Updates

Go With Your Flow!

Introducing another of our new Padmakers – Go With Your Flow!

http://www.clothpadshop.com.au/store/go-with-your-flow

“Go With Your Flow is a little store where you will find all of your cloth pad and cloth panty liners at an affordable price while still maintaining the highest quality of work and customer service.

Our mission is to help spread the word to other women about how much better for you AND the environment cloth products are.”

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Updates

Mishmash

Mishmash is a WAHM business, started in 2012 by Daisy Pinks. She makes an exposed core style of cloth pad in a range of cotton prints, minky and velours while often adding embroidery to her products for a special touch of ‘luxe’. The Mishmash minky and velour topped pads with hemp cores are absorbent, soft and most importantly, they’re reusable. You’ll save money when making the switch from disposable to cloth, and if you decide to go down the DIY path by utilizing the range of Mishmash patterns, you’ll save even more while upskilling at the same time. Making some simple lifestyle changes such as switching to reuseables is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint by eliminating excess clutter and trashy waste, and you’ll feel better for it too!!

http://www.clothpadshop.com.au/store/mishmash

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Updates

hannahpad!

Now that we are a bit more settled in our new home – it’s time to introduce some new stores who have joined us!

First up, is hannahpad!

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http://www.clothpadshop.com.au/store/hannahpad

hannahpad is a chemical free sanitary pad that is made in Korea. hannahpad was originally established in 2004 to offer a chemically free and organic alternative in Korea. It is now the time to spread hannahpad globally, so more women can have access to a healthier product for their menstrual cycle.

hannahpad uses 100% certified organic cotton as the inner and core layers, with a range of colourful waterproof backing fabrics.

Ladies, the time is now to change to a natural alternative to protect your health and your future!

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hannahpad pads are available in sets on the Cloth Pad Shop site, or you can purchase them individually from the hannahpad website.

Articles

Which pads Should I buy?

As every body is different, different pads suit different people.  So there is no hard and fast rule about which pads are the “best” or will work for everyone.

We generally don’t advise anyone runs out and buys a full stash of pads from the one seller straight away, because its hard to know what is going to suit you looking at pictures and descriptions of pads. We recommend buying 1 or 2 of a style or size to try out and if you like them go back for more. You may find you need or want different pads for different stages in your period.

Some people need longer pads to catch the “channelling effect” (where you leak out the front and/or back), some prefer just a wider back, some just need a small pad. So try to think of what you disliked about disposables (if you are switching to cloth from disposables), what would be nice to have in cloth, and what needs you may have for your body shape/size.

Also think about how your menstrual flow goes.  If you have a lighter flow that spreads out over the top of the pad more, then you may find light to regular pads work for you, and you may not need any waterproofing or leak resistant fabrics.  If you find your flow is heavier or “gushes” then you may find a pad would soak through quickly, and a pad with waterproofing may offer more protection.  If you bleed towards the front of the pad, then you may need a pad with a longer front section or a longer pad overall.  If you bleed towards the back then you may need a pad with a wider flared section at the back.

If you want something for discharge, after intercourse/pelvic exams, light spotting or “just in case”, then a pantyliner might be appropriate. These are smaller pads with a lighter absorbency, so shouldn’t feel too bulky when you don’t need a lot of absorbency. If your flow is “light”, you may be able to wear pantyliners, or you may want to go for light to regular absorbency pad.

For a heavier flow, you’ll need to either change regularly, or look for pads with a higher absorbency and/or waterproofing. Night pads are designed for longer length to help catch “Channelling” as well as providing more absorbency for the longer time they are worn for.  Many people use night pads during the day as well, for that extra coverage and absorbency.  Night pads can also be useful for Post Partum bleeding and urinary incontinence.

To find the right length of pad for you, check the measurements with a ruler or tape measure to see exactly how that size looks. Perhaps even measuring it against pads you already have. Don’t forget to measure the crotch of your underpants to check the width of the pad against those too.  A pad that is too narrow for the style of underpants you wear, can pull the crotch in (“bunch”) too much, which you may not like, and a pad that is too wide for your underpants may not snap securely around the crotch and can slide around.   The pads should snap around the crotch tightly to make sure they don’t slide around, and the overall width of the pad shouldn’t feel too bulky when you are wearing it.  Some pads come with 2 snap settings to allow you to choose between the settings to better fit your preferences and your underwear.  You may need to wear different underpants with your cloth pads than you might wear normally, to provide the best fit.

It is also important to pay attention to measurements to avoid being disappointed when you get your pads.  You don’t want to have the excitement of your “fluffy mail” to be ruined by receiving a pad that is longer or smaller than you imagined.

Of course not all pads will fit well for everyone! There are a multitude of different shapes and sizes of people, as well as different shapes and sizes of pad.  Some people prefer a big pad so they feel secure, some prefer a small one so they don’t feel it at all. So it is impossible for a cloth pad to suit everyone.

Unfortunately due to the personal nature of cloth pads, and health reasons, we cannot accept returns of cloth pads, even those that have not been worn.  If you have an issue with your pads due to a sewing flaw or other defect, you should contact the seller to discuss what options may be available.

Articles

What Are Cloth Pads?

Cloth Pads are a washable and reusable alternative to disposable menstrual or incontinence pads.  Worn in the underpants just like you would a normal disposable pad.  With fabrics like ultra soft and luscious velours, or funky printed cottons, Cloth Pads are not only a practical and eco-friendly product, but also more enjoyable to wear than a boring white disposable.

Cloth Pads come in several shapes and sizes, as well as many different fabric options, so you should be able to find something that suits your needs and preferences – from teeny tiny pantyliners to uber sized night pads!

Cloth pads generally have wings that fold around the gusset/crotch of your underpants, which help to provide coverage over the wing to help prevent leaks, and to help keep the pad in place.  These wings usually fasten together with “snap” (press-stud).

Unlike disposable pads, which use adhesives on the underside to stick them to your underpants, cloth pads have a fabric backing which doesn’t slide around as much as a plastic backed disposable pad would.  With added help from the wings, which should snap tightly around the gusset of your underpants (Some pads offer 2 snap settings to allow you to adjust the width for the best fit).  The snug fit of your underpants also helps to keep them in place, so make sure that you have well-fitting underpants on so that the pads are held snugly against your body.  You may also like to make sure you have underpants with a sufficiently wide gusset to be able to hold the pads securely.

Made from soft breathable fabrics, cloth pads are said to feel nicer to wear than plastic disposables, and can help eliminate thrush and sweaty irritations.  As well as being something fun!

Easy to care for – cloth pads can be rinsed out and then washed with your regular laundry.  Just like washing underwear or clothing that has been in contact with blood.  You shouldn’t need to use any sanitisers or disinfectants in the wash, your standard washing routine should be enough to keep your pads clean. Please see the Care & Use of pads article for more information.

If you experience stains (which seems to vary from person to person), you can treat these with a stain remover, or choose pads with a darker top fabric or a bold print to mask stains.  Synthetic fabrics such as suedecloth, microfleece and minky are stain resistant options you can try if you are concerned with staining.

For urinary incontinence, most cloth pads that include “PUL” waterproofing fabric and have an absorbency of regular or heavy should work for mild incontinence.  Obviously the more absorbent the pad is, the more liquid it can hold – so you will need to select pads based on your personal needs.  The longer the pad the more fabric it contains, so choosing longer pads as well as heavy absorbency ones will provide more absorbency overall.  Synthetic “stay dry” fabric toppers may be suitable to both wick away moisture as well as providing a more durable and colourfast option when pads are frequently used and washed.  “Pantyliners”, particularly those with PUL, may offer some protection from mild stress incontinence (when sneezing etc.).  Overnight heavy absorbency pads may be suitable for higher amounts of bladder leakage.

Articles

Why Do Cloth Pads Cost So Much?

It’s a question I’m sure most people have wondered about. You can go to a fabric store and buy a whole metre/yard of fabric for cheaper than you can buy 1 pad for, so what are you paying for? and why do some pads cost more than others when they seem to be the same?

No, it doesn’t cost $10 in fabric to make a pad… but just like you wouldn’t walk into a restaurant expecting to buy a steak for the same price you can buy it raw from the supermarket – a lot more goes into producing a pad than just the cost of the raw materials. Not many people really know or think about what goes on behind the scenes with pad making, so I thought I’d give some insight.

Firstly there are 3 main types of cloth pad sellers….and this is probably the biggest factor in the price of a cloth pad, because it usually defines the way they price their pads. Not because one type of pad maker is better than the other, but because of the way they do things.

Hobbyist
These pad makers are just interested in making some pads – mostly for a bit of fun or perhaps with the intention to make a few dollars for the novelty. Sometimes using second hand (“reclaimed”) fabrics to keep costs down. They tend to stick to fabrics they can buy locally…. so usually not using things like PUL, Hemp or Bamboo. Usually a hobbyist pad maker will be pricing their pads low out of the desire to make an affordable product, and is probably not actually making much of a profit on their sales. Usually they sell from personal blogs or community websites without websites of their own. Unfortunately the hobbyist pad maker can “burn out” after a while…. realising that they are working hard for little money, and deciding not to continue doing so. Or they often step up to the next level…

Business
These pad makers are sometimes looked down on, under the impression that they are driven by making money alone because their prices are sometimes higher than the “average” cost of a pad. Which isn’t necessarily the case. What separates the pad making Business from a Hobbyist is the way they run their business, the fact they run it as one. It may include “proper” business practice like keeping receipts and filing a tax return and declaring their income, but it is also other things like having a name to trade under (a business name), website/online store and other business-like things where they have made an effort to achieve a business profile. Business pad makers will generally realise that there is more to the pad than just fabric cost, and price them accordingly, which usually results in a higher priced pad than one made by a hobbyist. Sometimes the business pad maker will make more “deluxe” lines of pads, with hand dyed fabrics, organics and other speciality fabrics, producing higher priced pads. Business pad makers can include “WAHM” (Work At Home Mother) or other types of work from home pad maker, who don’t have other employment outside of the home and treat their pad business as their “job”, or use their pad business to supplement their income. Because they run their pad making as a business, they are often more able to use higher priced and imported fabrics and buy fabric in larger quantities, giving them more range in fabrics than a hobbyist.

Company
By this I’m meaning the very large businesses who employ staff, where the business owner is not the one sewing and running the business. These types of pad makers often supply other businesses with pads, so are able to get their products well known, and they sell more because there are more outlets stocking them. Company pad makers have the advantage of being able to buy fabrics in bulk at greater discounts, so the cost in fabrics for each item is lower, but they employ people to sew them, so that extra cost has to be added in. They also don’t have the freedom to offer hand dyed and specialty pads because they need to have a constant range. As a result the pads from a Company can either be cheaper than the average business made pad (since the fabric cost is lower and their turnover is greater), or more expensive (since the cost of wages and other expenses is added).

So….if 3 layers of flannel costs less than $1, why are they charging $4 for a 3 layer pantyliner?
For a start it needs to be sewn up…. so you are paying for the finished item, not the fabric it is made from. The fabric doesn’t just magically transform into a pad, and what you’re also paying for, on top of the actual physical product, is the time and effort the pad maker has put into creating that product.

Some fabrics also cost more than others…. a pad made with flannel from a local fabric store is going to cost less (in raw materials) to make than the same size/shape pad made from bamboo velour and other more expensive fabrics. Also some fabrics have a print all over, or are plain, and some have an obvious print that needs to be placed in a particular spot within a pad, which can mean you get less pads cut per piece of fabric.

Some pad makers, usually the more hobbyist, will price their product thinking mostly about the cost of actually making the pad… the fabrics that go into it, and not charging extra to cover other expenses that come into making pads. That is where the above pad maker types will influence how pads are priced. A Hobbyist might be happy to run at a loss if they are making pads for fun and not concerned with making a profit. A business pad maker however will realise the extra costs and price their product to cover those, and may have more expenses they need to cover (such as web hosting) that the hobbyist doesn’t.

A pair of jeans doesn’t cost the manufacturer anywhere near what you buy it for…. but part of the price of the jeans pays for advertising, worker wages, transportation and dozens of other things…. It’s exactly the same in the cloth pad industry.

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Costs of Padmaking
Lets look at some of the costs involved in making pads commercially.

Getting the fabric
First the pad maker will probably either drive to a store to buy the fabric, or have it posted to them. So there is the cost of petrol/wear & tear on the car (perhaps parking cost), or the cost of postage to be added. Usually when I buy fabric online its imported, and the shipping charges are often more than the cost of the fabric. Basically whatever postage costs incurred are added to the cost of the fabric, so when working out prices if you’d bought a $10 a yard fabric and shipping was $10, then the fabric cost is $20 a yard. Adding on extra for petrol/car wear and tear will be less than cost of shipping, so most people wouldn’t consider adding it, but it is worth considering. Some businesses may even keep a vehicle log book to track business trips to work out the actual cost of getting there. If buying fabric online, the pad maker may have spent considerable time locating suppliers of the fabric, while the time spent yields nothing tangible, it is still time spent on the business.

Washing the fabric
The pad maker should “prewash” the fabric, which means to wash it before they use it. This is to remove the excess dyes, starches and other things in the fabric from manufacture, and because most natural fibre fabrics shrink when first washed, so they need to be washed before anything is made from the fabric, or the resulting product can distort when the fabric shrinks. Some pad makers pay extra to use eco-friendly detergents and you want to hope they wash fabrics in a dedicated load – not with their personal laundry! So onto the cost of fabric needs to go the cost of washing the fabric (electricity, water and detergent – also cost of running a tumble dryer if that is used). I calculated once that my modern energy efficient machine, on cold wash, with line drying and middle-range cost laundry detergent only cost around 30c a load for power, water and detergent cost. It’s about doubled for a hot wash. If the pad maker uses a laundromat then the cost will be much higher. So while it’s not much over a whole load of fabric, it does add up, particularly if smaller loads are done to wash fabrics separately. Fabrics such as hemp or bamboo should be hot washed 2-3 times before use. Some fabrics must be ironed before they can be used as well, adding more time and electricity used.

Art meets Functionality
Sometimes the pad maker will “hand dye” the fabric – take a previously plain coloured fabric and dye it themselves. This generally involves quite a lot of work (hours spent washing fabric and doing the dying), which adds time for which the pad maker will want to charge more for, and also the cost of dye and extra washing to wash out the excess dye adds to the cost of a hand dyed fabric. Or perhaps they spend hours matching and planning so that the top and backing fabrics and the thread colours match perfectly. They may be custom embroidered, hand sewn…. The fabric might have a print that the pad maker wants to make a feature, so cuts out their pad shapes to best show off the fabric. Even the simple step of using machine embroidery to make decorative channeling lines can double the time it takes to make a pad.

Sometimes the line gets blurred between what is a form of “fibre art” and just a piece of functional menstrual garb. If a pad maker spends hours hand dying fabric for a pad, the resulting product is no less artistic than a painting you would hang on a wall…. and you’d hardly walk into a gallery going “I’ll give you a buck fifty for that piece of canvass over there some dude scribbled on”

Sewing
Now on to making the pad. The fabric needs to be cut out and sewn together. There can be around 5 layers of fabric in a pad, all hand cut. Presumably large companies have the pad shapes cut by machine as they do in clothing manufacture, smaller scale pad makers do it with scissors, or some may use a rotary cutter to make this a little quicker. Then the layers assembled, and the pad sewn up. It can take around 10-30 mins each pad to make from cutting to completion, depending on the layers and complexity of the pad. If it has decorative channel stitching, or is a more complex pad, that will take longer to make. The fabrics may need to be ironed before they are cut out, and the pad may need to be ironed after its sewn. If someone was being paid for their time doing another job, how much would they earn for 20 mins work? An average hourly rate for a seamstress is around $10 to $20 an hour. So the wages for sewing up a pad (not including any other expenses) may be around $2.50-$5 per pad. There are also the costs of the sewing supplies, which often need replacing – needles, threads, bobbins, machine oil, pins, fabric markers, scissors, roatary cutter blades, overlocker/serger blades, electricity for running the sewing machines (and room lighting) etc. Sewing machines need repairs and maintenance, and you can’t charge a customer $150 if the machine breaks while making their pad, so a pad maker has to price their product so that they are making enough profit to be able to afford machine repairs/maintenance. And don’t forget the fasteners and labelling…. adding snaps or other fasteners onto winged pads, as well as any branding tags also adds a small cost per pad and adds to the time it takes to finish the pad.

Getting the goods online
Most cloth pads are sold online… depending on the scale of the business there will be different costs involved with that. Ebay, Etsy and other such venues for selling your goods from cost money to list an item and take a percentage from the sale, others charge a monthly fee. If the pad maker accepts paypal (as most do), then there are paypal fees that come out as well. Some sellers offer bank deposit, and their banks may charge fees for their account. If the seller has their own website, then they will most likely have a domain name (www.them.com) which they pay a yearly fee for, and may have web hosting fees ontop of that. So for example, if you sell a $5 pad (including shipping) on etsy and the customer pays with credit card paypal, paypal will take out around 45c, and etsy will take out 38c. Leaving you with $4.17 left from the sale.

As well as the costs of selling online, there is the time involved. As with sewing up the pad, it doesn’t just list itself. Often pad makers take time to set up a backdrop and photograph their wares in an attractive fashion. They may then upload the photos to their computer and crop, resize and do other things to them, before uploading them to their store/website and writing up the descriptions to make them available for sale. This can take around 15 mins per pad.

Customer Service
The time spent at the computer uploading new products isn’t the only thing a pad maker does online. They also reply to e-mails from customers. Sometimes these can be numerous. Just as a receptionist or other employed person would get paid for time spent on customer service, a pad maker may factor in time they spend doing this into their pricing. Some pad makers charge extra for custom made pads because of the large amount of conversing with customers that takes place with providing a personalised service.

Advertising & Other Expenses
Some sellers purchase advertising space on websites or publications. This costs money. There can be other expenses to running a “proper” business too, such as product liability insurance, registering a business name, having an accountant do your tax return. All things to consider.

Packing the orders
Orders in, it’s time to pack and send them off. Sometimes pad makers wrap the order in ribbon or tissue paper, write a note on pretty paper, include little freebies…There is sticky tape, envelopes, printer paper and ink, biros, return address labels, business cards…. As well as driving to the post office to send orders, and to buy more packing supplies. Those all cost the pad maker money. Some pad makers charge extra “handling” with the postage price to help cover these costs, if they don’t then it comes out of the profits they need to make on each pad.

Seconds
An unfortunate side effect of being a human is the inevitable mistake. They happen with pad making, and you’re left with a “second” – a pad that isn’t quite up to scratch. Often these are for very small visual imperfections…. a bit of loopy/wonky stitching for example, that do not effect how the pad works at all, but in order to maintain a level of workmanship in their brand, a seller may mark them down. Sometimes customers complain because the “seconds” pads aren’t significantly cheaper than a regular priced pad, but the thing to remember is that it takes exactly the same amount of time and expense to produce a “second” than a normal standard pad. Infact, often the pad maker spends more time trying to correct the “second” than they would otherwise. Its also worth mentioning that often a pad maker will be very critical of their sewing, and consider something to be a “second” even though a customer wouldn’t. So if a pad maker takes $1 off the price for a “seconds” pad, you’re quite likely still getting a great pad at a great price.

Freebies & Special offers
When a pad maker has decided on a price they want for a pad, offering a “sale” price is cutting into their profits. Often pad sellers will offer deals and even give away free products, all of which cost them money (and time). Some pad makers even give away pads to charity or for other reasons. A Pad maker needs to consider specials and freebies, so that overall their business still runs at a profit even though they are occasionally giving things away for free.

Paying for the name & Market led pricing
With some of the more well known brands, the prices they charge may be higher than that of an equivalent pad made by a different maker. Just like with brand name clothing, a pad maker who has built up a reputation will often charge a higher price for their work. Here you’re paying extra for the pad maker’s expertise, knowledge, customer service or other aspects that may stand above other brands. Also sometimes the reason well known brands are well known is because they have spent time and money advertising their brand. Perhaps they spend hours sourcing special fabrics to make their pads more unique. Or simply be because there is a higher demand on them so they need to make sure their prices are such that it is worth their time. Which is why sometimes pad makers give up making pads, when they realise they are sitting there sewing for hours on end and only making a couple of dollars for their efforts. Often a lot of orders and custom work is done behind the scenes, so pad makers can be quite busy when their websites don’t seem to be updated often. There is also a lot of market led pricing. If customers are willing to pay a certain amount for a pad, and other pad makers of equivalent standard are charging a certain price, then often a pad maker will price their pads at a similar price to be in keeping with what is on the market. This actually helps to maintain an “average” price in the market. Interestingly there is often backlash in the pad maker community when new sellers price their pads too low…. undercutting the current prices is not only harmful for the other businesses, but in the long run pricing a product too cheap doesn’t benefit the cheap-pad seller, when they realise they are creating a sweatshop for themselves.

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Adding it all up
So… lets take an example of a basic pad and break down the costs that go into it. In US dollars and amounts.

Fabric – lets assume you can get 23 pad layer cutout from a yard of fabric. This is sort of a best case scenario, where you would be able to cut the pads out with minimal wastage, each pad shape slotting along side the next (this doesn’t always happen, particularly if a pad maker is cutting several pad shapes). Now fabric prices will be different in different countries, and depend on what type of fabrics you’re using… but for example take a $5 per yard fabric for the backing, which works out to be about 20c per pad layer… $7.95 a yard PUL works out at 34c…. $3 per yard flannel for the top at 13c….. and 3 core layers of bamboo fleece at $12 per yard for around 12c. So all up that’s around 79c for the pad. Yes….. you can pick your jaw up off the floor… not much is it. Although, for good quality fabrics, or if you’re somewhere like Australia or the UK (where fabric prices are higher and/or you need to import fabric), you can pretty much double or triple those costs. Also those fabric prices don’t include postage or washing costs. But as a basic guide, we’ll use that amount, as a cheapest case scenario.

Use a bamboo velour top for example and that might cost 78c just for the top piece alone. Also, a fabric that has an obvious print that needs to be positioned within the pad shape in a pleasing fashion will give you much less pads from the one yard of fabric. For example I’ve got a printed fabric where I get only about 20 small pads from one yard of fabric, where a plain fabric would yield more than twice that number. That fabric also cost me $30 a yard! So that makes each pad shape piece $1.50! When I top that with bamboo velour that makes the cost of that pad about $3.40 to make. You can see how fabric choices can make a HUGE difference to the cost of a pad.

Time – Lets assume it takes 15 mins to cut out and sew up the pad, including adding snaps and labels…. using $10 an hour as the price of labour, that’s $2.50. (If you’re giving yourself a decent wage as a skilled seamstress, double that) Now lets assume it takes another 15 mins to set up, photograph, crop/resize, upload and write the description for the pad…. that’s another $2.50 worth of labour. Now this labour is paying for the time spent, just as you’d be paid if you worked out of the home at a cafe, bookshop etc. So all up, making the pad and putting it online adds $5.00 worth of cost to the pad. Starting to add up now isn’t it! We’re at $5.79.

Fees – You’ll want to make sure you cover the fees, so if listing somewhere that you’ll incur paypal and listing fees, add an extra $1 to help offset that (of course making the pad $1 more expensive means more fees will get taken out than if it was $1 cheaper – since it’s based on the value of the item…). So that makes it $6.79….

Other costs – If the seller prints the invoice page or prints instructions add around 10c – $6.89. If the seller is wrapping in tissue paper/ribbon or adding a fancy note, you can add on another 20c or so…. $7.09. Snaps for the pad, another 5c, a label, about 10c perhaps… $7.24. Still we’re only really at the level of what the pad costs to produce/send. The pad maker might add a few dollars on to help cover the other expenses their business has… all those things listed above, such as domain name, buying office supplies etc. For example if the business has a website for which they pay $4.99 a month web hosting for… and they sell 10 pads a month, each pad would need to have 49c added to the cost to pay for the cost of the web host…. $7.73 (and if you want to add a domain name, that works out at about 8c per pad)

So there you go….
About $7.73 for a basic pad…. the kind of pad that you’d probably see being sold for about $6-$8. Which people might grumble at being “too expensive”.

So you can see how a $10 price tag on a “basic” pad can be justified. And the thing is, as you can see, fabrics actually make up a very very small portion of the overall cost of selling someone a cloth pad…. it’s a LOT more involved than just working out the cost in fabric. Also, a pantyliner and long night pad will still take similar amounts of labour time and extra expenses to make. So if a pad maker takes 15 minutes to sew up a pantyliner that they charge $4, they are probably not pricing their product as high as it should be to cover their expenses. The only saving thing is that a larger night pad is expected to cost more, so it can be priced higher to help offset the lower profits of pantyliners.

While most of us are on the hunt for a bargain, cloth pads (even expensive ones) are cheaper than using disposable pads in the long run, and while a $10 or $15 pad may seem expensive, you can buy one or two a month to build up a stash at a more affordable pace. See also my article on What are the Cheapest Pads. There is also the option to make your own.

Remember that a lot of time and effort goes into each one made. They are made by people, often in their homes. Not churned off a machine in some big factory like disposable pads are. Someone might have searched for hours to find that particular fabric print. They might have sat there sobbing while the machine refuses to sew properly, or they might have sung a happy tune while sewing. If only pads could talk! By customers buying their pads they might be able to afford their child’s swimming lessons, or buy themselves something nice to wear. Or you might simply be helping them be able to afford to feed their family. Or providing a business for a women who can then stay home with her kids instead of going out to work.

Buying a cloth pad can be so much more than just accumulating something else to bleed on each month.. you are supporting small business, contributing to a drive towards cloth pads, aiding the environment and getting something lovely to put into your underpants!

So lets not quibble too much about the price.

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What is the cheapest/best value pad?

This question comes up a lot. Its natural…..most of us what to spend the least amount of money we can, but the cost of an item and it’s value for money can be different things.

Cost” is simple. it’s how much something costs you to buy. “as little as possible” is probably what most people look for 🙂

Value for money” is more complicated…. it’s a personal measure – only you can decide that. It is how much value you put on the item compared to the monetary cost the item has. Think of it as a combination of how much you like the product, how much it suits you and works for you, and the price you pay for it. How happy are you about paying that cost for that item.

If you buy a dress for 50c but it doesn’t fit you so it stays in the back of the wardrobe… it’s not very good value for money, even though it didn’t cost very much. Its value to you is nothing, it’s worthless because you can’t use it. If you buy an $80 dress that fits well and makes you feel like a sexy movie star so you wear it regularly, you’d probably find that to be good value for money… but it cost a lot more than the 50c dress. The item has higher value to you, so you can feel that it was worth the price you paid for it. On the other hand, if you find a 50c t-shirt in a second hand store, and it fits, feels ok, doesn’t look too bad and you’re happy with it, then you’d probably find that better value for money than buying a $20 t-shirt new from a store. Cheap isn’t always a negative thing, it’s how much value it has to us that is a deciding factor if something is worth the price you paid or not. No matter what that price is.

If you want to be satisfied with your purchases (of anything), you need to look at value for money more than price alone. Just like you wouldn’t buy a 50c dress that doesn’t fit just because it’s cheap, the same concept applies with shopping for cloth pads. And just like going shopping for clothing, you wouldn’t just reach into a bargain bin and just take out something and buy it… you need to look at what it is, the price, the design and fit, what it is made of, and see if overall it’s the right choice for you.

Enough of the shopping references, lets look to cloth pads…

How much does a pad cost?…
(How long is a piece of string?) There is a huge difference in what you get for the price you’re paying in cloth pads… they aren’t just the one composition, shape or size. Some are longer than others, thicker, thinner, wider, narrower, contoured, flared, skinny, organic, hand dyed, heavy, light…..and so on. Looking through lots of pad stores you can get a feel for an “average” price for the same type of pad/pantyliner though, which can help you to work out relative costs for things.

There will be difference from country to country, just like a loaf of bread will cost different amounts country to country. Differences in the economy and fabric prices will affect the price of a cloth pad. An “average” price of $5 for a pad in one country may be different to what you can get for $5 in another country in their currency.

The cost largely depends on what the pad/pantyliner is made from. Take pantyliners for example. They can be any combination of fabrics, for example:

  1. 1 layer flannel/flannelette, one layer cotton
  2. 1 layer flannel/flannelette, one layer cotton, 2 layers hemp inside
  3. 1 layer hand dyed organic velour, 1 layer bamboo fleece inside, organic wool backing
  4. 1 layer flannel/flannelette, one layer hemp fleece, 1 layer PUL

4 very different pantyliners, and the variety you might find isn’t limited to just those examples. So given the variation you can find in pantyliners, imagine the variation in pads! So you can’t compare all brands/products by price alone, because what you get for your money can be completely different from brand to brand. A hand dyed bamboo velour topped pantyliner with a cool just released Amy Butler cotton print backing and organic cotton fleece inside is going to cost more than a pantyliner made of just 3 layers of plain coloured flannel.

To use that classic line… it’s like comparing apples and oranges!

So lets compare apples with apples then….Take a 3 layer flannel pantyliner for $3.00 and a 3 layer flannel pantyliner for $6.00. Same composition… that makes comparison easier…. but (always a but..) there may be size and shape differences. One may be twice the length of the other, so there is twice as much fabric in it. The type of flannelette/flannel used – one may be thicker quilter’s flannel, and one might be a thinner less quality one. How well is the product is sewn? Is it “serged/overlocked” or is it “Turned and Topstitched”? Does one have decorative top stitching? Is the shape and style is something you think suits you? This is why it is important to pay attention to what the product descriptions tell you about the products.

So when just comparing prices for something like a “pantyliner” it is important to look at what it’s made of for a start. While one may be much more expensive than the other, the fabrics used may be quite different. There may be more layers and of more expensive fabrics in the higher priced pantyliner. So with the higher priced one if it’s got more fabric in it, or uses more expensive fabric, its monetary value is higher – most cost has gone into it. So a higher price is to be expected.

Is it better to have a more expensive fancy pad or a cheaper less fancy one?
It depends on your preference. If you’d find it more enjoyable to wear a fancy velour pad, then you would mostly like find it to be better “value for money” than a cheaper less fancy pad, because you would place a higher value on it (you would like it more), so then it’s value goes up. If you really don’t care about fancy fabrics and a $3 flannel pantyliner will suit you just fine, then for you, the enjoyment you would get for the fancier more expensive fabrics isn’t worth the extra price you would pay, so it wouldn’t be good value for money for you.

Absorbency, shape and how the pad suits you!
And it’s more than just the fabrics too. Absorbency, and the pad being suitable for your flow,body shape and lifestyle, is really THE most important thing you should be looking for in a pad (though I think many of us are swayed by now a pad looks). If you buy a cheap pad that isn’t sufficient for your needs, then its probably going to be tossed in the back of your stash and not used. So that’s just a waste of money, not value for money. Again, not all cheap pads are inferior quality or made with less fabrics, but often when comparing prices, what you are getting for your money if different, so it is important to look at the fabrics used, amount of layers and what the pad is actually made of.

There is no point buying a $4 pad because it’s cheaper than a $10 one, if you just bleed straight through the $4 pad because it’s not absorbent enough. Composition is *the* most important thing to look at. Then you can shop around and look for the brand that offers the particular specifics you want for the best price.

Other factors affecting price and value for money
There are other factors that might influence value for money as well. Not just of the physical products on offer, but also how much value you put on the business making them as well. Some people prefer to shop at farmer’s markets and small stores rather than large chains – because they prefer their money to go to smaller businesses who may have better business ethics than larger corporations. These choices are made on the feeling for the business, rather than on the actual items. You may feel buying from certain businesses is better even if it comes at a higher price.

For example if a pad seller used green energy (to power their machine & computer for example), used only recycled paper, purchased carbon offsets, sourced eco-friendly fabrics, but as a result offered their products at a higher price to someone not doing those things, then for some people that extra price would be worth it. Or someone who spends a lot of time and effort on customer service, who is sewing pads instead of having a job out of the home, so that they can stay home with their children rather than putting them in daycare, even if their pads aren’t such good quality… might represent a better value for money for you than a large factory type business whose quality is greater but customer service not as personal.

Different people place different importance on these non-product aspects of a business. Some examples:

  • Does the seller have a good reputation for quality and place a lot of care into making their products?
  • Does the seller have a good reputation for being friendly and nice to deal with?
  • Does the seller ever do anything for charity, pad advocacy, or to help other pad makers? (things that show they are interested in more than just selling)
  • Does the seller work in an environmentally sustainable/conscious way?
  • Does the seller use reclaimed, organic or environmentally conscious fabrics?
  • Does the seller take the time and effort to produce hand dyed fabrics
  • Is the seller making pads to earn a living or supplement an income so they can stay at home with their children?
  • Does the seller seem to put a lot of thought into their fabric choices?

While price might be the ultimate deciding factor for many people, it really is about more than that.

There are a lot of hidden costs that go into making pads (See my article on Why do Cloth Pads cost so much), it’s worth remembering that the majority of cloth pads are handcrafted items. It can take from around 10 to 30 mins (or more) to make a single pad. From ironing fabrics, tracing out the pattern, cutting all the layers out, sewing them together, applying fasteners. Not to mention the business side of answering mail, searching for fabrics, photographing and uploading products, which can add up to be as consuming as a “proper” job.

I imagine most people dislike the idea of sweatshops. Surely everyone deserves to be paid a decent amount for the work they do? That also applies to pad makers. If a single pad can take 15 mins to make, 10 minutes to photograph and make available online, 1 minute in communicating with the buyer, 2 minutes packaging and sending…plus the cost of materials to make the pad…. how much would that person make in wages for that time working somewhere else? For the most part, you’ll probably find that most cloth pads are undervalued in terms of what the cost of producing them is. So many of them are already “cheap” for what they are and the amount of work that goes into producing them.

No… you don’t understand…it really is ONLY about the price!
For some people, cost really is a major concern, and getting cloth pads for the cheapest possible price is the ultimate goal. Some people are not in a position to be able to afford or justify paying extra for fancy fabrics, and for a seller to be able to work from home… and do really have to look for whatever is cheapest, and that’s fair enough. But just comparing pads themselves by price alone is not a guarantee of providing the best thing for you… If the cheapest is also the best for you, then that’s fantastic! But to avoid being disappointed and wasting money on things that don’t work for you, put some thought into what you need and want as well as how much you want to pay for them.

Ultimately if you’re after a “cheap” pad, then you are probably best to make your own, since that is going to be the cheapest option. There are tutorials and guides online that will enable almost anyone to make their own basic pads (try http://www.clothpads.org for a start – which has links to mad making guides). If you can’t or don’t want to make your own, then the next cheapest option would be to shop around and look for the best deals in cloth pads. Remember, it’s not about finding the *cheapest* pads, its about finding the *cheapest pads that will suit your needs*…. the best Value for money.

Pads in sets of more than one tend to offer the best value. Usually a pad maker will make the individual price of a set of pads lower than they would be to buy them separately. Also look for “seconds” pads, as often these have only minor visual imperfections (wonky stitching for example), and still make a perfectly serviceable pad. Buying pads from the one seller can save you money on postage, but sometimes it’s nice to have a range of different styles to suit the different needs you’ll have through your cycle. Also be aware that buying lots of pads from the one maker before you’ve tried the pads is risky… not all pads work for everyone, and you could end up buying a lot of pads you don’t end up liking or that don’t work for you.

The styles that allow for most flexibility, and therefore make the cheapest option are probably ones where the absorbent inserts sit ontop of a winged base. Like Sckoon, Lunapads and other such designs The inserts can be changed leaving the base part on, and often the pads are sold with a set of inserts, so that the one pad may be able to be worn longer than another style of pad. You also have the advantage of being able to use a folded facewasher or other such absorbent DIY insert in them if needed. These styles often do not come in a waterproofed version, but you can always cut a piece of plastic to fit under the inserts if you need to. Pocket pads likewise allow for extra boosting to go inside, and the opportunity to add waterproofing if none is included, however pocket pads need to have the entire pad changed when you would change the pad.

Also… don’t forget the possibility of asking for friends/family to buy pads for you… If they know that rather than a pair of socks for your birthday you’d prefer a pad, they might be willing to buy that instead…. you never know until you ask 😉 You could also barter with someone who can make pads and wants something you can offer…

Search for a bargain by all means, but also think of the real value of a cloth pad…Not just complain that they cost so much and “where can I buy the cheapest pads”.