TMI warning! Lady time. Person-with-uterus time. Code red. Time of the month. Periods. No matter what we call them, many of us have them. For some, they are a little annoyance, while for others, they are something to be dreaded. For me, it’s somewhere in the middle — probably a little closer to the dreaded side. Or at least that used to be true, until I made a radical change that has saved my sanity, carbon footprint, and a load of money.
The moon cup and other reusable tampon type devices have never appealed to me. I’ve never got along with tampons, mainly out of fear of toxic shock syndrome. While menstrual cups have their uses, and many advocates, they are not for me. (Though that said, the cost and savings I’m about to write about can easily be recreated using them instead.)
So, to my option, the less trendy one. Reusable sanitary pads/napkins. If you are squeamish, the idea may not appeal to you, but I promise they are not as disgusting as they sound. In fact, it’s no worse than your normal disposable pad, though definitely not practical if you don’t have your own washing machine.
What are reusable sanitary pads?
These are simply fabric pads that pop into your underwear. While they differ from brand to brand, most of them contain a fleece layer that goes against your skin, an internal absorbent charcoal layer that soaks everything up, and a waterproof outer layer that stops it all leaking into your pants. This outer layer has wings that wrap around the crotch of your underwear and pops into place. While technically they can be used on any style of underwear, take it from someone with experience and only use them with the “granny-style” briefs. This will help them to stay in place as you lead your normal active life.
How do you use them?
Just like a normal pad! The only difference is you don’t place them into the bin once they have been used. If you are out and about fold up and place in a wet bag (a waterproof bag that frequently comes with starter sets). At home, simply rinse them out and place into cold salted water. Wash in your machine on a cool wash and leave out to air dry. As simple as that. You can’t use normal detergent, as this will damage them, but otherwise, it’s as simple as a normal wash.
How much do they cost?
On average, where I live in the UK, a pack of sanitary pads costs around £3-4 ($3.50-$5) a pack. If they needed daytime and nighttime pad variations, someone might spend around £10 (~$12) a month. So £120 ($146) a year. Of course, this is average, as some of us use more than others.
Reusable pads, on the other hand, cost around £20 ($25) a pack. I bought more for my specific needs, spending £52 ($64) in getting everything I needed to set up. Therefore, in my first year, I saved £68 ($83). But let’s take this further. Reusable pads, if they are properly looked after, should last between five and 10 years (depending on who you listen to). So, in five years, the average woman will spend around £600 ($733) on disposable sanitary pads. The reusable pads still cost £52 — a savings of £548 ($670). In 10 years, the savings could be £1200 – £52 = £1,148 ($1,403).
If you want to be really picky, on average a washing machine cost 16p ($0.20) an hour to use. These pads do not need hours in the wash so £8.32 a year in washing fees. In 10 years, that is £83.20 ($101.74), still making a saving of £1,064.80 ($1,302.08).
Saving the planet and your sanity:
We all know that single-use plastics are bad, and while not everything is practical, changes become normal over time. At first it seemed strange having to think about what to do with my pads once I had used them. Now, I happily wash them the day I finish my period; it’s almost like exorcising a spirit. Yes, they take more time and care than the disposables, but I find comfort in knowing that they are always there when I need them. No panic of did I get more when I ran out last?! No panic of do I have the money to buy more?! As for the icky-ness, I just don’t notice. Yes, they are bulkier than the super-slim almost-don’t-exist disposable pads. I don’t care — and I actually like the feeling of knowing I’m protected.
Since my change to reusable sanitary pads, I feel more prepared, better protected, and I’m saving money and the planet!
Vicky prefers to write under a pen name.
Image via Unsplash