Why Reusable?
Cloth Pads
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Cloth Pad Styles
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Styles and Types of Cloth Pad

Unlike disposable pads, cloth pads come in a variety of styles. This is so that you can choose a system that works best for your needs - as far as absorbency, wash-ability, leak protection and other variables are concerned. Some are an "All-in-One" (AIO) style that is shaped like a disposable pad and works in the same way (snap the wings around your underpants and wear it as is). Some pads are a multiple-part system, where you have boosters or inserts that need to be used with a base.
Because there are so many cloth pads available you can have the pads that work best for you.... not what ones the supermarket happens to stock. I'd suggest starting with a few different types to find what works best for you and what your personal preferences are for fabrics and styles. That way you're not stuck with a bunch of pads you don't really like.
All-in-one (AIO) pad
This is a pad (of any shape) that has the absorbency and waterproofing sewn into a pad that you use like you would use a disposable pad - just put it in your underpants and you are good to go. No adding anything or doing anything to the pad. It is all in one piece.

  • Quick and easy to use
  • Little chance of leakage through the pad, due to the waterproofing
  • The waterproof layer means the flow can be distributed through the pad more, so less layers are needed in the pad - allowing the pad to be thinner and can be less bulky than non-waterproofed pads.
  • Wool can be used as a leak resistant layer to give an all natural AIO pad.

  • Can take longer to dry than pads with removable parts, as all layers are sewn into the pad and are not removable.
  • No ability to adjust the absorbency.
  • May have to be more careful with washing and care, as some chemicals and heat can damage the waterproof fabrics.
  • Waterproofing is generally synthetic, and some women prefer to avoid synthetics.

Non-Waterproofed Pad ("Non-waterproofed AIO")
A pad that has all layers sewn in, but has no waterproofing. Some argue it's not an "AIO" if it's not got waterproofing. Can be winged or non-winged, of any shape.

  • Quick and easy to use
  • Can be made from all natural fabrics (for health and environmental benefits)
  • More breathable

  • Can take longer to dry than pads with removable parts as all layers are sewn into the pad and are not removable.
  • No ability to adjust the absorbency
  • Does not contain waterproofing
  • Often these need more layers to achieve the same protection as a waterproofed pad.

Pocket/Envelope pad
An empty pad shaped shell with an opening on the underside, where separate removable absorbent "inserts" or "boosters" are placed. Can be waterproofed on the back of the pad shell or on the inserts. Click images for larger view.

  • Quicker to dry as the inserts are removable
  • If the pad comes with more than one insert you can adjust the amount of absorbency so you aren't using a thick pad when you don't need to
  • The one pad can see you through light flow to heavier flow by putting less or more inserts in.
  • Can use anything as the inserts (folded handkerchiefs etc.)

  • Have to assemble the pad prior to use (and disassemble to wash)
  • Usually not waterproofed.
  • Not all come with inserts that extend into the wing, so you may have only a thin layer of fabric on the wing that you can leak through.
  • The whole pad needs to be changed when soiled (you can't just replace the inserts).
  • Some Pocket pads are provided with one insert, which may be too thick or not thick enough for your needs.
  • Can be bulkier than an AIO pad

Base + Insert pads / Holder & Inserts / Shield & Inserts
These are generally a winged pad shaped piece that has little to no absorbency itself, and comes with absorbent inserts that are placed ontop of the base. Sometimes these inserts attach on by way of a snap, button or velcro located at the ends of the base and the inserts, some have the inserts slide under strips of ribbon/rick rack/twill tape on the ends and some have little pocket like ends on the base that the inserts fit into. Click image for a larger view.

  • Quicker to dry than an AIO as the inserts are removable
  • Can change the inserts while leaving the base on, so you can change more regularly to have a fresh pad on.
  • Styles that use pocket ends or tape/ribbon straps can usually be used with more than one insert together, and you can make additional inserts or use face washers etc. to add absorbency.
  • Can be an economical use of waterproofed fabric, as the one base can be used through the day with several inserts.

  • Have to assemble the pad prior to use (and disassemble to wash)
  • Some styles do not have waterproofing.
  • Styles that have the inserts attach to the base part with snaps will only allow one insert at a time, and only work with their own brand (unless you find other brands with the same size inserts with the snaps in the same position). If you have a style that only works with its brand of inserts you may not have enough inserts to last all day.
  • Inserts usually not suitable for heavy flow, so you may bleed through them quickly, making a non-waterproofed base soiled quickly and losing the advantage of being able to keep it on.

Foldable pads
These are pads that include a section that folds out for quicker drying. Some may have waterproofing built in, some may not. Some styles may have the folded part on top, allowing for refolding to expose a clean surface, to make the pad comfortable for longer. Some styles have the foldup part underneath the pad. Click images for larger view.

  • Quicker to dry than an AIO as the absorbency is in a thinner fabric that folds up to make it more absorbent.
  • Can refold the pad to have a clean surface
  • In some styles you may be able to add additional boosters to the folded section to increase absorbency

  • Have to assemble/fold up the pad prior to use
  • Trickier to use than an AIO due to the folding.
  • Often don't have waterproofing
  • Can be bulkier than an AIO pad

Boostable pads
These are any pads that have some absorbency themselves, but also have the ability for an additional booster to be somehow added to the pad to increase its absorbency and may give waterproofing. These differ from a Pocket Pad because the pad can function as a pad without the boosters - whereas a pocket pad is generally en empty case. Click images for larger view.

    Some example of these are:
    • A pad that has the booster slipping between an absorbent top and the backing (as shown with the blue pad in the picture above - where the insert slips between the terry top and the waterproof backing.)
    • A pad with bands/pocket/snap or other way of holding a booster on the under side of the pad - this booster may be just absorbent or may have an absorbent layer and a waterproof layer (As shown in the example of the purple pad - where the booster is overlocked in pink thread).

  • Quicker to dry than an AIO as the absorbency is in separate parts
  • Can adjust the absorbency you need with the optional boosters
  • Often includes waterproofing, or the option to add waterproofing if needed

  • Have to assemble the pad prior to use if using the booster
  • May not include waterproofing
  • May have a greater chance of leaking off the booster than you would have if using an AIO pad

Belted pads
These are wingless pads that are designed to be worn with a belt that goes around the waist or hips, instead of relying on the underwear to hold them in place. More InformationClick image for larger view.

  • Holds the pad firmly to your body, particularly useful for night time.
  • Allows you to wear looser fitting underpants (such as shorts or bloomers)

  • Need to undo/remove belt when changing pads
  • Not as commonly found as other pad styles
  • May feel bulkier

To Wing or not to wing!

This type of pad can be any shape that has no wings. They rely on a contoured or Hourglass shape as well as snug fitting underpants to keep the pad from moving about. Sometimes these use fleece or other slip-resistant backing.
  • More comfortable when riding a bike etc. as there are no snaps to add bulk to the crotch
  • When making them yourself you don't need to attach fasteners (buttons, velcro, snaps)
  • Contoured shape can mean more coverage at front/back without being too wide in crotch. This contoured shape is harder to achieve with a winged pad.

  • Can shift about in your underpants more than winged pads
  • Can slip out into the toilet if you are not careful!
  • May leak off the sides if you're prone to that, as there are no wings to catch the flow
  • May bunch sideways and shift about
  • Need to wear snug fitting underpants!

Winged pad
These have wings that secure around the crotch of your underpants like a winged disposable pad. May do up with a snap, press stud, velcro, button or other closure. These can be any shape, and the wings may be the same piece as the rest of the pad, or sewn on additionally. Click image for larger view.
  • Less likely to move around in your underpants (though they can slip forward or back)
  • Wings give extra leak protection for those who leak off the sides of pads.
  • Wings can help keep the pad from bunching sideways

  • Can feel bulky in the crotch due to the extra layers of fabric.
  • Leakage onto the wings can travel onto clothing.
  • The wing position will generally find the smallest point of the crotch of your underpants, and that may not be the best position for where you need coverage (A wingless pad might be able to be brought forward or back as needed because there are no wings to keep it in position)
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