Absorbency Guidelines

We would like to maintain a reasonably uniform level of absorbency over all the pads on offer from Cloth Pad Shop and affiliated padmakers, so that customers can feel confident buying from any store and expect a fairly comparable item.   We would also like to ideally exceed customer expectations with regard to the performance of their pads.  So we require padmakers to use these following (believed to be fairly standard within the cloth pad industry) layering levels.


Pantyliners”  (“Liners”) – This is unfortunately a confusing category within the industry due to there being no standard absorbency given to a “pantyliner” from brand to brand.  Sometimes these may be a small pad with a  “light” absorbency core, sometimes less than light core (eg 1 layer flannel) or they may be a pad without a core at all. The uses for a pantyliner are also varied (depending on their absorbency).

When listing pantyliners it is important to fully disclose the core absorbency (and overall pad materials used) to avoid customer confusion.  Keep in mind that a customer may be using them to absorb daily discharge, menstrual spotting or light bladder leakage.  So if they are used to a light core pantyliner from other brands, they may experience leakage if they mistakenly buy a coreless pantyliner from another brand.  The aim should always be to make sure a pad works well for the customer, so communication is important here.

  • Pantyliners with no core or less than a “light” absorbency core should be clearly disclosed to avoid confusion.
  • Pantyliners with a “Light” absorbency core (see below) can be also considered a “Light” pad.
  • Pantyliners may or may not contain waterpoofing or leak resistant layers, this should be clearly disclosed.


“Light Pads” – These can be pantyliners or light absorbency pads.

  • Core gsm value should be between 300gsm to 500gsm
  • Recommended layering options:
    • 1 layer of  regular-to-heavy weight bamboo/hemp/cotton fleece or terry.
    • 3 layers of “diaper flannel” or other thick flannel/flannelette.
    • Other fabric configuration to achieve a comparative level of absorbency.


“Regular Pads” – These may also known as “moderate” or “Medium”

  • Core gsm value should be between 600gsm to 850gsm
  • Recommended layering options:
    • 1 layer zorb
    • 1 layer super-heavyweight bamboo fleece with 1 layer flannel or bamboo/hemp jersey
    • 2 layers of regular-to-heavy weight bamboo/hemp/cotton fleece or terry.
    • 6 layers of “diaper flannel” or other thick flannel/flannelette.
    • Other fabric configuration to achieve a comparative level of absorbency.


“Moderate Pads” – Some padmakers use the term “moderate” interchangeably with “regular”, some use it as an absorbency classification between “regular” and “heavy”.

  • If using the term “Moderate” to mean the same as “regular” – then the above “regular” guidelines would apply.
  • If using the term “Moderate” to classify a range between regular and heavy, recommended gsm would therefore be in the range of 850gsm-100gsm


Heavy Pads  (Also covers “Night” or “Post Partum” pads)

  • Core gsm value should be over 1000gsm
  • Recommended layering options:
    • 2 layers zorb.
    • 2 layers super-heavyweight bamboo fleece
    • 3 layers of regular-to-heavy weight bamboo/hemp/cotton terry or fleece.
    • Other fabric configuration to achieve a comparative level of absorbency.
    • (Flannel alone is not suitable for Heavy pad cores, flannel can be used with zorb or bamboo/hemp fleece)
    • “Night pads” may or may not have more core layers than a “heavy” pad, but are typically long pads (over 30cm/12″ long)
    • “Post Partum pads” (for after childbirth) should be highly absorbent, recommended to have at least 1 more layer than a “Heavy” pad, and are typically very long pads (over 35cm/14″ long)


Further clarification/Information:

— GSM range shows MINIMIM to maximum

The lowest gsm value given in the ranges shown above are the absolute MINIMUM recommended.  Keep in mind that if you make a regular pad with a 600gsm (or less) core, there will be other vendors making regular pads that are up to 800gsm in the core – so your product would be less absorbent than theirs.  Also keep in mind that most customers will not know gsm values and fabric absorbency and will shop based on the words used to describe the absorbency of the pad (eg “regular”) – so a “regular” pad they buy that isn’t as absorbent as another “regular” pad they have, may be considered inferior by the customer.  To give customers good value for money and highly effective pads, you should ideally aim for the middle of the gsm range at least.  If you do not include waterproofing in the pad you may wish to aim for the higher end of the absorbency range.

— Absorbency guide relates to cores only

We don’t include the pad toppers into calculations for core absorbency, as they are not part of the core of the pad.  While certain fabrics like bamboo velour, bamboo/cotton terry or sherpa used as a topper do contribute to some of the absorbency of the pad you are still encouraged to make your pad cores meet the minimum core standards for absorbency.  Once the topper fabric gsm is added on, your pad will then be more absorbent than minimum, which is highly recommended.

— Core size

The core is not expected to be an entire full layer, as most cloth pads have a core that is just in the centre of the pad (in flared end pads it would be expected to follow some of the flared shape).  Usually any 2nd or 3rd layers are “stepped” (cut smaller than the first) to help reduce bulk.  We have no requirement for how much core you need, only that through the centre of the pad it should have enough layers to satisfy the requirements.   While we know that a longer pad has more fabric and therefore more absorbency potential – not all customers will bleed over the entire pad, so the centre needs to be adequately absorbent, especially in a pad without PUL.

— Hidden Core Layer

If you sew the core pieces onto a full layer of something else inside the pad rather than sewing it to the topper (known as the “hidden” or “suspended” core method), then this extra full layer “hidden” fabric is also considered part of the core.  So for example if you use super-heavyweight bamboo fleece (500gsm) and you sew this to a full layer of cotton flannel (usually 100-150gsm) as the core, then your total core absorbency is around 600-650gsm- so that is acceptable as a minimum for “regular” pads.

If your total core gsm layer is at the maximum of the range without adding in your hidden layer (eg you use 2 layers heavyweight bamboo fleece as a core with a hidden layer – making 800gsm for the bamboo plus the flannel layer), then that is also acceptable as a “regular” even though the flannel would push it over the 850gsm total.  We believe it would be better to list an over-absorbent pad as a “regular” rather than list it as a “heavy” and have it under-absorbent for that absorbency classification.

— Absorbency levels of different materials

Keep in mind that while we define a gsm range for the cores, cotton is less absorbent for the same gsm value than a bamboo is.  Eg 300gsm of bamboo fleece will absorb more than 300gsm of cotton flannel would.  If you are using cotton cores then you should aim for the higher end of the gsm range than if you are using bamboo fabrics – to achieve a comparable product to a pad that is made from a bamboo core.

— Flannel/Flannelette

Our layering guide may require more layers of flannel than other guides do (like this guide).  This is because cotton is less absorbent for the same gsm value than a bamboo or hemp fabric is, so our absorbency guide is trying to create a more uniform standard for the absorbency of cloth pads in the industry – which may be made from various materials.  For this reason we don’t recommend flannel cores used in cloth pads past “regular” absorbency and have a higher number of layers required.  Some cotton flannel can be as low as 100gsm while some can be as high as 300gsm.  If you’re not sure what gsm you have, it seems that 150gsm is about average for fabric store flannel/flannelette.

— Zorb

Zorb gsm is low because it is a lightweight yet absorbent fabric, so zorb should be calculated based on number of layers rather than the gsm value.  Zorb 1 & 2 is usually considered almost equivalent to one and a half layers of bamboo fleece.  Standard layering for zorb seems to be 1 layer for light or regular and 2 for heavy.  Often padmakers like to layer zorb with flannel or even a layer of bamboo or hemp fleece to help with compression leaking and for greater absorbency.

— Other Fabrics

We don’t specify what must be used as pad cores, examples are given above using bamboo fleece, flannel and zorb as examples as these are commonly used within the industry.  You may also use cotton terry, microterry/microfibre, sherpa, BKT, cotton fleece/terry, hemp fleece/terry – and other such suitable absorbency fabrics you choose, so long as they form an absorbency level equivalent to the gsm range and recommended layering suggestions.

Tshirt material (jersey), cotton sheeting and other such thin/lightweight materials are not recommended for pad cores as they are not absorbent enough to create an absorbent core without using MULTIPLE layers.

Pad cores made from “batting” or “wadding” designed for quilt making as well as felt, wool, synthetic fleece etc. are not recommended for pad cores and are not acceptable materials to use for our pad standards.

— Waterproofing

While waterproofing isn’t factored in what rating the core has, if your pad has PUL then you can safely make to the lower end of the absorbency scale, as the waterproofing in the pad will help prevent leaks and allow more of the core fabric to absorb.  If not using any waterproofing at all then it’s recommended to go towards the higher end of the absorbency scale to make sure customers don’t leak through the pad if they wear it for too long or experience a sudden gush.  If using synthetic fleece (other than DWR windpro) it is recommended to aim for the middle or higher end of the absorbency range as this offers a leak-resistant barrier but not a waterpoof one.