Cloth nappies have been becoming more popular lately, but cloth sanitary towels? I regularly saw them advertised and reviewed in Juno and Green Parent magazine, but I never put much thought into trying them for myself. I don't know why this was, maybe I was suspicious that they wouldn't work or would be too much of a hassle. I did a major life overhaul last year and did some research, with the intention of making my life more environmentally friendly. I changed my mind when I discovered that they can be as bad as disposable nappies in terms of environmental impact.
They can be a bit like cloth nappies as well in that it can be hard to know where to start with them and I used a lot of trial and error to find out what worked best. But unlike cloth nappies, it can be hard to find sources of information on the best brands and even just where to start. Earthwise Girls is a good site for checking out the types of pads that you can try and they have been featured in Juno Magazine on several occasions and always seem to get good reviews. I also recommend the Eco Fluffy Mama blog which regularly reviews and discusses eco friendly feminine products and is definitely another good place to start.
The brand that I use is from the Earth Conscious website and although I find them to be good, they don't seem to be available anymore (when you go on their website all you get is a Tumblr page advertising their Hippy Paste deodorant, but nothing else.) However they seem to be the same basic shape as quite a few other brands so hopefully you will still find the advice in this article useful. This is just based on what has worked best for me. I have had a lot of trial and error with them, but after using them for a few months I have finally figured out the best way to use them.
When I first started using them, I was also still using disposable towels - particularly when I was out and about just to be safe. As I got better and better at using them, I amped up my usage of them until eventually I was using them full time. There are three sizes that I use, the small ones which are about panty liner sized, medium sized 'normal ones' and large 'night ones'. The amount that you get will depend on your personal circumstances, so it is best to figure out how many of each size of disposables you would normally go through in a month and then translate that into the cloth towels. You may find that you need to wear two together depending on what sort of month you are having, but again this is all down to trial and error.
One problem with these sorts of towels is that there is no way of sticking them down. This particular brand that I use has a press stud that fastens underneath, but this does not stop them from moving around when worn - so I have figured out the following method of securing them in place. The first thing to do is to wear undies that are not too tight or too baggy, so stick with your normal briefs. Attach the towel(s) to them and then wear another pair of undies over the top - preferably a baggy pair like girl-boxers. This is where the Bridget Jones knickers come in handy. It seems like a lot of faffing, but for me this is a better options than filling a landfill every month. I have found that the press-stud can rub on your leg in a painful way if it shifts round, but this tends to only happen with the smaller sizes as they can slip more easily. This may just be a problem with brand, as I am not sure how other types fasten - there may be a velcro fastening option. As with the cloth nappies, they can seem expensive to begin with, especially as you have to buy quite a few to get going. But they will save you money in the long run, as you will not need to buy new towels every month - it needs to be viewed as an investment really.
Another essential purchase will be a few wet-bags. These are waterproof (and smell-proof) bags that you can keep your used towels in when you are out and about. The ones that I use are pictured above, they are from LittleLamb and are originally for cloth nappies. You can buy we-bags for towels from the same websites as the towels themselves, but I have just been using the ones that I already had for my child's nappies. As most of his nappies go straight into the washer, this is not a problem. In terms of washing, I wash the towels on a 30 degree wash with my other washing, and tumble dry them as normal. This works for me, but I am not sure that this is what you are supposed to do, so please read the care instructions that come with tour towels to get the best from them. (It really would not hurt me to start reading the care instructions on things.) There will be different ways that you can store them before they are washed, so it may be a good idea to contact the shop before buying to find out what you will need to do - it will save you a lot of trouble down the line.
As the towels that I use no longer seem to be available, I will need to move on to another brand once they start to fall to bits (which they haven't done yet, luckily.) So watch this space, there will probably be a review of a new brand that I have tried at some point in the future.