Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How To Make Your Own Menstrual Pads in Five Minutes

Okay, okay, some of you are going "eeeeeeew" right about now. I've been meaning to write a post about this for a while, but I've been dragging my heels about it because I know for some people this topic has a high ick factor.Before you decide to skip past this post and on to your next favourite blog, let me say that I wish I'd been smart enough to do this years ago as I've been very pleased with the results.

At the end of December, I wrote that making my own menstrual pads was one of my top frugal successes of last year. It's something I'd been meaning to get around to for years. Both the expense and the amount of waste created by disposable products really got under my skin. I'd tried The Keeper several years ago, and unfortunately it just didn't work out for me (although I know many others for whom it works great). So, ever since then I'd been planning to make my own pads...and never quite getting around to it. I'm a reluctant sewer at best, and my never-ending mending pile is about all I manage to accomplish with a needle and thread most of the time.

Yes, you can buy pre-made reusable cloth pads, but holy cow, are they expensive! Being the tightwad that I am, there's just no way I was forking over that much dough for something I knew I could make myself! So, finally, a few months ago, when "that time of the month" caught me by surprise and I realized I was out of disposable products, the light bulb went on. I came up with a super quick and easy solution that, after five minutes' work, left me with several comfortable, absorbent homemade pads.

Here's how I did it:

old polar fleece top or blanket (fabric should still be soft and not "pilled")
a few old washcloths or a couple of old cotton T-shirts (the thicker the cotton, the better)

Fleece and T-shirt material are ideal for this project, as they won't fray around the edges after cutting, even without hemming or zig zag stitching the edges. The terry cloth will fray slightly, but not enough for me to bother doing anything about it (I've been using my pads made with terry cloth for several months now and the fraying has been minimal).


If using washclothes, cut them into quarters like so:

If you're using an old T-shirt, cut out pieces roughly the same size as 1/4 of a washcloth. These are going to be the liner pieces for your pads.

Now cut out pieces of fleece slightly larger than the washcloth/T-shirt pieces:

Fold the liner pieces into thirds:

Then wrap the outer fleece portion around them:

Voila! Your very own homemade pads, ready in five minutes and it didn't even cost you a thing.

I store them folded up like this so they're ready to grab and go. To use one, place the folded-up liner piece on the crotch of your panties, then wrap the fleece piece over it with the ends on the underside of the crotch. Pin in place with small safety pins (one at the top and one at the bottom work fine for me). I hope those are sufficient directions as I'm not posting a photo of my underwear on the internet - a girl's gotta draw the line somewhere :)

I've found these to be surprisingly comfortable to wear (much more so than disposable products). They are adequately absorbent for my needs (if you have a really heavy flow, you might want to use 2 liner pieces rather than one). I don't find them overly bulky, and I can't feel the safety pins at all when I'm wearing them (even when riding my bike). The only drawback to these is they're a bit fiddly (but certainly not impossible) to change while you're actually wearing your underwear (if I'm at home I take my undies completely off to pin a fresh one in place).

These pads have been very easy to wash, too. I find the polar fleece naturally stain resistant and after several months of use they are not stained at all. It's important to rinse/soak the pads in cold water only, as warm or hot water will set blood stains. I rinse them briefly when changing them, then soak them in cold water with a bit of Dr. Bronner's or homemade laundry detergent tossed in (an old ice cream tub with a lid stashed in a discreet corner of your bathroom is perfect for this). On laundry day, I simply give them a final rinse then toss them in the wash.

Overall, I've been extremely pleased with these and so glad I came up with this simple solution! I would love to hear other people's experiences with reusable/homemade menstrual products if you care to share them here.


  1. I, too, have been interested in making my own but most tutorials I have seen are a bit intimidating for a non-sewer like me. Now I CAN make my own, even if I don't know how to work my sewing machine! Thanks!

  2. I have been using a Diva Cup for the last two years. My only regret is that I didn't know about it sooner. I would have used it from Day 1 if I had known about it; for me it works so much better than commercial tampons. (I've never been a pad user.)

  3. Thank you for this. I have been wanting o so this for some time now. I have been trying to use cloth toilet paper (again some might go yuck, but that is what I use for my kids, no baby wipes for us). I will have to try it out soon!

  4. I'm thinking that keeping the outer part longer, so that it pins up higher on your panties, would make it more secure - like an old Modess pad.

    I can't sew at all, and I'm far too cheap to buy ready-made ones. :) I like your idea.

  5. I'm sure the basic idea could be adapted in a number of ways that haven't occurred to me yet :) Thanks for your suggestion. I'm not familiar with Modess pads - before my time I'm guessing, lol.

  6. There's even re-usable tampons out there which I'm sure you can make yourself! I just use either 1 or 2 folded up in thirds washcloths. SOOOOOOO much better than disposables in lots of ways. I will never ever go back. I really encourage girls to ditch the disposables and either use the cup or reusable tampons/pads.

  7. I'm thinking rather than tearing apart a washcloth maybe a baby washcloth would do the trick. I doubt it'll hold my flow as well tho. Thanks so much for this instructable btw! (def should post on instructables lol)

  8. Thank you! My mom mentioned using rolled up pure cotton, which can be purchased at your local pharmacy. Its healthier than using disposible pads. All you do is cut a pad size from the roll, apply in underwear and rip the used out of pad, rinse and discard. Your always clean and its natural. Also, avoid the use of tampons.

  9. Hello. Could you please give us the measurements of each pad before folding. I am not sure of the sizes of a washcloth. Would 8x8 inch be something similar? or should I cut them bigger?
    Wishes, Kristin

    1. Hi Kristin, sorry I took so long to respond to your question. The washcloth pieces I used are about 5" x 5 1/2" *after* I cut the washcloth in quarters. The polar fleece pieces are about 6" x 6 1/2". Hope that helps!

  10. do you think i can use a rectangular sheet of cotton and a wash cloth covering it? im in high school and i dont want anything bulky.....

    1. Cotton would work fine for the absorbent layer, I wouldn't use a washcloth as the top layer as it will stain easily and might be kind of chafing. I really like the fleece because it doesn't stain and is really soft/non-chafing. There are different weights of fleece, so if you find a lightweight one it should work well - the kind I used is actually less bulky than a washcloth :)


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