Whether you embrace your period or dread “that time of the month”, one thing is for sure: the search for a comfortable sanitary product that suits you can feel as elusive as the holy grail.
And then you throw in the environmental and health implications of sanitary products. Some disposable sanitary products expose our bodies to unnecessary chemicals such as perfumes and bleaches. Plus we then have to dispose of them, creating an environmental issue.
Wen (Women’s Environmental Network) estimates that 90 per cent of menstrual pads contain plastic. “Not only can switching from disposable to reusable period products save you money, it can also save your health and the environment,” says Helen Lynn, Environmenstrual Campaign Manager at Wen.
“It is estimated that two billion period products are flushed down Britain’s toilets each year blocking drains, polluting beaches and harming wildlife.”
Reusable sanitary products are revolutionising the industry, and lives from those who have periods. Modern reusable sanitary pads are easy to use, comfortable and often much more absorbent than their disposable counterparts.
They’re also cost efficient; although the initial outlay might be more than a pack of Always, in the long term you can reap major savings. “We can spend up to £5k over our lifetime on menstruating and more if we factor in pain relief and other period needs,” explains Helen Lynn – whereas a starter set of reusable pads can cost as little as £20.
It’s easy to use reusable sanitary pads. Many sets come with a little waterproof bag that’s called a wet bag. Once you’ve used your pad, rinse it in cold water and pop it in the bag. Then you can throw it in the wash at 40º. It’s best to air dry the pads or tumble dry them on a low heat.
We tested out a huge range of reusable sanitary pads to find the best in class. We paid close attention to absorbency versus size and bulk of the pad, as well as comfort.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Dame reusable pads set, pack of 3
We loved the modern-style branding of these pads. The set comes with a sleek little wet bag and three pads in reusable liner, regular and night pad – you might need a few sets of these, depending on your flow. The pads themselves are really soft, and the wings wrap around your knickers and fasten together with a metal popper. They offer really good protection – no leaks at all, and they were definitely the most streamline reusable pad we tried. Dame’s pads are made from a hybrid of natural materials, with bamboo fibres offering optimum absorbency in the core. They’re also infused with natural antimicrobials to make them odour neutral.
Cheeky Wipes cloth period pads, pack of 5
A nice touch from Cheeky Wipes is they offer personalised advice – just answer a few questions and a real person who actually uses the products will get back to you with their recommendations. But this multipack is also a great place to start. It has one liner, three day pads and one night pad in it, so enough to get you started. You can choose the print on each of your pads from a decent range, and what the top layer of your pad is made from – bamboo viscose or charcoal microfleece.
We went for some of each in our pack, and the microfleece is just like jersey material, while the bamboo is more absorbent (but a fair bit bulkier). Both were really comfortable and we were leak free. We really rate this set for its customisation to suit your needs, and we were blown away by how much the brand seem to care that you find the right pad for you. At five for just over £20 they’re fantastic value, too.
Floating Lotus reusable sanitary pads XL, pack of 3
While these pads don’t look as pretty as some of the others, they definitely offered a very comprehensive coverage. The Floating Lotus pads are tapered in shape at the front, which helps reduce bulk but they were still fairly thick. They fasten together on the wings with plastic poppers. The fabrics used are bamboo against the skin, which is really soft and comfortable, while the absorbent inside is microfibre. And we did find these incredibly absorbent – we never felt dampness, even on heavier days. Each pack only has one size, so if you like to vary your sizes you will need to invest in a few packs. Each one comes with a wet bag. And for every pack you buy, Floating Lotus donate another pad to period poverty charities, which we thought was brilliant. It might be worth saying that these pads also work well as maternity pads.
Wear ‘Em Out heavier trial pack, pack of 3
We love the idea of a trial pack, and especially the extra touch of having a heavier trial pack or a lighter trial pack – Wear ‘Em Out feel like a brand who reallyget it. This particular set comes with a “medium flo”, “mega flo” and “mega mega flo” pad. The pads themselves are fantastic in their simplicity – they’re some of the thinnest we tried, even in the “mega mega flo” pad, and they attach using wings and a double metal popper. We found double poppers made them stay in place really well. The top layer is organic cotton, which feels really soft, while the other layers do contain polyester so might not win round fans of 100 per cent natural fibres. These are a great entry point into reusable pads.
Imse Vimse night organic pads, pack of 3
These are extremely lengthy pads. But actually, for the length of them they aren’t bulky at all and, crucially, offered all-night leak-free coverage even on a heavier flow. They’re made from organic cotton and we found them incredibly soft – you wouldn’t notice the difference between these and regular cotton knickers. They fasten on the wings with poppers. We found these perfect for very comprehensive coverage.
Baba + Boo reusable medium sanitary kit, pack of 2 and bag
You’d be hard pushed to find a better value kit than this one for Baba + Boo. It’s two pads and a bag, so a pretty good place to start (but you’ll almost certainly need a few kits to last you through a whole period). These pads are better for lighter days, and are on the shorter side. But they are pretty thin, and the top layer is made of super-soft grey fleece, so they’re good on the comfort stakes. The outer layer is made from breathable PUL, so they never feel hot or sweaty.
Earthwise pads medium, pack of 3
These pads are fairly simple in design, but are comfy and thin. We found they’re great for a lighter flow day. This particular pack gets you three pads for yourself, and donates a fourth pad to Nasio Trust, who provide Kenyan orphaned girls with sanitary products. The pads themselves are made from an outer PUL layer in a range of colours and prints (you can pick, or opt for a surprise), a double microfibre core and a top layer of white microfleece against your skin. We appreciated the adjustable poppers that help you find a good fit.
The verdict: Reusable sanitary pads
We couldn’t fault the Dame set – super thin, super absorbent and a really nice, discreet design. However, if you’re looking for something slightly less expensive, you can’t go wrong with Cheeky Wipes – fun designs, fantastic advice and a good range of pads in the pack made them really stand out.
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IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.
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