Reusable Sanitary Pads – How To Make And Use Them

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Whilst clearing out a lot of clothes, I discovered lots of cloth that could be upcycled to make new useful things. Such as reusable kitchen roll and rag rugs. However, when I came across some old dribble bibs of E’s I decided that these would be perfect for reusing as the base for another project – reusable sanitary pads.

 

Reusable Sanitary Pads – How To Make And Use Them

 

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Reusable sanitary pads are not a new concept. My mother used to use cloth instead of sanitary towels. In fact, not too long ago this is what all women did. Tampons hadn’t been invented and neither had disposables. Society had a much more ‘make do and mend’ approach to most things. And this included sanitary wear. So worn out old sheets and towels were cut up to be used as period pads amongst a lot of other uses.

We have all become too used to disposables. And the plastic within them and in the packaging is really too much for the planet to cope with. In a bid to reduce my plastic usage (and the size of my scrap bag!) I decided to make some for myself. After all, some of the chemicals and chlorine in some of the disposables cannot be good for us, and I am often quite sensitive skinned anyway.

 

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Reusable Sanitary Pads – should you buy them?

There are a lot of pads out there on Amazon and eBay. Some are quite cheap, and you may think ‘why make when you can buy’? But you can never be totally sure what has gone into making the cheaper pads, the chemicals used or the core material if this is hidden away. They may have been made in a sweat shop in the Far East.

The whole point of being able to make your own is that you are in charge of what goes into the make. I would go for all cotton, or natural fibres, with just a layer of waterproof fabric in the base. But it is up to you what to use. Also, you can try out different patterns to find out what works best for you.

Some pads are made from reliable sustainable sources, such as these here at Ethical Superstore. But you usually find that this extra accountability to nature comes at a cost. Some of the pads can cost up to £8-9 per pad. If you work out that you might need a few each month this works out very costly indeed.

So if you can make them, it totally makes sense. Plus, if you are anything like me you will have a mound of fabric ready to upcycle, plus a scrap bag with quite a few pieces of suitable pretty fabric scraps for covers.

You Can Pick A Size, Thickness And Shape That Works Best For You

 

I found whilst researching which pattern to use that there are just so many patterns and sizes out there! Most guides I have read advise you to use a pattern close to the shape of the disposable pad that has been your favourite. But there are patterns that look like angels, some look like Russian dolls, and some are called ‘back-bleeders’.  There are even ones with removable sections to add extra core pads. You can get them in all thicknesses for the lightest of days to the heaviest of post partum bleeding.

Find some pad patterns here and here on Etsy

Which is another great reason for making your own. Only you know your own flow and pattern of bleeding. And it could cost you a fortune going through all the bought pads finding out which size is best for you.

 

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So How Do You Make Reusable Sanitary Pads?

 

Amongst the fabrics I found amongst the clothes of E I wished to upcycle were fleece, flannel, cotton and jersey. All these were cotton types, so perfectly suitable for pad making. I found some waterproof bibs that could be used as a waterproof layer and even found some bamboo inners from some reusable nappies!

Reusable Sanitary Pads - materials

You Will Need

 

  • A sanitary pad template of your choosing – I chose one closest in size to my favoured disposable
  • Fabric for the top, core and backing to the pad, see below for suggestions.
  • Buttons, kam-snaps or press studs to attach the pad around your panties when in use.
  • An Iron
  • Sewing machine, matching thread and pins. You can hand sew these, but a machine does give a sturdier result.

What Fabrics To Choose?

 

For the topping material, which goes against the skin, suggestions include cotton, cotton flannel or cotton fleece.

For the backing fabric that goes against your knickers, suggestions include using the same fabric as the topping, but you also may want to use a waterproof layer such as PUL or waterproof nylon.

As for the core to the pad , this will consist of several layers of fabric. See the next section.

How Many Layers to Choose?

 

Again this falls down to the type of materials you are using, its absorbency, and the absorbency that you need in a pad. This table gives you a guide to roughly how many layers you need for each core pad, depending on the heaviness of flow.

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So Lets Make Some Reusable Sanitary Pads!

Reusable Sanitary Pads - template

I used a template around the same size as my favoured disposable.

Reusable Sanitary Pads - cutting core

Using the core template, I pinned and cut the core pad fabrics from some old bibs of E’s. The squares will be up cycled into makeup remover pads, and the scraps may go onto making a rag rug or as stuffing for other projects.

Reusable Sanitary Pads - topping and backing

Using a scrap piece of pretty cotton and an old muslin cloth of E’s, I cut out the topping and backing for the pad using the larger template.

I also cut a piece of backing plastic layer from an old bib of E’s

Reusable Sanitary Pads

I overlocked around the edge of the core pad that I had cut. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t quite perfect, it is going to be hidden inside the finished pad.

Reusable Sanitary Pads core overlocked

But you could also draw around the template onto a stack of core fabric, then set your machine to a small zigzag stitch and work around the line.

Reusable Sanitary Pads - core method 2

Then cut just beyond the stitch line to get a core pad.

Reusable Sanitary Pads - alternative core

I pinned the finished core pad to the reverse side of the topper fabric, then using the edge of the presser foot as a guide I sewed all the way around the pad to secure it to the topper.

Core pinned to topper

Then again using the presser foot as a sewing guide I sewed 2 more sets of stitches as consecutively smaller rings. These secure the pad well, and act as wicking for the bleeding into the pads.

Core channels sewn

Then it is time to assemble the outer pad. Place the topper and backing fabric right sides together. At this point I put the layer of waterproof bib fabric on top of the base fabric, this ensures it is sandwiched between the core and the base.

Reusable Sanitary Pads - sewing to backing

Pinning it all together, I sewed a 1cm seam allowance all the way around the pad, ensuring I left a gap, shown below as the space between the two red pins on the bottom wing.

Reusable Sanitary Pads - attaching backing

The seam allowance needs to be reduced to about 4-5mm all the way around.

Reusable Sanitary Pads - seam allowance

So I did this, and also clipped into the curves.

Reusable Sanitary Pads - cutting seam allowance down

Then it is time to turn the pad through the small gap left in one wing. I find it easiest to push one end through first and gently tease the rest of the pad through. Push out all the corners with a knitting needle or other implement.

Pad turned right way out

Then press with an iron to remove any creases and sharpen the edges. Tuck in the seam allowance of the gap area. And again using the presser foot of the sewing machine as a guide, sew a line of topstitching all the way around the pad a few mm from the edge. This neatens the edges as well as closing off the gap we used to turn the pad.

Reusable Sanitary Pads - topstitched

Finally, it is time to add some way of attaching the pad to your knickers. I love kam-snaps, as they are so easy to use and fit. But you could do button holes , or use metal poppers.

I make sure that the wings fit together before going through all the layers with a sharp instrument.

Reusable Sanitary Pads - adding kam-snaps

And you have a finished pad!

Reusable Sanitary Pad finished.

The trick, as with most things in sewing, is to batch cut pads and have a little bit of a production line. I cut several pads at once, and made them all together. It is so much quicker doing it this way.

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How Do You Clean Them?

Some people have shied away from reusable pads as they do not want to think about the inevitable cleaning question. Yes, you are going to get some of these pads covered with blood. So there does need to be some procedures in place for cleaning them.

Actually, for some days, they will be hardly used and you can throw them in with a normal wash to get them clean. But if there is a lot of blood on them you will need to either pre soak or pre rinse the towels to get most of the blood out before washing.

You will need a bucket filled with cold water to soak. Hot water sets the stains so do use cold. You could add some lemon juice or cider vinegar to this soaking water to help with any odours. Some people swear by pre-soaking in salt. Others prefer peroxide. I have even heard some discussions about using nappisan, which is used for pre-soaking cloth nappies (diapers).

Once soaked, wring out and add to a dark wash on as hot a temperature as the material will take. (If there is a waterproof layer this may only be 40 degrees) And hanging out to dry on the line on a sunny day is said to be a good way to get rid of stubborn stains.

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So are reusable sanitary pads such a massive change to your routine?

At the end of the day, you are going to need to carry around a little wet bag, or bag lined in waterproof fabric  in case you need to change. But this isn’t really a hardship. See here my tutorial on how to make such a pouch.

And yes they need a bit more aftercare, but what is that compared to saving the planet from plastic pollution?

I actually use my pads as an adjunct to a menstrual cup.

See here my post on menstrual cups.

Do you think that reusable sanitary pads could fit into your regime? I would love to know your thoughts. Contact me by commenting below. Or find me on social media.

Reusable Sanitary Pads - How To Make And Use Them ⋆ These are a great way of upcycling old clothes and bedding. Find out the advantages. How to wash. How to clean. How to make. Chart of core layers needed. Materials to use. Step by step tutorial on how to make these zero waste items #upcycling #reusablesanitarypads #clothpads #reusableclothpads #makesanitarypads #zerowaste #makeyourownsanitarypads #sewingtutorial #diy

See some of my other ideas for upcycling old clothing

Why not pin this post for later?

Reusable Sanitary Pads - How To Make And Use Them ⋆ These are a great way of upcycling old clothes and bedding. Upcycle from cloth. Zero waste. How to make, wash and clean them. Chart of core layers needed. Materials to use. Step by step tutorial #upcycling #reusablesanitarypads #zerowaste #makeyourownsanitarypads #sewingtutorial #zerowaste #clothpads #sanitarypads

 

 

 

 
 

48 Replies to “Reusable Sanitary Pads – How To Make And Use Them”

    1. Jo Boyne says:

      Won’t be long until I no longer do, but these will also be good for my daughter.

      Reply
  1. Tracey Abrahams says:

    I’ve recently got a sewing machine, and while I’m not proficient enough yet to make anything complicated (i.e more than just straight lines) I do like the idea of making my own sanitary pads as a way of saving on money and the environment.

    #abitofeverything
    Tracey Abrahams recently posted…A Bit Of Everything Linky – 01/05/19My Profile

    Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      The curves just take practice. I’m sure you’ll be getting there soon. I just use the side of the presser foot lots as my guide and go slowly!

      Reply
  2. Crummy Mummy says:

    Love the fabrics! I actually wear washable pants which you rinse & then wash with the normal wash – like pads, they’re so much better for the environment & cheaper too #MMBC

    Reply
      1. Jo Boyne says:

        I suppose it does depend on how much that you leak. But I do know that there is a Facebook group dedicated to making these pads and they have some fabulous suggestions for bladder leakages and materials to use – the group is called “Sewing Incontinence Bladder Pads”. Hope that helps.

        Reply
  3. Emma Dowey says:

    hat’s off for giving them a go! You’d have to be very well prepared for being out and about with them too. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time!

    Reply
  4. ERFmama says:

    This is such a great post! I am afraid I can’t sew through and don’t own a sewing machine hehe, but I DO USE reusable pads and a “moon” cup (not that exact one, but I can’t remember the name). 😀
    And I’m very happy with this, it could be because I also used re-usable nappies, so it came naturally to use re-usable pads. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

    #KCACOLS
    ERFmama recently posted…Best Tablet Holders & DVD Players for Your CarMy Profile

    Reply
  5. Sarah | Mummykind says:

    Pinning this one for later! I’ve just started wearing CSPs and have bought my first two, would love to make my own but I don’t yet have a sewing machine!! Thanks so much for linking up to #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time!

    Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      Thank you. I have seen these hand sewn, but obviously a machine gives a better finish.

      Reply
    1. Jill Curtis says:

      I have just ordered some fabric that I am hoping will be suitable. I do sew but wasn’t sure what fabric to use. I am 61 and have MS and can have a tendancy to be a little incontinent so need a safe pad, this has always put me off buying or making my own in the past. I have found some pu backed toweling and some flannelett so I am going to give it a go. The initial cost is a bit much but it will save me in the long run. If successful I am going to make some for my daughter. Wish me luck. It’s just another change I have made to help the environment

      Reply
      1. Jo Boyne says:

        Oh good luck with these. It sounds like they will be perfect. Glad this article helped!

        Reply
  6. Claire Rocks says:

    wow theyre so simple to make. i think ill be giving these a try. anything to do my bit to save the world.

    Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      That was exactly my thought. When you think of how much plastic is in the disposables, this just makes sense.

      Reply
  7. Jenna - NorthernBird84 says:

    You are so talented! I had to admit I’m a bit scared about using these kinds of pads. I have a really heavy flow and sometimes struggle to keep up with it. I’m not sure how these would work for me and if I’d feel uncomfortable. I guess there’s only way to find out for sure! #KCACOLS

    Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      I will say Jenna, that I would probably also be tentative using these alone. I have used them with tampons and am considering a MoonCup. However I would be happier to use them later in my period once the heavy days have passed.

      Reply
  8. Tracey Bowden says:

    I have been thinking about swapping over to reusable pads but I’m not sure I would be able to make my own. I will definitely look into ethically made pads or even the underwear #kcacols

    Reply
  9. Ali Duke says:

    These would be great for my daughter. I was thinking of getting her some of the modibidi pants.
    #KCACOLS

    Reply
  10. Masha says:

    I switched to cloth pads 8 years ago because my cramps were out of control and I had read that materials used in disposable products could contribute to them. I literally sat down at my sewing machine one day in the throes of awful pain and sewed one. Turns out, what I had read was correct. My cramps all but disappeared when I switched over, and I’ve barely had any since. It does seem gross, but the difference is that with these pads you can wash the ickiness away, rather than dumping it into a landfill where it will sit for decades upon decades. That’s far more gross to me.
    Masha recently posted…More Simplicity 1887 shortsMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      It is amazing how the more you look into it, how many people have problems with the chemicals in disposables

      Reply
  11. Sylvia Loffredo says:

    No different then rinsing a pair of blood soaked undies. I don’t need them for my period anymore but they are also great for light bladder control issues. No need to worry when I suddenly sneeze anymore.

    Reply
  12. Sydney says:

    You make the thing so simple to make. There are the best thing compared to disposable pads, cost- wise. I’ll give them a try after my next pregnancy.
    Thanks for sharing

    Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      Thank you. They certainly make a real difference to the amount of plastic waste I throw every month.

      Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      Thank you so much, I just hope it inspires some people to go and make some!

      Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      You are so right Jackie. I have done a review of a menstrual cup myself, and they certainly are much better for the environment and much more frugal when used long term. Thank you for the reminder!

      Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      Thank you Scarlet. Yes, they really are an easy swap to make to be fair. And if you can make them from old towels etc then they really can be zero waste!

      Reply
  13. Cindy says:

    Thanks for the ideas! The last few months I’ve been trying cloth pads. I purchased a few, and they have 2 layers of nice absorbent microfiber, a layer of fleece at the top which wicks away fluids into the core, and a PUL layer at the bottom for waterproofing. I have measured and found that they actually hold MORE than a regular (not thin) Kotex disposable before leaking (on average 33g compared to 17g.) They are comfortable and actually work better! My goal is to design a pattern with a waterproof base that has straps or elastic, with replaceable absorbent layers, and then make lots of these to donate to girls and ladies in countries where they really need them. I appreciate your sewing tips!

    Reply
  14. Laura says:

    Must be more cost effective over time, and eco-friendly! Love it!

    Reply
  15. christina chapman says:

    I have brought reusable pads online. But when i used them the snaps really dug in when sitting or lying down also the ones with wings tended to move about.
    Could i use velcro instead.

    Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      Certainly velcro could be used. I am just not keen on sewing velcro as it takes longer!

      Reply
  16. christina chapman says:

    Thanks ill use the velcro as i have plenty of time because im retired and wish to use these for incontinance

    Reply
  17. MyliJoy says:

    Awesome DIY, Jo. Imagine if everyone learns this and starts using reusable sanitary pads from today. Every woman will save thousands of dollars a year plus we will contribute a lot to the environment.

    Reply
  18. Laura says:

    I don’t need menstrual pads anymore, but I made a cotton liner last month to try. I’ve grown distrustful of the plastic liners, I think they cause more discharge, not to mention the pollution. If you stop to think about how many pads and liners we used a year, it’s staggering. I used velcro instead of snaps and I don’t feel it at all. It’s true, sewing the velcro is difficult, but I thought the snaps would be uncomfortable, I have to use it with tight jeans yet, and it tends to move along the panty, but I’m quite pleased until now and I’m doing more.

    Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      I don’t feel the snaps at all, but totally understand if velcro works better for you. Yes they do move more than if they were stuck to your panties like disposables, but they don’t move that much. And it is a small price to pay for being better for your skin and the environment. Thank you for reading.

      Reply
  19. Hande says:

    Very useful information, thank you so so much!! I really want to make the switch, for myself and for the planet.

    Reply

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