Starting a cloth pad stash

A few months ago, one of my friends asked my advice about buying some cloth pads for her daughter. Specifically, she wanted to know how many she should get to start out. This is a question I get asked a lot by people who are beginning to explore reusable pads, so I thought it would be handy to write a post about it for anyone who is wondering, but isn’t comfortable asking the question.

To begin with, it’s easier to answer this question for someone who has already begun menstruating. If you’ve got a pretty good understanding of your typical flow, then you probably already know roughly how many disposable pads you use each cycle. If you haven’t started your period yet, or if you’re about to begin menstruating again after a period of pregnancy/breastfeeding or hormonal birth control, it’s a little trickier to get a read on what you’ll need.

There are other factors to be considered here. For example, do you want a stash that’s big enough to last your entire cycle? Are you willing to wash some pads mid-cycle? If you are, then you won’t need to buy as many. Are you planning on using pads as your only sanitary product? Some people like to use reusable liners as a back-up when they’re wearing a cup, or wear a cup during the day and pads at nighttime. Obviously, if you’re only using pads, you’ll need a bigger stash.

If you’re well-acquainted with your typical flow, I’d suggest making a list of roughly how many pads you go through in a single cycle. When you make your list, be sure to specify how many panty liners, maxi pads and regular pads you use each cycle. Then, I’d recommend buying the same number of cloth pads, with maybe one or two extra regular size pads just in case.

If you’re uncertain about precisely what you’re going to need, you’ll have to do a little bit of guesswork. I would suggest buying only a few pads to begin with, knowing that you can wash and reuse them multiple times per cycle if you need to. You can always buy more if you find that you don’t have enough.

My general recommendation is getting a couple of pads in a few different sizes. My must-have stash includes the following:

  • Three panty liners for light days/ days when my period is due/ as a cup backup
  • Five regular size pads for medium/heavy flow days
  • Two heavy flow pads for heavy days and nighttime.
  • A wet bag to keep in your handbag to carry soiled pads

I usually wash pads mid-cycle if I find that I’m running low on a particular size. I also don’t rely on pads as my only sanitary protection, but this stash would be enough to get me through my period without having to use a cup or period panties.

Many shops will have a “starter pack” that includes a few different sizes of pads. These can be a very cost-effective way to try cloth pads and see which size and style works best for you. You can try these out for a cycle or two, and then buy individual pads in the sizes you prefer to bulk up your stash. This also means that you won’t be stuck with lots of pads in a size that isn’t useful for you.

It can be tricky to know exactly how many cloth pads you should have in your stash to begin with. My recommendation is to start small and experiment with a few sizes and build your collection over time depending on your individual needs.

I hope that this post has been helpful. If you have any other questions about reusable period products, please let me know.

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