Homemade Sanitary Pads

I learned about homemade cloth menstrual pads on a Christian Ladies’ message board in 2002. I had just been diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS. Some of my symptoms were heavy, irregular and painful menses which left me feeling very much like the Woman in the New Testament with the issue of blood who touched Jesus’s garment to be healed. I even joked that I had periods of biblical proportions. Financially, we were in a tough spot at the time. Making decisions between groceries or sanitary pads is not a pleasant place to be so I was tickled when another mom shared a link to homemade pads. I ran some simple ones up on my sewing machine that day and have pretty much been a convert ever since.

Before the 20th Century, most women used cloth pads or “rags” during their menstruation. Disposable pads didn’t become common in America until after WW II. Among rural and low-income women they didn’t catch on until the 1960’s. As with diapers, there have always been people who prefer cloth to disposable. Disposable pads do not biodegrade very quickly. Plastic diapers and sanitary napkins are likely to be two of the most common artifacts that future archaeologists will find when excavating landfills from the 20 and 21 Centuries. I wonder what kind of commentary this will be on our present lifestyles? Only time will tell.

Outer Pad with Wings
Cut 2 with flap extended & 1 on fold with flap closed

Inner Pad
Cut 2 of flannel and 1 or 2 of filling or more flannel

Printing Instructions: Set Margins to 0.25 or 1/4 inch each.
To make your own sanitary napkins you need the following supplies:

  • A sewing machine with a zigzag stitch.
  • Flannel:  Old flannel shirts & baby blankets work beautifully but new flannel works fine too.  Be sure to wash it in hot water before using to prevent shrinkage.
  • Thread
  • Snaps or Safety Pins
  • Scissors

The Outer Pad
Begin by printing both of the patterns and cutting them out. The Inner Pad is a large oval.  The Outer Pad is actually 2 patterns in 1.  With the long straight side extended, it is the topside.  You will need to cut 2 of these.  With the long straight side folded in, it is the bottom side.  Place the straight edge on a fold of fabric and cut 1 of these. Look at the pictures for examples.
Make 1/2-inch hem down the long straight side of each of the 2 top pieces.  Straight stitch or zigzag stitch this hem, as you prefer.  Now arrange the 2 upper layers of the outer pad over the lower layer.  The front hems should overlap slightly, or by about 1/2-inch.
Zigzag stitch around the outside twice.  If desired you may straight stitch down the dotted lines shown on the picture to the right.  This allows the inner pad to fit more securely inside the outer pad and also makes folding the wings a bit handier.
Some women apply a snap or button to the wings at this time.  Place them at points “A” in the illustration.  Velcro is not advisable because it has a tendency to chafe.  Personally, I don’t <liketo go through all the work of applying snaps or buttons so I use a safety pin instead.  Large diaper safety pins work beautifully for pinning the wings together.  To the right you will see a picture of the pad pinned closed.   The wings fit around your underwear just like disposable pads with wings.  Some women wear the pad with the pocket seam facing down, next to their underwear.  Other women prefer the pad placed with the seam-side next to their skin.  Try it both ways to see which you prefer.

The Inner Pad
The inner pad is the absorbent part of the sanitary napkin.  It slips inside the pocket of the pad.  The beauty of this is that you can use as many inner pads as necessary for the rate of your flow.  During heavy times, or overnight, use 3 or 4 Inner pads.  For a lighter flow use only 1 Inner pad.  For a panty liner, use the outer pad without an inner pad.  The reason you use several layers instead of 1 very thick layer is because several thinner layers are easier to wash and have a shorter drying time.  Additionally, the many exterior surfaces of the pad layers makes them more absorbent than a single thick pad would be.

For the inner pad you want to cut at least 3 layers, maybe 4, depending on the thickness of your fabric.  Use the same pattern for all of the layers. Use flannel for the 2 exterior layers of the inner pad.  Use 1 or 2 layers of flannel or terry cloth, cotton quilt batting or another absorbent material for the interior layers of the inner pad.  I used old flannel shirts, a flannel baby blanket and an old towel for my fabric.  The towel was ripped and had a few holes.  I used it as the interior layer of my inner pads.  The flannel baby blanket was the exterior of the inner pads, and the flannel shirt was the outer pad, the part with wings.
After cutting out your layers for the inner pad stack them neatly.  Zigzag stitch around the edges twice.  Trim the edges if desired.  I used dark thread in the picture so you could see it against the light flannel.  Make 2 of these inner pads for each outer pad.  They are very easy to cut and stitch, so you may want to make a few extras for heavy days.
After completing each part of the pad, slip the inner pad inside the pocket of the outer pad.  Pin it in place and see how it feels.  You will be surprised at how comfortable it is.

Washing and Maintenance
When you make your own pads you have to wash them instead of tossing them into the garbage.  Keep a small bucket of water with a lid in the bathroom, preferably out of the reach of children and pets.  Add a spoonful of vinegar if desired.  Remove the inner pad from the outer pad.  Soak the used pads in the bucket of water.  Drain the water into the toilet before washing the pads.  The water can also be used to water house plants because they like all the extra vitamins and minerals. Make sure you use cold water so that the stains will come out.  I wash every morning.  Some women stash all of the used pads in a pillowcase or plastic bag and wash them all at once when their period is over.  I don’t do this because I have a washer in the house and I find it more sanitary to wash them every day.  They can drip dry or machine dry.

If you do not have a washing machine, then they may be washed by hand.  Run cold water over them in the bathtub to remove most of the blood.  Place the pads in a medium bucket or tub.  Add a little soap and cold water.  Using a clean plunger, plunge the pads until they are as clean as you can get them.  Plunge for a good 10 minutes for the best results.  Rinse the pads well and squeeze them dry.  Hang each pad by it’s own clothespin and they should dry pretty fast, even in the winter.

If you like, you can iron the pads, but do not use starch on them.  Be careful not to use fabric softener either because it will make them less absorbent.

A No-Sew Alternative
If your sewing skills are lacking, or you simply do not want to go through the trouble of sewing your own pads you can try this instead.  Purchase absorbent terry-cloth dishtowels.  Wash them before using.  Fold them into rectangles about 3 or 4-inches by 10 or 12 inches.  Use safety pins to pin them into your underwear at both narrow ends (the front and the back).  These are a bit bulkier than home-sewn pads.  They are quite comfortable though, and are a legitimate alternative.  They may be washed the same as home-sewn pads.  I’ve also seen washcloths recommended.  Fold them into thirds, or quarters (long ways) and fit them into your underwear.  Apparently they stay in place without pinning because of the friction between the terry-cloth and underwear.  For heavier flows fold together 2 or more wash cloths.

About Fabrics
When I made these, I used fabrics I already had in the house.  You may purchase new fabric instead if you like.  Use a sturdy double-napped flannel if you go this route.  It will last the longest and give you the best results.  Cotton quilt batting is very nice filler, but you can also use additional flannel, which is less expensive. Wash everything before cutting or sewing.  Flannel will shrink.  After sewing, wash the pads again before using.  This helps them hold their shape better.  Men’s flannel shirts and flannel baby blankets make excellent flannel for your own menstrual pads.  They can sometimes be found for 25¢ or 50¢ a piece at yard sales, which makes pads very cheap to sew at home.   Brightly colored fabric is less likely to show stains than solid colored or light fabric is.  I prefer to use patterns and dark colors for this reason.

About the Pattern
I created this pattern free hand after measuring commercially available, disposable pads.  My pattern is a little bit wider and longer than some patterns available on the Internet.  This is to accommodate the average woman, who is a size 14 or larger.  Standard pads and liners are created for a size-6 woman.  Pads made from this pattern are less likely to leak because they are large enough to fit properly.  If you are a smaller woman, or prefer slightly smaller pads, there are several other patterns available online.  You will find them linked below.

Note: Some of the sites may refer to ideas you do not agree with.  Please overlook anything you find offensive and focus on the useful information instead.

Cloth Menstrual Pads Main Page
Patterns & Instructions

Born to Love
(HM Tampon Alternative)

One Woman
Practical Information

Natural Choices
The Cloth Menstrual Pad
Many links with lots of information

Cloth Menstrual Pads
by Debi Elrod
Patterns & Instructions

Instructions for Cloth Menstrual Pads
Patterns & Instructions

Many Moons Menstrual Pads
Patterns & Instructions

Frugal Baby Pattern
Scroll down to see information on making your own sanitary pads

Museum of Menstruation or MUM
Everythign you ever wanted to know about the history of menstruation.  Fascinating!

Okay, But EEEwww . . .

I’ll admit, many people have this reaction the first time they consider homemade pads.  It is weird.  We never see anything about it on television so that’s the first sign that it’s NOT socially acceptable.  Sewing and using homemade pads seems like something that only weird-os and freaks do, probably off in the woods somewhere, or maybe a nice cave in the wilderness where they can commune with nature and get in touch with the moon.  Nice women would never use homemade pads.  After all, your hands get wet and you have to touch your own body fluids which is kinda gross.  Plus you have that icky bucket in the bathroom so everyone knows that you’re up to something sneaky.  The whole idea is enough to make some women vomit and make some men run for cover in a sweaty, testosterone filled locker room.

Believe me, I sympathize.  I had to get used to the idea before I became a convert.  For some women the conversion process happens overnight.  For others of us, it takes time.  We have to go slow, talk it over with other women, learn a lot more about it, and try it secretly to see if it really does work (it does).  If we have always hated pads, then homemade ones may seem like an even more uncomfortable way of dealing with a monthly necessity.  Everyone may say cloth pads are more comfortable, but just because it works for them, doesn’t mean it will be the same for us.  Besides, the bucket in the bathroom is just tooooo gross.  And what if the husband sees them and laughs at them or thinks that we’ve lost our minds.  What if the mother in law visits and sees the bucket and we have to explain it to her, or a visiting preacher’s wife, or worse yet, the Preacher?!!!  Gee whiz, it all becomes such a statement, and honestly, this is not the type of statement that most of us want to make to the world.

Relax.  Take a deep breath.  It is less weird than it seems at first glance.  Think about women from the past.  Our hearty ancestors who pioneered this country; while they rode their covered wagons west, what did they use every month?  What did Native American women use back when they owned the continent?  What about Eve and her daughters?  What did Sarah use?  Well, Sarah was barren, so maybe she didn’t need them.  But what about other women in the bible? Give it some deep thought. Queens and peasants, Pilgrims and Puritans, they all have one thing in common.  They had to use something to catch their monthly flow.  If you visit the Museum of Menstruation, you’ll discover all types of articles that inventive women have used over the years. Absorbent sea sponges and baby socks have been used as tampons.  Animal fur, dried plant fibers, and various types of cloth have been used for pads.

The truth of the matter is that cloth pads are not weird.  Disposable ones are.  Disposable pads and tampons have been commonplace for less than 50 years.  This means that pretty much all of the women who are currently menstruating have only been exposed to disposable choices for their monthlies.  Pads or tampons seem to be the only option.  This is very much a comment on our current society.  We use everything once and then toss it away.  Disposable feminine hygiene products are a big scam perpetrated by manufacturers who want to keep us on a leash so we have to keep buying their products.  They are making as much as TEN to TWENTY Thousand dollars per woman over her lifetime.  If you think of the millions of women in the USA alone, the profits are staggering!

At heart, I am a rebel.  One of my goals in life is to be dependent upon as few manufactured products as possible.  My life and my money are more valuable than that.  My freedom is more valuable than that.  I will not give myself over to disposable pads if there is a free or cheap alternative that gives ME control over my budget and my body.  Modern consumerism is a crock.  It is an illusion that makes us feel like we have a semblance of power over our lives, but really it’s just newspeak for letting commercialism and it’s attending obsessions consume us. Extricating ourselves from consumerism is frightfully difficult.  The strings and layers it encompasses are sneaky little buggers that are hidden in all aspects of our lives.  One of the ways that we can achieve more personal freedom and attain genuine control over our circumstances is to snip those strings every time we find a self-sufficient alternative.  For me, this means turning to cloth pads exclusively.

I would rather get my hands wet than give Corporate America one more ounce of control over my budget or even more importantly, my body.  There are so many things I have to buy that when I find something I can make for myself, it is reason for rejoicing.

Which brings us back to that bucket.  An ice cream bucket with a lid works great.  I keep mine under the bathroom sink so it’s not a topic of conversation.  Most women keep their disposable products in the bathroom, and the bucket is the same thing.  Stash it in a private place and don’t give it a second thought.  When I drain the bucket in the mornings, I do it in the bathroom while I’m already in there and no one is the wiser.  As I start the first load of laundry for the day, I dump the rinsed pads in there and they wash up with whatever else is in the laundry.  The wet pads cannot contaminate the other clothes in the washer.  Dirty clothes are dirty clothes.  Mud, dust, grime, dishcloths that have been used on bloody noses, rags used to wipe up the floor, it all comes out in the wash.  The clothes in the washer are getting clean and one type of dirt will not give cooties to another type of dirt.  After the washer has run it’s cycle, all the laundry is clean and ready to start its life anew, sort of a fabric version of baptism.

I live in a house with boys.  They are blissfully unconscious of what the bucket is for.  They don’t even ask.  When they help fold the laundry, they just put the clean pads in the “Mommy Pile” and assume it is part of the world of women that they don’t want to know about.  When the boys were younger, and I had to wash my pads by hand with a clean plunger, I did it in the bathroom as part of normal, daily chores.  They had no idea and no care what I was doing in there.  I could have been cleaning the tub or the sink or the toilet as far as they were concerned.  It was all the same thing to them.  Now that they are older, and one is a teenager, they have chosen blissful ignorance about my pads.  Sometimes I have dried them by hanging them individually on a string strung up in the shower.  I close the shower curtain and the boys ignore them completely, the same way they ignore my bras and frillies when I hang them up to dry.  Fred doesn’t even notice the pads anymore, or if he does, they are just a normal part of married life.  He is married to a woman, and therefore there are feminine details he must get used to and accommodate.

When I must travel a lot during my period, I bring a few plastic zipper bags to store any used ones until I get a chance to wash them.  In hotels they are easily washed by hand and dried by laying them over the tub, or for the more adventurous, by laying them over the heater in the room.  Fresh pads can be stored in zipper bags and used as needed.  Once we grow accustomed to the idea of using cloth pads, it seems like such a normal part of life, that the details become irrelevant.  The details of brushing our teeth or washing our hair are mundane.  No one is interested in them and we do them without a second thought.  Cloth pads are the same way.  Once we get into the cloth pad zone, it becomes abundantly clear that they are the best solution available.  Our first thought may be “Ewww!” but our final thought is “Aaahhh!”

The Story Of The Woman With The Issue Of Blood
Mark 5:25-34
(25) And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years,
(26) And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,
(27) When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.
(28) For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.
(29) And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.
(30) And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?
(31) And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
(32) And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing.
(33) But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.
(34) And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.

This article may be copied or linked to as desired. Please include a link back to hillbillyhousewife.com.  The patterns I made are placed firmly in the public domain.  They are not copyrighted and can be used however you see fit, even to sew and sell in your own home business.

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  1. Ashley says

    I love the idea of making my own pads. Recently I been trying to save a few dollars by ordering free samples online. This doesn’t help a lot, but it helps a little and that’s all that matters to me.

    Anyway, I been using some of the incontinence pads I been getting free on my period and they are loads more comfortable than normal period pads. It got me thinking that there has to be a better way than buying these plastic pads every month. That’s when I found this site and I see that making your own pads is VERY similar to how I made bedding pads for my guinea pigs.

    This sounds very doable but, I do not have a sewing machine and I have virtually no sewing experience. Any tips on how to accomplish this? I don’t have any idea of what stitch to start with for the best stability.. I tried making a practice pouch and it looks less than the best. The stitching is loose and looks pretty bad. I tried doing a backstitch and a running stitch. The backstitch came out more secure.

    • Sonya Newton says

      Hi Ashley, great to hear you are going to hand sew them, I love hand sewing things so that i can do it whilst watching tv or even at appointments, you cant do that with a machine.
      Sounds like your backstitch would be best, you can do it round the edge of the pouch (on the wrong side, lay out the pieces so its technically inside out) draw a pen line to follow about 5mm from the edge then turn the pouch the right way and press, your stitching would be hidden then too. you could also make the inserts as folded rectagles and just sew acrossthe top and bottom of them to keep them folded.
      Hope they go well for you you’ll be so proud when youve made them

    • Jay Melo says

      Good for you wanting to make pads! I am going to try it out too. I have always found the whip stitch to be the most stable hand stitch. You can stitch several layers together and pull it tight at the edge for strength. Here is a simple diagram explaining how. It is commonly used for felt and applique but I have used it for all kinds of materials with good results. http://gratzindustries.blogspot.com/2008/11/tutorial-how-to-whipstitch.html
      Good Luck, Jay

  2. Anna says

    We always used cloth pads when we were younger. the difference is we made the intenal pads, however the outer casing was a sock, place the inner pad inside the sock and then with the old menstraul belt we hooked each end of the sock. We sometimes placed a piece of plastic wrap at the bottom of the pad inside of the sock to prevent leakage on our clothing. Today I still have the pads and use them, as I learned I am allergic to the disposale ones. Cannot tell you how refreshing it is to hear others do this as well. Thank you for sharing.

    • FJolliff says

      I’m glad that I’m not the only one allergic to disposables… Thanks for mentioning the sock trick, I’ve been trying to figure out how to make my own belted pads for months now! Those little ones with the snaps and wings just don’t work for me at all… What kind of clips/hooks does your belt use? Or does it even matter? Sorry to ask so many questions, but I’m a beginner at this sort of thing.

      • Kitty says

        the Old “Sanitary Belts” had an end similar to a safety pin with teeth inside to hold the flimsy piece of nonwoven fabric that covered the disposable pads before stick in ones were invented. it would be a simple thing to suspend a piece of twill tape (both front and back) from a belt of elastic with a safety pin on each piece of twill tape to hook into a length of your pad. they are fairly comfortable that way and move with you to a certain degree because of the elastic and the safety pin will hold your pad securely.

  3. Stephanie says

    May I ask, do you need a waterproof type layer in there, will they leak if its just flannel and terry cloth? I have also read if you use fleece it helps to wick the moisture away from you quicker. Just curious, currently pregnant, and wanting to make some of these for after my little man comes, and get started on these. Thanks :)

    • Shari Dotson says

      Fleece wont absorb. If you look at pocket style cloth diapers you will learn a lot about safely absorbing liquids, and reusing by washing….I saved a ton of money by using cloth diapers on my little man, and cloth sanitary pads for me. I prefered not to use a plastic layer, as I liked my skin to breathe, but I did have to check every few hours when the flow was heavy to make sure I didn’t leak onto clothing. I also used a bit of tea tree oil in the wash cycle when it got to rinse….helps control odors/germs without using bleach or fabric softeners (which will prevent absorbtion, so stay away from fabric softeners!)
      I kept his diapers/wipes and my sanitary pads all in his diaper bag, and had a zippered waterproof bag to collect the wet stuff…..so nobody knew we hauled everything home to the washer, as I washed it all together! Good luck with your little man, and hope your experience with cloth sanitary pads is equally rewarding!

      • Stephanie says

        Thanks for the input, yes we are definately using cloth diapers on little man :) I was just curious on the pul layer, just because of heavy flow issues. Thanks for the input :)

        • Chelsea says


          You most likely read about micro fleece which is water-repellent and moisture-wicking. While micro fleece is non-absorbable, it does wick moisture away from the body and pulls it deeper into the core of the fabric, helping you feel dry. Flannel, on the other hand, absorbs fluids but leaves you feeling damp. For the best of both worlds, you may choose to sew an anterior layer of micro fleece over the flannel so that your skin comes into contact with the soft, dry layer of fleece while the flannel and inserts do the absorbing. The same idea is demonstrated in many cloth pocket diapers for babies, keeping bums dry without sacrificing absorbency.

  4. Amy says

    I have been very low on money many times during our marriage and something that I have done is used flat fold diapers as pads. I used no liner, no snaps, no velco…just folded the diaper. It worked great for me, and I also have very heavy periods. Never a leak nor did it slip out of place. Flat fold diapers are quite long and can be adjusted simply by folding. They are 100% cotton so they are breathable, comfortable, and wash easily since they are only one layer thick, drying time is also very short. It also cuts down on the number of yeast infections I end up with, so again a money saver. I do use disposable usually, but I have never understood why I buy them. Each time we are short on money I go back to the cloth diapers (left over from our babies that are now teenagers and older!!!) and I realize how much better they work. So glad I cloth diapered my kids. It certainly was not fashionable to do so in the ’80s and ’90s. Glad it is making a comeback now. So much healthier, cheaper, convenient. No need to run to the store at 3:00 AM because you ran out of diapers unexpectedly. Even a towel or an old shirt makes a great diaper in a pinch!

    • Stephanie says

      Yes cloth diapers are so versatile :) My mom actually use to use cloth diapers as sanitary napkins growing up, thats all they had moneywise as a teenager in a family with 6, and plus I’m not really sure if they made disposable one then or not. I don’t know why it has just occured to me to use reusable ones, the disposable ones always irritate me anyways, especially with a 7 day cycle. Thanks for the input :)

  5. Atim Dinah says

    Thank you for this, I am so much burdened in my heart and have been searching for solutions to as to make me start going. While i was in primary level of my eduction in my country Uganda, a young girls was followed and embarrassed with a multitude of school pupils for having spoiled her dress with blood that licked from her menstruation. This has just come back to my thinking at this stage now and I am agitated in my heart to start a project in primary schools to teach girls on issues to do with a adolescence and how they can make this local pads to help keep them in schools. I am neither a tailor now a fabric maker but i know i can do something to turn round the lives of poor young Ugandan girls in primary schools. I have just registered a community based organization which is a step to get me started with the initiative. I am only kindly requesting for your further support technically, financially and socially. Thank you for this initiative

    • The Hillbilly Housewife says

      I’m so glad you found us, Atim Dinah. Best wishes with your project. It sounds very positive and so important.

  6. Halia says

    Just tonight I began my search to hopefully find a way to make cloth sanny pads. I found a gold mine of women who want to “go green” and save loads of money. Yes, it is a multi-billion dollar industry that slowly brainwashes women into buying pads and other products we do not need!! They use our feminine insecurities to lure us into a vast industry that stems only from their greed! I’m not buying it anymore, both financially and mentally!! So, I’m getting me some material and do what women have done naturally for thousands of years-make their own pads!! I’m excited to get started and I’m encouraged by other women who are wising up to the commercialism that is behind every package of store bought pads! A lot of products are due to greed including diapers. Babies actually do not need them. They can be potty trained shortly after birth. Look up “elimination communication” or EC. Babies are naturally gifted to GO! Mothers and babies bond even more with EC!!! So, let us move FORWARD and do as nature intended! We will be happier and healthier!!

    • Deb says

      Yeah!! I’ve also discovered this goldmine tonight and am so excited – just figuring when I’ll get a chance to try my hand at my very own cloth pads! :-D

  7. says

    WOW! What a lot of great info! I especially like the biblical aspect to your comments–it’s a refreshing change from all that New Age perspective. Many thank!

  8. Nancy says

    Thanks for the reminder! I used cloth diapers for my oldest and youngest children. I found cloth nursing pads, too. I hadn’t considered cloth sanitary pads, but it would make sense (and I already have a laundry system in place for them). I recently found menstrual cups at my local store. Using the cup has cut down on how many sanitary pads I need to use, but I do still need a pad in case the cup shifts too much. I think my next project will be to make some pads. I hate spending money on something designed to be thrown away. I’m hoping the cloth pad will cut down on the irritation caused by disposable pads.

  9. says

    Hi, I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind posting the basic measurements please. I don’t have a printer so I can’t work out the sizes, but I am an experienced seamstress so I will be able to fashion a pattern with a few hints. Thanks in advance, debbie

  10. KK4CWT says

    I was actually doing research to see what women use when camping or are otherwise not able to get disposable supplies from a store. I also have been faced with the choice of food or groceries, and have often used the TP method. This sounds so much more comfortable, and I will give it a try next month. Thank you so much for posting this, and for putting the pattern and idea in the free domain. I probably won’t make buisness off the idea, but I will be making some for my sis in law, who is currently pregnant. Again, thank you so much for posting this!!!!!!!!!! :-)

  11. Michelle says

    I bought a few cloth napkins when my first son was born because I used cloth diapers with him….and I saw them in the store when I got the diapers. To be honest when I was young I was always very embarrassed when I had to buy pads. I have no idea why. And after I was married I just hated the huge amount of money they cost, just to use once, and toss. I love the comfort of the cloth napkins. I also find that they work so much better. They actually seem to wick better, and I have never had one leak. I have used them for 6 years, and through 2 more pregnancies aftermaths. I copied the original ones, but was looking for some more one day for spares, and I had just cleaned out the drawer of small hemp diapers. The diapers had gone through three kids and looked pretty bad, but the inserts still had lots of life. They can be folded over on heavy days and wash up nicely. And hey, I paid a lot for those organic hemp diapers. I don’t know if it is because I had children, or I’m a bit older, or the cloth pads but my periods have gone from lasting 6 to 7 days to lasting 2 to 3 days. I have heard that cloth helps in this case.

  12. W says

    Thank you for this – I had read about reusable cloth pads before, but I thought, there is just no way on heavy days that they could be sufficient (I too have non-normal menstrual issues). But you admitting that you felt like the woman with the issue with blood, and you still use these – I have hope! :)

  13. Dragonfly says

    I read most of the comments. I am not understanding the connection between using commercial pads and causing you to have a heavier flow. I tried researching this and could find nothing. Thank you.

  14. christal says

    You may see a shorter or lighter flow because disposbles have chemicals in them that help them absorb. Some believe these chemicals draws more blood out of your body due to its nature.

    • cheryl says

      mattress pads work great for the lining. Water proof if possible. check out thrift stores. dont zig zag just turn right side out after layering. hope this helps save time

  15. vicky says

    Thank you so much for this information! I no longer have a monthly period but I have a weak bladder and the medication prescribed by my doctor does not control 100%. I am retired and on a fixed income so the cost of thick pads to stay dry is getting very expensive. This is one of those times I want to say DUH why didn’t I think of this? My mother told me of using rags and washing them out but it sounded gross to me as a teenager however; now it does not sound like a bad idea. I will make me some of these with a waterprof liner as suggested by Cheryl in her Jan 22 reply. I am really excited about making myself some and again I want to thank you for your instructions.

    • The Hillbilly Housewife says

      I’m glad you found this, Vicky. Yes, it’s amazing what we find we can accept and handle just fine as we get older. The nice thing about making these pads is it’s not expensive or time-consuming. You can try a few methods, and if you’re not satisfied, try a few different methods and materials.

      • Vivian says

        Hi, I realize I’m replying to a comment but thought it might be a continuation…

        I’m a woman in my 50s who, in my twenties, made, used and enjoyed cloth pads. I am now in menopause and use the popular “shaped” pad in moderate. Sometimes there isn’t time to get to the bathroom fast enough and at those times, even the moderate pad overflows. Do you have any suggestions about a washable pad that might not feel as though I’m wearing a couple of dish towels? Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!

  16. Cassie W says

    Hey, thanks for the pattern :) and the great directions. I am a rookie at sewing and have a hard time keeping my stitching straight, but I really enjoyed making it and it even came out ok :) Anyway, thanks for taking the time to share.

  17. says

    Thanks for this! I’ve been interested in making own pads for several months now, but I don’t sew. :-/ If I owned a sewing machine, I’d force myself to sew for this. :) I was going to look into buying some and then try to find a friend who was interested in using these and knows how to sew. Sneaky I am. :D We are really tight right now and I’ve run out of disposables, so I’ve gotten creative. :) I’ve discovered that baby washcloths work great! I fold them three times, so it’s about the exact size of a disposable pad. It doesn’t move around and is comfortable. :)

  18. kristin says

    I loved running across this. I have extremely sensitive skin and am allergic to most disposable pads and my flow is too heavy to just wear tampons. I also have a very understanding dad who is not embarrassed in the least talking about these things. When i told him what was happening he went online and bought me some reusable cloth pads. I love them but to be honest they are very expensive. I recently decided to try my hand at making them myself. 1/4 yard of flannel will get you the outer form plus 6 cutouts for the inner liner that i will use to sandwich the terry cloth piece. Total is the pad and 3 inserts. For less than $5 usually. The bonus is you can make them from cute fabric too. Now to get them sewn together. ..sounds like a project for tomorrow!

  19. Erin says

    I just began to use cloth pads. I always seem to get yeast infections during my period and cloth keeps them at bay. I didn’t want to spend $15.00 on a single pad so I recycled my son’s newborn prefolds. I used a disposable pad for a pattern, zigzagged around the edge, and added a snap to secure the wings. Super cheap…especially since I bought the diapers used from a local resale shop. I don’t really need a pul liner, but I think I’ll add one for peace of mind. I like the idea of sewing them by hand because I have to dig my sewing machine out of the closet every time I want to use it. I recently saw a wet bag made of pul with a zipper closure at the top and a snap at each corner. It is designed to be snapped up with an identical bag so that in one bag you keep clean pads and the dirties go in the other. Maybe I’ll wrestle my sewing machine out of the closet a make a pair…and then again maybe I’ll just keep using a baggie.

  20. Sara says

    Dear Hillbilly Housewife,

    Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge. This is probably the best introduction I could have to the idea of making and using cloth pads. I found this article by trying to find out where Always brand pads are manufactured. I have become increasingly aware and knowledgable about oppressive conditions and even forced labor in the manufacturing or cultivation of various products from cocoa to clothes. As a result I have reduced what I consume to the bare minimum (and I was very anti-consumeristic in mindset before that!). I want to avoid buying products that are the fruit of wrongful labor practices but due to companies’ lack of transparency or absence of thorough supply chain tracking, this is daunting. So, thank you for telling your readers about an alternate to disposable consumerism, and for doing it in an informative and reassuring way. I have frequently gotten annoyed with disposables. I am blessed with a light flow, so cloth pads wouldn’t save me much money. However, it would prevent the chafing I dislike. Cloth obviously contours better but I didn’t know that it could be engineered to make a pad that wouldn’t leak. That’s the only thing I’m still skeptical about: not having a waterproof barrier. It really isn’t necessary, really?

    • Leah says

      I do wonder the same thing about the lack of a waterproof barrier. On another blog, she discussed a “brand” that had a waterproof layer, but she thought they were more uncomfortable due to a stiffness. Some of the homemade pads had an outer layer of fleece that ‘repelled’ back into the absorbent layer (at least that’s how I understood it)

  21. Miranda says

    Thanks for sharing this…I was not completly sold on the idea but after reading I am going to try and make my own :)! I love cloth diapering and I am sure this will help me as well!!

  22. Ellen says

    Wow! Really nice stuff here. I passed menopause some years ago but had gotten to the point where I didn’t like the tampons very much……never had any reactions to any of the stuff that I knew of but still…..I discovered some years back that the diaphragm would catch the flow if it was used the night before my period started. If I had it to do over again, I’d use the Diva cup and make these things as well. The only drawback to the pads is that one is hampered from some kinds of activities and that can be hard to take. When I found out that I could go swimming during my period, I was thrilled and so began using tampons.

  23. Amy says

    I wish I’d found this post sooner!! I used pocket cloth diapers with my daughter, and just sold them along with the liners and doublers this past Spring. It, unfortunately, never occurred to me to use the liners/doublers as pads for myself!! Granted, they were a bit wider than I’d probably need, but oh well.

    I’ll hopefully be able to give these a try one of these days. Hoping to make some family cloth first and try that out.

  24. Leah says

    I discovered Hillybilly Housewife several years ago, but never thought about “Mama Cloths” as I’ve recently seen them called. Upon researching cloth pads, someone mentioned your blog as her source of a pattern. I just am stunned by this. We are transitioning to cloth diapers and now I’m quite intrigued by cloth pads. Although, I have terrible menstrual cycles. I am currently pregnant, so am not dealing with my monthly. However, when I am cycling, I have heavy periods which include huge clots. My doctor has been following, but we were at a stand still due to finances and now I’m expecting. (long story). I cry when I have had to buy pads over food for our family. I’m quite the queasy woman, so I’m not sure how I could do this, but I think I should at least try. All the above comments are so encouraging and helpful. Thank you for keeping your blog!

    • Amy says

      If you don’t already know, hydrogen peroxide – which can be found very cheaply if you watch for sales and stock up then – is GREAT for getting blood out. You could either mix up some “mama cloth” stain spray (2:1 peroxide to Dawn) and spray on them before washing, or use some peroxide in some kind of soak to put them into when you change cloths. That in itself will get out a lot of it, I’m sure. Works with #2 – I’ve cloth diapered and know this from experience – so I don’t see why it wouldn’t work with period blood. Fill a 5-gallon bucket with about a gallon of hot water, mix in some generic oxiclean powder, swirl it around, and use that as your soak. Just place a lid on it so you, and no one else, have to see it. Good luck!! I’m trying to switch to family cloth right now and am going to print out the pattern for these, too. :)

    • ShellyBee says

      Hey Leah.
      I know I am so late in responding but I am only now seeing your post! I am interested in what you said about your queasiness… it has been a long time since you posted but have you gotten over that hurdle? If not there are more than one ways to deal with the pad when you are done. Let me tell you how to do it :
      1. If you have very light flow then tada you are at a great advantage. You just need to fold it and add it to the regular laundry with a vinegar rinse and you should be okay. If you have a heavy flow or very stainy bloodflow then you might want to consider the other option which is actually the only thing I really recommend:
      2. use an ice cream bucket or diaper pail in the bathroom for that time. In it you can put some baking soda, vinegar, and salt (or u could simply use one of the above). I also add epsom salt, but as you see I named a lot and not all is needed just one is good :-). When you are done with the pad you simply throw it in the bucket or pail soiled side down and cover again. The vinegar takes care of any scent. You may also want to add a few drops of tea tree oil if you really are scared of a scent in the bucket or pail.
      You can wash it out at the end of the period or twice during the period depending on the length of the period. The easiest way to do this for you would be to simply toss the entire contents of thebucket or pail into the washer on cold along with your detergent (no bleach nor fabric softener as these will damage the fabric. Just a cup of vinegar in the fabric softener section will do and it is effective for both softness and as a disinfectant!)
      That is it! :-)
      The real key to doing this is to make sure that you put it in that pail as soon as you are done otherwise you may stand the risk of it staining.
      Hope my instructions were not too long and you will find it useful (or someone else will :-))
      All the best Leah!!!

  25. Della Richmond says

    I intend to sew mine by hand using a blanket stitch all around. If you cannot sew, punch holes all around and use kitchen or crafting twine, going all around like when you were a kid and they had you join paper plates together. …remember? Survival skills!!!

  26. Kara says

    Hello! Thanks for sharing this post. It is super helpful for someone just starting out. I know you mentioned fabrics in your post, but I’m wondering specifically about organic flannel fabric. I haven’t found many options online, and it seems like those I have found are quite expensive (still less expensive that using disposable but not inexpensive by any means). Everything i’ve found has been around $15-$16 a yard. Does anyone have suggestions on where to find organic flannel fabric that is less than $10 a yard?

    • Greener Goods says

      Hi! You asked where to buy organic fabric.

      I have been making cloth pads. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money.

      You might laugh–but I buy organic cotton Tshirts (women’s usually) from our local Goodwill. The prices have gone up to about $4.99/shirt, but I have bought them on half-price days. I also have bought fleece at Goodwill and cut it up to use as the backing material or liner.

      One t-shirt, cut, serves as the outer layers. You can slip fleece or cotton or flannel inside, however you want. One t-shirt will make about 4-6 pads, in my experience, or more if you can find a larger sized t-shirt.

      Cheap way to get fabric–buy organic clothing at resale shops! Organic flannel baby blankets or organic flannel sheets purchased from Goodwill are other great options.

      Hope this helps!

  27. Somewhere between the kitchen and laundry room says

    I have been washing my own pads/liners for years. Maintenance-wise, the most helpful items I have found, and which have helped me not give up on this, are:
    1) a 2-qt glass jar with the rubber ring and metal clasp that locks in place – I use this for soaking instead of a pail, changing the soaking solution water every other day, until I wash them on hot with the bath towels.
    2) Next, Bio-Kleen Bac-Out, using probably 1/4 c in addition to the tap water for soaking. This helps immensely with the smell and pre-treating the stains.
    3) YES, do use hydrogen peroxide immediately on the soiled pads/liners. I pour a bit into the peroxide lid and then carefully drip it where it is needed before I put the pad into the soaking solution. My pads come out nearly perfect, no stains except when I forgot to treat with the hp.
    4) Last, and most beautiful, is my homemade fabric drawstring ‘cover’. It is a simple, sewn-up-the-sides bag that is folded over (sewn) at the top with a ribbon going through, so you can draw it shut nicely. I am sure you could find a pattern online somewhere. Just make sure you alter it to the dimensions of the jar! This cover just changes my attitude immensely because it is something pretty to associate with that time of the month.

  28. Amy says

    Hi there!
    I’ve been using cloth sani napkins for years and agree with all that’s been said- they are more comfortable and I’m glad I’m not filling up the garbage as much. However, my sport of choice is running and I have yet to figure out a way to keep the darn things from slipping forward or backward when I run. Has anyone figured out a way to keep the pads in place? Yes, the ones I use are with the ‘wings’, so I wouldn’t expect much movement, but there you have it……
    Thanks in advance!

    • Somewhere between the kitchen and the laundry room says

      I just use a safety pin in the front of my underwear, affixing the pad in place. HTH

    • ShellyBee says

      Amy have you tried menstrual cups? That is an option. Take a look at it on youtube videos. You could also check out femininewear.uk that is a good site also.

    • Laura says

      I have made my own pantiliners for years, though haven’t made thicker ones yet for that time of the month. Guess I’ve gotten way too used to tampons and not having to worry about leakage, etc. Anyway, I had terrible trouble with the liners shifting. I almost went back to the disposables. Pinning it in place just made holes in my panties. I was yearning for an adhesive strip when I stupidly realized I could easily make my own. So I take a long piece of masking tape, make it into a circle (sticky side out) just like you made construction paper garland as a child, stick it to the bottom of the liner, & then into your panties. Works super slick! Never shifts. And a roll of masking tape lasts a long time.

      And I make my liners without the wings — just like a normal disposable pad. With the tape, you don’t need them & it’s so much more comfortable without them.

  29. Denise says

    If we were to help provide these for the adolescent girls of The Little Angels Academy (Eastleigh, Kenya)…how many pads would you recommend sewing for each girl?

    • says

      Denise, what a wonderful idea. I think it will depend on how heavy their flow is and how often they are able to wash and dry them. I think somewhere between 5 and 10 pads would probably be sufficient.

  30. Valia says

    I love this idea! Anything to save money is a great idea in my book. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to reading more money-saving ideas on your website.

  31. Lillian says

    I never tried making my own. I am past that age now, but I take care of infants with cloth diapers and my own babies had mostly cloth diapers. It is really a good idea. I love the convenience of disposables, I admit. But I feel bad that they are being tossed into the garbage and going into a landfill and piling up and up in our Earth. I am a child of the Sixties and have tried all kinds of alternative things and still live pretty much in this mode. Try the cloth pads and try to be creative and come up with even more ways to make them a viable alternative. It is like bottle feeding your baby. Mother’s milk is the best unless you have some real major issue preventing you from breast feeding. Many people don’t want to nurse due to cultural pressure to conform to bottle feeding. It is the same as the choice for cloth menstrual pads. But I I know these are sensitive issues with some people and I respect their right to do as they please. However, I hope they will at least give some of these ideas a real good try before discarding them.

  32. Kathy Riley says


    I would think a type of microfiber cloth on the bottom would keep it from sliding. I am about to try my own for the first time, and pondered the same thing. I’ll let you know if microfiber does the job!


  33. Tabitha Hidalgo says

    Thanks for the pattern! I tried doing it with just looking at it and that didn’t work out well LOL.. So had to bring my computer to my MIL’s for the printer.

  34. says

    I have not tried these yet and was handed this link by someone on facebook when I commented that I could not afford the ones i saw on Etsy. I want to thank you for this tutorial and also ask if you have tried or thought of using peroxide to get the stains out. I know when I have stains on my pj’s that if i put peroxide on the stain while still fresh, it rinses right out. Do you think it would be a good idea to do this to the pads too while you wait to have enough to wash?

  35. Jo Oostendorp says

    This article brought back a blast from my past – I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s and started having periods when I was 8 years old. We didn’t have money left over for fancy things like disposable pads so Nana gave me some toweling cloths and showed me how to use them – on high flow days we would also use a pair of plastic pants easily cleaned and non disposable. This was essential for a sports mad child.

    Recently I have come across something that sounds even better – a diva cup – its made from silicone and simply fits into the body and can be removed, emptied and washed. To say the user and her daughter were impressed is an understatement and it doesn’t dislodge even during a judo class. These were actually invented back in the 20’s or 30’s but were a little unpredictable.

  36. lucy says

    Hillbilly, Thank you very much, you are a blessing to many! Just the information i was looking for to help other young women! can i share your story and pics with them .
    my question…does one feel wet, itchy or get rushes from the the clothes? you know the plastic are absorbent and dry?
    Bless all sisters who have shared their experiences with us here!!!

  37. Clare Thomas says

    Hi just wanted to say I am glad there are other people out there like me. I have been using old reusable nappy inserts for a while now. I find they are extremely absorbant and comfortable during my long heavy periods (every 22 days!) They never leak or move about, although you do need to wear them with 2 pairsof bigger pants that are tight fitting. They probably aren’t for everyone though as they are very long and thick, some people would do better with your pattern if they are good with sewing. A handy tip, double up on the pads if your period is very heavy.

  38. Julie says

    Thank you! So much information. I especially was impressed with the “ewww” section. When I mentioned to my mother that I was considering using cloth pads it was her exact response. Now that I live on my own, I plan on making some and begin using immediately. I am really hoping they will help eliminate some of the physical issues I’ve been having over the past year. I really believe the manufactured ones are messing with my chemistry negatively. Reading your article helped me say, “Yes, this is what I want to do!”

  39. Arlene says

    I am so glad I found this site!
    I had been thinking for some time of making my own cloths. I had found a blog months ago, but never got around to doing it (I’ve had surgery, I have an adolescent, life happens! LOL)
    Well, I woke up this morning to find I had “started” about a week early. My husband, bless his heart, had decided to let me sleep in and drove himself to work instead of waking me to drive him. (Right now we have only one usable car.). I looked in our cabinet in the bathroom to discover…nothing but panty liners! I had forgotten, my 11 yo started her menses a couple months ago, so it’s not as easy to keep an eye on the supply. I knew that wouldn’t do, so in desperation, I started looking for that blog I found months ago. It must be defunct, because my bookmark link wouldn’t work and I couldn’t find it. But I found you!

    I must admit mine isn’t pretty, because I sewed it up in a hurry. I keep a small basket of microfiber cloths and fleece cloths (they are clean, I wasn’t THAT desperate), so I grabbed a couple of each, some scissors, a sewing needle, and here we are. Now that I have my emergency one down, I intend to sew my others up a little neater. LOL.

    Thank you SO MUCH for your information.

  40. helen says

    By the way, plain peroxide removes blood stains, so if you’re sensitive to colored fabrics and don’t want to rub your fingers raw washing… a few drops will generally fizz up and some blotting will make it go away.

    I used plain muslin cloth pads for several years while in college on a “save the environment” kick. I’m so pleased to see that the tradition is still alive and well now that I’m middle aged. I think I will go look for some microfiber socks and make “version 2.” I still remember how incredibly comfortable it was.

    Commercial pads make me want to punch somebody, they’re so uncomfortable and usually stick to my (TMI alert!) skin or hair causing emergency trips to the bathroom. I honestly think PMS during your period is entirely due to the discomfort caused by the products.

    I was never scared that I would have an “accident” while using a muslin pad of my own making. There was very little sewing, just a folding process that left you with long strips in front and back, and I’m not sure how exactly, but I remember buttons that went outward away from the body to hold it in place. They were at least 4-5 inches across and never ever leaked. Somehow they didn’t feel bulky either. I was religious about washing them every single day, or at least leaving them soaking until morning.

  41. Ashley Ward says

    I will be trying these or a version of them. I am always looking a way to cut costs. We are a military family and finances are tough–even with 2 income. Thanks for sharing!

  42. Reba says

    I have found that a little bit of hydrogen peroxide works wonders on a blood stain that hasn’t been set in by a dryer cycle yet. It’s saved my pads and my jeans more than once and it’s fairly inexpensive. Just pour it on the stain, and scrub the fabric together until its mostly gone, rinse in cold water and then wash in cold water. It’s very effective and it doesn’t bleach fabrics.

  43. BeBe says

    I am so glad to find your patterns!! I have developed allergies to every disposable incontinence pad on the market and was searching for an alternative…..two 9+ pound babies using my insides for a trampoline has taken its toll….disposables were great for a day or so but they were a whole new kind of miserable!
    Your patterns and cotton flannel will solve _so_ many problems for me….thank you for your frank and refreshing candor in addressing such a delicate problem!
    Many thanks and bless you for sharing your creative genius!

  44. Marina says

    Hm. I just made a couple dozen flannel nappies for my daughter’s first bebe because she wanted to do everything as natural and “old-timey” as possible. Mebbe I should surprise her for her April birthday with a supply of these. She’s breastfeeding and won’t need protection for at least a FEW months! :-p
    (won’t be much of a surprise, though, cuz I already sent her the link to this site :-/ )
    As far as stains, why not start out with colored fabric that won’t show stains as much?
    Merry Christmas, everyone.

  45. Jenna says

    Two words: Menstrual Cup. If you prefer internal protection I’d suggest it. If you prefer external protection I’d be cloth all the way. It really is true, once family gets out of the “You’ve become the ultimate hippy.” zone they don’t care much to comment and you live your life in a little more comfort and frugality.

  46. Bekah says

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE my diva cup! I was my first step towards intentional reusability. I would never have gone to reusable pads if I didn’t have my diva cup first. It was an easy transition once I was used to the reusable cup. if you feel uncomfortable you can always keep your pads in the shower which puts them out of sight.

  47. jeanne says

    was unable to get the pattern to print. also, I am wanting to make a washable incontinence pad for my motherinlaw. should be able to use the same concept. I wonder what material would be better for the liner in this case? I love the idea of making the homemade ones. they are so expensive for seniors.
    thanks. jeanne.

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