How to Wash Cloth Menstrual Pads: A Step by Step List

If you’re new to cloth menstrual pads, you may think that washing them is difficult or complicated. Quite the opposite! Cloth pads are simple to care for, and once you’ve got your routine going, you’ll hardly notice the few extra minutes it takes to care for them.

Here’s a step by step list for caring for your cloth pads:

1. Presoak

organic cloth pad laundry kit

You can either drop your pads into a soaking container as you finish wearing them (just change the soaking water daily), or wait until the end of your cycle to do a presoak. Adding a dash of a natural enzyme cleaner will help fight discoloration or odor. Soaking helps prevent staining, but is not necessary as far as cleaning your pads. Don’t mind some staining? Skip this step!

2. Wash on cold

About 90% of the energy used for a load of laundry is to heat the water, so choosing a cold cycle is the best option in terms of efficiency. It’s also the best choice for your cloth menstrual pads: hot water will set in stains, shrink your pads, and ultimately shorten their lifespan. Cold water wash is all around better for all of your laundry!

You can add your cloth menstrual pads in with other laundry items, too, like towels or sheets; no need for a separate load. If you feel squeamish about washing your pads with other items, just make sure to select a small load on your washing machine so you don’t waste water!

3. Use a natural laundry soap

Most people can use their regular laundry detergent for their pads. Just make sure its free of bleach and fabric softener, which can both shorten the life of your pads and decrease their absorbency. It’s a good idea to choose a fragrance free option as well.

4. Dry on low or line dry

The dryer is the biggest culprit when it comes to shrinking clothing and shortening its lifespan. Make sure to choose a low setting for your GladRags in order to keep them around for many years! You can also choose to hang dry if you live in a place where they will dry promptly.

5. Put them away til next month!

Store your GladRags in a clean, dry area until it’s time to use them again. A basket in the closet, or even just a corner of your sock drawer works just fine.

For more in-depth examples of how to launder your reusable menstrual pads, check out the videos below! How do you keep your pads squeaky clean? Tell us in the comments!

  • Viki Carter

    I do a sort of “lazy soak”. I put all my used pads in a larg-ish “wet bag”- a bag that’s waterproofed on the inside (a nylon type lining) that hangs on the back of my bathroom door. No rinsing or soaking. Then at the end of my cycle I throw them all in the washing machine and set it to soak, with warm water and some oxygen bleach. After an hour or two, or all day, whatever there is time for, I wash them with towels or sheets or whatever. No one would ever even know I was washing and soaking pads! And it is really no extra work for me.

    • That’s perfect! Have your pads held up well?

      • Viki Carter

        I still have a few that are the original ones I bought 12 or so years ago! I don’t recommend it if anyone is truly opposed to a few stains, but I don’t mind. Forgot to add that I usually put them in the dryer, but hang them in the sun when the weather cooperates.

        • Nice! The sun probably helps with staining too.

  • Jessica

    I heard about this site during a Women’s Studies class. I’m a college freshman and still adjusting to community life, but I’m thinking about switching to the cloth pads. I’m very passionate about the environment, and I think they’ll be a lot more comfortable than the disposable kind. However, I’m a little worried about storing them and cleaning them and such. Do you think I could be discreet with them, considering I have a roommate, a shared floor bathroom, and shared laundry facilities?

    • Hi Jessica! It’s definitely possible to use cloth pads discreetly while in college or with shared laundry facilities. Here’s some tips from university students about choosing reusables:

      Hope that helps!

    • Kristi

      Get a nice lingerie bag (most of them are closely knit enough so that all you see in the bag is a bunch o colors). I keep mine in a pretty shoe box (until it gets bigger…) I honestly don’t care much about discreetness as I do not losing a pad! And honestly, whats less discreet than the plastic crinkly noises disposables make?
      You can even store them in a nice bag on a hook in your closet/wall or under your bed or in a dresser!

    • Linda Ullman

      I live in a house with people who are weirded out by anything related to periods, and especially my pads. I have a “wet bag” from LoveMy that a friend gave me when she set me up with my pads. I generally fold them in half and tuck them in that bag which hangs on a hook in the bathroom we share. The bag is completely generic and seriously, no one is going to recognize it for what it is unless they are already familiar with reusable pads. The wet bag hides both sight and smell till you’re ready to throw them in the wash. I usually empty my wet bag into the washer, and if I notice that my bag smells a little funky, I turn it inside out and throw it in too.

    • Marian Kettle

      I know you posted 3 years ago, but just to put my experience so far out there, I started using cloth pads before I moved on campus, and refused to change back to disposable because they are so much more comfortable. You can get small wet bags, that hold one to two, maybe three, to put individual pads in. These would also be helpful for changing when out and about. I then have two big wet bags, one for dirty pads, one for clean. When I go to shower, I take the dirty with me and rinse them off in the shower. It is a community bathroom, but the wet bag does a good job hiding what is in it. My dirty pad wet bag has batman logos all over it. The community laundry room, that can get a little tricky, but I’ve found if I throw the pads in first, then everything else (including the wet bag, turned inside out), no one notices. If I have company in there, which is rare, they are normally more focused on what they are doing than what I’m doing. I think you’ll be fine. Etsy is a great place to look for individual sized wet bags, as well as larger wet bags. I wish you luck!