Cloth Pad Materials Explained
About my materials:
While not all my materials are 100% natural, I strive to make each pad as eco-friendly as possible. My materials:
I use several types of waterproof or water resistant materials, each with it's own advantages. Choose the one that suits you and your lifestyle best!
PUL is always a good choice for those concerned with leaking through the bottom, due to its waterproof quality. It is commonly used in cloth diapers and as the waterproof layer in matress pads. PUL meets CSPIA and Oeko Tec 100 standards (and my PUL is also food-safe!)
Windpro brand fleece is a durable, highly water resistant fabric. It is almost failproof despite being a porous fabric (though flow can still leak through if there is no where else for the flow to go) and many people in warmer climates feel that it is cooler to use a fleece than PUL as the backing on their pads.
Polyester fleece is the most breathable of the three fabrics, keeping things cooler. It is also the least water resistant, but all the same, fleece does a decent job in most cases.
Melton Wool is an all natural option that is highly water resistant. Traditionally, melton wool - a felted wool fabric - is used for outerwear, but I've found it also works great as a backing for cloth menstrual pads! It is thin and breathable, but extra care must be taken - I recommend that pads made with Melton Wool be hand washed and line dried, to prevent the wool from felting (and thus shrinking) beyond its current state.
Finally, some people prefer No Waterproofing be put into their cloth pads. This is a great option for someone with a lighter flow or who knows their flow well, and makes the pad easier to compost at the end of its life! Pads with no waterproof layer do get two layers of cotton on the back to reinforce the pad's structure.
I have chosen a very absorbent 70% bamboo vicose/30% organic cotton fleece blend that is certified to be free of any residual manufacturing chemicals, and manufactured in a free-trade factory in the USA. Independent tests for absorbency show bamboo/organic cotton fleece to be second only to hemp when it comes to how much fluid it can hold for it's weight!
Top and Bottoms (outer layers): When I use PUL for the water barrier, I also put a layer of cotton flannel on the bottom of the pad to keep the pad from shifting. Fleece bottoms do not require the extra layer of cotton. The top of the pad is usually quilter's cotton or cotton flannel, but occasionally I use a cotton interlock knit or polyester minky. I choose my fabrics carefully, choosing designs that are attractive while being durable and the least likely to transfer dye (or glitter!) to your body.
Quilter's Cotton: Quilter's cotton (often called "woven cotton") is the smooth, cool fabric most often used in quilting. It feels like a cotton sheet or a men's dress shirt. While it feels cool and smooth, wetness can be more noticeable with quilter's cotton than with other options.
Cotton Flannel: Cotton flannel is made the same way as quilter's cotton, but then the fabric is brushed to raise short cotton fibers up off the surface. This creates a softer, warmer fabric that is slightly more absorbent than quilter's cotton. I feel it keeps wetness closer to body temperature while it evaporates, making you feel drier.
Cotton Interlock Knit: Interlock knit is created by looping threads together, rather than weaving them. This creates a softer, warmer, and stretchier fabric. The feel of Interlock knit in a pad will be similar to flannel, and once sewn most stretch is stabilized. Knits also tend to be thicker than the woven fabrics mentioned above. Knits are not suitable for certain products, like wet bags.
Minky: Minky is a 100% polyester fabric with a raised nap - that is, it feels "furry." I choose minky fabrics with a short nap, so the "fur" is 1-2 mm deep. Minky is not absorbent, so fluids will pass through it into the absorbent core below. This makes it an excellent "stay-dry" layer and is great for heavy or gushy flows.
I use professional grade size 20 KAM polycetal resin or metal snaps on my pads. These snaps are durable and can withstand high heat washes and dries without melting, rusting, or breaking. You must be certain, however, to not continue to run the dryer if the pads are dry, as doing this not only damages the fabric but can warp even the best KAM snaps.