Cloth Pads FAQ

If you're new to cloth pads, you probably have lots of questions! Learn the how and why behind using cloth menstrual pads here, plus find answers to the most common questions about making the switch.

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How to Use Cloth Pads

Although they may seem daunting at first, cloth pads are really very simple to use! GladRags Day and Night Pads consist of one holder and two inserts. This versatile design ensures thorough cleaning and allows you to make them mini or maxi by using one, two, or even three inserts. Pantyliners are just one piece. All of our pads have wings that snap around the gusset of most styles of underwear. This holds them in place while you go about your day--no adhesives necessary.

Place the inserts inside the holder.
Snap the pad around your underwear. The smooth side of the pad goes against your skin, and the wings wrap around the crotch of the underwear to snap together.
Change the complete pad (holder and inserts) every 2 to 6 hours or as needed. Your used pad goes in your laundry basket if you're at home, or a Carry Bag if you're on the go.

You'll want to change your cloth pad about as often as you would change a similar disposable pad. For example, if you typically change your disposable pad about every four hours, you'll want to do the same with your GladRags Day Pad. You can also check the pad (even remove it from your underwear and turn it over) to visually see how saturated it is. Like a disposable pad, if a cloth pad becomes fully saturated, it may leak.

If you're out of the house, you can easily use and change your cloth pad. Simply bring a discreet Carry Bag with you to hold your used and fresh pads. After removing your used cloth pad, you can easily fold the pad in on itself and snap it shut to form a neat little package that can be slipped into your Carry Bag. Once home, you can wash the pad when you're ready.

How to Choose the Right Pads for You

This is such a common question that we actually have a quiz for it! Fill out our product recommendation survey to get a personalized answer about the best products for you.

When you're deciding which style of cloth pads you need, the most important factor is the absorbency level. After you determine your absorbency, you can choose if you need a longer or larger style (like our Plus line of Pantyliners & Day Pads) for additional coverage. The table below will help you determine which styles may be right for you.

Choose Pantyliners if...

  • you want back-up for a menstrual cup or tampon
  • you have very light flow, including at the very beginning or end of your cycle
  • you want to wear everyday protection

Choose the GladRags Pantyliner if you prefer mini sized liners, and the GladRags Pantyliner Plus if you prefer more coverage in the front and back. Choose the GladRags Thong Pantyliner for use with thong underwear. View size chart here.

Choose Day Pads if...

  • you typically use standard absorbency disposable day pads
  • you sometimes leak urine when you sneeze or laugh (happens to the best of us!)
  • you have moderate flow

Choose the GladRags Day Pad if you prefer standard size maxi pads, and the GladRags Day Pad Plus Plus if you prefer a longer and wider coverage area. All Day Pads come with 1 Day Holder and 2 Inserts that allow you to customize the absorbency of the pad according to your flow. View size chart here.


Choose Night Pads if...

  • you have just given birth and need postpartum protection
  • you tend to leak heavily over the front or back of your pads
  • you have heavy flow

    The GladRags Night Pad comes with 1 Night Holder and 2 Inserts that allow you to customize the absorbency of the pad according to your flow. For the most coverage, choose our Night Pad Plus which includes 1 Night Holder and 2 extra-coverage Night Inserts. View size chart here.

    Of course, most people will want a variety of cloth pads in their collection. While the number of pads you need will vary based on the length of your cycle and the level of your flow, we typically recommend the following: 3 to 6 Pantyliners, 6 to 12 Day Pads, and 1 to 3 Night Pads.

    How Many Cloth Pads Do You Need?

    Getting Started

    You don't have to go all in to get started with cloth! You can simply start supplementing your disposable products with cloth pads as it suits your budget. If you're ready to get your full set, here's some helpful tips for choosing the right amount.

    Consider Absorbency & Coverage 

    GladRags washable cloth pads are just as absorbent as disposable period products, only without the plastics! For example, our reusable cotton Pantyliner will absorb the same amount as your standard-sized disposable pantyliner. If you use long pantyliners, then you’ll find an even better match in our Pantyliner Plus (hint: the “Plus” means it has extra coverage area).

    Since our Day Pad is as absorbent as your standard maxi pad, then you’ve probably already figured out the the Day Pad Plus is as absorbent as a maxi pad, but for those who prefer long maxis. Get more details and compare sizes and absorbencies of GladRags cloth pads on our Size Chart.

    Determine What You're Already Using

    Now, consider your own cycle: which style pad do you prefer and when? How often do you find yourself changing those disposable pads? Are some days heavier than others, so you swap in a fresh pad more often? You can piece together how many GladRags you’d need to cover your cycle by tallying the products you’re already using. Tip: if you have a long cycle or heavy flow, you can “double” the size of your cloth pad stash by doing a load of laundry mid-way through your period.

    Why Use Cloth Pads?

    Your Health

    Disposable tampons carry a risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). TSS is caused by usually harmless bacteria found on our skin or in parts of our bodies. If the bacteria enters the bloodstream through a cut or tear, they release a toxin. Tampons may create a more ideal opportunity for the growth of these bacteria, and can dry out the vaginal canal by absorbing its natural moisture, which can lead to minute tears that may increase the chance of TSS. Toxic Shock Syndrome is real and can be fatal. Learn more about the symptoms of TSS here.

    While pads have never been linked to TSS, conventional disposable pads contain all kinds of chemicals -- and manufacturers are not required to list these ingredients on their packaging! These ingredients range from wood pulp and adhesives to artificial fragrance and chemical gels. Not the type of stuff you want next to one of the most sensitive parts of your body!

    In early 2012, a blogger discovered mold on a wrapped, unused tampon from a mainstream tampon company. While the company stated that the mold carried no health risk to consumers, who wants to use a moldy tampon from a company that doesnʼt seem to care that its product was tainted? Switching to reusable menstrual products means that YOU are in charge of how clean your products are.

    The Environment

    On average, a person can use 12,000 to 16,000 disposable pads, tampons, and pantyliners in a lifetime. Thatʼs a lot of waste in our landfills! Not to mention the manufacturing, packaging, and transportation waste of getting these products from the factory to you. Sad but true: the most common trash items found on North American beaches are plastic tampon applicators.

    Using something once is not enough! Our society has gone from relying on high quality reusable products to cheap disposables. When you choose to reuse anything from dishes to towels, youʼre helping make a cultural shift that values quality over wastefulness.

    Your Budget

    Twelve thousand disposables add up! While it seems like a small monthly expense, over your lifetime youʼll be spending thousands of dollars on pads and tampons that just end up in the trash. Although cloth pads are an initial investment, they pay off over time: many customers report saving over $500 in just a few years.

    I like to use the analogy of ceramic dishes. Buying paper plates would certainly seem cheaper, but everyone agrees that investing in dishes youʼll use for years is the smarter choice! Plus, youʼll get greater enjoyment from your nice dishes. Cloth pads are exactly the same. You can compare your costs below:

    Disposables      $10 per month x 12 months = $120 per year      $600 for 5 years
    Cloth Pads $150 one-time cost $150 for 5 years

    Your Comfort

    Before switching to cloth pads, many of us had no idea that the chafing, irritation, and soreness we experienced each month were due to disposable pads and tampons. We thought it was a normal part of menstruating! Taking care of your body feels good, and so does eliminating plastic and chemicals from your period routine. Cloth is more breathable than disposable pads and wonʼt over-dry like a tampon can. And youʼll never again experience an adhesive pad wing sticking to your leg. Whatʼs not to love?

    The Bottom Line

    Deciding what kind of menstrual protection to use is a personal choice. Think about the products you use now and why. Was it because your mother or sister used them? Or because they were the first ones you tried? Most importantly, are they working for you? Choosing your form of protection based on what you value is an important part of self-care. We often ignore our own health -- to our detriment! Making conscious decisions about the way we treat our bodies is a powerful message to our children, friends, family, and ourselves.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Will GladRags cloth pads leak?

    GladRags are designed to be highly absorbent. The flaps that snap around your underwear act as wings to protect the sides of your panties. We choose not to include a nylon or waterproof backing because these materials can trap in moisture, leading to odor or bacterial growth. And we find it is not necessary because GladRags are so absorbent! But just like disposable pads, they may leak if you leave them on too long and they become saturated. You will become familiar with just how long you can go before changing your pad. You should change your GladRags about as often as you would change disposables (every 2 to 6 hours, or as needed). 

    How many GladRags cloth pads do I need?

    Menstrual cycles vary greatly from person to person. Consider how often you renew your period protection throughout the day to get an idea of how many GladRags products you may need to cover your cycle. You'll want to change your GladRags cloth pad about as frequently as you would a disposable pad of a similar absorbency level. You may choose to purchase enough GladRags pads to last your whole cycle, or you may be like the many GladRags customers who choose to do a load of laundry midway through their period. Very generally, we recommend having about 6 to 12 day pads, 1 to 3 night pads, and 3 to 6 pantyliners, however it all depends on your flow and how often you do laundry. Choosing one of our Value Kits is a great way to get started with cloth pads!

    I hate the feeling of disposable pads. Are GladRags comfortable?

    Yes! All-cotton GladRags are soft and breathable, which is so much better than plastic pads that can chafe and irritate your skin. Our customer Nicole had this to say about trying GladRags: “I love GladRags. They are so comfortable and easy on my skin. I love how they feel like regular clothing. It is like nothing is there.”

    If you are raw and irritated at the end of your period, please know that it does not have to be that way! With all of our pads you will experience the comfort and breathability of cotton. The soft flannel conforms to your body without the twisting and bunching up that can happen with disposables. And because there is no plastic backing you will have less chafing and irritation. One of our customers reports they're much cooler too (she's from Phoenix, she would know).

    Where are GladRags made?

    GladRags are handmade in Portland, Oregon, USA. Sometimes people ask us why we don't manufacture in another country in order to lower our prices. We believe that keeping manufacturing local and within the United States is important to our economic security as a nation, and we like that we have full control over our facilities to ensure that GladRags are made in a safe environment where workers are treated fairly. Plus, keeping manufacturing local keeps our environmental footprint lower by reducing our shipping needs.

    How long will GladRags last?

    With proper care, GladRags are made to last at least 5 years.

    What are GladRags made of?

    GladRags cloth pads are made with soft cotton flannel on the outside and absorbent cotton terrycloth on the inside. Our color pads are made with conventional cotton fabrics, while our organic pads are made with unbleached, undyed GOTS-certified organic cotton.

    Why do GladRags cost more than disposables?

    In the long run, reusable menstrual products actually cost much less! When compared to the amount of money spent on disposables, it only takes a few years to make up the cost of your GladRags.  Think of this: it would be tremendously expensive (not to mention wasteful!) to continuously re-stock our kitchens with disposable paper plates, so we buy plates that we can use indefinitely. We make an initial investment into something reusable that will last a long time. It's the same idea with GladRags!

    If you're on a limited budget, it's great to start by supplementing your current products with GladRags and increasing your collection of reusables over time as your budget allows. Also, watch for specials that we offer on the website from time to time - we've got some great deals. To stay informed, be sure to sign up for our email newsletter that includes many awesome discounts!

    Are GladRags as safe as disposables?

    Yes! We've all had that time when we weren't quite expecting our period some blood got on our underwear. You didn't think they were now dangerous to your health because you got some blood on them and you probably did not throw them away. We think that it is safer to launder reusable pads than throw disposables in the landfill.

    Disposable pads and tampons are not sterile products, although the over-packaging and whiteness of these products leads you to believe they are. In fact, they are often laden with harmful chemicals that can be absorbed by the skin in one of the most porous parts of your body. In recent years there have been discoveries of disposable products contaminated with mold or e. coli. By laundering your menstrual products yourself, you won't have to wonder if they have been treated with care and are properly clean. In addition, GladRags are FDA accepted for market (nothing is FDA approved) and registered with them annually.

    GladRags are one of the safest options when it comes to Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) because blood is not staying in the vaginal canal, where the development of TSS is most likely to occur. TSS is caused by usually harmless bacteria found on our skin or in parts of our body. If the bacteria get into the bloodstream, through a cut or tear, they release a toxin. While the risk is still minimal, tampons create a more ideal opportunity for the growth of these bacteria and can dry out the vaginal canal by absorbing the vagina's natural moisture, which can lead to minute tears and increase the chance of TSS. 

    Do GladRags work for people with vulvodynia, vaginitis or allergies?

    Yes! We've sold many GladRags to folks dealing with these conditions who find the pads helpful during their cycles. Some sufferers of these conditions have noticed that tampons and disposable pads can be a source of vaginal irritation, and most are unaware that disposable products are highly processed and may contain chemicals to "keep you dry" or cover up odor. Vaginal irritation, allergies, burning, itching, and frequent yeast infections can all be exacerbated by disposables.

    Do GladRags work for light incontinence?

    Yes! A number of our customers have told us they use GladRags for light incontinence. Again, they help prevent irritation and allow your skin to breathe, which is important for people who are wearing them everyday. And just the same as with menstrual use, the number and style of GladRags you use will depend on how heavy your leakage is. Please note that GladRags are not designed for full incontinence. Mary from Delaware notes her success at using GladRags for stress incontinence: “Just sending a note to let you know how much I love your product! I don't really need any pads because they last SOOOOOO fact I no longer need them "monthly". Yes, they have seen me through to menopause (and some occasional stress incontinence). I find the day holders alone are sufficient enough to make me feel secure every day... Keep up the good work...”

    Are GladRags good for postpartum (after giving birth)?

    Yes - the night pads are especially great for postpartum. While many new moms find they need a large amount of GladRags or pads to carry them through postpartum, any amount of reusable pads would be helpful. They are softer and kinder than plastic on your skin. Some new mothers place their inserts in the freezer after dipping them in witch hazel. The cool inserts soothe and help your tender parts heal. Our customer, Mary, had this to say about GladRags: “Thought I'd let you know that I love my GladRags. I've had them for at least 10 years and they're still going strong! I've used them post-partum after having our three children, and not just in the conventional way. I made a tea of healing herbs and put some on my liners and popped them in the freezer...they were a welcome bottom-soother after delivery!”

    What is the difference between regular cotton and organic cotton?

    Organic cotton means that no pesticides or herbicides were used to grow the cotton, so the soil and water were not polluted, nor did farm workers breathe in any harmful chemicals as they worked with the cotton. By purchasing organic cotton GladRags, you are supporting healthy agriculture. Be aware that while disposable organic cotton pads or tampons may be better for your health, they still create the same amount of landfill waste as conventional disposables. Plus, organic cotton products require more resources (mainly water), than their disposable counterparts. If the organic cotton product is reusable (like GladRags!), this extra usage is offset by the fact that it won't need to be replaced immediately. However, organic cotton disposables must continuously be replaced, causing vast amounts of resource waste. 

    Still have questions? Get in touch with us.