A few months ago, way back when I started my podcast, I declared that I wanted to find eco-friendly sanitary pads to make my monthly menstruations less environmentally damaging. I had tried the mooncup and enjoyed it, for a time; ultimately, it had let me down in the most heinous of ways (trigger warning: bodily trauma).
Why eco-friendly sanitary pads, though?
Since having the copper coil inserted, my periods have got heavier and heavier (it’s a common side effect, not that knowing that is in any way a consolation). I was going through tampons like nobody’s business (a Super Super Plus tampon lasts about two hours on a heavy day) and feeling really bad about just how many lumps of blood-soaked white cotton I was tossing into landfill.
All this is to say: I wanted to find some sort of eco-friendly sanitary pads – I just didn’t know that they existed until a lovely Twitter follower (name unknown because I hate to credit people) told me that they, in fact, did. Off I went to Fluffy Bums, an Irish-owned site that stocks a range of eco-friendly sanitary pads, cloth nappies, clothing and a variety of eco-friendly bits (reusable straws, menstrual cups and soothers).
I know that I’m not the best person in the world when it comes to looking after the environment. I frequently forget my Keepcup and end up getting coffee in a non-recyclable cup; I use straws when I go to Eddie Rocket’s; I buy fruit and vegetables with too much packaging and I don’t even compost my household waste because I got too frustrated at how often the bin company would “forget” to pick it up and I’d be left with stinking food waste for weeks. So using eco-friendly sanitary pads seemed like a pretty easy way to make a small change.
What are eco-friendly sanitary pads?
Essentially, they’re cloth sanitary pads that can be washed and reused – cutting down on waste, for one thing, but also meaning that you’re not placing harsh chemicals (bleach, or those weird beads they use to absorb menstrual blood in the ads) next to the delicate skin of your vulva.
There’s a massive selection on Fluffy Bums, from eco-friendly sanitary pads made by women’s collectives in India to pads made by UK companies that focus on sustainable and eco-friendly fabrics and manufacturing techniques.
They’re pretty much the same shape as a regular sanitary pad, with the “wings” that you wrap around underneath your gusset – except instead of being stuck on, they’re tied together with the same kinds of poppers you’ll get in your average bodysuit.
When you change them – around every four to eight hours, depending on the size of the pad and your own flow – you rinse them in cold water to get rid of the excess blood, then pop them in a waterproof bag (the set I ordered came with one) and wash them in the machine on a cool cycle.
So what’s the verdict?
In theory, I love the idea of eco-friendly sanitary pads. I am not in any way squeamish about blood (which is also something to consider if you’re interested in the mooncup), so I didn’t mind rinsing them out when I changed them.
They also felt really comfortable against my skin; they’re super soft and cosy, and thought I was a bit worried that I’d feel like I was wearing a nappy, you get more of a nappy effect (complete with rustling) from your regular sanitary pads than you do from eco-friendly sanitary pads.
For me, the cons were pretty significant, however. I found that, because they don’t stick to your underwear, the pads tended to slip and slide around quite a lot – and I inevitably ended up leaking out the back or sides (I just googled this and apparently I’m a “front-bleeder”: something to add to my Twitter bio).
Unless I was spending a day at the desk – that is, with minimal movement or activity – the pads were simply too mobile to rely on to protect my clothes from my flow, which is far from ideal.
They were also just pretty bulky, so even though they didn’t rustle or crinkle as I walked, and they felt really comfy, they were pretty visible through leggings and even skinny jeans. I’d pretty much have to be wearing boyfriend jeans or a skirt in order to really trust that no one would spot my pad.
I still have them – they’re not the kind of things you bin, obviously – and, on days where I’m menstruating and staying at home, sitting on the couch (Sundays, mostly), I still use them. But I’ve gone back to my tried and trusted tampons for the time being. I am even considering giving the mooncup another go (if I’m super careful, it should be okay, right?!) but for now, it’s convenience over the environment (as with so many of my life decisions, sadly).
If you have tried eco-friendly sanitary pads I would absolutely love to know what you thought – especially if you have any hacks for helping to keep them in place!