Do You Pay For Things You Throw Away? – Ladies Only Version

by Emily · 36 comments

in Living Frugally

We all know the mantra.  Disposable is bad, reusable is better.  And, while we’ve been good stewards of the earth (not to mention our wallets) and bought our Nalgene water bottles and cloth diapers, I’ve got one specific topic to discuss here.

This one is for the ladies.  And maybe a few enlightened men.

Consciously Frugal recently posted about reusable menstrual pads, among other things, as an option for those wonderful few days a month when Aunt Flo visits.

Confession time.  It’s been years since tampons or pads have been part of our household budget.  I have a particular aversion for paying for things with the intent to throw them away (obvious exception being toilet paper, but hey, that day may be coming).  Long ago, when I stumbled over this article at Hillbilly Housewife, it was an exciting moment!  I was hooked!


Confession time.  While I own a very nice sewing machine, we’re not very compatible.  I can throw off a set of curtains or sew a draft-catcher. Things more complicated allude me.

We did, however, have a surplus of old(er), not-quite-as-nice bath towels.

So I cut them into 8x8ish inch squares.  Washed them a few times to get the errant threads out.  Fold them into thirds and viola!  Reusable sanitary pads!  Wash with the rest of your whites!

One thing I especially love about them is that they’re longer and more absorbent then even the overnight pads.  I sleep better at night, not worrying about the errant leak on my sheets.

So what do you think?  Does this make you squeamish?  How far would you go to save a dollar?

And is reusable toilet paper too far?


1 JanB April 26, 2010

Nope. I haven’t branched out into that realm yet. I once tried the diva cup, but it was really uncomfortable and nasty to deal with.

I find that there are some things that are nice to have disposable.
.-= JanB´s last blog ..$$$ick =-.

2 Kelly S April 26, 2010

O.k. Emily–this is a little squeamish for me. I’m thinking of the logistics of this. Do you do laundry every day? Because I would think dirty, used “feminine product” would reek after sitting out for a day. I am really curious about the “nitty gritty” of how you do this.

Maybe I’m not far enough along in this frugal journey, but I can’t even imagine reusing toilet paper. There are some things that I’m not willing to do to save a dime, and that is one of them.

3 Emily April 26, 2010

Kelly, I've never noticed an odor, nor have my DH or son commented on one. At one point I did the bucket of water under the sink, but (to me) that was just grosser, and it smelled worse. I do laundry as needed, so maybe 3-4 loads a week.

4 Molly April 29, 2010

I’ve found the scent to be nonexistent as long as they’re let dry before sticking in a dry bucket or the hamper.

5 Annie Jones April 26, 2010

I have been using a Diva Cup for about 18 months, and I love it. I am 46 and oh how I wish I’d known about it years ago. Not only would I have saved a ton of money, I think it works better than anything I’ve ever tried (absolutely no leaking) and my cramps aren’t as bad as they were with tampons, either.

If I were living alone, I’d consider reusable bathroom cloths, especially just for “Number One” trips to the bathroom. But I have a husband and granddaughter living here, too, and I doubt I could get them on that bandwagon.

6 Emily April 26, 2010

THANK YOU! THIS is why I heart AF readers – never thought of using a bathroom cloth for number ones. Ann, you just saved me some $$$!

7 Kelly April 26, 2010

When I cloth diapered my babies it was easy enough to toss the used ‘rags’ (remember the term ‘on the rag’? This is where it comes from) into the dirty diaper bin. Now in fact I just toss them in with the wash, but then again I do at least one load of laundry a day, so there’s no sitting around involved.

I do get along well with my sewing machine, but instead of cutting up a towel I just use a washcloth folded into thirds lengthwise. On the other hand, I only use this solution at night, so don’t worry about bulk during the day.

8 Tracy @ Sew what... April 26, 2010

Hmm, I don’t do the reusable pad thing, though I’ve been reading about it lately. I still have plenty of pads and tampons to go through before I even REALLY contemplate using them. From my understanding a lot of women have a lidded bucket in the bathroom (like a gallon ice cream bucket) with some soapy water in there and they put the pads in there to “soak” until their cycle is over, then they wash the pads. If you have white only pads, you could throw a little bleach in there. Much like some women do for cloth diapers. Anyways…not there yet, not really squeamish about it. However, I’d hate to explain it to my S.O. if he found them. He is completely against cloth diapering, I can only imagine what he’d say about this….
.-= Tracy @ Sew what…´s last blog ..Money Mondays…Be aware of what you’re spending and where…. =-.

9 nicole 86 April 26, 2010

Well, I am old ( 59), when I was young I had to hand wash sanitary pads every month ( at that time, we didn’t have washing machine). When my first baby was born, my mother-in-law asked me to use only cloth diapers,at that time I was lucky enough to have a washing machine, yet as it was not working properly, I used to handwash diapers first.
For my second baby I said I would do my own way and use disposable.
nicole from France

10 Emily April 26, 2010

Nicole, 59 isn’t old!

11 Helena April 26, 2010

I spend about $5 – 10 per month on pads. Is it taking the frugal thing a little too far to use a washable version? I’d rather save money in some other area and save landfill space by cutting down somewhere else.
Let’s think about hygeine.
.-= Helena´s last blog ..Is Having a Massage Weekly Too Much? =-.

12 ConsciouslyFrugal April 26, 2010

Emily, thanks for the link! Have you checked out the comments section? Those commenting divas are hilarious and being very open about their experiences. As for the “family cloth,” I can’t manage it. I buy toilet paper recommended by the NRDC, but outside of that…I’m just not cool enough. Yet.

Ok Helena, I gotta protest here. Your statement smacks of days of old, when our lovely monthly cycles were thought to be “dirty” and “unclean” and embarassing. So much so, that we’d have to grab our pads from behind the counter, properly covered in discreet brown paper.

There is nothing unhygenic about using reusable menstrual pads. There is nothing dirty about women’s bodies. If you bleed on sheets or a piece of clothing, do you throw it out due to sanitary concerns? Do you use disposable cloths to clean the bathroom or dishes?

It saddens me when I see women refer to their cycles in a manner that suggests disgust. Perhaps I’m reading that into your comment and that is not at all your sentiment, which I hope is the case.

As far as expense and landfills, as I noted in my post, the average woman has a menstrual cycle for 41 years. Overall cost to the individual? Not that much. More than 20 billion tons tampons and pads go into landfills each year. 41 years for each of us, 20 billion tons of waste collectively each year. That’s a pretty steep cost for the environment.
.-= ConsciouslyFrugal´s last blog ..Death to Disposables: Cloth Instead of Toss =-.

13 Helena April 27, 2010

Consciously Frugal – I don’t think I referred to my menstrual cycle in a manner that suggested disgust, it’s not really something I think about much, it just is what it is – it was how I was brought up (I’m 39) & I’ve never known any different.
I’m pretty forward thinking on a other topics, this one just hasn’t really hit my radar.
I get your point about landfill, but really there are sooo many other areas that require vigilance by all people (men & women), not just pads & baby nappies. I make concessions in other areas so I can have the convenience in this area (& yes I do use disposable nappies for my baby).
Once I’ve got other areas under control then perhaps I may revisit this one.
.-= Helena´s last blog ..Is Having a Massage Weekly Too Much? =-.

14 Molly April 26, 2010

Oh, my Diva cup and cloth pads make me happy. I no longer hate that time of the month, I get to enjoy “underpants decorations” (my partner’s term), and they’re so much more comfortable. And I’ve saved some money! My favorites are New Moon pads. As far as washing goes, I rinse them out daily in the shower, and I might scrub them with some Dr. Bronner’s and an old toothbrush. Then I hand them to dry in the shower – over the rod, in the shower, at the end opposite the showerhead. By the next day, they’re dry, so I toss them in with the rest of my dark laundry. I do dry them in the dryer for extra fluffiness.

15 Kelly April 26, 2010

Underpants decoration- ha ha ha!! Thank you Molly, for that expression- that made my day!

16 Jersey Mom April 26, 2010

Emily, interesting post. I have heard a few bloggers talk about using cloth pads. Although I’ll probably be able to save a few dollars a month by doing this, I must honestly say that I don’t believe I’ll do it. The idea is just too foreign for me… but who knows, I may change my mind in the future…
.-= Jersey Mom´s last blog ..Money Talk with Hubby =-.

17 Simple in France April 26, 2010

I’m not a very squeamish person. I haven’t addressed this on my own blog mainly because I think I have about four male readers, and I fear I’ll chase them off! I bought a ‘moon cup’ recently. Cheesy name aside it’s a completely respectable, reusable product. And you know, at first I kind of went “Eeeeewww!” But I’m over it. “Ew” is filling our oceans with tampons and our landfills with menstrual pads. Come on people–there’s nothing dirty about the menstrual cycle.

I haven’t tried rewashing pads, but see no reason why it wouldn’t work. I’ve also considered (but have not yet attempted to implement) the family cloth idea. I’m still researching that one, but as long as I’m convinced it’s healthy (and can sell the idea to my husband) I may try it.
.-= Simple in France´s last blog ..Saying “NO” to Fitting in. And weekly post picks. =-.

18 Alison@This Wasn't In The Plan April 26, 2010

I’m not ready to jump on this, nor do I think I ever will! I would rather save money elsewhere and for me, the savings wouldn’t really justify the extra effort and inconvenience. Besides, my contraception is currently making such items unnecessary. 🙂
.-= Alison@This Wasn’t In The Plan´s last blog ..Because It Was On Sale =-.

19 Annie Jones April 26, 2010

“…Come on people–there’s nothing dirty about the menstrual cycle…”

I agree, Simple In France. I think people are far too squeamish about it. I’d rather rinse out my Diva Cup than throw a tampon or pad in my trash can.

I think my next step will be washable hankies instead of disposable tissues.
.-= Annie Jones´s last blog ..Monday Morning Chit Chat – Thanksgiving In April Edition =-.

20 Kris April 26, 2010

I’ve used a diva cup and reusable pads for over 3 years now and will NEVER switch back to disposables. I used to have chronic yeast infections (I know, fun, right?) which stopped when I switch to the diva cup. My ob-gyn said tampons absorb “natual moisture” as well as blood, making our insides drier than they should be and more susceptible to infection (its worth noting, she uses disposable pads so its not like she was arguing for me to continue using reusable feminine products).

If you think its gross to have used reusable pads sitting around waiting for laundry day, think about how many disposables you use in a month, multiply that by however many periods you have in a year and how long you’ve been menstruating. Now, picture each woman on your block with her corresponding mountain of non-biodegrable, bloody waste. Do you like camping, going to the park, visiting the beach?? Plunk all those mountains down in your favourite outdoor spot and realize what your disposables are REALLY doing in the long run. How many women would still be using disposables if the used items HAD to be kept in their neighbourhood until they had “broken down”??

In order to sell their wares, feminine hygiene companies have convinced women that our periods are something dirty and unhygienic and that we need to dispose of the evidence of menstruation as soon as possible to avoid bringing the plague upon our household. The thing is, these products don’t really disappear, we’re just shipping them off somewhere out of sight and this planet is going to run out of “out of sight” spots one day.
.-= Kris´s last blog ..Vacation Review =-.

21 Sarah April 26, 2010

I honestly can say I haven't really thought about this. I personally don't see a washcloth being able to contain what I *ahem* produce. I have thought of a diva cup, but haven't made the move yet.
.-= Sarah´s last blog ..Spring Cleaning – Part 1 =-.

22 Lea April 26, 2010

I think reusable menstrual products are great. I’ve used washable pads (GladRags), the Diva Cup and sea sponges on and off for the last 10 years or so (I am 42). I was very interested when I first learned about the different options available – I couldn’t believe that they had been around for so long yet I had never heard about them in magazines or other media. Apparently the disposable pad and tampon companies spend a lot of money on advertising, and they don’t want magazines having articles on things that could take away their customers (at least this is what I heard).

Unfortunately, due to various personal sensitivities, I can only use the reusable options for a day or two at a time, and then I have to go back to using a certain brand of tampons. I wish this were different, but this is the only workable solution I’ve found.

I should note that I am not squeamish AT ALL. However, many other people are. I have talked about this issue with female friends and family members, even offering to buy them the reusable products so they could try them out. Sadly, no one has taken me up on my offer. I did have to educate my partner about these options, but he’s ok with it as long as he doesn’t actually have to see my pads soaking (I use an opaque container with a lid, which works fine).

23 Molly April 27, 2010

I’ve tried to educate friends and family, too. I even gave the greenest one some for Christmas. No dice. It makes me sad.

24 Isha April 27, 2010

I made the switch to cloth diapers and was happy with it.
As far as this topic, I have thought about it, but Diva cups aren’t supposed to be used with IUDs, and I love my IUD very much. As for pads, yuck, I don’t like them, disposable or not, but maybe, just maybe I should try them as light liners for those last few days or as backup for tampons. For now I’m stockpiled for years with free or ridiculously cheap liners & tampons I’ve gotten at drugstores with their loyal shopper club discounts (CVS/Walgreens here in Tennessee) & with coupons, so the money part hasn’t been an issue, but adding to the landfill definitely still is.
I’ll never know if I don’t try out some cloth liners. So, I think I will try them sometime, and if I like them, I will stop using disposables when I run out.

25 Sarah T. April 27, 2010

My current form of contraception has meant that I don’t need to use any menstrual products, but I used the Diva Cup for several years and tried some cloth pads. I loved the Diva Cup – it is a little big and uncomfortable at first, but like anything new, you get used to it. It makes me sad that the media and our society has convinced women that disposable products are more “hygienic” than bleached plastic products that go to landfills. What’s unhygienic about silicon that you can clean with soap & water, rubbing alcohol, or vinegar and boil between cycles? I’d rather have that in mean than bleached cotton.

26 Leanne April 27, 2010

About 9 years ago, when I was cloth diapering for the third time, I switched myself to cloth as well. I’ve never been a tampon user, so didn’t need a cup. I would never, ever go back to plastic. Think about where you’re putting it! I am much more comfortable with cotton next to my important parts, never mind contributing to the landfill. Due to a hysterectomy, I no longer menstruate, but cloth makes a great daily pantyliner as well. No glue to ruin my underwear! I’ve always made my own, developed my own pattern and instructions based on things I saw on the internet. Unfortunately have never been able to convince the other women in my life. We use a lot of cloth in our home, and very little disposable paper. Toilet paper though… 🙂

27 nopinkhere April 27, 2010

I really like my Diva cup! I’ve been toying with the idea of making some re-usable pantyliners, but I haven’t done anything about it yet. I have mentioned “family cloth” to my husband, more just informationally rather than as a suggestion or an “I wish.” It would pretty much be only me using it for now, so I should probably just go ahead and do it.
.-= nopinkhere´s last blog ..Skirt Mania =-.

28 Rhonda April 27, 2010

I started using cloth pads several months ago and I love them! The disposable pads were giving me rashes and tampons are uncomfortable. I started out with a few cloth pads I bought at I was able to pick out fun colors and patterns. I have monkey pads, fruit pads, fairy pads, flower pads and dragonfly pads. This makes that time of the month much more fun! I decided I needed a few more so I found several patterns on the internet and sewed a few of my own. I used some old flannel pjs and some old baby blankets for the outside covering and used some fake chamois cloth for the inner inserts. I made small ones for liners and extra long mega ones for overnight. I’m not a seamstress at all but these were really easy to make and if they are not perfect who cares! After I use them I just rinse them in the sink with a little cold water and hydrogen peroxide. Then I put them in a plastic bucket with a lid and cold water until I get ready to wash.
I had such a good experience with the pads that I decided to try cloth toilet paper. So far I only use cloth for number 1 visits. I had some fleece sweatpants that I no longer wear and cut these up into 4 x 6 squares. With fleece you don’t even have to hem it and it does not unravel. This feels much better than paper on my skin! I just put the squares in a nylon drawstring bag I have hanging on the toilet paper holder after I use them. I haven’t noticed any bad smell.

29 Nancy April 27, 2010

NO. THANK. YOU. This is taking frugal too far in my opinion. As a working mom of two teenage girls who also have Aunt Flo as a regular visitor, dealing with this for 3 of us is way more than I want to even consider. Honestly, even if it were just me I wouldn’t do it.
As for the reusable toilet paper…some folks do it but again, not anything I would consider. Flush your poo wipes.
.-= Nancy´s last blog ..tulip festival =-.

30 Nicki at Domestic Cents April 27, 2010

Wow. I just read ALL of those comments. This is a really interesting topic to me. When I gave birth to my daughter 4 years ago I didn’t know a single person that used cloth diapers. I didn’t even consider it because I knew nothing about it. She’s completely potty-trained now and I wish I knew then what I know now. If kiddo number 2 comes along I’ll def. use cloth.

As for myself and my own time of the month … I’ve never considered reusable pads but I have toyed with the idea of trying out the diva cup. I really dislike the amount of waste I create with the disposable products, but again, no one else in my life has ever tried or encouraged me to try a reusable option. Sometimes, I am very thankful for the Internet 🙂 I really appreciate all of the comments above. They were helpful to me!!

Oh, and family cloth … mentioned it to my husband. He laughed. 🙂 Guess I’ll wait a little on that one.
.-= Nicki at Domestic Cents´s last blog ..How To Find Extra Money In Your Life =-.

31 Crystal April 27, 2010

I once had a miserable camping trip with a potty-training two-year-old, a nursing-’round-the-clock four-month-old, their father and my uncle. I’d had a molar extracted the morning we left home and started my period the second day in the woods. I generally love camping, but I was not what you’d call a happy camper that trip. The best thing that came from that nightmare of exhaustion and effluvia was discovering Glad Rags in the grocery store in the northern California hippie town nearest our campgrounds.

I’d gone into town for tampons, and I bought those too. The kids and I both made the switch to disposables for road-trips. I’d heard of cloth pads as a teenager and had been immediately and deeply horrified. Two kids, and countless loads of cloth diapers and wipes, later I was totally ready to not have one more thing to worry about running out of. Now I rely mostly on Lunapads, Lunapanties and my Mooncup, except for on roadtrips. That position hasn’t changed.

If I had my own bathroom, I’d happily switch to reusable toilet “paper,” but I don’t, so I won’t.

32 Beverly April 28, 2010

This is just a super way to save trees. And who cares what we think? Go for it..

33 anon_canary April 29, 2010

I had what may have been a slight case of TSS in my college years, after which my doc said tampons weren’t safe. But I can’t handle the feel of pads (no matter the brand, and I think I tried them all). So I spent a lot of $$ over the years on light-volume disposable tampons, changed them all the time, and hoped, except when I got frustrated with having to change them all the time, and went with the absorbency suited for the day, and _prayed_ nothing worse than cramps would happen…

I wish I’d known about the Diva Cup and all its ilk back then! Mine has more than paid for itself in peace of mind, but in pocketbook measure, it took about three months. Less time than I’d figured when I ran the numbers, even, but I hadn’t realized how much I spent going with the juniors instead of the super.

34 Stephanie April 29, 2010

I love the reusables!! I personally have a Mooncup, and I hardly ever use pads. My sister had LunaPads which she loved, so she asked me to make her more pads. It is quite fun, fairly easy and we get very customizable! While pads are not my preference, I have not had any trouble with the laundry. I keep an old plastic baby wipe tub on the back of the toilet to put the dirty ones in until washday. No one in the family has ever noticed an odor. I don't like soaking them though– if you don't do laundry that day that is a bit gross for me. (That definitely gets an "odor")

Now for the TP– I like the idea for Number 1, and might be able to convert my family. I can wrap my head around it for number 2 (no different from dirty cloth diapers…) and have done this for my little kids with the cloth wipes that I have made, but I can't see my family really converting. I kept a small diaper pail next to the potty for the clothes. Chuck em in, wash them later.

35 LJ May 17, 2010

I used to think OB tampons were just beyond the line of gross (no inserter). But…I started using a Diva cup out of sheer desperation after my daughter was born — body changes left me with a flow that while not “dangerously heavy” is still way more than standard pads and tampons can cope with. I love my Divas, and I have two of them to make changing at work a bit easier.

I have to use a pad with them, though, and I am considering the Moon pads in the future. Sewing my own just seems like too much work. 🙂

36 Tammi May 19, 2010

It's DEFINITELY a big hygiene issue! Have you heard about the high incidence of female problems suffered by workers making disposable diapers and menses pads? No way am I putting those things on my delicate area ever again.

I've had progressively less cramps, and lighter flow since switching to "mama cloth" (used to have flash flooding and lots of pain for about a week). I don't throw away my washcloths or underwear after each use, maybe I'm just old-fashioned that way…

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