If I ever want to get rid of my husband (and I often occasionally think about it when I’ve been up most of the night with the toddler and I can hear him snoring from the bedroom) in a way that doesn’t require a criminal act, I already have the perfect plan.

All I need to do is start using these.

What are they? You might ask. These, my blogging friends, are reusable cloth sanitary towels/cloth pads. And when I excitedly told my husband Ross * that I had won a sample in a Twitter party, his reaction was: “If you ever start using them I am leaving.”

In fact, almost everyone I mentioned them to has looked utterly appalled at the very idea. “It’s like going back to the Dark Ages,” one said.

When I suggested this to the Twitter party host, Tamsin at Eco Fluffy Mama, who describes herself, among other things, as a “menstrual activist and educator” she remarked that most people say “gross” at first but then come around once they know the facts.

So what are they? Well, according to Eco Femme, which is where my sample, via Earthwise Girls (thank you), comes from (although there are many different makers and types of reusable pads available):

“On average, a single woman generates 125kg of sanitary waste during her menstruating years when she uses disposable sanitary products.”

That’s more than 19 stone in old money and each one takes an estimated 500 – 800 years to decompose in landfill.

As the person above stated, cloth pads are nothing new. According to Wikipedia, the first disposable pads became available in the late 1800s but cloth pads started making a come back in developed countries in the 1970s for environmental, health and cost reasons. Of course, we are lucky because we have a choice. In many countries, women do not.

Eco Femme is a social enterprise based in southern India, where menstruation, especially in rural areas, remains taboo. According to a survey they conducted in 2011 of 300 women in rural Tamil Nadu, 95%:…

“…experience some lifestyle restriction associated with menstruation, such as sleeping outdoors, not touching farm animals, having to bathe several times a day, being forbidden from entering temples, not being able to attend family functions, not touching food that will be consumed by others, etc.”

In India, the majority of women still use scrap cloth from old saris or towels held in place with a string belt, although disposable pads are becoming more common in urban areas if people can afford them (there is more info about this on the website, if you are interested). Eco Femme adds:

“In addition to promoting eco-positive menstrual practices, our project supports education for girls and livelihood for women, with a particular focus on rural India where many women are marginalized and do not have access to education or products that enable them to manage their menstruation in a healthy and dignified way.”

My husband’s reaction was down to washing them; he didn’t like the thought of them being in with the laundry – although, I should add, if I felt strongly about using them, he would support me and wouldn’t really leave (probably). Each cloth pad lasts for about 75 washes and Eco Femme says:

Cloth pads can be washed easily by hand or in the washing machine. The secret is soaking them in cold or warm water for 30 minutes before washing. Most of the blood comes out in the soaking process. After that, it’s just like washing your clothes.

While I have failed at using cloth nappies, I wonder if this could be a way of helping to redeem myself environmentally (as well as hopefully a better, healthier option for me personally).

What do you think, ladies of the internet, would you use them?


* His name isn’t really Ross but I finally got around to watching the first episode of the new Poldark and, oh my goodness, how beautiful is, er, Cornwall?