I have used folded up cloths as pads for years for my monthlies. As long as you use a cotton cloth at least as big as a bandanna, bleed-through of a pad is surprisingly not that likely.
Have several, that way you always have a dry one and they can hand wash and hang dry in shifts. There is no reason why they can’t be as sanitary as the commercial ones.
To wash one, soak it in soapy water. Once it’s soaked a bit (like 10 minutes), rinse it and wash it again with soap until it’s clean. It doesn’t take a lot of water if you do it that way, and it takes most of the work out of it too. At the end of the period, put the clean ones through the laundry for real with very hot water.
I suppose one could make a plastic shield out of a piece of a trash bag, and fold it up in the pad near the bottom. That would help with bleed-throughs.
The only thing that is truly inconvenient about cloth pads, besides that they like to migrate more than the ones with the stickum, is if you are traveling and have to use public rest rooms, you’ll probably have to stick the used ones in a Ziploc bag until you get the chance to wash them in private. I just use commercial pads when I am traveling, that way I don’t have to worry about it.
Back in the day, the commercial pads didn’t have stickum. We had special underwear with straps to hold the pads on, or we would safety pin them on. – Penny Pincher
Avalanche Lily Replies: One of our writing contest sponsors, Naturally Cozy, makes hand-sewn washable cloth menstrual pads as well as incontinence pads. Buying these is a great option for anyone who isn’t handy with a sewing machine. (Or for those of us who are handy, but who don’t have the time to sew because of a busy schedule.)