How to Make Washable Menstrual Pads

By Corrine Flatt, midwife, Las Vegas NV



There are many variations of this washable menstrual pad concept; most are probably better than mine.  If you decide that you like washable menstrual pads, you will begin to modify this pattern for your own preferences and the varying needs that you have for more or less coverage and absorbancy.  These are pinnable, but you can experiment with Velcro or snap closures. 


You will need one regular sized disposable menstrual pad, five (four) pieces of all-cotton material—about 12 inches square, and if desired, two pieces of waterproof material—about 6 inches by 12 inches.  Nearly any all-cotton material is fine for menstrual pads.  I have used flannel, old tee shirts, old jeans, old towels, and anything else about to go in the trash or recycle bin.  You can also add a waterproof layer, using those waterproof mattress covers or vinyl/flannel tablecloths. 


Let’s assume that you are going to make this first one with a waterproof layer.  Fold two of your cotton pieces, right sides out, and place a piece of waterproof material inside each piece of cotton.  Run a straight stitch 1/4 to 1/2 inch inside of the folded edge. 


Lay these two folded and stitched pieces side-by-side, with the folded/stitched edges beside each other, now overlap the folded/stitched edges about an inch.  Place another piece of your cotton material over these two pieces, “wrong side” up, and place the last two pieces of cotton material over the whole stack, making sure that BOTH of these last two pieces are “right side” up.  Pin all layers together.  You should be able to feel the thicker center line through this stack. 


Place your disposable menstrual pad over this stack, so that the length of the pad runs over the center of the thick center line.  Draw (with a washable crayon) around your pad, adding “wings” about 3-4 inches by 3-4 inches, to the sides of your pad. 


Move the pins to the inside of your drawing, if necessary, and cut out your menstrual pad.    Carefully remove the top layer, replacing the pins.  This top layer is now your pattern for your next pads.  Pin a 3x5 card to it, and make notes and adjustments on it for your next pads. 


If you are using a sewing machine, set your machine to zigzag stitch.  The stitches need to be narrow and tight, 10-12 stitches per inch, and 1/6 to 1/4 inch wide.  If you are using a serger, set your machine up for three-thread overlock stitch, 10 stitches per inch, and 1/6 to 1/8 inch wide/deep.  I like to serge these, and I like to use the soft wooley thread.  If you are using a sewing machine, use all-cotton thread. 


Sew through all layers of your pad, all the way around.


Now you have a choice, you can either use the pad exactly as it is, and the sewed edges will be exposed, but the wooley thread or all-cotton thread should not irritate, OR you can turn the whole thing inside out (and look!  It is just as pretty that way, too!) 


To use, place them just as you would a disposable pad, solid side toward you, open/overlapping/waterproof side by your panties, fold the “wings” around your panties, and pin underneath. 


You can add extra absorbency by sewing “panty liner” shapes out of two layers of cotton material and inserting these inside the larger pad.  No waterproofing is needed for these absorbency pads.    


To clean, rinse them in cold water in the sink until the water runs clear, and then toss them into your regular wash.  I recommend that you allow them to get stained, and be proud of the stains, but if that bothers you, use hydrogen peroxide or ammonia or sunshine or expensive laundry products to remove the stains. 


TA DAH!!  Once you get started, you will be able to make a dozen of these in about an hour.