Cloth Pads / Mama Cloth Tutorial

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Whether you call them mama cloth or just know them as reusable cloth pads, I wanted to share a tutorial with you today to make your own. We all know that disposables are not only bad for the environment but can also be bad for us and our bodies. I get a lot of comments on here when I’ve reviewed WAHM cloth pads before that because they’re “gross” people can’t get past the idea of them. Trust me, I was one of you women. Then I started reading more about them and why they were a better alternative for my own health reasons.

If you’re like me then the “gross out” factor doesn’t just apply to cloth pads, but to disposables as well . I was strictly a tampon girl. I mean, they are easy to use, discreet, and you don’t feel them as much as a disposable pad…but they’re terrible for you. I recently stumbled across an amazing site that is written by a woman that has been involved with studying alternative menstrual products for quite a while and even taught classes at her college specifically on the subject. You can find great information on alternatives on her site, Miriam Axel-Lute, as well as other “green” topics. This is an excerpt from her brochure. (Don’t worry, her site is licensed with Creative Commons, so I’m okay to post some of her info here.)

What’s Wrong with Tampons?

First things first. Why would you want to choose an alternative menstrual product anyway? The following summary of problems with the traditional products (easily remembered as RED SCAM) are some of most common reasons women have. 
• Rayon/TSS. Viscose rayon, a major component of almost all commercial tampons, provides a hospitable place for the bacteria that causes Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) to grow. Combining the presence of rayon with an irritated vaginal area and/or weakened immune system resulting from the other items on this list can increase the danger of toxic shock. TSS has not gone away since the outbreak in the 1980s. Dr. Philip Tierno, TSS specialist, says that for every TSS case that gets officially counted as such there are five more that don’t quite make one of the official criteria (fever one degree too low, etc.).
• Environment. Tampons and pads are disposable, and highly packaged. Even “flushable” products do not biodegrade before they hit sewage-treatment plants, but they do clog pipes! In addition, the pulp bleaching process for both products releases dioxins into the environment.
• Dioxin. The chlorine bleaching process that is used to make tampons white (so they appear sterile) has been found to leave behind residues of dioxins, which are chemicals that are both very toxic and carcinogenic, that environmentalists have been fighting to keep out of waterways for years. The EPA has been unable to set any safe level of dioxin, which is most dangerous with numerous repeat exposures.
• Structure. Tampons are structured to be so absorbent they often over-absorb vaginal secretions as well as menstrual blood, leading to drying, mini-ulcers, and release of tiny rayon fibers. Those fibers have been speculated to be associated with cervical cancer. Petaled applicators can scratch vaginal walls, and the string provides a way of wicking bacteria into the vagina.
• Chemicals. Other residues have been found regularly to leach from tampons, including pesticides, waxes, surfactants, dyes, aluminum, copper, boron, etc. The gelling chemical in pads has been shown to cause irritation when used in babies’ diapers. Tampons are not required to have their ingredients on their boxes.
• Advertising. The companies themselves have promoted shame and secrecy for women about menstruation through their advertising, which is particularly directed at young girls. As an example, after decades of promoting how odorless tampons are, they have introduced “deodorant” tampons that have added nothing but another irritant (cheap perfume). They have acted in bad faith when responding to the TSS and dioxin issues. 
• Money. A woman using tampons spends over $2,000 (and rising) on them in a lifetime. Tampon companies have recently made such moves as bragging to shareholders about such “improvements” as reducing the number of tampons per box and raising the price. Over time, some of the reusable alternatives can save women lots of money, as well as directing the money they do spend to smaller independent businesses and individual entrepreneurs.
Enlightening, isn’t it?
I know some of you still have issues with cloth pads, such as what to do with them when you’re not at home. That’s an easy solution! Cloth diapering mamas carry “wet bags” with them to put soiled diapers in as the day goes by. It’s the same idea with your mama cloth except that you would make your wet bag smaller. Just to make things even easier for you, I’ve already made a tutorial for making your own wet bag and you can adjust the size to your preference. 😉 A wet bag is not only waterproof, but will keep any odor that does accumulate contained within the wet bag.
Another concern I’ve gotten is washing them. Most of you can’t even fathom the idea of hand washing a cloth pad. Trust me, I don’t like to do it either and have only done it on one occasion to document for this blog how easy it is to do. The great things about these cloth pads is that you don’t even have to rise them out if you just really don’t want to touch them. They can easily be tossed into the laundry with cloth diapers or if you’re not a cloth diapering family, you can toss in with your towels. I’ve never had them come out with a stain (other laundry or the pads) and it really is as easy as doing all the other laundry you already have. If you think it’s “gross” putting them in with your other laundry, take a second to think about the nasty stuff on the clothes that you’re already putting in there. Not much difference.
I’ve put together an easy to follow tutorial for making your own reusable cloth pads.
First, I used a cloth pad I already had and like as my shape template. You could easily use a disposable pad or draft your own. It’s not as scary as it seems to not have a printable pattern from me, but I’ve done this for a reason. Women come in all shapes and sizes and I wouldn’t want someone to be turned off of making their own because the size of pattern I use doesn’t work for them. It’s as easy as tracing something you already like.
Also, the fabrics I chose to use were minky, zorb 2 as the absorbent, and a microfleece backing. I wanted the minky on top to have a nice soft layer against the skin and it’s also know for being more stain resistant. When you trace your pattern pad, be sure to leave a bit of a seam allowance on all side.
fabrics cute
Layer the fabrics with absorbent on the bottom, minky next facing upwards, and backing fabric on top as shown in the photo below.
layer fabrics
I then pinned them together and flipped the fabrics over. I wanted to outline the pad I was using as my pattern to be sure that I sewed along the correct lines and you can see my seam allowance as well. I only flipped the fabrics over because it was both easier to mark and to see on the zorb 2 rather than the microfleece.
pin fabrics and mark seam allowance
Once you sew, be sure to leave an opening for turning and trim your edges so there’s not as much bulk.
sew along seam allowance
Turn right side out and carefully pin your opening closed. (And no, you’re not going crazy, I switched up the print on you, lol.)
turn and pin opening closed
Carefully top stitch around the edges. Once I have gone around once, I then do a second line of top stitching about 1/8 inch in from the previous line of stitching. With this one, I do not go over the wings again, I simply go straight to help create a channel for the flow. I then also do a line of stitching down the very middle for the same reason.
top stich
You can see the stitching lines a bit better when viewing from the back.
back side
I then use my snaps pliers to add a snap on each wing. This will come in handy for securing to your underwear and it keeps the pad from moving around. Be sure you have them facing the correct direction so that one wing snaps into the other.
add snaps to wings
And when you’re out on the go, you can easily fold them up to contain any mess (& odor) and use the snaps to secure before tossing into your wet bag.
folded for convenience

Now that you’ve seen how easy it can be, are you willing to make the switch??

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24 Responses

  1. Erin Marshall says:

    I use a Diva Cup and I love it.

  2. jennifer zuna says:

    I personally have no use for something like this anymore (hysterectomy 4 years ago) but i think the concept is great =]

  3. Shawna says:

    Nice little tutorial. Thanks!

  4. Erin Slocum says:

    Love my mama cloth! I’ve not tried the cup though. I never did use tampons. We had a girl from my high school die of TSS.

  5. montana mama says:

    Great tutorial! I’ve been making different styles and fabrics of pads to see which ones I like best but for some reason I hadn’t put minky on one! I think that will be the next I try 🙂
    annie @ montanasolarcreations

  6. Thanks for the tutorial! I use a combination of mama cloth and a cup and it’s great! I’d love to try making my own mama cloth though. I’ve never had a stain on the minky, it always comes out, definitely the way to go!

  7. Ninja Wifey says:

    Oh wow, I’ve never even thought of anything like this. interesting idea to think about.

  8. Thanks for doing this post. Hopefully it spreads the word on how easy it is to use cloth!

  9. I really love you sharing this! I wish I could sew to make some, gotta get my mom to help do it for me maybe? Thanks again this is really awesome!

  10. HappyMrsBass says:

    Great tutorial! I have not used tampons for about a year now, mainly using a menstrual cup (Diva Cup) which I love. I have been meaning to try making my own cloth pads, but just haven’t gotten around to it. I’ll be giving them a try soon though. I posted about menstrual cups a while back…
    Again, great post!

  11. Johnnsons says:

    Thanks for the tutorial. I have many brands of mama cloth and love them, but it would be great to be able to make my own. I guess I need to get some snap pliers.

  12. Stephanie says:

    I have heard about and seen these but silly question… how do you care/wash them? I feel a little dumb asking but I am interested in giving it a try.

  13. Kellie says:

    i hardly ever use tampons. i actually prefer to use pads. and i cloth diaper so the grossness factor isn’t really there for me. my concern is bulkiness/uncomfortableness while wearing a cloth pad. i’ve been thinking about trying cloth for myself for awhile. my youngest is 9 months and i haven’t my cycle again yet so i’m thinking about making some ahead of time, but do they feel weird? thanks so much for your tutorial!!!

  14. Thanks for the tutorial! I’m about to make the switch to mama cloth and a menstrual cup, and I’m planning on making my own.

  15. im going to try this Kass.. love this.

  16. Lori Strout says:

    To the person that wants to know about care for them? You soak them i peroxide for a few minites or you can just soak them in cold water in a bucket. Mine are in the linen closet on the floor. I empty the water every other day and refill with cold water.When you wash you can use oxiclean or something like it. The last time I put them right in the washer with half the soap I usually use unless I am going to wash with something else like anything that doesn’t get bleach. In the last rinse (my machine has two rinses)I put in 1/2 cup of vinegar. Then I don’t need softener it takes care of static in the dryer it softens and it gets ant soap residue out. Then I just dry them it does take longer for them to dry if they are real thick ones I do another wash load of clothes to put the pads back in I use vinegar on all my clothes and my husbands too.

  17. Ginger Clark says:

    Where did you get the Zorb 2? Is Wazoodle the best price? I can’t find it anywhere else.

  18. Amanda says:

    I’m going to try making these….as soon as payday rolls around! Thanks for the easy instructions!

  19. Laura B says:

    I definitely plan to switch to mama cloth after my pregnancy. Thanks for supplying all the health facts in this post. The health reasons are my #1 for choosing cloth for my baby and myself 🙂

  20. Mitral says:

    I just switched over to cloth pads in Sept 2014, It was easier than I thought it would be. I clean mine by soaking in a bucket with oxyclean in cold water and I change the water daily until im ready to wash with out fabric softener. They dry up nicely. Im so glad I made the switch.

  1. October 9, 2013

    […] I don’t know about you, but it looks to me as if most of you guys are liking the DIY & Food related posts. […]

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