Clever Prepper: Make Your Own Washable Cloth Feminine Pads

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.

Menstrual Cycle Calendar

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
  • thread

You can also pick through your old garments/rags stash to repurpose clothing and household linens making them even more eco-friendly.

Some suggestions:

  • 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
  • jersey/knits
  • 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.

Free Patterns

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.

Source: sites.google.com/site/shewhorunsintheforest/


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).

Source: askpauline.com


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.

Source: web.archive.org


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!

Source: becomingkindred.com


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

Related Posts

Comments

    • Snygg
    Reply

    This is a great idea – and I’ve got another one: menstrual cups. They are very earth friendly, reusable, and easy to use. Just google menstrual cup and you’ll find tons of info on the various brands. I have a diva cup and I love it. I haven’t used a pad or tampon in years, and at around $20, it’s a great investment. You just put it in and forget about it for the next 10 hours or so, take out, wash and repeat.

      • Monkey
      Reply

      I use an old enamel pot to hold my yet to be cleaned items which I place on the floor behind the toilet. I also use a shaker (the kind made for parmesan cheese) filled with baking soda to sprinkle on the pads in the pot. I wait and wash them all at once. The pot can be boiled to be clean again and stores the washed items until next time.

      • Jamielynn
      Reply

      I covered a large plastic Folgers coffee container in pretty fabric and set it behind the toilet with 1 part white vinegar and 3 parts water. I use cloth pads for bladder leakage, since I use pads EVERY DAY I find the vinegar mix neutralizes and freshens. I also made a matching cloth pad holder similar to the elastic bottom plastic bag holders. I was spending about $30 a month for super long overnight disposable pads! I made my own cloth pads, but even if you buy them from someone else think of the money you’re saving year after year.

        • Kris
        Reply

        I store my used cloth in my master bathroom, so only the hubbs & I know… But I put it in a decorative teapot on the top of our toilet.

        Water should be changed daily & is easily poured on plants πŸ™‚ & it’s pretty too πŸ˜‰

    • Shelle
    Reply

    I love cloth pads…Soooo much more comfortable. I have never had a leak, have saved a ton of money in the last 3 years, and have to say…not at all gross, or stinky. I actually find that the snap bottoms on old, or stained onesies work great for the snap part. Two or three snaps seem to lay a bit flatter. And I don’t have to put snaps in, love sewing, hate doing snaps even with good tools. Might help others.

      • Shan
      Reply

      Thank you!! This snap idea is great!

      • Bek @ Just For Daisy
      Reply

      That’s a fabulous idea! πŸ™‚ Definitely going to help me! x

      • Kim
      Reply

      I love the snap idea from the onesies!!!! I would not have thought of that, but I defiantly have old onesies around that can be recycled πŸ™‚

      • Janet
      Reply

      awww.. this is a great idea, now I’m wishing I hadn’t donated all my kids old onesies! argh!

    • Bright
    Reply

    I am doing a project to help young girls in making reusable pads, and hope that the ideas i got from here will help

      • roselynn iga
      Reply

      You are doing something good.that’s what I love to do more so forthe girlsinthe slum areas.

    • Pammy
    Reply

    I didn’t have this information, and certainly don’t need them now at this point in my life, but…
    I used cloth diapers on my sons. I kep the diapers soaking in an enzyme laundry additive in a covered container. When it was time to wash, I just dumped them into the washer on the final spin to get the water out, then washed in hot.
    This would probably work for these pads as well.

      • Rita
      Reply

      This is exactly what I did when my daughter was in diapers. For diapers that had a bowel movement, I rinsed these in the toilet, and then soaked them in a bucket with some water and the enzyme laundry additive (I used Biz). I too spun out the soaking water and then washed the diapers in hot water. There diapers were always so clean and white.

    • Ruth Mukisa
    Reply

    Hello.
    Am from Uganda. Working with teenage girls.

    I would very much love to start up a project to teach teenage girls on how to make pads. How best can i be helped.
    I would be so glad getting your feed back.

    Regards
    Ruth

      • Tipnut
      Reply

      Hi Ruth, just click on the project links above and they’ll show you directions that you can print off and use as patterns/tutorials. Good luck!

      • Joy
      Reply

      maybe you could contact Days for Girls organisation – they make these products and may be in a good position to help you learn and then teach others how to make your own.

    • Ami
    Reply

    I’ve been using old washcloths for years & really getting tired of them. They fray badly in the wash and I don’t enjoy using them in general. I’m looking forward to spoiling myself for once by making some new pads! The circle pattern looks like a fun one to make.

    • Abby
    Reply

    Hi, I made a pad out of the socks used for flats. Since they are small they are a good size for smaller females just fill it with what you wish to use for the core and its a no sew option and fast to make~ Hope it helps anyone that doesn’t want to or can’t sew

      • nichelle
      Reply

      Hi…thought about doing something besides the whole buying pads thing, and would love for my daughters to know that there are better options available to them ( I never thought about, nor was ever told there was something besides disposable pads and tampons)

      Abby, I don’t have a sewing machine and I’m not sure what you mean by “the socks used for flats’.

      Thanks for all the info ladies.

        • Jane
        Reply

        no show socks-ankle socks

    • sally
    Reply

    hi the socks for flats is just that sock that only go up 2 ur toes and not 2 ur ankles. one way to make reuseable pads is 2 take 1 regular pad and sew some fabric over it but leave the top open and stuff it with cotton. then sew some fabric on the bottom of the pad and add a button and a buton hole now place the pad on your underwear and button the button on the outer side of your underwear. after you are done with that pad just throw it in the wash[ still buttoned to the underwear]

      • marla
      Reply

      I am trying to figure these out the size to cut how exactly there used I think I finaly figured out the reason for the snap does it go around the croch and snap to stay in place? I was asked t make some for a orphanage in Africia as many of the girls are becoming that age and have no access to pads as I am coming across a few different styles I would appreciate any and all suggestions

        • Autumn
        Reply

        Look into the “Days for Girls” project. There is a great YouTube video about it as well. Lots of great info and patterns available. Wonderful project for countries without access to disposable pads or the resources to manage the trash made from the disposable pads.

    • frugalmouse
    Reply

    I am glad to see this blog.
    Long before it was really talked about, and women used to scream “gross”, I secretly did what this blog is talking about.
    But working full time, working to keep money in my pocket, I came up with a simple solution, I just folded a wash cloth to pad shape, wore snug elastic underwear to keep in place. Done! I soaked my pads in the sink, blood sank to the bottom, then into the laundry when time to do a load.
    A snug panty can be make of cut off panty hose ( use the ones with runs in them to cut down on investment.

    And why not? It is not toxic waste or radio active! Less crap in the landfills, money in your pocket, and yes it is a lot more skin friendly.

    Now, I guess I may in the future have to look for “poise” pads, home made.

    If we can think, we can solve all sorts of dilemmas, and we can pat ourselves on the back! That feels good!

      • Mamabear
      Reply

      I use homemade pads as “poise” pads.. I just add an extra liner or two and cut up an old shower curtain to line the backer fabric with. No skin irritation and easy wash up.

    • Ulrika Herzog
    Reply

    I love the idea of not having disposable in my bathroom. I have some ideas that might make the pads able to hold more blood. My grandmother in Germany used felt 100% wool underpants as over “undies” for diapers. So I plan on making the base of my inner pad of 100% felt. You can also find this material at second hand stores in the cloth diaper section. May also be a good idea for recycling and redesigning diapers into menstrual pads.

    • mazz
    Reply

    hi, this is really a great idea! Homemade feminine pads! I think it will be a good online business for some! I must try making it myself first.

    • Chelsea
    Reply

    I’ve used both cloth pads and my menstrual cup all through college and for three Pennsic trips (ultimate Ren faire + camping for two weeks). My flow has been a lot lighter, and I’ve had less discomfort since I started using these.

      • HRS
      Reply

      You know, barely started using cloth strips for pads. I noticed a lighter flow also. It’s really great not to have so much of a flow problem, and cloths are so much less irritating and expensive!

    • Kylie
    Reply

    OMG this is a god send! I suffer from vulvadynia and i find store bought pads a pain. They either dont stick well or have that “odor removing technology” (which if you ask me, stinks worse) which my skin reacts badly to.

    Will be researching on these, cause i love sewwing and like making my own stuff.

    Thank you!

    • raven
    Reply

    reusable menstrual cups are also amazing and you can keep the same one up to ten years.

    • sara
    Reply

    Thanks for compiling this. I recently discovered cloth pads and haven’t bought any yet. It would get a bit expensive to buy for both my daughter and me. I’m going to try out a few of these patterns and see how we like them. I just wish I had had some cloth postpartum pads when each of my 4 kids was born!

    • Marilynn
    Reply

    Disposables were causing sores on my heinie. I remember wishing for cloth pads, then googling it!
    Wonderful items. I love Gempads because they stay in place. Lots less “flow” with these wonderful items. Slowly working on my own pattern. Highly recommend cloth of any kind.

    I hate to think what those chemicals on disposables are doing to our lady parts!

    • MJ
    Reply

    Use layers of flannel. Use wings or narrow straps to anchor to your underwear. I use colored plastic snaps with conventient gripper by Kam who includes instructions .I like the vinegar soda idea.MJ

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