About my materials:
While not all my materials are 100% natural, I strive to make each pad as eco-friendly as possible. My materials:
I use three types of waterproof or water resistant materials: PUL (Polyurethane Laminate), Windpro brand polyester fleece, and a heavy polyester fleece.
PUL is always a good choice for those concerned with leaking through the bottom, due to its waterproof quality. It is commonly used in cloth diapers and as the waterproof layer in matress pads. PUL meets CSPIA and Oeko Tec 100 standards (and my PUL is also food-safe!)
Windpro brand fleece is a durable, highly water resistant fabric. It is almost failproof despite being a porous fabric (though flow can still leak through if there is no where else for the flow to go) and many people in warmer climates feel that it is cooler to use a fleece than PUL as the backing on their pads.
Polyester fleece is the most breathable of the three fabrics, keeping things cooler. It is also the least water resistant, but all the same, fleece does a decent job in most cases.
I have chosen a very absorbent 70% bamboo vicose/30% organic cotton fleece blend that is certified to be free of any residual manufacturing chemicals, and manufactured in a free-trade factory in the USA. Independent tests for absorbency show bamboo/organic cotton fleece to be second only to hemp when it comes to how much fluid it can hold for it's weight!
Top and Bottoms (outer layers): When I use PUL for the water barrier, I also put a layer of cotton flannel on the bottom of the pad to keep the pad from shifting. Fleece bottoms do not require the extra layer of cotton. The top of the pad is usually quilter's cotton or cotton flannel, but occasionally I use a cotton interlock knit or polyester minky. I choose my fabrics carefully, choosing designs that are attractive while being durable and the least likely to transfer dye (or glitter!) to your body.
Quilter's Cotton: Quilter's cotton (often called "woven cotton") is the smooth, cool fabric most often used in quilting. It feels like a cotton sheet or a men's dress shirt. While it feels cool and smooth, wetness can be more noticeable with quilter's cotton than with other options.
Cotton Flannel: Cotton flannel is made the same way as quilter's cotton, but then the fabric is brushed to raise short cotton fibers up off the surface. This creates a softer, warmer fabric that is slightly more absorbent than quilter's cotton. I feel it keeps wetness closer to body temperature while it evaporates, making you feel drier.
Cotton Interlock Knit: Interlock knit is created by looping threads together, rather than weaving them. This creates a softer, warmer, and stretchier fabric. The feel of Interlock knit in a pad will be similar to flannel, and once sewn most stretch is stabilized. Knits also tend to be thicker than the woven fabrics mentioned above. Knits are not suitable for certain products, like wet bags.
Minky: Minky is a 100% polyester fabric with a raised nap - that is, it feels "furry." I choose minky fabrics with a short nap, so the "fur" is 1-2 mm deep. Minky is not absorbent, so fluids will pass through it into the absorbent core below. This makes it an excellent "stay-dry" layer and is great for heavy or gushy flows.
Snaps: I use professional grade size 20 KAM polycetal resin snaps on all my pads. Each snap set is tested before I even list a completed pad in my shop. These snaps are durable and can withstand high heat washes and dries without melting, rusting, or breaking. You must be certain, however, to not continue to run the dryer if the pads are dry, as doing this not only damages the fabric but can warp even the best KAM snaps.
So how many pads do I need?
This is not an easily answered question, because each woman is different and has different flows as well as laundering habits.
The best answer I can give is to consider how often you change your disposable pads. If you find you change your pad every 4th hour, then you will likely find you have similar needs with my medium flow reusable cloth pads. I did originally design Wee Essentials pads to cater to my rather heavy flow - I find the regular/medium flow cloth pads to be similar to mainstream disposables, with heavy flow pads lasting somewhat longer than regular flow pads.
Once you figure out how many pads you will go through on the heaviest day of your cycle, you need to consider how often you will wash the pads, and how you will dry them. If you want to wash every day, then you will need only as many pads as you will go through on the heaviest day plus washing time. (So if you need to change every 4 hours, you will need 6 pads in a 24 hour period.) Also consider drying time - if you are machine drying, this is not an issue, but if you must line dry, expect a full day of drying time except in the most dry climates.
How do I care for my pads?
Caring for pads is surprisingly easy. Here's what I recommend:
- Store in a dry pail or wet bag. If you are concerned with stains, some women like to use a soaking solution. My soap bits make a good soapy solution that help keep the stains from setting until you can use a detergent on them.
- Machine wash warm or cold. I also suggest a cool rinse before and a cool or warm rinse after. Do NOT wash on hot, as this will set any stains (it literally cooks the proteins in the blood, and removing it is like removing last night's lasagna from the pan - nearly impossible!)
- Tumble dry low, or line dry.
- Use a cloth diaper detergent or a detergent with few additives. I've found Tide Original as well as the Seventh Generation line to work well. Rockin' Green is also a great detergent specially made for cloth diapers and pads.
- Use no fabric softeners or bleach. Stains can be removed with a dilluted hydrogen peroxide solution or Fels Naptha bar applied to the top, but it's not necessary to use a stain remover.
- I would not recommend using the sanitize cycle. I preshrink all my fabrics but I have personally found that the sanitary cycle shrinks them quite a bit more and makes exposed fabrics wear and pill faster. If you have an infection and are concerned about re-transfer from the pads, Bac-out or a few hours sunbathing (the pads, not you!) will help kill any remaining yeast or bacteria.