Fabric Comparison Guide
Many people who have tried a variety of cloth pads have strong preferences for certain fabrics and have learned to avoid others. It can be confusing and overwhelming if you have one friend who swears by velour and another who doesn't see how anyone can stand it.
Trial and error is one sure way to find out what works for you, but here are some guidelines to help you determine what you might like to try.
This isn't a definitive guide to all of the fabrics that can be used to catch and contain menstrual flow, it's just a description of the stuff that I have available. If you are thinking of making your own pads, you might want to read Obsidian Star's Guide to Figuring out Fabrics for more options.
The topper fabrics that I use most often are rated on a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 being the best in each area.
Description: Brushed Woven Cotton
Strengths: Cool, breathable, absorbs without too much wicking and dries quickly. High quality flannels get softer and more absorbent over time. Your warmth will soften it and it will conform to your shape. Flannel is one of the most popular toppings.
Weaknesses: Many flannels pill over time. Flannel can add unwanted warmth, especially in hot climates and during summer.
Description: Natural protein fiber
Strengths: Feels comfortable and dry and looks nice. Does not seem to hold blood stains as stubbornly as cotton. Makes a great stay-dry layer for medium flow.
Weaknesses: Not very absorbent. Thin silks allow liquid to pass right through, so that you feel dry when you're not. Silks can get crusty on top if you don't change them frequently. They're not recommended for heaviest flow, but they make great everyday liners. Although silk pads don't require special care, they will last longer if they are hand-washed in all natural shampoo.
- Flat Cotton
Description: Woven cotton
Strengths: Keeps its good looks wash after wash. Is cooler, lighter and thinner than flannel and can be more comfortable in warm climates and in summer.
Weaknesses: For some, a little less comfy than flannel. Is not as absorbent/quick drying as flannel.
- Cotton Terry
Description: Soft, plush-y terry taken from recycled hotel and spa bath robes.
Strengths: Very good for preventing side leaks. Absorbs a maximum of liquid before allowing it to travel to the edges of the pad or through it. Is thick a thick fabric, so you don't need to layer it up as much. It's thick and cushy enough that you will always be aware you're protected.
Weaknesses: Only comes in white. Not recommended if you're looking for a thin pad.
Description: Dense woven fabric made from processed wood pulp. It has a very fine peach fuzz-like texture.
Strengths: Is durable and breathable, feels soft, responds to your body temperature to conform to your shape and regulate temperature.
Weaknesses: It's a slow absorber, so it's not recommended as a topping or backing layer if you have heavy gushes.
- Cotton Terry
Description: Woven fabric with loops or tufts of cotton.
Strengths: Is made to absorb.
Weaknesses: Is bulkier than jersey or hemp terry.
- Hemp Blend French Terry
Description: Knit fabric with terry loops on one side, jersey on the other side
Strengths: A strong, durable lightweight fabric that is very absorbent, thin, soft and comfortable. Because it has antibacterial properties, it's preferable if you're prone to infections.
Weaknesses: Pads with hemp terry are thinner, so you may feel a little more vulnerable.
- Hemp Blend Jersey
Description: Knit cotton and hemp fabric
Strengths: Is thin, very absorbent and dries quickly. Makes a good absorbent layer under terry and/or on top of a water resistant fabric. Because it has antibacterial properties, it's preferable if you're prone to infections.
Weaknesses: Wicks moisture along its surface before allowing it to pass through to layers beneath it.
- soy/organic cotton/spandex
Description: Soft, fine knit stretchy fabric. 58% soy/37% organic cotton/ 5% spandex.
Strengths: Excellent for stretch wings. Thinner than hemp and more elastic. Very absorbent. Works well as a bottom or near bottom layer because it helps spread moisture evenly instead of allowing it to pass straight down through the bottom of the pad.
Weaknesses: Doesn't work well as a top layer because it wicks moisture along its surface before allowing it to pass through to layers beneath it.
- Synthetic Fleece
Description: Light, soft pile fabric.
Strengths: Is warm and soft like pajamas. Creates good friction with your underwear to hold the pad in place. Is much more breathable than PUL.
Weaknesses: Can be warmer and more bulky than PUL.
Description: Polyester fabric laminated to a plastic film.
Strengths: You can feel very secure about PUL preventing leaks.
Weaknesses: Is less breathable, can hold odors and feel sweaty.
- Felted Wool
Description: Woven or knit wool fabric from clothing that has been shrunk and matted. Can be the bottom or second to bottom layer of a pad.
Strengths: Secure, natural water repellent fabric.
Weaknesses: If you have heavy, watery gushes that go right through the absorbent core, you may gush through the wool as well.
Description: Dense woven fabric made of processed wood pulp.
Strengths: Thin, breathable, strong and quick-drying. Like wool, it slowly absorbs liquids rather than letting them pass through.
Weaknesses: Like wool, it can be gushed through and it can leak through over time. It isn't recommended for heavy gushes or incontinence.
The core fabrics that I use most often are rated on a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 being the best.
Water Resistant Fabrics
The water resistant fabrics that I use most often are rated on a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 being the best.
Here are some suggested uses:
silk with hemp jersey for an every day liner.
Flannel with hemp terry for medium flow
Flannel with cotton terry for medium to heavy flow
Flannel, cotton terry and PUL for heavy, watery flow
Terry top and hemp jersey core for clotty flow
Flat Cotton, hemp terry and PUL for a thin pad