how to wash cloth pads

So you’re interested in reusable pads, be it for the environment or the economic value or both, but you’ve heard about oversupply of milk and how much and how long lochia is produced. Maybe this is the first time you’re hearing about either, in which case some people produce more milk in the first few weeks of their child’s life than their child needs, and can be pumped out and saved, and often leaks a bit as you and your child learn how much milk is needed and what to do with what isn’t drunk. Lochia is a vaginal discharge postpartum that starts dark red and fades over a few weeks to clear discharge.

Cloth pads are easy to clean. For nursing pads, give them a rinse once they feel wet and set them in a place to dry out until you do laundry. I usually leave mine on the bathroom counter or on top of the shower doorframe. Wash them on hot, and either machine or line dry. It is important to change them as frequently as they feel wet so you don’t get an infection, just like a menstrual pad or tampon. For menstrual pads, rinse out the pad until the water runs mostly clear. You can use a little soap if you like. Let them dry out until laundry day, and wash on hot and machine or line dry.

If you’re concerned about stains, you can wash almost anything with blue Dawn dishsoap (yes, specifically the blue) before it dries out and it will come out completely. I’ve used this with lipstick on white clothes, and those early bright yellow baby poops. If there is a little staining left, oftentimes a splash of peroxide will do the trick for protein or plant based stains. Depending on severity, either pour hydrogen peroxide over the area and let drip dry (don’t squeeze!) or let soak in a glass or ceramic container overnight before giving it a water rinse. Then wash as normal. For very stubborn stains, and clothes that go in sensitive areas (like nursing pads, menstrual pads, or baby clothes) line dry in the sun for a gentle, natural bleach. It will fade the entire item over time, but a day in the sun will fade the stain more than the item. You can up the solar power with a dab of lemon juice on the stain.

For the most stubborn stains, the facebook group Laundry Love and Cleaning Science* is full of people with every trick up their sleeve for every sort of object and stain.

You may have seen or read information suggesting menstrual pads (and cloth diapers) should be soaked in water until ready for cleaning. This is gross, and the fastest way to make cleaning these items a chore you hate. The soak should be no more than overnight to help pull out stains, but any longer and bacteria will begin to grow and smells develop in a lochia (or diaper) soup. You don’t need that postpartum. You need someone else to do the laundry while you rest in bed, enjoying a non-stinky home. Simply rinse the pads to remove most of the lochia or milk, and let them dry out to inhibit bacteria growth.

*as of June 2020 this group is closed to comments for most of the week due to covid-19, but remains joinable and searchable the rest of the week.

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