How to Wash Cloth Menstrual Pads


I’ve been posting a lot lately about all the fabulous postpartum pads I will be testing out once my twins are born. I’m aiming to even skip the mesh undies, if you can believe it. (Don’t hold me to that, we’ll have to see how labour goes!)

Here’s the thing: I wear an Öko Creations liner every day (usually multiple liners). Pregnancy is a messy time, but overall I have been a daily liner-wearer since puberty. (Switching to reusables has saved me A LOT of money.)

One of the main questions I get asked about using cloth pads in general—be it for postpartum bleeding, menstrual bleeding, discharge or light bladder leakage—is how I wash them.

Is it complicated? Is it gross? Do I need to soak them or rinse them? Do I need special soap? How do you store the dirty ones? So, finally, here is a post to answer those exact questions!

How I Wash Cloth Pads:

I wash them with whatever laundry I’m already doing, exactly how I wash my other laundry.

Hanging off the toilet paper holder in each of my bathrooms is a wet bag. I toss used pads there, and it’s also where I put my flannel wipes that I use for toilet purposes and nose-blowing purposes.

When the bag gets full-ish, I toss the bagful in with whatever else I am washing. Sometimes it’s cloth diapers, sometimes it’s towels, sometimes it’s clothes. It really doesn’t matter. And I use the same detergent I normally use (Tide Original on cloth diapers and Tide Free & Gentle, or whatever other similar detergent happens to be on sale, on clothes). I dry everything on low or medium.

That is all.

When I have my period, I also throw those pads in with my regular wash, as long as I am washing in cold. Let’s say I have only two or three soiled pads, and I have a load of wash to throw in. In that case I typically just throw those three pads in with everything else. Sometimes, a heavily soiled pad will get rinsed in the tub, wrung out and tossed in the wet bag. Honestly, even if I skip this step, I’ve never had a problem.

If I have a full bag of postpartum or menstrual pads, then I will take one extra step: I will toss all the soiled pads into the washing machine for a cold rinse cycle and then dump in whatever else needs to be washed, and away we go.

When washing blood-soaked pads with cloth diapers, I make sure to include them in my first cold-rinse cycle. I do the main wash in hot water, so a preliminary cold rinse ensures the blood has been rinsed away and won’t be “cooked” into the pads. (And yes, I’ve skipped this step before too, and everything has been fine.)

If you’re washing pads with urine, and you have a full wet bag of them, I would again do a cold rinse cycle in the laundry machine first (you can add a bit of detergent). But if you’re just throwing in a couple with regular laundry, I wouldn’t bother.

When I’m out and about, I carry soiled pads in a little wet bag. AppleCheeks MiniZips are great for this purpose, and if it’s just for one or two pads, I use my Öko Dual Pocket Mini. For a weekend trip, I’d pack my Funky Fluff clutch.

A few things to avoid:

  • Bleach. No need to bleach your pads, and frequent bleaching will cause them to deteriorate before their time.
  • Synthetic fabric softeners & dryer sheets. Frankly, you should ditch these altogether, but certainly do not use them with your cloth pads. You’re putting your pads up close to your most sensitive body parts—no need for them to be coated in softener. Also, a build-up of softener could cause the pads to repel moisture.
  • High heat. Don’t stress if your pads go for a high-heat tumble once in a while, but avoid it as a general rule to prolong their life. I use low or medium heat. You can also air dry, but I find pads wind up a bit stiff this way.

Yeah, it’s really easy to wash cloth pads. If you can wash your regular laundry, you can wash your pads.

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