Zero Waste Period? Part 2 of 2

A couple months ago, I shared a post on the first part of this subject.  This is a continuation, discussing another product that can help you achieve a zero waste period.

Similar to how I started my other post:  If you’re not a lady, or are a coworker and suspect this may be too much information, it probably is.  And you should probably stop reading.  Maybe jump over to this fun Earth Day post about things you can do to help the planet!  

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.  See my Disclosure Policy for more information.

Ok, hopefully I’ve filled enough of the page with unrelated text that you didn’t see anything you don’t want to see.  Now I’ll get on with the cool product that I discovered that has allowed me to have zero waste periods for 2.5 years and counting.  

reusable pad title

Reusable pads: a staple for the zero waste period

About 2.5 years ago, I discovered the reusable cotton menstrual pad.  And it is amazing.  No longer am I purchasing plastic lined pads, in plastic packaging, which ends up in landfills every month.  Nor do I need to deal with that uncomfortable feeling of plastic up against my delicate regions.  Now, a one-time purchase (which included NO plastic packaging) has kept me going for over 2 years.

What are reusable pads?

Reusable pads are a bit like those cloth diapers that are becoming more and more popular.  They have a waterproof (plastic-lined) outer layer and cotton or bamboo inner layers that contact the skin and absorb.  My favorites have a flannel cotton layer against my skin, and 1-2 layers of bamboo fabric between the flannel and waterproof fabric layer.  They also have “wings” like some conventional pads.  These wings are particularly important on reusable pads because they don’t have plastic adhesive to stick to your underwear, so these wings help keep the pad in place.

reusable pads
different shape reusable pads

I have a variety of reusable pads, some purchased and some that I made myself.  I determined the general shape that I thought would best meet my needs, and purchased the one in the top right of the above photo.  Then I adjusted the shape and length to what I thought would be most comfortable for me.  

How do you use reusable pads?

I typically use my reusable pads as a backup to my menstrual cup (you can read more about these in my earlier post) and when I am expecting my period, so they see very low flow.  For these reasons, I like thin pads.  I made some of my own to perfectly fit my needs.  They are only 3 layers thick: waterproof outer layer, bamboo center layer, and flannel inner layer; and they have a narrow width.  I also realized that I didn’t need anything special for the wings, so rather than sewing more flannel, I just used a 1″ wide strip of heavyweight cotton twill tape. 

homemade reusable pads
my homemade reusable pads

If you’re using a reusable pad for heavier flow, you may want a thicker, wider, and/or longer pad.  Again, these can be purchased or made.  There are many different styles available online.  Some have large wings, more similar to conventional maxi-pads, which may be desirable for heavier flow days.

larger reusable pads
What are the benefits to using reusable pads?

I see two main benefits to using reusable pads: less waste, and more comfortable.

Reusable pads eliminate the need to generate waste each month when I get my period.  Overall they use less resources.  While energy, water, and supplies go into the production of reusable pads, this is a one time resources cost.  The pads are then used over and over for years.  Conventional disposable pads both become waste in and of themselves, and have an inherent waste associated with manufacturing each of these single use items.  

I personally find reusable pads to be much more comfortable than conventional disposable pads. The cotton layer is soft against my skin.  It does not stick, chafe, or irritate like the plastic on disposable pads.  Also, I have never had an allergic reaction to cotton reusable pads, like I have to plastic disposable pads.  This comfort factor alone would be enough to make me choose reusable pads over disposables. 

reusable pads
reusable pads fold up small
How do I keep them clean?

The super-simple answer is: soak, machine wash, tumble dry.

I have found that it is easy to keep reusable pads clean from a sanitary perspective, but they do not always look clean without additional effort. 

As I am sure you all know, blood stains.  The easiest way to prevent stains from setting is to wash before the stain dries. 

Before the stain dries

If I’m able to wash my pads before the blood has a chance to dry, I either rinse with cold water then place in a water-filled, covered bucket, or place directly in the water-filled, covered bucket.  This allows the stain to soak and come out easier in the wash.  I keep this bucket out of sight in my laundry room, so it doesn’t bother others in the household or guests.  I also use a ceramic cookie jar as my bucket, so no one can see what’s inside without removing the cover. 

The next time I’m ready to do laundry, I remove the soaking pads from the bucket and place directly in the washing machine.  Then I discard the soaking water in the sink or toilet, and rinse or wash out the bucket with a mild soap (I use Dr. Brommer’s or my homemade liquid castile soap).  I machine wash with my clothing – I always use cool wash/cold rinse to save energy.  If there is no visible staining on the pad, I toss in the dryer with the clothes to dry.  If there is visible staining, either air dry, or work on that stain right away.  Heat sets stains, so if you dry with a stain visible you’ll have a harder time removing it.  

After the stain has dried

To remove stains – either dried on when I removed the pad or still visible after washing, I use hydrogen peroxide.  It’s under $1 for 32 fl oz at Walmart (in the first aid section).  I soak the stained area with hydrogen peroxide, and keep reapplying more hydrogen peroxide until the stain fades or disappears.  I make sure to always keep the stain damp with hydrogen peroxide until I am satisfied that it is cleaned.  Then I launder with my clothing and air or tumble dry.

Sometimes, I take it one step farther to “sanitize.”  If the pad wasn’t stained (as often happens when I use it as a backup to my cup), after washing and drying I just put back in my cabinet for use next month.  I see it as no different from how I clean my panties.  If the pads were stained and I feel like I should take additional steps to “sanitize,” I either iron them (using heat to kill) or I use a UV light to sanitize

Note: I am not a doctor or a scientist, and I cannot make claims about the effectiveness of using heat or UV lights to sanitize.  I am only reporting my beliefs, based on my research and personal use. 

a reusable pad with longer wings
a reusable pad with longer wings
How long do they last?

I have been using my reusable pads for about 2.5 years.  I have been rotating through about 15 of these, and I use 1-2 per day about 7 days/month.  So I end up using almost all of them each month.  And they are holding up very well.  As with most fabrics, the flannel layers get a little “fizzy” looking, but they have not pilled, and they are remaining absorbent and holding together very well.  The reusable pads that I purchased, in particular, are holding up exceptionally well.  The pads I purchased advertised 3-5 years use in a rotation of 10 pads, and based on my experience I expect to get 5 years at a minimum out of each. 

How much to they cost?

Cost of reusable pads varies a bit, but the ones I purchased cost me about $28 for 5 (in 2015), and $62 for 10 (in 2016).   So, 15 pads cost me $90.  I estimate these pads will last at least 5 years.  Assuming an average 28 day cycle, that’s 13 periods/year and 65 periods in 5 years.  $90/65=$1.38 per period.  I estimate that when I was using disposable pads/liners, I was using at least 15 per cycle.  The (non-organic) liners that I used to use are $9 for 108, or about $0.75 per period ($9/108×15=$0.75).  If I was using disposable liners now I would insist on organic cotton, which are $16 for 72, or about $3.33 per period ($16/72×15=$3.33).  

Comparing cost of a reusable pad to a conventional disposable pad, the reusable is almost twice the cost.  However, if I was using organic cotton disposable pads (in my opinion better for my body and a little better for the environment), the reusable pads are less than half the cost.  Additionally, to me it’s about more than just the money.  A reusable cotton pad is more comfortable, better for my body, AND better for the environment.  

homemade reusable pads

Can I DIY?

Absolutely!  If you can sew, you can make your own pads.  As I mentioned, I have sewn a few of my own reusable pads, in order to customize the size and shape.  It simply required me to purchase plastic-coated fabric (PUL), bamboo fabric, flannel fabric (though you could use the bamboo on the inner side as well as middle layer(s), cotton twill tape for wings, and plastic snaps.  To be even more environmentally friendly, you could sew on metal snaps.  

Would you like to see instructions on how to sew reusable pads?  I could write a post about that if anyone is interested!  Let me know in the comments, or by sending me a private message using the form on my About Me page!


Have you tried any alternative products to reduce waste with your period?


Cleaning without Chemicals – UV Light

You all know that I try to avoid synthetic chemicals.  What you might not know is that I am also a science nerd.  And while I dislike clutter, I love useful, functional gadgets.  And this is how I found a simple and inexpensive method for cleaning without chemicals, using a UV light wand.

Note: I am not a doctor or a scientist, and I cannot make claims about the effectiveness of this product.  I am only reporting my beliefs, based on my research and personal use. 

Disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.  See my Disclosure Policy for more information.

cleaning without chemicals title with UV wand

I have this really bad habit of perusing Kickstarter when I am bored.  It’s fun to see the new projects different people are working on, and I come across some pretty neat products.    

UV Light for cleaning without chemicals

One day I was perusing Kickstarter, and came across a product that claimed to kill some viruses and bacteria using a specific wavelength of light.  Ever curious, I began researching this claim.  And soon came to believe that it is true.  According to several studies, (Study 1Study 2, Study 3, Study 4, Study 5Study 6, and many more studies) certain wavelengths on the light spectrum can be used for cleaning without chemicals!  How cool is this?!  No synthetic chemicals, no natural chemicals, just whatever goes into making a light and its holder.  Which, I realize, does have chemicals and waste associated with it.  But, assuming they’re like other flashlights and electronics that I use, these devices can last years, with only the one time waste produced.   I’ll take that over exposing my skin and lungs to synthetic chemicals every time I need to clean!

Caution:  The wavelength of the UV light in these products can burn skin and eyes.  NEVER look at the UV light (also avoid looking at the reflection of the light) and keep bare skin away.  I wear long pants and socks when using the UV light on low surfaces.  NEVER shine the light at any people or animals.  Heed all cautions on product packaging.

cleaning without chemicals UV wand top
UV light wand

UV light wand

After learning this awesome new fact, I started researching on Amazon.  How much do these products cost?  And do users feel that they work?  I came across several UV “wands” and really liked this one.  Two things really sold me on the UV wands, and one thing sold me on the Kendal UV wand in particular.  I was very excited to try a new product for cleaning without chemicals. 

Note: the original product that introduced me to cleaning with UV light is not yet available, so I have not tried it and cannot review it at this time.

A microbiologist’s test

As I read through the reviews, I was looking for facts.  Which can be tough for a common person in relation to cleaning.  No matter how thoroughly I feel I have cleaned, I don’t really have a way to know if I have succeeded.  So [the nerd in me] was so excited when I found a review from a microbiologist.  (Yes, I know, I have no proof that this person is a microbiologist.  But I asked myself, what would this person have to gain by lying about this? — nothing that I could see.  And is there evidence to back up the claim? — yes: photos of “a common skin bacteria, Staphylococcus epidermidis, on … agar plates.” This seems real enough for me.)

Anyway, this microbiologist took samples of a common skin bacteria, put them in containers, held this UV wand over the container for either 0, 5, 10, 30, or 60 seconds, and provided photos of the containers with bacteria visible.  

The results showed a significant decrease in bacteria after 5 seconds (proving to me that this works!).  The photos showed not much more decrease in bacterial with more time under the light.  Which told me something else useful – holding the light over the surface which I am trying to sanitize for about 5 seconds is all that is needed.  If you want to see the photos, scroll down to the reviews and click on the photo for the Kendal UV wand.

cleaning without chemicals UV wand bottom, light on
UV light wand – with bulb ON
The bathroom test

This one is a little gross, but also to me proved effectiveness.  Have you ever been in a bathroom that had an unpleasant urine smell?  Worse yet, was it your own bathroom?  And despite scrubbing every surface with various cleaners, you can’t get the smell to go away?  This UV wand may be the answer to your prayers.  Several reviewers commented that the UV light made that awful smell go away.  This is honestly what sold me.  For over a year, I had this problem in my guest bathroom.  I scrubbed and scrubbed and still, especially on hot days, it stunk.  I think urine got in the grout around the tiles, but I was not looking forward to re-grouting my floor. 

My success

So I bought this UV wand.  And in a slow, sweeping motion, ensuring the light stayed over each spot at least 5 seconds, I “sanitized” my entire guest bathroom toilet, floor, sink, and door knob (only took 5-10 minutes, it is a small half bath).  The next morning, I went in the bathroom, and no stink! Yay!!

I was so excited about this find that I told several of my friends.  A couple months later, one of those friends told me that her toddler missed the toilet and now the bathroom smells unbearable despite intense cleaning.  She borrowed my UV wand and reported that it worked like magic!

I have noticed in my bathroom that, after a month or two, the smell starts to come back.  This further supports my thought that the urine or whatever is causing the smell (some bacteria?) is in the grout around the tiles.  I guess that the light kills whatever is on the surface, but that some bacteria is deeper in the grout and continues to grow, reaching the surface and starting to stink again after several weeks.  But, all I need to do is slowly run the light over the likely stink-producing surfaces once a month or so to keep the bad smell away.  

cleaning without chemicals UV wand cleaning bathroom sink
using the UV light wand to clean the faucet
Additional note on my selection of the Kendal UV Wand

There were two reasons, unrelated to the effectiveness of the UV wand, why I selected the Kendal UV wand.  One reason was the price – I paid $19.99 (April 2017).  The other comparable wands at the time were around $70. 

The second reason was a safety feature – or lack thereof.  Many of these UV wands have a safety feature where the light automatically turns off when the bulb is turned upwards.  This is so you cannot accidentally shine the light in your eyes.  But, how can I use this the clean the underside of a door knob? Or the outside underside of a toilet bowl?  The Kendal UV wand does not have this safety feature, which makes cleaning with this wand easier.  But, be careful not to shine the light in your (or anyone’s) face!

Purchasing note: It appears that the Kendal UV wand is no longer readily available as of October 2017.  This wand appears identical with the exception that the label sticker contains multiple languages.  

Have you used any alternative products for cleaning without chemicals?  Please share in the comments below!