Saturday, July 07, 2007

Eco-friendly Menstrual Products: Organic Menstrual Pads (Women Issues)

This is a bit of a personal subject, but as I've never had qualms about discussing my period, I decided to post about eco-friendly menstrual products :) . I am finally making the switch to using cloth menstrual pads :) I've been using more eco-friendly products for the last few years (disposable, oxygen bleached, organic pads), but recently decided to take the plunge into reusable products.

First more about disposable organic menstrual products. They are a much better, healthier, and environmental friendly product than conventional pads. Not only are most conventional products bleached with chlorine (which produces the by-product dioxin, an environmental toxin that can greatly affect health since it bio-accumulates. Many scientific studies have linked dioxins to cancer, immune system suppression, endometriosis, etc), pesticides (cotton is extensively sprayed with pesticides, so be sure to buy organic :) ), but some contain synthetic chemicals that draw the blood away from the body and cause the blood to form a gel in the pad (to better prevent leaks) or for odor control. On the plus side, since using disposable organic products my moon cycle has been regular and my flow is much lighter, and I no longer itch! (My cycle was irregular and very heavy up through my mid twenties, and didn't become regular/lighter until I switched). Though organic, eco-friendly products look like they are more expensive, I spend about the same amount each month as I did on conventional pads since I bleed a lot less. And I've heard you can compost some brands since they are biodegradable (though most people don't).

Quick reviews on brands:

Natracare: I really like this brand. I prefer the ultra thin with wings to the regular non-wing pads, which I've found tend to bunch up. I like that they are very cottony soft and are much cooler than conventional pads (some of natracare products have a backing and some don't, but their backing is not made with plastic like conventional pads). They seem to absorb just as well as the conventional pads. I also like their panty liners. I like that their products come in a cardboard box instead of plastic packaging, so I can recycle it (where I live they recycle cardboard, not all places do though). (Some pads and the panty liners are packaged only in the box, but the ultra thins are packaged in a box but are individually wrapped). They also make organic tampons for those that prefer tampons.

Seventh Generation: I tried the ultra thin ones with wings once, but didn't like them as much as the Natracare pads, because their backing was very hot (I'm not sure but they may be made of plastic, since their backing seemed similar to conventional pads, but I could be wrong). I also did not like the fact that these pads are packaged in plastic not cardboard. They work great though, so some people may like them more than I do. Like Natracare, they also sell tampons too, are organic, and are chlorine/dioxin free :) Seventh Generation is a well known natural brand that also sell natural detergents and dish washing soaps, and most of their products are pretty good.

Though I am pretty happy with using my natracare pads, the environmentalist in me is always on the look for better and more eco-friendly alternatives. Now I was a bit hesitant about using cloth resuables--not because of the 'gross factor' that many people seem to have when they hear about cloth menstrual products--but because of budget concerns. Like many eco-friendly solutions they are very expensive initially, but in the long run they are cheaper, not to mention better for you and the environment! So I decided to forgo buying more herbal products (to craft with) this month, and instead use my extra cash to buy my first few pads, and I am really glad I did! In the future, when I am traveling (and don't have a place to clean my pads), I'll probably sometimes still use disposable pads, but for the most part I am switching!

List of reasons why cloth menstrual pads are better for you and the environment!:

In addition to the same reasons as organic disposables (no dioxin or weird chemicals, and may decrease menstrual/pms problems like irregular cycle, heavy flow, or itching), they are the ultimate environmental friendly solution! Since they are reusable there is no waste, so less trash in the landfills! I've read on most sites that sell them that they last for 5 years at least, and some people have been using the same pads for the last 10 years. Many sites have statistics on how many pads/tampons women throw away, and if you think about it, using non-disposable products makes sense: if women menstruate for roughly 30 years, and each month every woman uses a couple packages of pads or tampons, you do the math--that's a lot of trash! Also many online stores sell organic pads (in cotton such as flannel, bamboo, hemp, and the various velours made from these materials), which support good farming practices, are even more eco-friendly, and are good products for women with sensitive skin to use.

Many people are also concerned about sanitation and believe that they are not sanitary. First many parents use cloth diapers on their babies, and no one questions the sanitation of cloth diapers, so why the stigma? Why are people questioning the sanitation of cloth menstrual pads? In addition to using natural detergent and oxyclean (a non-bleach stain remover) to wash mine, I plan to add some essential oils in the cleaning process, so sanitation is not an issue! (nearly all essential oils are antiseptic, some are antifungal and antiviral as well).

A lot of women may also be initially grossed out with the idea of washing them, and dealing with cleaning their menstrual blood from the cloths. To me, the idea of cleaning cloth pads is empowering because I know I am not only doing something that's good for myself but that I am doing something that's better for the planet too. I think it's time to put the sacredness back into the idea of menstruation :)

One thing I've noticed is how soft the pads are, especially the hemp and bamboo ones I got, so they look very comfortable. Though some are from very small companies (made by women who have home businesses) all of them are well sewn and quite pretty too! You can buy them in many colors and patterns. None of them are too bulky (I ordered all three designs: AIO (all in one pads), a pad with inserts, and pads with replaceable liners). The pads were thicker than disposable ultra thin pads but much thinner than regular conventional pads. The thickness of most of them are somewhere in the middle of an ultra pad and a natracare regular pad (which is thinner than most conventional pads).

Some women cite the inconvenience (of washing them and also dealing with used ones when not at home) but I don't think that they would be that inconvenient. When you are not at home, it's recommended that you place used pads in a plastic bag or a specially designed 'wet bag' that many companies carry (it doesn't take up too much room in a purse or bag). When you get home, soak them in a container of water and then put them in the wash to clean. Some women hand wash them too.

I brought pads from several different companies to compare different materials and pad styles and will be sure to post a full review once I try them all. I purchased only organic pads so will only be reviewing companies that carry organic products.

Note:If you aren't a pad woman, then many of these companies also make natural sponges and various cups (subs for tampons). I'll mention them in my next post on the subject, as well as forums, resources, etc.


beXn said...

I've been using The Keeper for almost a decade now and it's GREAT. It takes getting used to but i can't imagine using any sort of pads or tampons now.

I'm looking forward to your reusable pads reviews! I found this link about making your own pads, too.

Solarkat said...

Thank you Bexnnie! That site looks great! I found another DIY site and I'll post the site you found and that one in my future reviews. I think maybe eventually I'll make some, but I have to find a source of organic cotton flannel, bamboo, and hemp (esp the organic bamboo and hemp, which may be hard to find!) Maybe one day I'll try the keeper or some kind of cup too!
Love you BK!

Li the OK

Crafty Green Poet said...

I use Natracare and like them. My problem with reusables is the smell (I had a bad experience with a flatmate who used to soak her pads in buckets and sometimes left them there for ages). I'm thinking about using the mooncup.

Solarkat said...

Hi Crafty Green Poet

Thanks for posting :)

Sorry to hear you had a bad experience with a roommate! They aren't supposed to be soaked for more than a few days, and the water is supposed to be changed daily. I personally wouldn't soak them for more than a day or maybe 2 before washing. If you use decide to use the moon cup, post your experience :) !


Anonymous said...


I stumbled here looking for vegan makeup brushes and I’m glad I did. I’ve been using a Diva cup for a little over a year now, and it the greatest think I’ve ever used. I still bleed fairly heavily, but my cramps aren’t as bad. It takes some getting used to, especially to get the seal right, but I recommend them to everyone!

Solarkat said...

Hi Liz

Thanks for posting :) I'm glad you enjoy my blog :)

Awesome review of the diva cup!