Before we get down to business, let’s have an honest moment: we’ve all bled on our clothes at some point! I feel confident saying most people with periods probably own some “period undies” that are perfectly serviceable, just a bit stained. If something is stained by blood, that does NOT mean it’s dirty. Because everybody’s body/situation/flow is different, these tips might not work all the time for everyone. Just keep in mind — GladRags will still work if they’re stained and stains do not equal dirty!
Talking blood stains is par for the course at GladRags HQ. We get tons of questions about preventing stains, and we sell a few stain removers ourselves, but we don’t often get into the whys and hows of keeping GladRags stain free. Are you in the camp that believes warm water is best for laundry? We might have some factoids to challenge that, at least in terms of your cloth menstrual pads!
Did you know that your blood contains protein? Yup! And you know what is really effective at changing the properties of a protein? Cooking it, of course! This is why we recommend using cold water when washing your pads. The proteins in blood stains seek one another out and bunch together (like blood bunches around your skin when it clots after a cut), so when you add heat to this, the proteins cook and bind even tighter to the fibers of the fabric.
If you soak, rinse and wash with cold water only, then you’re more likely to actually remove the components of the stain. Which means your pads are clean!
Until sterilizing undergarments is the norm, I don’t think sterilizing your pads is necessary. Disposable menstrual products are certainly not sterile – just packaged to look that way! At least with your cloth pads, you are in charge of their sanitation. And trust us – you got this.
Whether you soak your pads in a bucket before washing or stow them in a wet bag until laundry day, the sooner you douse your GladRags, the less likely they are to stain. If you’re home, that’s easy enough: as you change your cloth pad, give it a rinse under cold water while rubbing the surface with your finger to better saturate the fabric. Stow it in your wet bag to wait for laundry day. This step is OK to skip for those who use a soaking container – you get the same effect submerging your pads and changing the water daily.
Because the fluids we’re dealing with are water-based, water will dilute them. Like dissolves like, in this case. The key to using water to our benefit is to make sure it is cold.
If you’re unable to rinse your pads while they’re still damp, then you’ll need the help of some added stain removing power. Regardless of your laundry method, always rinse dried stains with plenty of cold water first. You’ll want to handle the fabric more gingerly, though, until the hardened proteins throughout the fabric soften. So don’t rub the dried stain too vigorously or the fibers may weaken!
After soaking or keeping your pads in a wet bag, employ your stain remover of choice and apply it directly to the blood stain, letting it sit for about 30 minutes. If you used a wet bag to store your pads, then they might benefit from a cold rinse or pre-soak before going through the normal wash cycle.
We like enzyme-based cleansers because they are active in cold water. The enzymes “eat” at the blood stains, effectively removing them and rinsing away easily with water. If you have hard water, consider adding a cup of white vinegar to your soaking water or directly to your washing machine to boost the water’s stain removing power.
For all of your efforts, if a stain hasn’t been fully removed from your pads before going into a warm dryer, then it becomes permanent! Just as warm water in any of the steps above would help to set in stains, a warm dryer will toast those little proteins into a stubborn, permanent spot.
Remember how we suggested you agitate the stain with your fingers while rinsing it under a cold tap? Pretty effective stuff, so it wouldn’t hurt to throw something into the laundry with your pads that might help to rough them up a bit. I like to use a pair of jeans for this purpose – the legs are super effective at whipping my GladRags about! This works to serve a different purpose in the dryer: your GladRags won’t bunch up in tiny, wrinkled balls. We’re pretty big fans of wool dryer balls used in lieu of dryer sheets as well. They agitate by bouncing around in your dryer, and they even work as a fabric softener. They’re pretty easy to make, too.
I’ll be honest – some of us have a couple of pads that, despite our best cleaning efforts, are a little stained (I’m looking at my five-year-old Organic pads; how careless I was with my laundry in my youth!). I find the staining doesn’t bother me much since I know that I’ve washed my pads thoroughly and that stains do not mean the item is dirty (and it honestly takes off some of the pressure to keep them immaculate). Overall, though, most people are surprised by how easy it is to keep their pads stain-free!
While washing your pads on warm will set in stains, it can also lessen the lifespan of your GladRags. Being overly rough with scrubbing and washing could also wear out the fabric faster than as with normal use. Our suggestion? Do as little of the above steps as necessary to prevent stains so you can preserve your GladRags for years to come.
We’d love to hear your own stain-removal methods in the comments. What’s your favorite product or household item for fighting stains? Do you mind some staining, or are you diligent in maintaining a fresh look?