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Reusable pads are becoming increasingly popular — but are they safe to use?

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Reusable pads are cloth pads that serve as an alternative to disposable menstrual pads. Like disposable pads, you place them into your underwear and go about your day. The difference is that when reusable pads fill up, you rinse them off, wash them, and reuse them, instead of throwing them away.

Many choose reusable pads as a personal preference. They may be more comfortable than disposable pads. Others opt for reusable pads to lower their carbon footprint. A person who menstruates will go through 5,000 to 15,000 pads and tampons in their lifetime and throw away 400 pounds of associated packaging, according to Global Citizen. Most reusable pads can be used for years, as long as you care for them properly and have a few to rotate through.

Ingredients are another factor to consider. Disposable pads are often treated with hormone-disrupting chemicals, according to a 2020 study, including phthalates, parabens, bisphenols, and triclocarban. And since they touch your skin directly, you absorb a significant amount of them into your bloodstream.

Reusable pads don’t have these same chemicals and are often made from materials like cotton, so you can reduce your exposure every month.

Reusable pads work almost the same way as disposable pads. They have an absorbent fabric layer that holds onto liquid to prevent leaks. The main difference is that you clean them instead of throwing them away.

Here’s how to use them:

  1. Attach the pad to your underwear according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. Go about your day as you usually would.
  3. When the pad is full, remove and rinse with cool water until the water runs clear. If you’re out and can’t do this right away, fold your reusable pad and wrap it in another cloth or place it in a bag until you can.
  4. Wash the reusable pad according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Most pads go right into the laundry with other items of similar colors.
  5. Hang to dry or tumble dry low (depending on manufacturer’s instructions).

A menstrual pad is an important purchase. Here’s how we made sure we’re only recommending the best:

  • Customer ratings. The best way to know if something works is to listen to what real people have to say about their experiences with it. We combed through user reviews and only chose highly praised reusable pads with ratings of at least 4 out of 5 stars.
  • Sizes. People and their periods are different. We chose reusable pads that cover a range of sizes and flows to make sure there are options for everyone.
  • Price. We also factored in price. It’s difficult to compare prices side by side, since some reusable pads come as a single unit, while others are sold in packs of three or more. We didn’t exclude any great options based on price, but we did include a variety of different price ranges.

Prices of our picks range from:

  • $ = under $20
  • $$ = $20–$40
  • $$$ = over $40

Best reusable pads for heavy flow

Aisle Super Pad

  • Price: $$
  • Sizes: super (13 inches long)

The Aisle Super Pad is designed for those with heavier flows. It has a three-layer design, with two breathable cotton and spandex layers wrapped around an absorbent polyester and polyamide core. It can hold up to 14 tampons’ worth of liquid.

The snap-closure wings prevent leaks. Just wrap the pad around the crotch of your underwear and snap it close. When you need to change your pad, you can unsnap it, fold the wings over, and rinse.


  • can hold up to 14 tampons’ worth of liquid
  • machine washable
  • made with breathable cotton


  • some users note it feels a bit bulky
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Best reusable pads for light flow

Aisle Mini Pad

  • Price: $
  • Sizes: mini (8 inches long)

The Mini Pad is designed specifically for lighter flows. It has the same design as the Aisle Super Pad, with snap closures, breathable cotton layers, and an absorbent polyester and polyamide combo in the middle. But it has a thinner core that holds up to eight tampons’ worth of liquid in one use.

The Mini Pads are a bit thicker than Aisle Liners, which hold the equivalent of four tampons, so they provide a little extra protection against leaks.


  • made with breathable cotton
  • machine washable
  • can hold up to eight tampons’ worth of liquid


  • some users found it’s not as comfortable as they were hoping
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Best organic reusable pads

Rael Organic Cotton Reusable Pads

  • Price: $$
  • Sizes: petite, regular, large, overnight

These reusable pads from Rael have 5 layers made with 100 percent organic cotton that’s free of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs) and other potentially harmful chemicals. Not only is the cotton ultra-absorbent, but it’s also breathable, so it helps prevent odors and irritation that can come from wearing a pad all day.

Each pad has a ventilated top, leak-preventing wings, and a snap closure that allows you to secure it in place. The Rael pads come in four sizes, from petite to overnight. While the brand doesn’t specify how much liquid each can hold, reviewers with light to heavy flows say they were totally covered.


  • four sizes available
  • 100 percent organic cotton
  • users love how comfortable they are


  • not specified how much liquid each pad can hold
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Best reusable pads for active lifestyles

Charlie Banana Reusable Pad

  • Price: $$
  • Sizes: super

If you live an active lifestyle, you’ll probably want a reusable pad that will stay in place as you move. While most of them have snap closures, the Charlie Banana reusable pads have double snaps and a snug fit that helps keep them securely fastened to your underwear. They’re made of ultra-soft fleece with layers of absorbent microterry and are Climate Neutral certified, which means they don’t contribute to carbon emissions.

These Charlie Banana super reusable pads can hold up to 100 milliliters of liquid. For reference, the Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research says a regular tampon holds about 5 milliliters of fluid.


  • comes in a pack of three
  • comfortable fabric
  • holds up to 100 milliliters of liquid


  • mixed reviews
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Best reusable pad inserts

Ruby Love Double Sided Pads

  • Price: $
  • Sizes: one size

These double-sided pads from Ruby Love aren’t a standalone option, but they can provide extra protection along with your period underwear. Designed to work with Ruby Love period underwear (or any period underwear that has an option for a removable pad), these flippable pads allow you to maximize your use. When one side is full, just flip it over and start anew.

The pads are 100 percent cotton on the outside and 100 percent polyester on the inside. They come in packs of 2, 4, 8, and 12. Ruby Love doesn’t specify how much each pad holds, but they’re meant to serve as a backup option for the underwear, which holds up to 2.5 tampons’ worth.


  • double-sided
  • comes in variety packs


  • not specified how much liquid they hold
  • only available in one size
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Best reusable pad/period underwear combo

Aisle Brief

  • Price: $$$
  • Sizes: XS to 5X

Standalone reusable pads can be used with any underwear, but this reusable pad/period underwear combo provides double the protection. The underwear itself holds up to four tampons’ worth, and the added pad (or “booster,” as Aisle calls it) brings the total up to eight tampons’ worth. The booster is removable, so you can add it to the gusset on heavy days or skip it when you have a lighter flow.

The Aisle Brief is made of a tencel, organic cotton, and spandex outer layer. It has a laminate made of recycled polyester, organic cotton, and thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), a type of waterproof polyester. It comes in 10 sizes, ranging from XS to 5X.


  • variety of sizes available
  • holds up to four to eight tampons’ worth of liquid
  • made from organic and recycled materials
  • machine washable


  • some buyers may not love the brief style
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Best reusable pads for incontinence

Rael Organic Cotton Reusable Incontinence Pads

  • Price: $$
  • Sizes: petite, regular, large, overnight

While any reusable pad can help with incontinence to some degree, these pads from Rael are specifically designed for that purpose. They’re constructed of six layers of organic cotton that rapidly absorbs liquids and doesn’t trap odors. Like the menstrual pads, these incontinence pads have a snap closure, so they’ll stay firmly in place even with active lifestyles.

They come in four sizes: petite, regular, large, and overnight. While Rael doesn’t say exactly how much liquid each pad can hold, users say they no longer experience leaks, even without changing the pad during the day.


  • best for urinary incontinence
  • made from organic cotton
  • available in four sizes


  • mixed reviews
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ProductPriceCustomer ratingSizes availableMaterialsHow to clean
Aisle Super Pad$224.8 starssupercotton, spandex, polyester/polyamide core, TPU backingrinse; machine wash and dry
Aisle Mini Pad$164.7 starsminicotton, spandex, polyester/polyamide core, TPU backingrinse; machine wash and dry
Rael Organic Cotton Reusable Pad$34 (pack of three)4.4 starspetite, regular, large, overnightorganic cottonpre-rinse and soak; machine wash on cold, tumble dry on low
Charlie Banana Reusable Pad$20.99 (pack of three)4.6 starssuperpolyester, nylon, polyurethanepre-rinse and soak; machine wash cold or lukewarm, hang to dry or tumble dry low
Ruby Love Double Sided Pads$19.50 (pack of two)N/Aone sizecotton and polyestermachine wash and dry on low heat
Aisle Brief$464.6 starsXS, S, M, L, XL, 1X, 2X, 3X, 4X, 5Xtencel, organic cotton, spandex, with recycled polyester and TPU laminaterinse; machine wash and dry
Rael Organic Cotton Reusable Incontinence Pad$30 (pack of three)4 starspetite, regular, large, overnightorganic cottonpre-rinse and soak; machine wash on cold, tumble dry on low

Reusable pads are a more eco-friendly way to approach period care.

Rather than throwing away several disposable pads and tampons every month, you can reuse them for years as long as you take care of them properly. While they’re more costly up front, they can also save you money over time since you don’t have to purchase them as frequently. Many wearers also report that they’re more comfortable than disposable pads and less noisy.

Menstrual cups have similar benefits, but they’re a little more difficult to use (and a bit messier) since they have to be inserted into the vagina and carefully removed once they’re full. On the other hand, reusable pads attach to the underwear and can be put on and taken off easily.

The most important thing to consider when choosing a reusable pad is your flow volume. If you have a heavy flow, you’ll need a reusable pad that’s designed to absorb more liquid. You may also want to consider extra features, like wings, although those are standard with most reusable pads. If your flow is lighter, you can choose a smaller reusable pad or opt for reusable panty liners, which are generally less expensive.

Most manufacturers will specify how many milliliters or tampons’ worth their pads can hold. Make sure to double-check this information and choose one that’s in line with your flow. Or, purchase several pads so you can change them out more frequently if you have a heavier flow.

If you’re new to reusable pads, you probably have a lot of questions. Here are some answers to a few that are the most frequently asked.

Are reusable pads sanitary?

Yes, reusable pads are sanitary. They tend to be made with breathable, odor-fighting fabrics that can prevent leaks while keeping you healthy and feeling fresh. Just make sure to properly clean your pad after each use.

How do you clean a reusable pad?

Cleaning a reusable pad is a two-step process.

First, rinse the pad in cool water until the water runs clear. Then, wash it with your laundry, as you’d usually clean other clothing. Some reusable pads may have specific care instructions, like using cold water only or hanging to dry. Make sure to read the care label and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to prolong the life of your reusable pads.

Are reusable pads good for the environment?

Using reusable pads instead of disposable period products can help lower your carbon footprint and the amount of waste you produce. One menstruating person goes through 5,000 to 15,000 pads and tampons in their lifetime and throws away around 400 pounds of packaging, according to Global Citizen.

As a whole, 12 billion pads are thrown away annually. Some of the plastic materials in these disposable products and packaging can take 500 to 800 years to break down.

How long can you wear a reusable pad?

You can wear a reusable pad for up to 6 hours, but you may have to change it more frequently if you have a heavy flow and the pad gets filled up sooner than that.

Are reusable pads cheaper than disposable period products?

Reusable pads have a higher upfront cost than disposable period products. A single reusable pad can cost around $20, but it will save you money over time since you can use it over and over for years.

Reusable pads are an eco-friendly way to approach period care. Rather than throwing them away after use, you wash them and use them again and again.

The best reusable pads combine breathable materials with highly absorbent inner linings, so you can go about your day without worrying about leaks.

Lindsay Boyers is a functional nutritionist, licensed esthetician, and health and commerce writer. She’s also written more than a dozen books and cookbooks and created over 1,000 original recipes. Her work has appeared on Forbes, CNET, CNN Underscored, mindbodygreen, The Spruce Eats and The Spruce, among others.