Reusable Period Options

Reusable Period Options

Let’s talk Reusable Period Products! If you want to know why I choose to reuse myself, check out my post about 4 Easy Things to Switch to Sustainable.

Photo by Vanessa Ramirez at

There are MANY options to choose from when switching your period to the reusable realm, but there a few things they all have in common. First off, they all severely cut down on the amount of waste contributed to landfills. Secondly, reusable products put more control in the hands of the consumer regarding chemical exposure. Lastly, and the part I’m going to focus on most, almost all the options listed below save money in the long run.

To compare savings, I’m using the cost per pad of a leading brand of disposable heavy flow pads with wings ($0.21/pad) and super absorbency tampons ($0.19/tampon). This is a non-organic line and found at most big-box stores. I’m going to base my cost comparisons on my own pad usage of 5 pads a day times 7 days per cycle times 60 cycles (5 years). My pad costs would come to roughly $441, and Tampons $399.


Cloth Pads

These work much like their disposable counterparts. They attach to your underwear to catch the flow of your period, and you change them regularly throughout the day. The basic anatomy of a cloth pad is a top, an absorbent core, a backing, and a closure. All these components can vary from brand to brand and come down to personal preference. For example, I prefer a minky topped, natural fiber core, fleece backed pad for myself. Some may prefer a flannel top, synthetic core, and laminated fabric backing (such TPU or PUL).

Cloth pads are also very DIY/Upcycle friendly. It’s easy to find cotton flannel and thick polyester fleece and there is a wealth of free and paid pad patterns available on the internet. One draw-back to cloth pads is that they are not as trim as their disposable counterparts, and will show through some clothes, such as leggings. You will also need to decide how you want to store your soiled pads until wash time, which means possibly purchasing accessories.

As far as cost & savings, prices on cloth menstrual pads vary widely. You can find a set of 6 heavy flow pads for $16.49 (plus a storage bag) on amazon, while some etsy shops have their heavy flow pads listed for $14/pad. The costs get even more complicated by how often you plan to wash your pads during your cycle. If I planned to wash every other day, I would want 15 pads, so it would cost me anywhere from $49.47 (amazon) to $210 (esty shop) for pads. Remember, our leading brand of disposables is going to cost us around $441 over 5 years. That means potential savings are around $400 over 5 years. Did I mention cloth pads can last long past 5 years?

Period Panties

                These are specially made underwear to use during your period to replace or support pads and tampons. Some brands are made to be underwear + built in pad, while others have pad-like inserts that go with the underwear. For this post, I’m going to focus more on the all-in-one style as the other treads into the pad territory we already covered. The two major brands that I found in my googling both had the same anatomy: Moisture wicking layer, absorbent layer, leak-resistant layer, actual underwear layer. They also offered different underwear styles such as thongs, hip-huggers and high-waisted, with some styles having a heavier flow rating than others (let’s be realistic—heavy-flow thongs would be a logistical nightmare). The biggest pro-con of these is the same: it’s all one piece, so yay you only have a few period items to buy and store. However, this also means having to partially disrobe mid-day to change out a fresh pair.

To make cost comparison easy, I’m going to compare the panties that advertised a 2 tampons flow-max and cost $34. So, if I use 5 tampons a day, I’m going to need minimum of 3 of this kind of period panty per day. If I want to wash every other day, I need 9 and will have to spend $306. This is obviously not as much savings-potential as the cloth-pads, but there is still savings there since remember, disposable pads will cost me $441 over 5 years.


Menstrual Cups

If tampons are your usual go-to product, menstrual cups might be the right fit for your reusable switch. As their name indicates, they are cups (usually made of medical grade silicone) that catch your menstrual flow instead of absorbing them like conventional tampons. This makes removing the cup less abrasive than tampons, especially towards the end of your cycle when you have less being discharged from your body. Menstrual cup brands often offer 2-3 size options so women can get a better fit fortheir body, and this is probably the most accessible option for reusable period products since they can be found in local big box stores.

Much like with the cloth pads, the savings for menstrual cups is going to vary widely. Some brands available at Target were as low as $17.99 while others were priced at $37.49. If it takes a few tries to find the right size and brand for you, that could quickly cut into possible savings. However, even if it took 3 tries with the most expensive brand from Target, it would only cost $112.47 to switch to a cup vs the $399 I would be spending on tampons.

Cloth Tampons

These seem to be most often made from organic cotton, either sewn rectangular fabric or knitted/crocheted bullet shapes. Both are inserted just like disposable tampons, but instead of throwing these away, you wash and reuse them. One downside to consider, just like disposable tampons, if you use the wrong absorbency level for the current flow of your cycle, it might be a little dry upon removal and cause discomfort.

On the savings front, these seem to cost around $2.30/tampon on the Etsy shops I found. Continuing with needing a minimum of 5 tampons a day and washing every other day, I would need to spend around $34.50 to switch to cloth ones. This would give me a savings of roughly $364.50 on period products over 5 years.

Interlabial Pads

These seems to be made more for your light period days or to boost the effectiveness of your cloth pads or period panties. These are tear-drop or leaf shaped pieces of fabric meant to be folded and placed between the labia. Just like the other fabric based reusable period products, this is great for DIYers. If you have a bunch of 4 inch square scraps of natural fiber fabrics these might end up costing you nothing, and you’ll be throwing away less unused fabric! This also work great to help with incontinence issues (the dreaded sneeze-pee) and could be used to replace disposable panty liners.

If you’re a hobby seamstress with an abundance of the needed fabric lying around (guilty), Interlabial pads would have 100% savings. If not, they are extremely well priced on Etsy, averaging less than $1/pad. Using 12 of these to replace my $0.06 disposable panty liners, I would see savings after about 200 uses, and since I use a liner most days (again, sneeze-pee), These would have paid for themselves in less than a year, and save me about $20 every year after.

I know there may be some women out there wondering “what about those sea sponges?” Well, after reading this article by Dr. Jen Gunter’s I didn’t feel comfortable including them in my list.

I hope this helps you in your search to green-up your period experience. I know there are several things I’d rather spend $88 a year on than literally throwing it in the trash with disposable products.

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is not medical advice. Questions and concerns about your health should be taken to a licensed health care professional.

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