’ve seen designs with two snap heads on one side so they can be used when wearing regular panties and when needing a slimmer width for days when wearing thin or thong-width undergarments.
- Wing snaps can be replaced with velcro strips or dots, especially for thicker pads. Test first to make sure it’s not irritating.
Final Note: As always, make sure to prewash textiles before cutting and sewing to ensure a proper fit and no shrinkage.
New Collection Update: September, 2022
Directions: Click on image to visit project page, a new browser tab will open & save your spot here
4 Designs To Choose From
An excellent resource with an assortment of designs to choose from but I found the links to pattern pieces to be hit & miss to access. Here are the individual tutorials with their pdf files to download in case you have the same troubles too.
- Pantyliner and the Template
- 11″ Pad and the Template
- Faux Luna / Multi-Layered and the Template
- Circle and the Template
Cloth Menstrual Pads
Features snaps on the sides to hold in place while being worn or fold it up into a square & snap closed so it’s easy to tote around in your purse. Use the text link to download the pattern, it’s working (the image link wasn’t at the time I checked).
Many Moons Alternatives
If I remember correctly, these are the ones I made a couple decades ago. There’s a pocket to slide in a liner for extra absorbency. I found them quite easy to make & comfortable to wear, no waterproof lining was necessary.
Easy No-Sew Version
Sometimes old-school is actually best…maybe. If you think you need something extra fancy to ensure an A+ result, you’d be wrong. These are cut from old wool sweaters (yup, wool) and then felted (simple process, instructions provided). Worth a try!
Cleaning & Care Tips
- Rinse off excess surface blood then soak pieces in a lidded plastic pail filled with cold water and either salt or baking soda (to help with staining and smell).
- Keeping a perineal bottle (or other plastic squeeze bottle) filled with some soapy water works nicely to “hose off” the pad over the toilet before tossing used rags into the soak pail. You can also hold the corner of the napkin & dunk it in the toilet bowl a few times (freshly flushed first of course).
- At the end of each day, drain the pail & let the fabric hang off the sides so they dry overnight. Some prefer changing the water instead & keep the rags soaking throughout the entire cycle.
- Stash the dried rags in their own laundry bag until menstrual cycle is over so you can wash all the pieces at once.
- Launder in their own separate load, washing & drying as usual (do not use fabric softener but add a cup of household vinegar to the wash to help with softening).
- Hydrogen peroxide will help lift stains but considering the job they’re made for, staining shouldn’t be a huge concern.
- Some recommend air drying but I never noticed a problem with tossing them in the dryer (I was using strictly flannel).
- If pieces are folded in layers, separate them before soaking and laundering.
- Once your menstrual cycle is over & contents removed for washing, make sure to clean & disinfect the pail well before storing away till next month