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Are you curious about period pants? I get asked about them a lot. I’m so happy to see more people talking about swapping from disposables to reusable period pants and menstrual cups. Although I have written about making a sustainable swap to period pants, I’ve never dedicated a whole blog post to them. So this is everything you need to know about reusable period underwear (but were afraid to ask!)
In my circles at least, it seems to be really taking off and I can tell you from personal experience that it’s the way forward. But initially it’s an eco-friendly swap that feels like a big investment. It’s also something that has the potential to cause worry if you’ve only used disposable products before. So read on for all your period pants questions, answered!
What Are Period Pants, and How Do They Work?
Let’s start with the basics. Period pants look very much like regular pants, but they have a slim hidden absorbent core. This core absorbs the blood from a period, and ‘locks’ it away until you can change them. The ones I recommend have a moisture-wicking top layer, with an absorbent, leak-proof, breathable core.
Are they any good? Well, I have been a period pants convert for a few years now. When I first used period pants, I only used them when I was staying at home. As a freelance copywriter, I spend most of my days at home anyway. I was concerned about leaks, but I needn’t have worried. They work so well.
How Often Should I Change Them?
Depending on your flow, you may be able to wear one pair a day, or you may need to change them. I find I very occasionally need to change them once a day on extra heavy days. I can use one pair a day for most of the time, and change them before bed.
Can You Really Wear Period Pants All Day?!
Yes! Often you can, because they are designed to hold up to 4 tampons’ worth of blood. If you have a heavy flow, look for heavy flow pants, and they should be all you need. You could also use a light flow pair, along with a menstrual cup. The choice is yours.
Is Period Underwear Comfortable?
Lots of people wonder if wearing period pants is like wearing a nappy. Now I have to say, I don’t remember wearing a nappy… but I would say no! There is a little more ‘bulk’ as you’d expect, but on a par with slim disposable sanitary towels. I particularly love the high waisted versions, but there are hipsters too.
Here is a close up of my BASICS Medium Flow pants — I have adjusted the light so they look paler. This means you can see the gusset in the centre, which goes from the back waistband to about an inch from the front waistband, for maximum absorbency.
Aren’t They Messy? Do They Smell?
It does take a little while to get used to seeing the blood. We are so conditioned into getting rid of blood as soon as we can, it can take a few months to be comfortable with it. I find rinsing the pants straight away when you’ve just removed them is the least messy, as the blood is fresh. If you leave it, it gets more difficult to rinse away (see below for how to wash period pants). So to answer the mess question: it is a little messy when you wash them, but not at all when you’re wearing them. And in my experience, they don’t smell either.
What’s the Best Way to Start Swapping to Reusable Period Products?
My advice is to start small and buy a pair of reusable period pants, to see how you get on. I highly recommend WUKA period pants. I have a few pairs of their BASICS™ period pants, which to me are just as good as their more expensive ones. At £12 a pair for the medium flow (holds around 3 tampons worth), and £18 a pair for heavy flow (holds around 4 x tampons worth), these are the most affordable period pants I’ve found. And they also do a risk-free 40 day trial (even if you’ve worn them!) for your first pair. So to me, that is a no-brainer!
There are other options for a more sustainable period. You could use a plastic-free menstrual cup. I have got one, but I haven’t quite got the hang of mine. You could also use reusable menstrual pads, which tend to be more affordable than pants. Or a mix of all, of course! And don’t forget even by using reusable products once over your cycle, or half the time, will make a difference. It’s not all or nothing. Personally I find the pants better than reusable pads. In my experience the pads a bit bulky, and can move around, so I find them better at night.
Why Are Reusable Period Products Better Than Disposables?
According to Glamour Magazine, the average woman will use over 11,000 disposable, single-use menstrual products over her lifetime. And it takes longer for a tampon to degrade than the lifespan of the woman who wears it. And if you use a single use applicator too? You can see how much landfill this creates, considering a periods is a monthly event. There over 66 million people in the UK, and at least 33 million of them will have years of menstruating. Regular sanitary towels are as bad (probably worse) for the environment. So regular, plastic-based sanitary items are in no way sustainable.
Do Reusable Period Products Save Money?
I did an experiment to keep track of how many disposables I used over my last period. I used Eco by Naty plastic-free pads, and Natracare panty liners as they are the least eco-damaging disposables. My periods last 4–5 days and I think my flow is relatively light (but of course I don’t have anything to compare it with!). I used 5 x overnight pads, 8 x regular pads, and 6 x panty liners. So the monetary cost of that is around £4, working out at around £52 a year. Plus the cost of possibly replacing underwear, PJ bottoms or sheets if they become stained from leaks. But the environmental cost of regular disposables is much, much more.
Reusable period underwear lasts around 2 years if you take care of it. Buying reusable period pants does feel like a big investment initially, but they do last really well. I think that over the lifetime of the pants, they are a not only a great eco-friendly swap, but a good investment. They work out cheaper than disposables, not to mention how much landfill you’re saving!
How Do You Wash Period Pants?
It does take a little effort to take care of your period pants, to give them a long life. You need to rinse the pants out after straight use and then wash on a cool wash. Alternatively, you can soak them in a small bucket of water until you’re ready to wash them. Because you’ve washed out most of the blood, you can pop them in with a dark wash. Never tumble dry them, pop them on your washing line or clothes airer to dry.
Can You Wear Period Pants for Swimming
Some brands now have period bikini bottoms, which is brilliant. I haven’t tried them myself as I am not a big fan of swimming. It’s great to know they exist, for when my daughters get older.
What about Period Pants for Tweens and Teens?
I think reusable period pants are a brilliant option for tweens and teens It’s great to get them started with a more sustainable period nice and early.
I’ve bought some for my daughter in a ‘My First Period Pack’ which comes with a great book. It feels good to know I’m prepared for when she needs them. She is excited to start using them too.
So Which Period Pants are the Best?
I’ve tried a few brands of period pants and by far my favourites are WUKA. Here you see top to bottom, Ultimate High Waisted, Basics Hipster and Heavy and Medium Flow.
WUKA ULTIMATE™ High Waisted pants, which are:
- Sustainably sourced and manufactured from Lenzing™ Modal fabric
- Comfortable and stretchy with up to 45% stretch at the waist
- High waisted
- Available in Heavy and Medium Flow
WUKA BASICS™ Hipster Pants, which are:
- Made of Better Cotton Initiative Certified Cotton
- Low waisted
- Available in Heavy and Medium Flow
- More affordable
WUKA stands for ‘Wake Up Kick Ass’.
“Founded in 2017, WUKA is a female-led start up, making the UK’s first ever reusable and leak-proof period wear. We believe that periods should not cost the earth. Equality, social and environmental responsibility are at the heart of everything we do.”
Their period underwear is ethically made, sustainably sourced, and carbon neutral. Unlike the vast majority of disposables.