Over the last year I have transitioned from disposable to cloth menstrual products. I'm not sure why it took me so long. We used cloth diapers, cloth wipes, cloth napkins, and cloth tissues. I guess this was the next logical step. I started with a small set of flannel pads. They were ok, but I didn't love them and they weren't enough for the first couple days of heavy flow. So I was using them part time. Then I won a pad in a contest on Facebook and I loved it! It had a narrower cut and fleece backing and didn't leak. I purchased 3 more from the same work at home mom. With a total of 10 cloth pads I had enough to get by without disposable if I kept up on the laundry. A few months ago I won a menstrual cup. The cup is a little tricky to figure out, but it has been great! I can leave it in there all day or night and almost forget I am even having my period. It would be perfect for camping or hiking trips when you don't want to haul anything extra. I do still keep a few tampons and pads in the house for guests, but I haven't used any of them yet this year.
Here is what I have. My favorite pads in my stash are from Pampered Mama. They are minky on top and fleece on the bottom with snaps on the wings. They don't leak at all and they stay where they are supposed to. I have regular and heavy and am thinking of ordering some panty liners since she has such cute fabrics right now. http://hyenacart.com/PamperedMama/index.php?c=22
The cup I have is the Lunette. I have the Cynthia model which is a light burgundy color. It comes with a drawstring bag for storage. http://www.lunette.com/
So, why switch to reusable?
With average cycles women will spend about $10 a month on disposable products. With cloth, most women use about 8-12 pads and unless you make them yourself that will cost you about $100. Those cloth pads will last years with proper care. My Lunette cup costs about $40 but will also last for years. The FDA recommends replacing the cup every 3 years, but it is medical grade silicone and will usually last much longer.
Better for the environment.
If you menstruate for about 30 years you will throw away about 300 pounds of disposable menstrual products. That doesn't include the waste that goes into processing, packaging, and transporting them. Tampon applicators are one of the biggest contributors to beach debris. Too many women flush them and that leads to sewage overflows which end up on the beaches. Yuck.
Cloth pads are softer and if you use natural fabrics they allow for better air circulation so less sweating and chafing.
What about washing?
You may be thinking it's too icky to be handling the pads or cup or that they may not really be clean. Did you know that disposable menstrual products are not sterile? I also learned that the FDA doesn't require labeling on any of those products so do you really know what you are putting up against that very sensitive skin?
There are 3 basic ways to handle the cloth pads. I'll get to the cup next.
1. Rinsing. You can rinse the pad out in your sink and set it aside until wash day.
2. Soaking. Fill a container with water and drop the used pads in to soak until wash day.
3. Do nothing. Just set it in a pail or wetbag and toss in with the rest of the laundry on wash day.
I do a combination of the first two. I give it a quick rinse and drop it in a bowl of water. I don't have any staining with this method. I don't wash them separately from my other laundry and I use the same eco friendly detergent I use on our clothes. For the cup I just carefully remove it, empty the contents into the toilet, wash the cup with mild soap and water, and reinsert. A cloth pantyliner is helpful for this step so you don't have to hobble to the sink with your underwear around your ankles :) Because the cup can stay in for up to 12 hours I have never had to clean it in a public restroom, but they do make wipes for such an occasion so you can stay in the stall. At the end of my period I wash it and boil it so it is clean and ready for the next month.
Pros: affordable, good for the environment, easy, cute, and no more sending hubby on a late night run to the store when you run out.
Cons: just a little messier than disposable.
It's worth a try :)