Review: The Little Flower - My Experience with Reusable Cloth Pads

Friday, April 14, 2017

By: Ariana Palmieri
Did you know the average woman will use up to 16,800 disposable pads and tampons during her lifetime? That's a lot of pads and a lot of waste. And I'm not just talking trash waste, I'm talking wasted money. Think about this: Lets assume a woman menstruates for 40 years and buys an $8 pack of disposables every month. That eventually adds up to $3,840 over a lifetime. Amazing. Men certainly don't have to worry about that added expense.
That being said, you're probably wondering why I'm bringing this up. Right? Well, despite it being a very sensitive topic, I felt there was a real need to talk about disposable pads. Since starting my zero waste journey, I became shockingly aware at how much waste I produce every month for simply being a woman (and experiencing a monthly period). That, and how much money I've been dishing out for them. It's simply ridiculous! But there's another concern with disposable pads: Health problems.
That's right, you heard me. Disposable pads are hazardous to your health for a number of reasons. First off, disposables are typically made out of plastics, cotton, wood pulp, and synthetic fibers. Gross. And if you're thinking "oh, but cotton is a safe material to use", remember this: Conventionally grown cotton is one of the most toxic crops grown (it uses 20 percent of the world's pesticides and herbicides!). To make matters worse, the materials in pads are then bleached with chlorine dioxide, which creates polluting (and harmful) bio-accumulative by products (like dioxin). These enter the environment and the body - and they remain there for decades!
What the heck right?! But it's not over yet: They also add synthetic chemicals and artificial fragrances to the mix. Lovely. And now you know why so many women suffer from hormone disruptions, allergic reactions, reproductive issues, and even endometriosis. Because this stuff is actually allowed near such a private, sensitive area on our bodies. Does that make any sense at all to you? It certainly doesn't to me.
Well, not anymore. I decided I was done being a part of their little game and did my own research. That's where The Little Flower comes in: They're a shop on Etsy that sells reusable cloth pads (and other cloth goods). Apparently, making the switch to reusable, cloth pads is better for an abundance of reasons: You save money, it's so much healthier, and you aren't polluting the environment. Score! The Little Flower was super generous and gave me a set to try out and review on this blog.
Now I know for some people, this is a freaky idea. Reusable pads might sound gross to you (they did to me too, at first). But actually, it's not that bad. They're completely washable and can last for up to two years (or more) if cared for properly. Think about that. But I promise to go into the details more as we move along. If you're ready to see what these pads look like, how I cared for them, and how they changed my life (and made my period an enjoyable experience instead of a painful one), read on.
 ________________________
My Pad Set
Section 1

Okay, so this review is going to function a little differently from my other reviews, considering there's a lot of ground to cover. I want to be as thorough as possible with this so that I can answer as many questions you might have.

Here's how I plan to break down this review:

Section 1: My Pad Set - Here I will show you each of the pads I received in this set and break down their materials, role, and usage.

Section 2: Caring for My Pad Set - Here I will explain exactly how I went about caring for the pad set, including how I pre-washed them, how I washed them after use, how I dried them, and storage.

Section 3: My Final Thoughts - Here is where I share with you my conclusions and honest opinions on this whole experience. I want you to understand exactly what I liked, what I didn't like, and if I believe more women should give reusable pads a shot.

Please feel free to skip ahead to any section you'd like. For starters, here's the entire set of pads I used (before I completely unpackaged them), courtesy of The Little Flower Etsy shop. 

Pretty right?! The Little Flower's shop owner, Mary, was super generous and so sweet to work with. I told her about my monthly flow, and made sure she knew I was new to all this. She reassured me she'd create the perfect set of pads for me to have a comfortable period and boy, did she! This pad set is super versatile. It comes complete with 3 light day pads, 6 day pads, and 2 overnight pads. Being new to this, Mary suggested I try a mix of different fabrics so I could access which I liked best and which made me the most comfortable. She even let me choose what sort of designs for the pads I wanted. She sent me a bunch of photographs featuring different fabric patterns to choose from and I told her which ones I liked best. So literally, all the pads you see here are (in a way) designed by me (but she did all the work - I just choose which patterns I liked). She was so friendly, accommodating, and made the process super easy. Also, she included a wet bag and a pad wrapper, which are two items that were very essential to this whole process. She told me she'll be selling the wet bags on her shop eventually, in the next few months. If you'd like to make your own pad set with Mary (which I highly recommend) just click here. Just for your own information, making your own set costs $80, but ultimately saves you in the long run (more on that in section 3). Now, I will explain each item in detail so you can better understand their role, their use, and so on.
________________________

Light Days

  
Light Day Pads: These are made from 100 percent organic cotton. Aren't they gorgeous?! They're essentially panty liners, perfect for when your period is just starting out or at the end of it's cycle. All of them are winged with KAM snaps, making it super easy to secure in place (and adjust). I personally only used one this cycle (towards the end).

Day Pads


Day Pads: Okay, so these are made from a mix of different fabrics and 9'' (inches) long. The two green ones are made from cotton with windpo fleece, the blue ones are made from cotton, and the white one is made from cotton with pul. There is also an extra pad I left out of this picture which was tucked away in the pad wrapper (see three pictures down), so technically Mary gave me 6 day pads. The extra one was also made from cotton with pul (it looks exactly like the white one in this picture). All of them are winged with KAM snaps, making it super easy to secure in place. Don't they all have such lovely patterns? I definitely used these the most, out of the entire set. 

Overnight Pads


Overnight Pads: These two overnight pads are 12'' (inches) long and made of two different materials. The pad on the left is a minky pad with windpro fleece (on the back). The pad on the right is all cotton (on both sides). Both of them are winged with KAM snaps, making it super easy to secure in place. I definitely used these two a lot (but only at night and in the morning), since they were kind of essential. After all, it's important to have that extra protection at night when all you want to focus on is sleeping (not bleeding).
Wetbag



Wetbag: This wetbag is made out of cotton and the inside is lined with waterproof material. It also comes with a strap (which is hard to see in this picture). The strap made it easy to hang from the toilet paper roll as well as secure in a small ball when not in use. If you're wondering what I used this for, it's quite simple: A wetbag is a safe place to store dirty pads in. I know it sounds gross, but the inside is lined with waterproof material, so it won't leak. The only time I needed to use this was when I was out and about and couldn't afford to wash my pads right away (a topic I'll be discussing soon - since I'm sure you're all dying to know how I cared for these). If you decide to give reusable pads a try, note that you'll probably be better off using a bigger purse during your cycle: It will be easier to stash your wetbag in!

Pad Wrapper



Pad wrapper: This is made from pul. You know how disposable pads are covered in more plastic (to protect them when not in use)? Well, this kind of functioned like that: It protected my cloth pads when not in use. I would stuff 1-3 pads in here when I knew I would be going out. This way, when I changed my pad, I not only had a wetbag (to put the dirty pad in), but another clean pad to put on (thanks to the pad wrapper). Depending on the size of the pad, it wasn't exactly easy to get the pad inside it. If I wanted to wrap the overnight pads, I could only fit one in there (with difficulty). To make sure 3 day pads fit in there, I had to snap the pad's wings and fold the pads so they would fit. It was a tight squeeze, but doable. Certainly better than just dumping the cloth pads in my bag, unprotected!
 ________________________
Caring for My Pad Set
Section 2

Prewashing
Okay, so now that you know what my pads look like and their fuctions, you might be wondering how exactly I went about using them. More importantly, how I kept them clean. Right? Well, first things first: I had to pre-wash them before I could use them. And before I tell you anything else, I'd like to stress something else: I don't have a washing machine or a dryer in my home. I live in an apartment that provides several mini laundromats inside the building (which you have to pay for, of course). Instead of wasting my time and money on that, I decided to just hand wash my reusable pads. Thus, all the instructions I will be giving involve hand washing methods. So if your main reason for not investing in reusable pads is because you don't own a washing machine or dryer, let me be your inspiration.

Since I don't have a dryer, I like to let the pads hang dry, after a thorough wash of course.

How to prewash (by hand):
Before I even used the pads (so, while I was still PMSing, pretty much), I had to pre-wash them. As I said before, I do not own a washing machine or dryer (my building has weird rules), so hand washing was the way to go. Here's what I did instead:
  1. I filled my bathroom sink (you can also use your bathtub) with some warm water (not all the way to the top though). Then, I added in 1 tablespoon of all-natural detergent (I used The Simply Co.'s laundry powder detergent and highly recommend it). It's best to avoid detergents with fragrances and fabric softeners (so look for something all-natural, but unscented). I proceeded to swish around the soapy water with my hands until the detergent was mixed in entirely.
  2. Then, I filled the rest of the sink up with cold water. I added the pads to the water and gave each of them a few squeezes. I let them sit in the soapy water for about 10 minutes.
  3. Next, I drained the water and rinsed the pads off again with cool water. I made sure to squeeze as much water out of them as I could.
  4. After that comes drying time! I experimented with several drying methods. The best method that worked for me was creating an impromptu "clothes liner." I just took a clothes hanger and hung the pads to dry using safety pins. Super simple: Just poke a hole through the top of the pads and safely secure them on a clothes hanger. I usually just left mine to dry overnight and then into the morning. That said, if I was in a hurry and needed clean pads ASAP, I would blow dry them (which still took a while and a lot of wrist work, but was ultimately quicker).


Hanging the pads out to dry. On my door.

How to prewash (by machine)
Alternatively, you can wash the pads 1-2 times in hot water and dry on low (assuming you have unlimited access to a washing machine and dryer). The pads will continue to increase in absorbency with each wash.
________________________
 How to use cloth pads
So, here comes the next part: Actually using them. To be honest, it's not that complicated, though it does take some getting used to. You have to be a little strategic. You don't want to use up all your pads and have no clean ones left, so you have to stay on top of washing and drying them. Here's how I used my cloth pads:
  1. I would change my pad every 2-3 hours (depending on what felt right). I would place the dirty pad into the wet bag if I was out and take a fresh, clean pad out of the pad wrapper. Then, I would just snap it into place.
  2. If I was home, I would rinse the dirty pad under cold water until the water ran clear. Then, I would place it in the wet bag. This method is called "the dry method". Mary told me there's another method too (called "the wet method"): I could've placed it in a bucket of cold water and changed the water out every time I added a new pad. Suffice it to say I stuck with the dry method.
  3. FYI, the reason I kept the pad wet between washing is because this helps avoid stains.
  4. Mary recommended I full-on wash the pads at least every 2 days, but I wound up washing them practically every day. I usually washed them at the end of the day. The amount of pads I washed varied with the amount of pads I used during the day. Obviously, as my period progressed, the amount I had to wash per day lessened.
  5. When my period was completely over, I made sure all my pads were thoroughly washed (and even cleaned the wetbag too).

________________________


How to hand-wash dirty pads

Okay, so now that I showed you how I pre-washed the pads and how I used them, it's time to walk you through how I washed the dirty ones. Once enough pads had accumulated in my wetbag, I decided it was time to give them a wash. This usually occurred at the end of the day, since I would go through a lot of pads. Here's how I washed the dirty pads (by hand):

  1. I put all the soiled (but rinsed) pads into a big bucket and filled it up with cold water. I let them soak for 1 hour. Of course, if I used the "wet method" (mentioned under subtitle "how to use cloth pads"), I could've skipped this step.
  2. Next, I filled my sink up with some warm water, added 1 tablespoon of The Simply Co. detergent, and mixed it up. After it dissolved, I filled the rest of the sink up with cold water, then added the pads to the soapy water.
  3. I didn't rub the pads together, as this would wear the cotton down faster. Instead, as suggested by Mary, I put the pads underwater and squeezed the pads over and over again.
  4. I waited about 10 minutes to let the detergent do its thing and give the pads a chance to soak in it.
  5. Then, I  simply held each pad under running water and squeezed it to make sure all the detergent was gone. Lastly, I squeezed it out and hung it to dry on my nifty little DIY pad-hanger.

How to wash dirty pads (by machine)
If you do have access to a washing machine and dryer, you're in luck. Just wash all soiled pads in the washing machine with your chosen detergent. A second rinse is helpful. Then, dry in the dryer on low (or hang dry - totally up to you).

  
Storing the pads (when not in use)
When not in use, I like to store the pads in a decorative box I bought from Michael's craft store. You can pretty much store them in any container of your choice though: Just make sure they're not dirty or wet!
________________________
My Final Thoughts
Section 3
Okay, so, you've come this far. Or, maybe you skipped here. Either way, I'm going to tell you how I really feel about these pads. Sure, everything else was important, but my opinion and experience is important too, right? Well guess what?
I loved them.
 Despite how tedious it was to wash them, it was totally worth the  effort. And I genuinely mean that.
 Picture taken from The Little Flower's Etsy Shop page. These are light days (I have the one in the middle and the one on the right).
Here's why I loved these pads:
  • These pads are so much prettier than conventional pads. I thought it was awesome how Mary let me pick and choose which patterns I wanted for them. It made this entire experience a more personable one, and a much more comfortable one at that.
  • Having these pads come straight to my door is such a stress buster. I'm sure most women can relate when I say buying pads at the store is not fun. I've been given dirty looks and even been snickered at simply for purchasing conventional pads. It literally felt like there was a huge sign over me that read "PERIOD. PERIOD. SHE HAS HER PERIOD." So uncomfortable. But not with these. My period remained just that: Mine. No body else's. And that's empowering.
  • They were extremely comfortable. Since Mary wanted me to get the full experience, she gave me pads with a bunch of mixed materials to find out which I loved best. Honestly, I enjoyed the cotton ones, but preferred the ones with minky fabric the most. They were just so cozy! 
  • Mary - she was the sweetest person to work with! In fact, this review was supposed to come a lot sooner - last month to be exact. It didn't because my period decided to skip a month (it figures), so poor Mary had to wait much longer than expected. She never once complained about it though. That's something I'm eternally grateful for.
  • My period was pretty much a non-event. And when I say that, I mean I had practically no cramps or pain at all after I started using these cloth pads. This is a HUGE rarity for me, considering the first two days often require at least some form of pain killers. Not this time. I literally needed absolutely no pain killers during my period. And let me just say, that is a first. Never have I had a single period that didn't require me to pop at least one Advil in my mouth. But I'm not the only woman who has experienced this sudden "cramp vanishing act": Check out this forum dedicated to the topic, as well as this woman's moving story.
  • I created no waste during my period this month. Which is amazing! Usually, I go through a whole pack and a half of pads in one period. The disposable pads I used to get had about 24 pads per pack. That's like, 36 pads in one period cycle. Sheesh! At least now I can say I didn't contribute 36 more plastic pads to a landfill this month. After all, it takes hundreds of years for the plastic in 'disposable pads' to decompose. Not too disposable if you ask me...
  • They save money in the long run! Simple as that.
  • I felt a deeper connection to my period and an appreciation for it that I never felt before. It made me connect to my feminine side in a way that I never thought possible. In the past, I've caught myself wishing my period would never come the next month because of the pain I would endure. Yet after this experience? I can honestly say I have something to look forward to next month.
 Picture taken from The Little Flower's Etsy Shop page. These are light days (I have the one in the middle and the one on the right). This is how they snap shut.
Here's the downside (yes, just one): 
  • The only downside to these pads is the work I have to put into washing them. It is exhausting, I won't lie. Was it gross touching the bloody pads? Yes, but no more gross than touching the disposable pads. There were a couple of times I felt like my arms would fall off from all the washing, but I got through it.

Conclusion: More women should wear reusable pads
So, if you think you'd like to give this a shot, I highly recommend creating your own pad set with The Little Flower. Mary, the owner of the Etsy shop, is super accommodating and such a joy to work with. You can choose exactly what materials you want in your pads, and what designs you'd like on them. While it is pricy ($80 to be exact) keep this in mind: With the proper care, these pads will last up to 2 years or more. Think about that. You won't have to buy another pack of pads for two whole years. Assuming you buy an $8 pack every month over the course of two years, you'd be saving $112 by buying the $80 cloth pads (and even more money if you make them last longer). Sweet! And if you don't feel like building your own set, you can always just buy the individual pads she has for sale on her shop as well.  And if you don't like any of the patterns on the pre-existing pads, you can always request a custom order! Either way, in the long run you'll be doing your wallet, the planet, and your body a favor.

Phew! That was a mouth full. But totally worth it. Got any questions? Let me know in the comments blow!

This post was sponsored by The Little Flower. All thoughts remain honest and not influenced by a third party.

4 comments :

  1. I have a few questions. First how leak proof are these? How well to they soak up clots? The cotton is organic but what about the dye? Do they move around a lot? Thank you for this post. I have always wanted to try cloth pads but didn't want to chance wasting the money if they didn't work well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there!
      Thanks so much for your comment. Here's what I have to say:
      1. I leaked twice, although both could've been easily prevented (because I simply sat the wrong way and adjusted the pad without meaning to). I dd need to wash my underwear a little bit after that.
      2. They soak up blood very well, but since I didn't get many blood clots this month, I'm not too sure how well they'd soak hem up. Either that, or they did it so well I didn't even see them afterwards!
      3. Not too sure about the dye - you can directly ask Mary via her etsy shop "The Little Flower" about that though! I'm sure she could fill you in and would be more than happy to. :)
      4. Honestly, they didn't move around a lot at all, except for the 2 times they leaked. The only ones that did move around a lot (but didn't leak) were the light days. This wasn't too much of a problem though, considering by then my period was so light nothing happened!
      Really hoped this helped you, even if just a little. :D I'm so glad you enjoyed my post! I can honestly say these are definitely a worthy investment. <3

      Delete
  2. Looking for 100% Pure Bamboo Cotton Pads at the best price? AnnaLisaCotton is the leading online shop for Organic Cotton, Makeup remover Pads, Aloe Vera cotton pad.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks so much for the review and the suggestion! I look forward to trying them out for myself!

    ReplyDelete

Made With Love By The Dutch Lady Designs