13 Sanitary Pad Alternatives: Use These Instead Of A Pad Or Tampon

We’ve all been there, your period comes unexpectedly and you’re asking yourself what do I do? I don’t have a pad or tampon! Take a deep breath, there are some options that can get you by in a pinch.

There are also some of us who simply hate wearing disposable pads or tampons. I myself have been looking for natural and eco-friendly alternatives to disposable sanitary napkins. I find regular pads terribly uncomfortable to wear, smelly, and just plain depressing!

In my search to find a better option than the typical disposable menstrual pad, I have researched and compiled a list of alternatives to use during your period, and for postpartum bleeding.

Here Are 13 Sanitary Pad Alternatives:

  • Cloth Menstrual Pad
  • Menstrual Cup
  • Menstrual Disc
  • Period Panties
  • Cloth Diaper Inserts
  • Adult Cloth Diapers
  • Wash Cloths
  • Flour Sack Towels
  • Socks
  • Toilet Paper
  • Paper Towels or Napkins
  • Sterile Gauze
  • Disposable Diapers

Cloth Menstrual Pad

Cloth Pads are by far my favorite option for natural and eco-friendly period protection. They are easy to use, comfortable, effective and of course reusable.

As a cloth diapering mom, I don’t find the washing factor at all gross or intimidating. You might be surprised just how well modern detergent and washing machines work together to get even the dirtiest materials squeaky clean.

Cloth pads are available in a variety of absorbent fabrics such as cotton, bamboo, or minky. What’s great about these materials is how super soft they are against the skin, unlike papery, crinkly disposable pads.

They will have several layers of absorbent material sewn together on top, and a waterproof layer sewn on the bottom. The waterproof layer can also be made with many different types of materials such as fleece, PUL, or TPU which prevents any leaking.

Amazing Paper Towel Alternative Tha...
Amazing Paper Towel Alternative That's Cheap!

Most cloth pads are designed with two flaps in the middle section that wrap around your underwear (similar to disposables) and snap together so that you don’t have to worry about any shifting or moving around.

If you’re wondering “well what do I do with the soiled pad when I go to change it?” All you need is a small wet bag which you’ll use to store your soiled pads until you are ready to wash them. These little bags are waterproof, fit in your purse, and come in tons of adorable prints.

If you’re looking for an alternative to disposable pads for postpartum bleeding, cloth pads are perfect. They are available in many different sizes and absorbency options from light flow to heavy postpartum.

Menstrual Cup

A menstrual cup is another option that is inexpensive, reusable, and will last for years. There is quite a learning curve to using cups, which might make it a less appealing choice for those of you who prefer something simple and easy to use like cloth pads. However for those of you who are interested in the pros of using cups I will give an overview of what they are and how to use them below.


  • It is small and you only need 1
  • Reusable
  • Cheap
  • Easy to wash
  • Holds more fluid than tampons


  • Can be difficult to find the right size and material that fits comfortably
  • Some may not like the “ick” factor of dumping menstrual fluid, cleaning, and sterilizing
  • Some may not be comfortable (as with tampons) inserting the cup

To use a menstrual cup you fold the cup, which is made of a medical-grade, flexible, silicone material, and then insert it. The cup catches fluid and is removed and emptied into the toilet a couple of times each day. Some cups can be worn for up to 12 hours and also overnights.

Menstrual Disc

Menstrual discs are similar to cups and are available in both disposable and reusable options. Discs are more difficult to use and require you to have a thorough understanding of your own anatomy. If you are interested in learning more about discs here is a link to the Wirecutter that explains how to use them.

Period Panties

Period Panties are a new and ever more popular alternative for period protection. Some period panties are designed to be used with pads, cups, or tampons as extra protection, but there are also some that can be used on their own without any added pads or absorbency.

Ruby Love Period Underwear can be worn and fit just like a regular pair of underwear. You don’t have to add any additional pads or absorbency because they have a built-in absorbent cotton liner and gusset that is angled to collect your flow, plus a dry-tech mesh that prevents any leakage. You can find them here.

If you do want to add additional absorbency you can. The mesh layer locks the extra pad in place so there won’t be any shifting. Bonus they are machine washable and dryable!

Cloth Diaper Inserts

Cloth diaper inserts are obviously made for collecting baby messes, not menstrual fluid, but because they are incredibly absorbent and cut to fit the inside of a diaper they are perfect for periods too!

Unlike cloth pads, cloth diaper inserts won’t have a waterproof layer on the bottom. This is actually a pro for many women because it makes them more breathable. Some people are sensitive to materials such as PUL and would prefer to have very breathable fabric even if it means they will need to change their insert more often.

I am expecting my 4th baby soon and plan to use cloth inserts inside of period panties for postpartum bleeding. I think it will be great to be able to customize the absorbency by adding however many inserts I need, plus I’ll have the extra security of the period panties which will keep the inserts in place and prevent any leaks.

Adult Cloth Diapers

Adult sized cloth diapers are another great alternative to disposable pads or diapers for heavy postpartum bleeding. I wish I would have thought about these sooner! I know I’m not the only one out there who used adult disposable diapers after having a baby. So uncomfortable!

There are several different styles to choose from including adult sized pocket-diapers, covers, and fitteds. Check out the different options here.

Flour Sack Towels

Flour Sack Towels are a popular alternative to purchasing cloth diaper inserts because they are super cheap and just as absorbent. If you want it to be leak-proof, pair it with an adult sized cloth diaper cover.

The flour sack towel is folded up into a pad and placed inside of the waterproof PUL cover. You can buy flour sack towels for as little as a dollar per towel!

Wash Cloths

Everyone has wash cloths on hand in their home, so they make a great option for those times when you run out of pads or tampons at home. Some people do use them regularly as an alternative to pads because they are so cheap, 100% cotton, reusable and easy to wash.

Simply fold them into a pad shape and lay inside of your underwear. Just be careful that the cloth doesn’t shift and move around and know that you’ll need to change it often or you could have leaks.


Here’s another absorbent piece of material you’re likely to have handy at home. Wondering what to do with all those socks who have lost their mate in the wash? Turn them into reusable pads! A sock or two can be used just like wash cloths, folded up and placed inside of your underwear. Remember they are not waterproof, so this is only for emergencies!

Toilet Paper

If you are really in a pinch and perhaps you’re not even home, toilet paper is always a last resort measure that can buy you an hour or two. You’ll need to use quite a lot of toilet paper and fold it into a pad shape that will fit inside of your undies. After you’ve got your make-shift TP pad in place, run to the nearest supermarket and buy some pads!

Paper Towels or Napkins

Some other emergency options are paper towels, or napkins. Use these just like the toilet paper and be quick to find a better alternative.

Sterile Gauze

Sterile gauze is commonly found around the house or in first aid kits, and actually works better than toilet paper because it is made to be absorbent and to stop bleeding. This might last you a bit longer and be more comfortable than TP or paper towels.

Disposable Diapers

If you happen to be around someone with a diaper bag or you have one of your own, you can actually use a disposable diaper. These of course will work really well because they hold a ton of liquid and are designed to be worn a long time and soak up big messes. You don’t actually need to fasten the diaper on like a baby (it likely would not fit), simply lay it flat inside of your underwear.

So there you have it, 13 alternatives to disposable pads and tampons. Some of these alternatives are so much better than disposables because they are made with natural materials and can be reused for several years, saving you money and saving the landfills from more waste. I hope you’ll give the good ones a try and I sure hope you won’t need to use the emergency options!

sanitary pad and tampon alternatives

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