How to Wash and Dry Your Cloth Pads

Laundering your cloth pads is as easy as 1, 2… well actually, that’s it!

Wash your reusable cloth menstrual pads just like regular laundry, and then dry them just like regular laundry (minus any super-hot washer/dryer temps)… that’s really all it takes! Anyone who knows how to wash their clothing already knows how to wash cloth pads. Nice work! You can even wash cloth pads WITH your other laundry (for real!).

But just in case any questions come up, here is our list of the most frequently asked questions from customers! If you still have a question that you can’t find here, check out our “Frequently Asked Questions” webpage at https://partypantspads.com/pages/faq.

You can easily wash your cloth pads in a normal washing machine in warm or cold water (avoid hot water), just like regular laundry. You can wash your pads by themselves or with other laundry- don’t worry, the blood won’t stain your other clothing! The only thing to watch out for in that regard may be any blood clots that dried on the surface of your pad- just wipe those off before washing. Additionally, avoid packing your washing machine too tight, as your pads (and other items) won’t have enough room to move around and get rinsed during the wash cycle.

If hand-washing is your option, that’s also fine! You may want to pre-soak your pads in cool water for about 10 minutes. Then wash your pads by hand with a gentle soap, getting them sudsy and then rinsing and squeezing them repeatedly until the water runs clear. Don’t use anything harsh to scrub the pad’s surface as that can damage the fibers.

  • Do I have to pre-soak or pre-wash my pads?

This is a common misconception about washable pads! It’s actually not necessary, although it can be helpful to pre-soak if you plan on hand-washing (see above). Besides that, your pads are just fine to be thrown in the washer as-is. Pre-soaking for too long can actually degrade the cotton fibers over time, because they are a natural material. If you feel like your pads do need some extra attention before washing, pre-soak them for just 10 minutes in cool water or run the pre-wash setting on your washing machine before the normal cycle.

You can dry your cloth pads in a normal clothes dryer, just avoid excessive heat so they don’t get scorched, as that can damage the nylon leak-proof layer over time. You can also dry your pads on a clothesline. In that case, just made sure they aren’t baking in strong sunlight, as that can deteriorate the nylon leak-proof layer as well.

No matter how you dry, it’s extremely important that your pads do get thoroughly, 100% dry before you put them away. If they are still damp, they can develop a slight smell that just won’t make them as pleasant to use! If you live in a humid climate, or a cold climate where it takes a long time for things to dry, be sure to check if your pads are truly dry before putting them away.

  • How should I store my washable pads after I’ve used them, but before I plan on doing laundry?

It’s not necessary to wash your pads immediately after use, and it’s perfectly okay for them to sit for awhile until you’re ready to do a load of laundry. There are just a couple things that are important to remember. It may seem counter-intuitive, but you want your used pad to be able to dry out as it sits, rather than remain damp. It’s important that your pads are open, and not snapped or folded shut when you put them in your laundry hamper. Perhaps the easiest way to allow them to dry is to leave them unsnapped and unfolded on top of your laundry hamper so they can be exposed to air flow. Also they become drier, they can get covered with other laundry. If you live in a really humid climate, it can take a little more care- just remember that allowing them to be exposed to air is the most important thing.

If your pads have sat unwashed for a very long time, or are very dry and crusty, you may want to pre-soak your pads in cool water for 10-15 minutes before washing, or just use the pre-wash setting on your washing machine.

  • How should I carry my used pads when I’m still out and about, or on a weekend trip?

After using your pads, you can fold and snap them shut around themselves, so they become discreet and compact! With the used fabric surface folded inside, the blood won’t leak out or get on anything else in your bag or purse- it will stay contained!

You can keep your used and folded pads in your purse, fanny pack, glove compartment, or wherever, until you get home to your laundry hamper! We also make little carrying pouches in three different sizes and fun patterns, which are perfect for carrying your fresh or used pads during the day. Check ’em out here: https://partypantspads.com/collections/extras

Our three tote sizes: Daytripper, Tween, and Pixie.
  • How should I store my clean and dry cloth pads until my next menstrual cycle?

Wherever you want! Some people have a basket in the bathroom, other people store them in their nightstand or in a bag…whatever works for you! If you’re going to store them in a container that’s air-tight, just make sure they are 100% dry before storing!

A cute basket in the bathroom is a handy way to store your cloth pads and liners. Photo credit Elizabeth Downey.
  • What type of laundry detergent should I use?

Any kind of laundry detergent will work, although it’s best to use a gentle/eco-friendly detergent if possible, because that will be more gentle on the fabrics over time- and you want them to last for many years of repeated washings! Brands like ECOS or Seventh Generation are good options, and are widely available.

  • Are there any laundry products I should avoid?

Avoid using bleach or fabric softener, as that will break down the natural fibers over time. Some laundry detergents may have those automatically added, so be sure to check yours! And, while dryer sheets won’t harm the pads, it should be noted that they do contain chemicals that can cause health issues.

  • How do I treat stains?

Staining can occur over time, depending on the color, variations in fabric texture, and with different types menstrual blood (for example, thicker brown blood may stain more than more fluid, bright red blood). However, many of our customers are surprised by how little they do stain! If it does occur, your pad can still be used indefinitely, without ever doing a stain treatment! But if you’d like to treat any stains occasionally, or want to brighten up a fabric that may have darkened, we do have a few suggestions.

Hydrogen peroxide (available widely in grocery stores and drug stores) is wonderful for lifting bloodstains. Soak your pads for 10 minutes in cool water, then dampen the surfaces of the pads with hydrogen peroxide and massage the pads to work it in (it will bubble up). Let them sit for 5 minutes, and then do you normal wash/dry cycle right away.

We also offer a natural stain remover bar here: https://partypantspads.com/collections/extras/products/stain-remover-bar

OxoBrite (also commonly found in drug stores) is also a great natural option!

Nope! People who are familiar with using cloth baby diapers may think they need to likewise “strip” cloth menstrual pads- but you don’t! Washing and drying them as normal for their entire lifespan will work just fine. If you do want to occasionally do a stain treatment, see the above question!

  • How do I know when my cloth pad is at the end of its life cycle?

After several years, you may start to notice leakage through the nylon bottom layer, as that would normally be the first indicator that the pad is nearing its end. However, sometimes when pads are really saturated, or if the blood is concentrated near the stitching, blood can seep through without it meaning that your pad is on its way out. If you do notice leakage that seems due to the age of the pad, don’t be so quick to totally throw it out, though. Even if a pad can no longer hold up to a heavier flow, you can still use it for lighter days or as more of a pantyliner.

That being said, our pads can last a very long time with proper care, even beyond the 5-7 years that we normally say. Heck, we know people that have used the same pads for 20 years! Even those who pass through menopause find that their pads come in handy for mild urinary incontinence later in life. They may not look so perfect as they get older and older, but that doesn’t mean they won’t function the same.

This pad is still going strong after ELEVEN YEARS! Customer-submitted photo.
  • Should I wash my cotton pads any differently if I’ve had a yeast infection, or if I’m prone to yeast infections?

You may want to introduce some white vinegar to your regular wash routine. You can soak your pads in a 10:1 water to vinegar ratio prior to throwing them in the wash, on a warm cycle. And/or, you can also add 1/2 cup of white vinegar to your prewash cycle, if desired. Then, just be sure that your pads are 100% thoroughly dry before you store them until your next cycle. Drying them in natural sunlight can also help, as sunlight is naturally anti-microbial and anti-bacterial.

If you experience yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis, check out our “Yoni Duster” herbal powder: https://partypantspads.com/collections/body-care/products/yoni-duster

  • Should I be worried if my pad smells musty after it’s been washed?

If you’re smelling your pads right as you take them out of the washer, before you’ve dried them, there’s a chance they may smell little musty (similar to a damp towel that’s sat in the laundry hamper). However, this is simply because your pads are still damp, and it will go away once you complete your wash/dry cycle by drying your pads thoroughly in the dryer or on a clothesline. Think of the drying process as a continuation of your washing process- it’s just as important!

  • Why are there spots that look “bleached” on my darker pads?

It’s actually normal for the vagina to be slightly acidic! This acidity can affect your vaginal discharge, which can create lighter spots on your darker fabrics, where it gets on your pad. It can vary form person-to-person, but it’s perfectly normal!

This ten year old pad has some mild bleaching from the naturally acidic pH of the vagina.

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