How to Make Your Own Homemade Menstrual Pads
One day I was curious about life without disposable menstrual products. With a little research, I learned that even into the 1960s many country women were still handling their flowers* the old way. Having visited some websites, my daughter and I began making our own style of pads (she was only six or seven years old, but it was good for her to make her own stash in preparing for the future).*flowers (flow-ers) is a Bible term. So is "menstruous cloth". "Menstrual Pad" makes MORE SENSE than "Sanitary Pad" or "Sanitary Napkin". When is a blood clogged pad "sanitary"?
Our raw materials--an old flannel sheet (real flannel (made of natural material) effectively wicks up blood. If you have no spare flannel, you can purchase flannel sheets or men's flannel shirts (use as much as the shirt as you can, including sleeves)) and some terry cloth towels (we have a $12 bag of Sam's terry towels and have also used old terry cloth face towels). Cut the flannel into 8"x13" rectangles. I read that thirteen (13) pads should be enough for the average cycle. (1) Fold it in half, long ways (2) Sew the open long side using a backstitch for durability (we do handsewing and use upholstery or polyester thread. If using cotton thread, double it). (3) turn it inside out so the stitching is on the inside. Take an old terrycloth face towel and cut off 1/3 of it (you'll put together those leftover 1/3s for other pads). You will have 2/3 left. (2) fold it in half. Note: I like thinner pads like this because if the inside has too many layers it will be hard to wash the blood out of the center of it. Not only that, they dry quicker than thicker pads. Insert the terry cloth padding into the flannel "tube". Fold in the open ends and stitch them together with a backstitch. Then, using a backstitch or a modified running stitch, sew a rectangle through the flannel and terrycloth towel (just inside the edge of the terrycloth towel) in order to keep the terrycloth towel from shifting and bunching up. That's it. At heavy times or at night or you are going out, wear two pads. I keep two darker colored face towels to use with the pads. To use: I fold one in half and place it between between the pad and underwear. If pads are changed at regular intervals, it is not stained. On top of that I place one pad for light flow. I wear two pads for heavy flow. A stash. To keep the pads secure and in place, spandex, girdle-like underwear work great (if necessary, one could use a bikini swimsuit bottom (or cut off the bottom of a one piece swimsuit and sew a casing for a waist) and wear it with the pads...for the record: our homemade swimsuits may look like no swimsuit that you have ever seen--like a dress (below-the-knees length with splits on the sides so that we can tuck it into the pants underneath when we get in the water). Some women make wings on their pads with velcro or use safety pins. I can remember back when I first got my flowers we used an elastic Kotex belt with the "sanitary napkin" strung through the front and back. I am now looking for a way to secure the pads with some type of simple device, e.g., an elastic belt, a loincloth, or rope-like structure.
Washing the Pads
This is where many of us recoil at the idea of reusable menstrual pads--it's the thought of dealing with our own blood. I know for myself I got over that very quickly.
In my researches, some recommended placing used pads in a bucket of water with baking soda or vinegar and then washing them all at the end of the cycle. I tried that (I combined baking soda and vinegar), but soon found that I like to wash as I go. My method: I (1) put the part of the pad that was facing my body downward under running water to wash out a lot of blood, (2) apply bar soap, (3) scrub out the pad and rinse it, (4) put on more soap and let it soak in a sink of warm water for a few minutes (5) rinse it out under running water (6) wring/squeeze it out and (7) hang it up to dry over the shower bar, towel rack, or bathtub. When I go back in the bathroom, I'll flip them over so that they can dry on the other side. They are usually dry by the next day and can be used again. At the end of my cycle, all the pads go in the washing machine on the warm wash setting.
What about the convenience of disposables? For one, as I understand it, they may not be healthy for women. One woman's bleeding problem abatted after wearing homemade pads (she turned to them because she was spending so much money on disposable products). Secondly, homemade pads are very convenient for those of us at home. No traveling to the store to get pads. But even when travelling we use these pads. I still have leftover disposable pads from years ago that I kept for "just in case". When I travel, I still have access to soap and water, and can just follow the same cleaning routine. If everything is not dry when I leave, I can put the wet things in a plastic bag just as I would a swimsuit. A waterproof pouch can be carried in a purse--soiled pads can be placed in it until you get to where you can wash your pad(s).
As an experiment, I made some flannel rectangles tubes and did not stuff them so that I could take out the terry cloth filling and wash it separately. Everything dries faster that way, but I like the convenience of pads, and since my pads are so thin, they dry fast anyway.
- I asked one older woman how they used to take care of these things. She said she had a bag of rags (menstrual cloths). At the end of her cycle, she'd wash them out. She wistfully added, "You didn't have much privacy in those days."
- I read that the average woman spends about $10,000 on disposable menstrual products in her lifetime. I've haven't spent a penny on them in years, and don't plan to. My daughter was about 6 when she made her own set so she never has to spend money on industrial pads.
- One can purchase premade menstrual pads (maybe $30 for a set--one place said $244 for a ten day supply!), but that is expensive and you do not gain the power of making them yourself.
- There are also menstrual cups available that are used like tampons. I have not tried these.
- I'm sure that our flannel pads can be improved upon. They got more stiff after the first use(s), but by manipulating them, I'm comfortable enough. But that first use was wonderful! The thing is to find an outer cover that is comfortable but won't spread blood across the surface and down the sides--the blood goes straight down into the pad with flannel. I have some kind of microfiber material that I want to try as a pad cover.
- If I am wearing two pads, I change the top pad when it is fairly soaked. The bottom pad is usually only spotted. I take off the top pad, put a new pad on the bottom and the one that was on the bottom on top.
- The pads work and are convenient and long lasting (I've used the same ones for about three years and they are not worn out).
- When you do things like this for yourself, you are able to improvise--you are not always searching for a store. I sewed my pads, but I could improvise with lots of materials--whether I sewed them or not. Grab some rags, towels, toilet paper, etc. and make do. If someone is incontinent, they could come with something that works for them and wouldn't have to spend money on adult diapers--which are probably not cheap. For a start they may want to (1) try relieving themselves very often and very regularly throughout the day to decrease episodes of incontinence (2) not drink for a few hours before bedtime (3) experiment by customizing two pads for themselves (our pads--thin, flannel, simple rectangular shape, etc. may not be the solution--consider disposable baby diapers and the materials from which they are made) and laying them inside the adult diaper to try to extend the life of the diaper. If I think of other ideas, I will try to update this section.
- Bears may be attracted to menstrual blood. In the woods, keep tidy.
Home Keywords: How to Make Your Own Menstrual Pads, maxi pads, Sanitary Napkins, pad, Homemade Pads