My journey to re-usable

Photo by  Sharon McCutcheon.

by Nicolle Wilkinson

Over the past 10+ years, I’ve found myself searching for a comfortable and easy to use solution to disposable pads and tampons. It’s tough- there are so many products on the market these days and you really have to spend the time (and money!) to try different options to see if they work for you. Everyone’s body is different, and seemingly no definitive “one size fits all” product on the market. 

When I was 11, before my first period, my mom approached me with a pamphlet of cloth pads she wanted me to consider for when the time came. I must admit, my pre-teen mind was horrified at that idea of washing and re-using pads. Instead of contemplating these, the first few years I used the pads my step dad was able to acquire for free through his job with the school district. Individually packaged in cardboard boxes, they were the worst. So super thick, like sitting on a football, no wings, etc. Total leak city. As I got older and was able to buy my own preferred (thin!) pads and tampons, I chose the usual suspects- bleached cotton with super sticky adhesive. 

I went this route until my mid 20’s when I finally realized our bodies are absorbing all of the chemicals we expose them to. The possibility of TSS is a dangerous reality and using a combination of bleached fibers and plastic mixed with God knows what compounds to pool liquid together and cover it with a “fresh scent” was no longer an option for me. 

At this point, there were more alternatives on the market. Friends of mine started using a cup and I decided to give one a go. The learning curve was high. There’s a real art to inserting them properly so there’s no leaking, not to mention removing them can be agonizing, as they can create a seal and breaking that can be so painful. I still use these for when I’m doing some physical activities like swimming. It just wasn’t the ultimate “catch all” fix for me. I’ve tried period panties and free bleeding. Both felt risky, and not in a fun way.

More recently I’ve come back around to the idea of cloth pads as they’ve come a long way since my initial shocking introduction. At this stage, the concept of re-usable is extremely appealing to me and, quite frankly, the earth could use a break. Over the course of a lifetime, a single menstruator will use between 5 and 15 thousand pads and tampons, ending up in landfills as plastic waste. 

I’ve tried out a few different brands in the past few months discovering a few unfortunate drawbacks, as they have a tendency to slide around (sometimes doing a complete flip to the underside?!). I also came to realize that if you wanted to increase the amount of absorption for heavy days, they would increasingly get bulkier and less discreet. Not ideal.

Enter the Zeropad. This is a new creation of The Kindness Factory, a Victoria B.C. re-usable cloth mask company, which started in response to the pandemic in spring of 2020.  The business is diversifying its offerings in anticipation of the eventuality of mask demand dying down, and keeping in line with its original values of quality, re-usable products, handmade by people in its own community.

I must say that the issues I experienced with other products are not present here. The Zeropad is cleverly constructed with the following layers: Against your skin, the top layer is cotton, which is soft and cool to the touch. Next is Zorb, an incredibly thin and absorbent material made of plant cellulose, which absorbs 10 times its weight in less than 2 seconds, wicking 20 times faster than other materials. Followed up by a layer of PUL, preventing liquid from penetrating through. Finally, Jiffy Grip, which is made of cotton and dotted with silicone. This is the best part- it stays put! No more gymnastic stunts in your underwear. They also come with a zero leak guarantee if used as directed.

I think, however, my favourite aspect of the Zeropad is the size inclusivity. There are six sizes, ranging from mini (think panty liner) to overnight long (plus size and post-partum possibilities). And, they have multiple snaps to adjust the width. This means there are likely multiple sizes to suit each person individually. I even hear they can be used for mild incontinence, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it!