I wanted to write this post as I feel it is a common misconception that you cannot switch to cloth pads unless you have your own washing machine and private drying space. I hope this article will illustrate for you that is it not only possible but really easy to use cloth pads when living in shared accommodation such as your family home or university halls of residence. This blog post lays out my personal routines while living in university:
I made the initial switch to reusable menstrual products back in 2016. At the time, Mike and I were living and studying together in university. We lived in a shared halls of residence flat. The flat was made up of 6 ensuite rooms and a communal kitchen. The laundry room was separate but only a short walk away. I followed these steps each cycle:
1. use products as normal, storing used pads in a wet bag at the top of my laundry hamper in my own room.
2. at the end of my period, sanitise my menstrual cup with a sterilising tablet (found cheaply in the baby aisle of most supermarkets - I used the supermarket own-brand version). I used a pint glass in my bathroom to do this, following the directions on the sterilising tablet packing for correct dilution. Alternatively, you could use a microwave steriliser as these are easily available from sites carrying menstrual cups. They're also fairly discreet if you buy an opaque coloured one.
3. Soak all used pads in a washing up bowl in my room. A washing up bowl is one of my most recommended items to have in university - it has so many uses. I always add an oxi cleaner to my soaking water to remove as many stains first time as possible. I would leave my pads to soak overnight.
4. In the morning, I would stand at the sink to stain treat all the pads that had been soaking. If I had a shared bathroom, I would likely still do this by carrying the bowl there. Personally, I've never had my soaking water turn an 'obvious' colour so I could have easily have passed off what was in the bowl as any other item of clothing that I needed to soak or handwash. When moving back to my parents' house, I would cover my soaking bowl with a tea towel anyway since I soaked them in the family bathroom rather than my bedroom.
5. After stain treating, I would squeeze the excess water out of the pads, transfer them to a mesh washing bag and add this to the rest of my laundry to carry to the laundry room. If it was really busy while I was there, I would scoop up lots of items at the same time, hiding the bag of pads amongst other clothes so nobody would notice what they were. I wouldn't say I was ever 'embarrassed' by washing my pads at university but it was often easier to avoid questions or conversations about it all when I was really busy.
6. I always had things that couldn't go into the drier when doing my laundry like delicate jumpers and also my pads. For these items, I would remove them from the load after they had been washed before transferring the rest to the drier. The mesh bag containing the pads also comes in handy here since you can be sure you've grabbed them all and there's a lot less risk of dropping them onto the dirty floor! When arriving back at my room, I would throw them all over an airer (another must-have item for university!). I also really liked using the candyfloss hangers as I call them to peg the pads and/or socks on (the hangers with lots of pegs coming off them). I would usually put my airer near the radiator or hang the candyfloss hanger up in the window on the blinds/curtain pole/window handle.
I hope this post has helped you to see how it is definitely possible to use reusables even without your own private facilities. If you have any questions about anything I've mentioned here, please drop us a message!