Reusable Sanitary Pads – How To Make And Use Them

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I love reusing old clothing and cloth to make new useful items. And the tutorial below is the perfect way of getting more wear out of old towels and other cloth. Plus – I’ve made a free template in a new design so that it is even easier to make your own. Here is how to make Cloth Reusable Sanitary Pads.

Whilst clearing out a lot of clothes, I discovered lots of cloth that could be upcycled to make new useful things. 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 cloth sanitary pads.

*This post has been updated – it was first published in May 2019

Reusable Sanitary Pads – How To Make And Use Them

 

Reusable Cloth Sanitary Pads - How To Make And Use Them. Here is an amazingl FREE guide and the easiest pattern ever to make your own period pads ⋆ Eco friendly alternative to plastic disposables. These are a great way of upcycling old clothes and bedding. Upcycle from cloth. Zero waste period ideas. How to make, wash and clean them. Full guide on how to make your own. Chart of core layers needed. Materials to use. Easy DIY Step by step sewing tutorial. FREE pattern that is the easiest ever!

Reusable sanitary pads are not a new concept. My mother used to use her own homemade pads instead of sanitary towels back in the 70s. In fact, not too long ago this is what all women did. They learnt how to make cloth pads at home. 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.

They are a brilliant zero waste way of using up some of the cloth and towels that we would normally throw away to landfill.

 

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 learn how to make reusable menstrual pads when you can buy them?”.

You can never be totally sure what has gone into making the cheaper pads. You don’t know the chemicals used or what is in the core material if this is hidden away. They may have been made unethically in a sweat shop in the Far East.

The whole point of being able to make your own DIY menstrual pads 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. (See further down how to make cloth pads with PUL) But it is up to you what to use. Also, you can try out different patterns to find out what works best for you.

Where To Buy Pads If You Decide Reusable Pads DIY Is Not 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 your own DIY cloth pads, 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 cloth pad pattern to use that there are just so many reusable sanitary pad patterns and sizes out there!

How to make pads to suit you?

Most guides I have read advise you to use a reusable pad close to the shape of the disposable pad that has been your favourite. If you are just starting out and learning how to make your own pads then why not use my incredibly easy free template below?

And once you get more proficient and want to try some DIY period pad patterns that may suit your flow more, there are cloth pad patterns for DIY reusable pads 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 your own personal favourite reusable sanitary pad pattern here and here on Etsy. 

All of this is another great reason for making your own DIY pads. 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.

 

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

The first time I made sanitary pads I used the outline of one of my usual disposable pads as a guide, but actually the wing design was rather fiddly, so I have made my own template that is a squarer design. This is even easier to sew up!

You Will Need

Materials needed for Reusable Sanitary Pads

 

  • A sanitary pad template of your choosing – here is my very easy Reusable Sanitary Pad Template
  • 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.

How To Make Cloth Pads By Hand

You can use this tutorial to hand sew your pads, but a machine does give a sturdier result. 

What Fabric Is The Best Material For Reusable Sanitary Pads?

A lot of questions ask what fabric to use for reusable pads. For the topping material, which goes against the skin, suggestions of the best fabric to choose for cloth pads include 100% cotton, jersey, cotton flannel or cotton fleece.

For the backing fabric that goes against your knickers, suggestions include using the same fabric as the topping, but I like using a pretty cotton print.

How To Make Reusable Pads Leak Proof

You also may want to use a water proof layer such as PUL fabric or waterproof nylon as a pad liner when making your own reusable menstrual pads. Yes, this is plastic, but as this is not thrown away but reused it is still much more eco friendly than disposable pads

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

How Many Layers to Choose In The Cloth Pad Core?

 

Again this falls down to the type of materials you are using, their absorbency, and the absorbency that you personally need in your homemade pads. Depending on whether you have a light or heavy flow you may wish to make, this table gives you a guide to roughly how many layers of each fabric you need for each core pad.

I personally prefer making menstrual pads with several different absorbencies – some for light days and some for heavier days. I differentiate the absorbency by using different colour snaps so I can quickly distinguish which pad is which.

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So Lets Find Out How To Make Reusable Sanitary Pads!

 

I used my easy template which is around the same length as my old disposables were.

Print the template as a PDF at actual size – and print two. The outer line is to be used for the main fabrics and plastic lining if you wish to have one, and the inner core layer is demarcated by the inner line.

Using the core template, I pinned and cut the core pad fabrics from some old bamboo nappy liners of my daughters.

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

Making Cloth Pads part 1

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.

Making The Core

The next step in how to make a reusable pad is to make a core for the pad. Below is a previous core that I have made from layers of cotton flannel.

Reusable Sanitary Pads core overlocked

But an alternative version of the core could be made like this. You could 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

Sewing The Pad

I folded the topper fabric in half and pressed so I could see the midline fold, then pinned the finished core pad to the middle of the reverse side of the topper fabric.

Core pinned to wrong side of topper fabric

Then I sewed down the fold line in the centre to secure the core pad to the topper fabric.

Core pad secured to topper

 

Next, using the presser foot as a sewing guide I sewed 3 more sets of stitches as consecutively larger rings around this central line. These secure the pad well, quilt the pad, and act as wicking for the bleeding into the pads.

Quilting the core of the pad

 

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.

Assembling the pad

Adding waterproof layer

Pinning it all together, I sewed a 1cm seam allowance all the way around the pad. Ensuring I left a gap of about 5 cm or 2 inches. Shown below as the space between the two red lines.

Shows gap for turning

 

Note : The seam allowance has been reduced to about 4-5mm all around except for where the turning gap was.

Then it is time to turn the pad through the small gap. 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.

Then press with an warm iron to remove any creases and sharpen the edges. Not too hot if you have used PUL!

Almost finished pad

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.

 

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.

Finished Sanitary pad

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

And you have a finished pad!

 

The trick, as with most things in sewing, is to batch cut pads. Have a little bit of a production line. I cut several at once, and make a whole load of diy reusable menstrual pads all together. It is so much quicker doing it this way.

How To Make Reusable Sanitary Pads

How Do You Clean Them?

The whole idea of these is that they are washable sanitary pads. Some people have shied away from reusable sanitary 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.

How To Wash Reusable Pads

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 pul fabric or 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.

Look after your reusable pads and they should last you for years!

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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 cloth menstrual 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 hope that you enjoyed this post on how to make cloth sanitary pads. Do you think that you will be making these for yourself?

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 Cloth Sanitary Pads - How To Make And Use Them. Here is an amazingl FREE guide and the easiest pattern ever to make your own period pads ⋆ Eco friendly alternative to plastic disposables. These are a great way of upcycling old clothes and bedding. Upcycle from cloth. Zero waste period ideas. How to make, wash and clean them. Full guide on how to make your own. Chart of core layers needed. Materials to use. Easy DIY Step by step sewing tutorial. FREE pattern that is the easiest ever!

 

 

 

 
 

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

  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. Jo Boyne says:

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

    Reply
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
    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
  20. Lucile says:

    So glad i found this post THANK YOU!!! i get terrible irritation off normal pad’s. and its also bothering me about the effect on our planet. Going to give these a go. Just a thought do you think i could use a old umberella material for the water proof backing ? thank you again

    Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      Thank you for reading, it is great that you’ll have a go at these. I would certainly try some umbrella fabric, but do be aware that it may only be water resistant rather than waterproof. Check it doesn’t let water through it or you could be in for a shock! Happy sewing!

      Reply
      1. Lucile says:

        Hiya

        Good job I asked. will give it a go and wear it at home. thanks again xx

        Reply
      2. Sophia Dike says:

        What are the names of each of the materials used apart from the towels?

        Reply
        1. Jo Boyne says:

          I used cotton/flannel or 2 layers of muslin as a topper. Then 2 layers of bamboo towelling or terry towelling (see the diagram in the post for how many layers to use), then a layer of PUL, and finally a layer of pretty patterned cotton as the base.

          Reply
  21. DJ says:

    Do you have anything like this for incontence? This is a problem many older ladies have.

    Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      Hi! No I haven’t a specific post on pads for incontinence purposes, but there is a facebook group devoted to this subject, and a lot of the posts in there discuss incontinence issues. I would say, that these pads are probably good up to a certain level of volume of wee, but past a certain level you do need to look at other methods.

      Reply
  22. Julia Walter says:

    It’s so easy to make with your instructions. Cost-wise, they are better than disposable pads. The next time I’m pregnant, I’ll give them a try.
    Thanks for sharing

    Reply

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