Zero Waste Periods: Period Panties and Cloth Pads
December 2, 2016 | Kathryn Kellogg
Last Updated on May 23, 2020
There are so many ways to have a healthier and less wasteful period. Last time we talked about menstrual cups, but menstrual cups aren’t for everyone or for every situation.
In fact, a lot of people wear panty liners with their cups too.
This post was sponsored by Luna Pads. I received the luna period pads and panties to try for free all thoughts and opinions are my own. Please see my full disclosure for more information.
If you don’t feel comfortable inserting anything you should check out Luna Pads. They have a huge selection of pads and panty liners.
They also have organic cotton underwear which is very comfy. They use multiple layers of 100% cotton fleece stitched into the lining of the crotch making them super absorbent.
These are great for light days and spotting. But, for heavier days, you can add an insert into the underwear. This is a game-changer, and not just because I really like multifunctionality. This unique two-part system makes it so much easier if you have a long day ahead of you. You don’t have to switch out the entire thing, just the insert. It’s really adaptable no matter your flow.
The also carry pads specifically for postpartum.
how does it work:
Cloth pads work similarly to disposable pads. They have wings that snap together and they absorb your flow throughout the day. They don’t have adhesive like disposable pads. I was initially worried that it might move around, but it didn’t. It was locked in place all day and all night!
After the pad is full, rinse it and wring it out under cold water. If you’re doing laundry right away you can throw it in the wash.
If you’ll be doing laundry a little later, hang it to dry. You don’t want it to mildew up your laundry.
They say the pads can be thrown in the dryer, but I really like hang drying. It saves energy and makes your clothes last a little longer.
better for you:
“Disposable pads are made primarily of bleached wood pulp or viscose rayon, made from wood cellulose. What makes these products perform so effectively is the use of high-tech chemicals such as super-absorbent acrylic polymers (SAPs) surfactant-laced gels and leak-proof plastic backings. The long-term health and environmental impact of these ingredients is contentious and largely unknown, but they pose the risk of cervical cancer, endometriosis, infertility, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, immune system deficiencies, pelvic inflammatory disease, and toxic shock syndrome.” (Source)
Luna Pads are made with organic cotton. You never have to worry about fillers. You know exactly what will be up against your body. Plus they are wayyyy more comfortable than disposable pads.
better for the environment:
20 billion pads are thrown away annually in the US alone. Beyond just creating a lot of waste, think about all of the production that goes into making pads. Think about turning a tree into a fluffy synthetic pad. Think about how many chemical baths it has to go through.
How do you dispose of all that waste water? Why not just avoid the whole situation in the first place? By switching to a reusable, you’re saving all the resources used in the creation process. It goes beyond just the end result of being in a landfill.
And, Luna Pads has thought about the whole process. Even their packaging is 100% compostable. If you need to have the products shipped to you, they’re really conscious about that. But, they will be in a Target near you very soon. So, you might be able to go the store and just pick them up!
(I get so thrilled when I see eco-conscious and zero waste become mainstream!)
better for your wallet:
The average period goes through 20 pads a cycle. Over five years the cost will range anywhere from $225 (generic) to $480 (organic). That is a lot of money.
Luna Pads last 5-10 years. They have these awesome starter kits already prepped at a discount. The regular starter kit costs $75. Leaving you with at least $150 savings. Think about all the chocolate or mason jars you could buy.
This is probably my favorite aspect of this company. For every pad, pantyliner, diva cup, and starter kit sold, they donate an AFRIpad to girls in Uganda. AFRIpads are also made in Uganda, providing valuable jobs to the women there.
Have any of you tried cloth pads? Do you have any tips or reccomendations?
I haven’t tried Luna Pads specifically, but I used to have GladRags (pretty bulky) and have been using the same set of cotton thong-liners since 2011! I bought them on Etsy from a now-defunct shop called Pleat.
Washable pads and liners are great, I second your recommendation.
Yeah, they’re way more comfy than disposables.
There are many, many cloth pad sellers on Etsy that are wonderful with cute designs. This is an unsolicited recommendation for yurtcraft, her products are fantastic. I switched to cloth pads in the summer, starting with a few just to see how it worked for me. I love how little waste it produces! I also air-dry to keep them lasting longer. I think I spent $75 or so stocking up on enough pads to keep me covered for my whole cycle.
However, I do have pretty light periods. So bear that in mind, if you have a heavy cycle you might have more of an issue. There are "heavy" pads available but they are pretty bulky.
That seems about average price for an average flow. I love Luna Pads because of their 1for1. It’s so important to me. But, it’s also good to support your local peeps. 🙂
I have endometriosis and when I switched to cloth pads, a lot of my uncomfortable pain decreased–which is insane! I am such a supporter of these pads! I use PIMP’s and I love them! They are not at all bulky but can hold a lot! If anyone is considering them I highly recommend partyinmypantspads and eco femme!
Woah! What a testament. I feel like I should tell my friends ASAP. Thanks for sharing your story.
I have been using menstrual cup and cloth pads for 13 years because disposable pads made me itch and on most days the flow was too light for using tampons. Now I feel like I have the strangest problem ever: I had a hysterectomy done a week ago, so I won’t be needing those anymore in the future. What will I do with all the pads and Lunette? The idea of just throwing them away feels so strange after all these years! I’ve got a feeling that I’ll probably hold on to those for a while until I get used to the idea of not having periods anymore…
This is an old comment so you may not see it, but just to help anyone else out…most women’s shelters accept donations of pads/tampons/etc, as that’s something they often run out of. We also have a diaper bank in town that accepts feminine hygiene products too. Yes, it’s still giving wasteful items to someone else, but they may not be in a place to use reusables, and it’s much better than throwing them away!
Luna pads has a blog post on things to do with your pads when you no longer need them…
I have never thought of that before. Great questions, I’ll have to ponder…
The perfect companion for the moon cup in case of accidental leaks… Thanks for the tip!!!
My favourite Zero Waste blog ever: down to earth, always interesting, well written, great pictures, lots of clever tips about, well, everything, never patronizing, making "zero wasting" an easy, fun and natural way of life. Thank you, Kathryn!
You’re so sweet! This comment made my day! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
This is so awesome! Thank your for sharing. I got a Diva cup the other day and I’m literally so so excited to try it out :D.
I just recently started to educate myself about the zero waste movement and I’m blown away by all the alternatives that exist to disposable products. Amazing!
I’m so glad you found this helpful! Feel free to email me any questions you don’t see answered on the blog.
Question that is semi related. Thinking about bathroom things how do you buy non packaged toilet paper or do you use an alternative for bum cleanliness??
I have a post about toilet paper and bidets. I use a bidet attachment and love it!
I’ve had Lunapads for over 12 years! The company has grown so much and it might be time for me to buy some new ones. It will be awesome to see them go mainstream!
Hi, I used cloth pockets diapers for my kids because I hated "buying trash". But I started thinking last year about buying pads for my periods (and panty liners because of leakage :/) and the fact that I’m still "buying trash". So I got a diva cup. It’s ok, but I have to really fuss with it to make it secure and not slide out. Anyway, my question is, getting the panties and pads that are reusable, is it really saving money because of all the washing I have to do? My husband doesn’t think so and I’ve tried to tell him it’s more than saving cost on water, it’s all the TRASH that’s accumulated. So, from your experience, are you using a ton of water to wash everything, or is it pretty minimal?
I hope you have realised that you can wash the pads with other laundry, like Kathryn said – there’s no need to wash them separately! I put the pads in one of those wash bags that are ment for bras. That way they dont end up in some shirt sleeve… 😀 Depending on the type of flow I have sometimes soaked them in cold water first but normally I have been lazy and just used the mashines cold prewash to make sure they get clean.
The two oldest cloth pantyliners I have are now about 12 years old. I had few pads that got torn (next to the stitch) couple of years ago and I had to throw them away. But if you think about these two oldest ones I have, the price for one pantyliner is something like 0,6-0,7 € / year. (I don’t remember the exact price but maybe something like 8 € – these weren’t the cheapest brand.) And not to meantion that I have been washing them almost once a week this whole time. So, in disposables that would have made about 600 pantyliners in 12 years time. What would those have cost? I have no idea of the prices because I haven’t bought any for years.
Got it, thanks so much! 🙂
There hasn’t been any influx in our water bill. We keep a bucket in the shower to catch shower water. I rinse the cloth pads in the shower water and then throw them in the wash with a normal load of laundry. They’re so tiny. I’d say I MIGHT use a gallon of water a month for cleaning. It’s negligible. You’ll definitely be saving money and water in the long run. (Water from the manufacturing standpoint)
I’m super lazy and just throw them in my laundry basket, no rinsing, and wash with the rest of the wash. I’m not worried about staining because the pads are black. They seem to get perfectly clean and NO additional laundry cost/time 🙂
Great! Thank you so much! I’m extremely excited to keep making switches toward a zero waste lifestyle. My mom raised us on this kind of mindset and it’s always kind of stuck with me but only in the past year have I REALLY "gotten" the whole reason. I have 4 kids, so the trash we accumulate is ridiculous! But I’m changing that now. Thank you again, and I’m loving your blog and purpose!
Thanks Audrey! 🙂
Just talking about buy 1 give 1 brands, Ruby Cup, a menstrual cup brand donates 1 cup to a school girl in East Africa for every cup bought. Their packaging is also 100% biodegradable.
I love having LunaPanties as a backup (my primary is a Lena Cup)! Cloth pads I find bulky and drying but the panties are amazing. The only problem is the website is chronically sold out of a lot of colours/styles/sizes. Thinkx is another brand I want to try – they’re good for light to medium flow days.
Update: Thinkx are kinda crappy. They’re silky and look kind of sexy, but otherwise they feel plasticy, don’t absorb as well, don’t have an insert that you can swap out like LunaPads, and when you go to pee and then pull them back up there’s an unpleasant cold and damp sensation. Never had that problem with LunaPanties and won’t be buying any more Thinkx!
Thanks for the comparison to Thinx. This is what I was hoping to find in the comments since I’ve been using Thinx for about a year now but I definitely can’t rely on them alone on my heavy days since I typically work at least 10 hours. They’ve worked okay for me, but I haven’t had anything to compare it to! I also notice the cold dampness and odd smell (not sure if this has something to do with the fact that I have put them in the dryer a few times?) although they claim to be odorless.
What do you know about PUL, the kind of waterproof stuff that Lunapads and many other pads use? Is it just a necessary evil, is not actually bad for the environment?
I started using cloth pads about a year and a half ago. I am always more comfy in my cloth pads. I just wash them with the rest of my laundry. And store them for the next go round. I have even used them in a pinch to sop up spills in the car! they work on what ever.
I agree. Cloth pads are soooo much more comfy. That is hilarious!!! Well, they are very absorbent. Lol.
I’ve been using cloth pads (Imse Vimse, I bought them on Amazon) for over two years, and they’re the greatest things ever. Super comfy, and I’ve never had a problem with them. I recently got some cloth pantyliners from Etsy. I’ll never go back!
Great!!!! I love this idea! do you know if they do international shipping?? or spanish web site?? i need this…
besos from Spain!
Este es mi primer periodo con toallas reutilizables! Estoy un poco nerviosa por los días más abundantes! ?
I used leftover flannel baby receiving blankets and cloth diapers (when my kids got too old for them) to make my own pads. They are so much comfier than the disposable ones. Now i mostly use a menstrual cup. I was very intimidated by it at first. It took me a few months just to get it out of the box!!! But now I love it! And the time I had to wear a certain popular brand of disposable pads I was sooooo itchy.
Could I use these for bladder leaks? Or could you recommend something?
There’s a company called Icon and they’re reusable underwear designed specifically for incontinence. I would check those out!
I love the concept of not spending so much and throwing away so many feminine products, and I’m interested in making the switch, however, I have VERY heavy flow days. So heavy I can soak an overnight pad or ultra tampon in an hour. It’s so bad on my heavy days I have to sleep in an adult diaper otherwise I completely bleed through and ruin sheets. Fortunately that severity only lasts a few days. Can these cloth ones hold up to that sort of cycle? Also my other question is, I work outside the home. I in fact, work in a hospital and am often going floor to floor and get back to my office at lunchtime and toward the end of the day. I do not have a sedentary desk job. I am not sure how to make reusable pads work for that sort of cycle and work environment. I can’t just take a used pad out and carry it around with me all day in my lab coat pocket, and I also can’t make frequent trips across the hospital every hour or two on my heavy days to go back to my office, not to mention that i share an office with many other staff and I only have a small cubby to put my personal belongings before I go out to the floor. Any suggestions or ideas would be helpful. Thanks!
I would honestly recommend you doing a cloth pad with a cup. Cups hold 2 super tampons worth of blood, and can easily be dumped and reinsert without you having too carry around anything or keep anything on your person.
Periods are the weakest part in zero waste living for me. I used to have a menstrual cup. However, after giving birth my damaged muscles don’t keep it anymore. AND giving birth left me with heavy periods as described by Michelle. I literally bleed myself like a tap. Any ideas please?? Thank you so much for the blog and comments!!
I switched to cloth pads about 6 months ago, and I love it. I work in an office and thought it would be hard to do (that’s why it took me so long). but I have a "wet bag" I just put the used pads in there and take it back to my desk. its not different than taking my tampon bag back and forth to the bathroom. I wash hand wash when I get home and hang to dry. I have a very heavy first day, and I’m light the rest of the days. I started with 5, but got 5 more after my first cycle. This allowed me more drying time without having to put them in the dryer.
Great post, I just found your blog. I started using Luna pads a couple of years ago, kind of on accident. I was moving abroad for close to a year, to an area where I didn’t expect to be able to purchase hygiene items. Instead of use up half of my suitcase, I went to Google, and found the beauty of cloth pads. I was really young at the time, so the cup sounded weird and scary, but I’ve since gotten one of those as well, and it’s fabulous. 🙂 When I initially bought the pads I intended to use them while traveling and then go back to my standard methods, but there’s no going back!
There are many better brands than Luna pads… if you read the makeup of their period panties, for example, they have a polyurethane liner in them. And they are packaged in plastic.
What about the 5% spandex they contain? Spandex is not biodegradable. So this is definitely a better option than toxic tampons or pads, but is there a brand that is 100% biodegradable?