The Month I Ditched the Disposable Sanitary Towel (And Went Reusable)
Let’s be honest, there’s nothing wonderful about being on your period. Unless you’ve been hoping for a non-pregnancy situation (where you’d probably be quite happy about getting your period), that time of the month can just mean a whole lot of inconvenience, pain and expense. And if you’ve ever thought about the effect feminine hygiene has on the planet – all those towels and tampons getting dumped in landfill – you’re maybe wondering how to do your bit for the eco-system and do your pocket a favour too.
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These days, disposable sanitary protection can be picked up pretty cheaply. From shop’s own basic products and brand rival towels, there are plenty budget options available. But if you have no choice but to buy big brand or your heavy flow means you need more expensive protection, you can easily end up spending £3-£4 each period. Whichever way you look at it, your period is costing you and it’s not just your towels going in the bin.
I’d actually never heard of washable sanitary towels before. Washable nappies for babies, of course, but not sanitary towels. Then I chanced upon Bloom & Nora (the people behind TotsBots) and I was curious. I kinda liked the idea of not having to waste anymore and I definitely warmed to the idea of saving some cash in the process. But this was surely a lifestyle that was new to me; one I admittedly felt a little bit grossed out by.
So, I decided to give washable a try. When my next period arrived I put my usual go-to sanitary towels to the back of the cupboard and instead wore only washable pads.
Bloom and Nora offer two styles of sanitary towels: brightly coloured bamboo ‘Bloomers‘ and white ‘Nora‘ pads, both securing with poppered wings, in a range of sizes – mini, midi, maxi and mighty.
Not wanting to totally lose that traditional sanitary towel look (and because frankly I want to see what’s on my pads), I went for the crisp white Nora range. So Bloom and Nora sent me a set of the mini, midi and maxi pads, with a bathroom pouch to store them in.
Before I began my trial I was concerned about the quantity I’d need. Did I have enough? How many would I go through compared to my usual towels? And then there were the logistics to consider – how would I wash the pads? And would they be dry in time for me to use again?
In the end I decided I’d just go with the flow (if the pun fits..) and use them as best I could. If I ran into problems I always had my disposables as back up.
Before using the pads I made sure they were washed and ready to go. I just popped them in the washing machine through a regular 60 degree cottons cycle, using my usual non-bio but leaving out the fabric softener.
So what are they like to use?
I found using my Nora pads really simple, not unlike using my usual disposable pads. The only difference this time, Nora’s poppers meant they secured much better in my knickers – the poppered wings connect together keeping the pad in place – which I found a little boost of confidence. I changed the Nora pads just as often as I do with disposable. Even the smallest pad was substantial enough to hold a medium blood flow, although the longer maxi pads gave the most security.
The pads are comfortable enough to wear but they do feel different. While they’re not massively thick by the standards of the fat budget towels I first used back when I was 13, I was aware how bulky the Nora pads were in comparison to my thin disposables. With a soft touch more like an item of clothing, the fabric is something to get used to too. While the Bloomers are a natural bamboo, the Nora pads are a synthetic fabric, which you can tell by the touch and look. I didn’t really like how the material acted when in use, as I found blood tended to sit a little too long on the surface before being absorbed. I’d probably prefer to use the bamboo with it being more cotton-like which looks like it would soak up better too, although I never once found Nora’s fabric irritating against my skin.
The changing and cleaning process added a new dimension to my sanitary towel wearing that I’d otherwise not usually experience, and one I found best suited to doing at home. I’d take off the soiled pad and give it as quick hand wash in the sink, just rinsing it clean with a bit of hand wash under cold running water to make sure no stains would set in. Then I put it aside to dry before popping in the wash bag to batch wash in the washing machine later on. As I said, I did all this in the house so I dread to think how I’d be able to clean a pad in a public toilet with communal hand basins. And that’s before the idea of carrying a dirty sanitary towel in your bag. That may be a step too far for me.
So what did I think of the experience?
Overall, I found using washable sanitary wear an easy concept to switch to. The Nora pads were really easy to use – the poppered wings were the best change up as they were much better (more reliable and less fiddly) than sticky backed pads. And they felt much kinder to my skin compared to the chemical impregnated throw away counterparts. The only issue that demanded a degree of adapting came to the washing. How to do it without so much inconvenience. And I didn’t find the confidence to wear a washable pad out of the house that would require changing.
So while I may not be fully invested in the idea of switching over from disposable pad to washable, I am swayed enough to use my Noras part time. There’s much to be said for saving money where you can, and it can’t be a bad thing if the planet benefits too.
** Have a look at Bloom & Nora sanitary towels here **