The irony of it is how Americans at the same time cry how tough the economy is, how tight finances are, how they have no 'disposable' income for enjoyable things, what a mess the environment is in, how landfills don't decompose as quickly as they are touted to, how we need to reduce our trash!
Well, down with disposables! If you want disposable income to have fun with, you have to be disciplined enough to do the work of not using disposable items like paper plates, paper/styrofoam cups, disposable food storage containers, plastic water bottles, plastic baggies. . .
At this little place here, just about everything that comes in as 'disposable' plastic ends up serving us for at least a year. We wash, dry and reuse plastic cups; it's fun to be someone else when you reuse cups from a party or gathering where people have written their names on the cups in Sharpie. . .suddenly an eight year old girl becomes "Da Man", and a twelve year old boy can be "Aunt Alice" or "Grandma".
We do the same with plastic knives, forks, spoons, water bottles, and all reclosable baggies get used dozens of times. Gives you a laugh when you take a piece of last night's homemade pizza to work for lunch in a baggie that says "broccoli 2010". At least, the strange look your co-worker gives you is funny. Or, when the bully at school wants to know what little Junior has in his lunch (so he can swipe it) and Junior replies "broccoli", it's not a complete lie; that's what the bag says he has for lunch.
For the hardcore saver, ditch the disposable diapers and yes, even the conventional disposable feminine hygiene items. Cloth diapers and cloth feminine napkins can be reused for years, not only saving you money by only having to purchase them once, but also by not having to pay to have them hauled away in the trash.
Cloth diapering I all ready talked a little bit about in my post Babies on The Cheap (Sept. 2011). Cloth feminine napkins I hadn't come out about yet. I've been using them for over a decade, and most of the original ones I made are still in action. Since I didn't buy any fabric to make them out of, electing to use flannel scraps from pjs I made my kids, my only cost was the snaps. And snaps are cheap. You can get a whole card of them (ie dozens) for a couple bucks.
If you haven't heard of washable 'mama pads' before, well read on! For even more enlightenment on the subject, do some research on the internet. Tampon users, there's a reusable alternative for those too although I can't give first hand testimonial on that product.
For those of you who are totally grossed out, stop reading now. If you're made of tougher stuff, read further.
I heard about washable pads around the time of Y2K. Since bodily fluids don't freak me out, and my sensitive skin was horribly irritated by bleached paper disposable pads, I was intrigued with the idea of all cotton washable pads.
I found a pattern online, and, after spending an hour or two of time doing a little cutting and sewing, I had enough washable pads to get me through my next period.
When the time was right, I tried them, a bit doubtful that they were truly as wonderful as what I had read online. The claims about less cramping, lighter flow, and shorter periods when using cloth vs disposable pads; I was going to find out for myself if these were actually possible.
Here's what I discovered:
- I didn't have irritation down there. For the first time ever. One negative aspect of being on my period was now deleted.
- I definitely didn't bleed as heavily, or for as many days as what had been my 'normal' with traditional feminine products. Who doesn't want shorter periods?
- The cloth pads didn't feel any more bulky than the 'overnight' disposable ones. And they were a lot softer.
Okay, so it wasn't all peachy. There is a little thing called leakage that I had to learn to deal with, since we are talking about only several layers of cotton instead of a paper pad laced with moisture absorbing crystals and backed by plastic.
By monitoring the pad every couple of hours, it was easy to change it before any leaking occurred. And for nighttime, I could make pads with a few more layers, pads with thicker 'wings' (where most leakage seemed to occur), or make special ones with a waterproof nylon backing.
But overall, I'm sold on cloth pads. I've been using them for more than 10 years. At home, at work, while traveling. Like using cloth diapers, they do take some care and planning, especially for the times when you won't be home and need to change your pad. But not impossible. It's just learning a new habit.
When I look at how much one cycle's worth of disposable pads costs these days, it boggles my mind that I am using pads that cost me nothing (being made of scraps from other sewing projects) other than a bit of thread and a snap per pad and one load of soap and water for my washing machine. (See my post of DIY laundry soap for savings there). I'm still using some of that first set of pads, although some did get fairly thin over time, and I made a second batch so I'd have more. Just the other day I made a few more to replace some of the oldest ones (I'll show pictures of the construction further down in this post) and to experiment a bit with thickening those wings for better leakage control overnight.
If you'd like to give these a try, and have sewing skills, there are websites that have printable patterns. Just do a search for 'washable menstrual pads pattern'. Or, if you have never sewn before and don't really care to learn just yet, there are many websites where you can order these pads. Do a search for 'where to buy cloth menstrual pads'.
And now, here's a brief description of how I constructed mine.
It begins with scraps of flannel from other projects. Or, in the case of the newest few that I made just this month, a flannel nightgown I got at a rummage sale for a quarter. It was not the nightgown itself I wanted so much as the cheerful fabric it was constructed from. . . Why not have some fun with your period? Why not have suns and flowers and butterflies on your pads?
I laid out my patterns on the fabric (after cutting the nightgown apart at the seams) and cut the pieces. 6-8 layers for the thick pads and 4 for lighter weight pads. A bottom piece, and two top pieces (the top pieces overlap to make a pocket) to become a cover to put the pad into.
Then I sewed the layers of the each pad together, about 1/4 inch from the edges.
Once all the pads had been sewn together, it was time to sew the covers for them. I conducted an experiment with this new batch of pads. I'd decided to see if I could find a solution to occasional 'leakage' at the wings without having to resort to a non-cotton material (since my sensitive skin much prefers cotton). So, one cover I made of double thick flannel on top and bottom, giving it 4 layers at the wings instead of just two. A second cover I decided to sew pieces of an old towel into the wings and see if the terry cloth worked well. The second cover is the one I took pictures of constructing.
To make the covers, you need a 1/2" hem on the pocket flap of each top piece. Then, just put the bottom and tops (tops overlapping) together right sides in, and sew 1/4" around the edges. Turn right side out, and that's all there is to it.
For the cover with the towel liner, I sewed the liner into the wing of each 'top' piece. (Because when you use them, I've found it works best to actually have the top down and the 'bottom' up. Confused yet? The pad stays in the cover better this way no matter what kind of contortions you get yourself into while wearing it.)
Then just complete as with the instructions above, putting tops and bottom together right sides in, sew the edges, flip right side out, and you're done. Sew a snap onto each wing, and the cover is finished.
To use, put the pad into the cover via the pocket.
For more info or more detailed tutorials on making and using washable pads, do an internet search. You'll find tons of reading material and several variations in design.