Getting Started with Cloth Pads

Getting Started with Cloth Pads

Before learning about cloth pads, I really wasn't familiar with reusable products for managing periods and bladder leaks. That was until a friend sent me a TikTok video (she said cloth pads were trending hard)! She knew I loved to sew, and thought maybe I could make them to gift or sell. That's when I started learning everything I could about cloth pads- best designs, materials, benefits, and challenges. I ordered materials used by the highest-rated cloth pads and got to work. I even bought an industrial serger. The materials aren't cheap, (I've never paid this much for ANY fabric in my life), but they are the best, and thousands of people have been using them successfully (myself included!).

Making the switch to cloth pads isn't a quick and easy process, as much as I'd like it to be. It takes some time to get used to the feel of cloth pads, to find what fabrics feel most comfortable, what sizes work best for you and your cycle, how best to store and wash them, etc. I hope this article helps answer all those questions you might have (and some you hadn't thought of asking)! I know every body is different and what works best for one person might not work for someone else. But I challenge you to not give up on cloth pads until you've tried them for a few cycles. Trust me, it'll be worth it! 

What are your pads made from?

How do you use your pads and what do they feel like?

When do you change your pad/How much do they hold?

What do I do when my pad needs to be changed and I’m not at home?

Do reusable pads smell when you use them?

Can pads be used for urinary incontinence?

Can pads be used for heavy flow?

Do you have anything for overnight?

How many pads do I need?

What sizes do your pads come in?

ILP’s: What are they made of? How do you wear them? What is their purpose?

How do you care for pads, liners and ILP’s?

Do some pads stain more than others?

What detergents do you recommend to use/avoid?

Are cloth pads better for your health?

Why should I try your Pads?

What are your pads made from?

zorb cloth pads
Fig Tree Pads are Made with three layers: a topper fabric, Zorb Core, and Waterproof Zorb backer. All materials are of the highest quality and are eco-friendly. What does that mean? They are good for you and the planet! 

The TOP LAYER sits against your skin and there are 4 fabrics to choose from:


1. Minky
- A super soft, 100% polyester material often used in baby blankets, feels silky against your skin, and is stain-resistant.

stain resistant menstrual cloth pads

WHY CHOOSE IT? 0% chance of staining, it is soft and comfortable and will keep you dry while it wicks moisture away from your body (doesn't make you sweat). Made with non-toxic water-based pigments and responsibly sourced fabrics. 


2. Stay Dry Lycra- 88% polyester/12% Sport Lycra®-- smooth moisture-wicking finish that keeps you dry and cool (think workout clothes, swimsuits, leggings, etc.).

Reusable eco-conscious cloth pads

WHY CHOOSE IT? It’s all in the name! This material will keep you cool and dry, you may even forget you’re wearing it! Made with non-toxic, water-based pigments and responsibly sourced fabrics.

 

3. Organic Cotton Velour- 95% Organic cotton, and 5% Polyester (backing). Highly absorbent as well as moisture-wicking! 

Organic eco-friendly cloth pads

WHY CHOOSE IT? If you’re looking for an organic option, in a natural material- this is a fantastic fabric. It is the thickest, most plush fabric we offer. It is manufactured with eco-friendly dyes that DON’T produce harmful chemicals or environmental pollution, are non-carcinogenic and free from toxins.

4. Zorb® 3D Stay Dry Dimple Silver Fabric          

This is an incredibly absorbent, and quick-wicking fabric! The Zorb Silver is sandwiched between 2 layers of polyester. Zorb Silver contains SILVADUR antimicrobial (silver ions), which has been tested to be safe for the skin, is durable, controls odor, and behaves like an antiperspirant for your fabric. It is “free of harmful chemicals, PFOS, PFOA, lead, dioxins, heavy metals, BPA, and phthalates.” It is also “eco-friendly, antimicrobial, free of nanoparticles, hypo-allergenic, and child safe.” https://wazoodle.com/blogs/news/free-of-pfas-pfoa

Waterproof menstrual pads

WHY CHOOSE IT? If you have an EXTRA heavy flow, more bladder leaks, are post-partum, or want something SUPER absorbent at night, this is the fabric to choose. Its special dimples and “Thirsty Zorb” fibers retain moisture, distribute it more evenly, and the stay-dry layers wick moisture from your skin. 

INSIDE/SOAKER LAYER

Original Undyed Zorb® Silver- This American-made material is a blend of 28% cotton, 26% Tencel, 23% bamboo viscose, 13% polyester, 10% nylon. It is free of harmful chemicals, PFOS, PFOA, lead, dioxins, heavy metals, BPA, phthalates, is hypo-allergenic, and eco-friendly. Zorb® Silver has SILVADUR® (silver ions) to make it antimicrobial so that it inhibits bacterial, fungi, and algae growth, which in turn controls odors. Note: Fig Tree Panty LINERS do NOT have this soaker layer.

zorb reusable cloth incontinence and menstrural pads

WHY DO WE USE IT? Zorb® can absorb up to 10x its own weight in less than 2 seconds! In addition to this soaker layer, the back layer is also made with Zorb® and together these 2 layers of Zorb can replace up to 6 layers of French terry, 8 layers of flannel, and 5 layers of fleece! Fewer layers of material means a thinner, more comfortable pad that can hold up to ½ Cup or 4 Oz of fluid! All Zorb® fabrics will keep their super absorbency for the lifetime of the fabric and only get MORE absorbent as time goes by.

 BACK LAYER

Pads for sweat and discharge

Zorb® 4D Stay Dry Dimple Waterproof CORE ECO-PUL™ Soaker Silver Fabric. This material combines excellent absorbency, waterproofing and leak-protection to create the best pad and panty liner possible! 100% Free of PFOS, PFOA, lead, dioxins, heavy metals & BPA; Free from phthalates: contains no DEHP, DBP, BBP, DINP, DIDP and DnOP. It features SILVADUR® Antimicrobial which has been proven safe for the skin and inhibits bacterial, fungi, and algae growth, which in turn controls odors. It’s also manufactured in the USA with no harmful chemicals or finishes, making it 100% Eco-friendly. NO TOXIC SAP’S (super absorbent polymers) here! SAPs are used in traditional disposable absorption products but NOT in Fig Tree Pads! 

High quality washable reusable cloth period pads

WHY DO WE USE IT? This is a no brainer. It is THE BEST pad backing on the market! While other pad makers may use Synthetic Fleece, which can feel hotter and adds thickness (amongst other things), we have chosen to use this innovative, eco-friendly material that is good for YOU and the PLANET!

In order to offer the best of the best, our pads do come with a higher price tag, but as the saying goes, “You get what you pay for,” and you definitely deserve to be pampered with the best! Our pads are designed to last a lifetime.

How do you use your pads and what do they feel like?

Menstrual and incontinence pads

You will use them just like a traditional pad, except instead of sticky tape that holds your pad in place, you’ll simply wrap the wings of the pad around your underwear and snap it in place. The pretty side always goes against your skin (we want you to see and enjoy the fabrics you’ve chosen-that’s part of the fun!)

Cloth pads feel like normal underwear because they are made from soft, comfortable materials, not plastics. With the innovative “magic” Zorb®, they can absorb the same amount (or more) fluids than disposables in the same amount of time (or even faster)! There is no sticky tape to get caught on your thighs or pubic hair and you don’t even notice the snaps. The beautiful, fun, and positive fabrics are meant to bring a little joy to your life every time you look at them, in addition to making you feel comfortable and confident. 

When do you change your pad and how much do they hold?

You will change your pad as often as you feel like it! Every single pad we sell can hold up to a half cup/4oz of fluid. That’s 4 menstrual cups worth. That’s a lot, and most people will go their whole CYCLE without bleeding that much! How often you change your pad is really a matter of your comfort and what feels good to you. Disposable pad manufacturers recommend changing pads every 2-6 hrs. You will change your pad when you feel like it. Sometimes that might be every hour on your heaviest day. You don't HAVE to wait until it's at it's max capacity, but how nice is it to know your pad has the capability to hold that much? With a wing extender you can customize the width of your pad to catch more.

HOWEVER, with a stash of fun and beautiful pads you’ll WANT to change your pad more often so you can enjoy the fabrics you’ve picked out. AND you won’t have to worry about the environmental impact and the expense of disposable pads.

Be aware that they will not magically absorb blood clots (not even a disposable pad will do that). You’ll have to wipe them off with TP and toss them in the toilet. If you are someone who has a lot of clots, you may want to invest in some Gusher Pads, there are many great ones out there. They are made with several layers of material and slits across the whole pad to capture clots and spread fluids quickly.

Washable eco-friendly cloth pads

What do I do when my pad needs to be changed and I’m not at home?

Pad wrapper for menstrual pad

When you buy your pads, you can also buy a pad wrapper- a little pouch for carrying around your pad. You can keep your pad in its wrapper in your purse or backpack and when it’s time to change your pad, just swap it out with your used pad. The snaps on the pad wings make it easy to fold up your pad into a tight little package that can be discreetly stored in the wrapper until you get home. If you don’t have a pad wrapper, you can use a zippered bag, Ziploc, or a small waterproof menstrual pad (we sell them in our shop, or you can find them online).

 

wet bags for menstrual pads

Do reusable pads smell when you use them?

Disposable pads usually use SAP’s or super absorbent polymers. These are gelling crystals that expand when they are full of fluids. This chemical reaction produces a smell. With CLOTH pads, liquids dry inside the core, absorbed by the inner soaker layer made from Zorb® with SILVADUR® (silver ions) to make it antimicrobial so that it inhibits bacterial, fungi, and algae growth, which in turn controls odors. 

Can pads be used for urinary incontinence?

Yes! However, there are MANY different kinds of incontinence and while Fig Tree Pads and Liners are for light incontinence, they will NOT work for total loss of bladder control, since emptying a full bladder is too much fluid all at once, and the pad can’t keep up. Stress incontinence, which happens when someone coughs, sneezes, laughs, or does certain movements can cause bladder leaks due to weak pelvic floor muscles. There is also urge incontinence, sometimes called overactive bladder where several times a day you’ll have the urge to pee, but not much comes, if anything comes out. Some people experience both! Cloth pads can save you THOUSANDS of dollars over a lifetime, as 1 in 4 women over the age of 18 will experience bladder leaks! Certain health events unique to women including pregnancy, childbirth and menopause can all cause problems with muscles and nerves that help the bladder hold or pass urine.  https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/urinary-incontinence. Whatever the cause or reason, having a pad you can count on to catch the drips, dribbles and gushes will help you feel more comfortable and confident. Interlabial pads or ILP's will also slow the flow down, acting like a wick so the pad has time to absorb it. Or ILP'S on their own/with a liner can work well for very light dribbling.How often and how much urine leaks during the day will determine how many and what size pads you need. Remember, our pads are designed to hold up to ½ cup of liquid! HOWEVER, you need to give the Zorb a chance to absorb the liquid which is why they aren't good for full on accidents.

Can pads be used for heavy flow?

Yes! We have various products that are good for heavy flow. The first is our ILP’s (Interlabial pads) which are petal-shaped pads that are placed between your labia. These can be used with a pad to slow the absorption or redirect your flow across your pad more evenly. These ILP’s can be coupled with one of our Standard Fig Tree Pads, or with our Super Zorb® 3D Stay Dry Pads. To learn more about ILP's- see this article we've written.

  

 Our 15" and 18" pads are longer than any disposable pad out there, making them ideal for heavy days!

washable eco-friendly cloth pads  zero waste period pads

 

Our Super Zorb® 3D Stay Dry Pads:

The top layer is the Zorb® 3D Stay Dry Dimple Silver Fabric which wicks moisture away from your body to keep your skin dry). The special dimple pattern is for greater absorption, distribution, and retention of fluids. It is couples with the original Zorb soaker layer and a waterproof Zorb backing. They will feel stiffer and bit rougher than the Stay Dry LYCRA, Minky, and Velour pads. 

  

 

Our Night-time pads have THREE layers of Zorb® just like our Supers- Top layer is our Zorb® 3D Stay Dry Dimple Silver Fabric, middle is our original Zorb Silver Soaker fabric, and backing is our waterproof Zorb fabric. They come in 2XL (15") and 3XL (18") and are WIDER than any of our other pads making them great for SUPER heavy flows and postpartum. The biggest and thickest ones are our Double Core Night-time pads, which have an extra soaker layer. These don't just have to be worn at night, they can also work for heavy days. 

 


Do you have anything made for overnight?

Yes! SEE ABOVE! The night-time pads have a wider shape than the regular pads (much wider at the top and bottom). Like the Super Zorb Stay Dry Pads, they will feel stiffer because of the 3 layers of Zorb®. But they will also hold twice as much fluid as regulars and offer more coverage. They come in 2XL (15") and 3XL (18") and we even offer them with a double core for 4 layers of Zorb, making them great for SUPER heavy flows and postpartum.

How many pads do I need?

Reusable, washable, high-quality cloth pads

This will depend on your flow, length of period, or whether you’re using them every day for bladder leaks, sweat or discharge. The other question to ask yourself is, “How often do I want to do laundry?” You could get away with just a handful of pads if you’re washing them every day, but if you want enough for your whole cycle (waiting to wash them all at the same time), you’ll need a lot more. That could mean 10, 20, or even 30 pads. Remember though, you do NOT have to buy them all at once! Take some time trying out the different fabrics and sizes to see what works best for you and your lifestyle. You will likely want a variety of sizes and types for different days. BUT REMEMBER- grow your stash slowly, see what you like, and don't feel like you have to quit your disposables cold turkey- give yourself time to adjust.

What sizes do your pads come in?

Standard Fig Tree Pads: XS (8”), S(9”), M(10”), LG (11”), XL (12”), 2XL(15”), 3XL (18”). All are ~2.75” wide when snapped.

Made with topper fabric of Minky, Stay Cool Lycra, or Organic Cotton Velour, as well as the Original Zorb as a soaker layer, and Zorb® 4D Stay Dry Dimple Waterproof CORE ECO-PUL™ Soaker Silver Fabric as the backing. That’s 2 layers of Zorb®!

Reusable high quality cloth pads

SUPER Zorb Fig Tree Pad: One Size-12.5” long, and 3” wide when snapped (also wider at the top and bottom for more coverage).

Super Zorb pads

Made with Zorb® 3D Stay Dry Dimple Silver Fabric as a topper, Original Zorb as a soaker layer, and then Zorb® 4D Stay Dry Dimple Waterproof CORE ECO-PUL™ Soaker Silver Fabric as the backing. These are great for overnight, EXTRA heavy flows, postpartum, etc. That’s 3 layers of Zorb®! 

Fig Tree Liners:  6”, and 9”. Both 2.75” wide when snapped.

Made with topper fabric of Minky, Stay Cool Lycra, or Organic Cotton Velour, and our standard Zorb® 4D Stay Dry Dimple Waterproof CORE ECO-PUL™ Soaker Silver Fabric as the backing. Only one layer of the mighty Zorb® 

Fig Tree Night-time Pads:

These TRIPLE Zorb and QUADDROUPLE Zorb pads come in 2XL (15”) and 3XL (18”). They have the same materials as the Super Zorb 3D Stay Dry Pads but are wider at the top, bottom, and center. They hold TWICE as much fluid as our regular pads. Lastly, we have SUPER OVERNIGHTS which are the same shape as the Regular Overnights, but have TWO inner Original Zorb layers, for a TOTAL of FOUR layers of Zorb®! These will also work well as POST PARTUM Pads if you need something heavier than the Regular or SUPER Pads.

Overnight Pads

 

ILP’s: What are they made of? How do you wear them? What is their purpose?

ILP’s stands for Interlabial Pads. They are petal shaped pads that are placed in the labia (lips) or the folds of skin around your vaginal opening. DO NOT PLACE THEM IN YOUR VAGINA. The ones I sell in my shop are 4” long by 2.5” wide and are made with 2 layers of Organic Cotton Velour.  

How do you wear them? There are LOTS of ways to wear them, and you will have to experiment to see what feels best to you. It WILL take some getting used to so don’t give up right away. They can be folded in half lengthwise, you can fold the top down and then in ½, roll them lengthwise or widthwise, or however feels comfortable to you.

Interlabial pads
Interlabial Pads (ILP)
What is their purpose? They can help slow or redirect the flow of liquid more evenly over your pad or provide an additional layer of absorption to catch fluids before they get to your pad. You can also use them with a menstrual cup/tampon to catch any leaks, or by themselves for discharge, or sweat. They are also fantastic for light urinary incontinence to catch those little unexpected leaks.
Check out our blog post here for more info, including my personal experience.
caution

CAUTION: They can’t be used while swimming, and they need to be removed before peeing. Be careful not to forget about them and drop them in the toilet when you sit down to go to the bathroom! They can be handwashed or washed with your pads. Keeping them in a delicate’s bag can help them not get eaten by the washer (go here for more detailed instructions)!

How do you care for Fig Tree Pads, Liners, and ILP’s?

Step 1: Remove ILP or pad from underwear, snap it shut (or not), and toss it into your wet bag until the end of your cycle (or you run out of pads).

Optional: You can rinse off your pad in cold water, treat with stain stick/hydrogen peroxide (1 part hydrogen peroxide to 3 parts water stored in dark container) if needed, and THEN throw it in your wet bag (or let pad air dry before putting it in your wet bag).

Step 2: At end of cycle/wash day, unsnap pads, stain treat any that need it, and put everything, including the wet bag into the washer.

Step 3: Do a short COLD rinse (no detergent).

Step 4: Check any pads you're worried about to see if they need some hydrogen peroxide or stain treatment.

Step 5: Do a normal HOT wash (with pad safe detergent)- to save on water, you can even throw in some other clothes.

Step 6:  After the wash cycle is done, remove your wet bag and let it air dry and toss your pads in the dryer on low/Med or hang dry (check out our pad drying hooks). You can use wool dryer balls to keep your pads from sticking and help them dry faster (extra towels can also help).

 DO NOT USE: bleach, borax, acidic detergents/detergents with a lot of salts, dryer sheets or fabric softeners, as these can decrease absorbency and shorten the life of your pads. Do not iron pads.

 

Do some pads stain more than others?

First of all, stains do not mean your pads are “dirty.” The rust color is from the iron in your blood reacting to the natural fibers in the fabric. This is why you’ll see staining on your cotton pads, and not Minky. Minky is made from polyester, which is not a natural fiber, so it is 100% stain resistant. To prevent staining in natural fibers, you can rinse your pads in cold water right after removing them, rub a stain stick over them or spray with diluted hydrogen peroxide (see suggested detergents and stain removers below), and then let them air dry before placing in your wet bag. You can also wait until the end of your cycle, give them a quick spray with hydrogen peroxide, rub stain stick on them, or add 1 TBSP baking soda to the washer during the initial cold water rinse. Hot water will set stains.

stain resistant cloth pads


What detergents do you recommend to use?

Detergents to use:.

A few common ones that can be found in stores or online are: Earth Breeze, Seventh Generation, Simple Truth, Tru Earth, Ecos, Wild Harvest, Dr. Bronners, Thieves, Heritage Park, and Meliora.  

Here is an Amazon list of some great options for cloth pads. https://a.co/b391Er1

Stain Removers:

Natural stain remover spray: 1 part Hydrogen Peroxide to 3 parts water (store in dark colored spray bottle).

1 Tablespoon Baking soda during initial cold rinse

Kind Laundry- Vegan Stain Remover bar, unscented

Fels-Naptha Laundry Bar and Stain Remover, unscented

 DO NOT USE: bleach, borax, acidic detergents/detergents with a lot of salts, dryer sheets or fabric softeners, as these can decrease absorbency and shorten the life of your pads.  

Are cloth pads better for your health?

Yes, absolutely! Disposable pads contain chemicals for absorption or  SAPs (super absorbent polymers), as well as chemicals to control odor, and bleaching agents. Apart from chlorine bleach not being good for your skin, a byproduct of the bleaching process is dioxins, a chemical documented to be carcinogenic, suppressing the immune system and decreasing liver function. Who knew a disposable pad could cause that much damage (to the wearer AND the environment). That’s not all though, the World Health Organization3 has recognized fetuses as the most vulnerable to dioxins! Switching to cloth pads during your pregnancy is not just good for you, but also your baby. Dioxins show a resistance to biological breakdown, so they accumulate inside our bodies! So why would you want to put all these chemicals next to the most delicate part of your body where they can be easily absorbed?!? You wouldn’t, right? Still, many people don’t know that there is a better way to handle period blood, bladder leaks, discharge and sweat! If you'd like to learn more about the chemicals used in disposable pads, this website has a LOT more info 

If those weren’t enough reasons to switch, people also report A LOT less skin irritation when switching to cloth, as well as fewer yeast infections that occur after a period (because of how breathable cloth pads are). So, what are you waiting for?? Head over to the shop and pick out some pads to try. It may just change your life!

Why should I try Fig Tree Pads?

Our reusable pads are a smart choice for your body and the environment. Not only will you avoid inserting or exposing yourself to harmful plastics, adhesives, chemical gels, and artificial fragrances found in disposable products, but you will dramatically reduce waste too! It’s estimated that the average menstruator will use over 11,000 disposables in their lifetime1. Then you think about all the incontinence products on top of that, and it's a LOT of garbage going into our landfills! Since 90% of disposable pads are plastic, they can take 500-800 YEARS to only PARTIALLY biodegrade, and some say it takes at least 1,000 to start biodegrading2. Even when they do start degrading, they release toxic chemicals like chlorine and dioxins that can hurt animals, and humans alike.3

While there is an initial investment as you build your stash, you won't have to buy them again, they can be washed and reused over and over, saving you a TON of money in the long run by not having to buy disposables each month (maybe for the rest of your life!). Imagine never having to remember to restock your period or light incontinence products each month! 

MY GOAL for Fig Tree Studio is to create products that make you FEEL BETTER, and MORE CONFIDENT. I hope that the fun and beautiful fabrics bring you JOY and spread POSITIVITY. It's time to TALK more OPENLY about periods and incontinence and offer better solutions than disposables. Fig Tree Reusable are DESIGNED with YOU in MIND! From the highest quality, and most innovative materials, to providing education, and options to help you be successful in your Cloth Pad JOURNEY. Once you find the styles/sizes that work best for YOUR body, you’ll be SO grateful that you DIDN’T give up!

Thank you SO MUCH for supporting our small business, it means the world to us!

With love and gratitude,

Jenny DeFiglia Mickelson

Me, on my little Island. :)

 

References:         

  1. Menstruation and Sanitary protection/Femcare market facts and figures, (2007), Absorbent Hygiene Products Manufacturers http://www.ahpma.co.uk/docs/Menstruation%20Facts%20and%20Figs.pdf
  2. Plastic Planet: How tiny plastic particles are polluting our soil. UNEP 2018.
  3. Dioxins and their effects on human health, (2016), World Health organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dioxins-and-their-effects-on-human-health
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