What is the cheapest pad? What is the best value?

This question comes up a lot. Its natural…..most of us what to spend the least amount of money we can, but the cost of an item and it’s value for money can be different things.

Cost” is simple. it’s how much something costs you to buy. “as little as possible” is probably what most people look for 🙂

Value for money” is more complicated…. it’s a personal measure – only you can decide that. It is how much value you put on the item compared to the monetary cost the item has. Think of it as a combination of how much you like the product, how much it suits you and works for you, and the price you pay for it. How happy are you about paying that cost for that item.

If you buy a dress for 50c but it doesn’t fit you so it stays in the back of the wardrobe… it’s not very good value for money, even though it didn’t cost very much. Its value to you is nothing, it’s worthless because you can’t use it. If you buy an $80 dress that fits well and makes you feel like a sexy movie star so you wear it regularly, you’d probably find that to be good value for money… but it cost a lot more than the 50c dress. The item has higher value to you, so you can feel that it was worth the price you paid for it. On the other hand, if you find a 50c t-shirt in a second hand store, and it fits, feels ok, doesn’t look too bad and you’re happy with it, then you’d probably find that better value for money than buying a $20 t-shirt new from a store. Cheap isn’t always a negative thing, it’s how much value it has to us that is a deciding factor if something is worth the price you paid or not. No matter what that price is.

If you want to be satisfied with your purchases (of anything), you need to look at value for money more than price alone. Just like you wouldn’t buy a 50c dress that doesn’t fit just because it’s cheap, the same concept applies with shopping for cloth pads. And just like going shopping for clothing, you wouldn’t just reach into a bargain bin and just take out something and buy it… you need to look at what it is, the price, the design and fit, what it is made of, and see if overall it’s the right choice for you.

Enough of the shopping references, lets look to cloth pads…

How much does a pad cost?…
(How long is a piece of string?) There is a huge difference in what you get for the price you’re paying in cloth pads… they aren’t just the one composition, shape or size. Some are longer than others, thicker, thinner, wider, narrower, contoured, flared, skinny, organic, hand dyed, heavy, light…..and so on. Looking through lots of pad stores you can get a feel for an “average” price for the same type of pad/pantyliner though, which can help you to work out relative costs for things.

There will be difference from country to country, just like a loaf of bread will cost different amounts country to country. Differences in the economy and fabric prices will affect the price of a cloth pad. An “average” price of $5 for a pad in one country may be different to what you can get for $5 in another country in their currency.

The cost largely depends on what the pad/pantyliner is made from. Take pantyliners for example. They can be any combination of fabrics, for example:

  1. 1 layer flannel/flannelette, one layer cotton
  2. 1 layer flannel/flannelette, one layer cotton, 2 layers hemp inside
  3. 1 layer hand dyed organic velour, 1 layer bamboo fleece inside, organic wool backing
  4. 1 layer flannel/flannelette, one layer hemp fleece, 1 layer PUL

4 very different pantyliners, and the variety you might find isn’t limited to just those examples. So given the variation you can find in pantyliners, imagine the variation in pads! So you can’t compare all brands/products by price alone, because what you get for your money can be completely different from brand to brand. A hand dyed bamboo velour topped pantyliner with a cool just released Amy Butler cotton print backing and organic cotton fleece inside is going to cost more than a pantyliner made of just 3 layers of plain coloured flannel.

To use that classic line… it’s like comparing apples and oranges!

So lets compare apples with apples then….Take a 3 layer flannel pantyliner for $3.00 and a 3 layer flannel pantyliner for $6.00. Same composition… that makes comparison easier…. but (always a but..) there may be size and shape differences. One may be twice the length of the other, so there is twice as much fabric in it. The type of flannelette/flannel used – one may be thicker quilter’s flannel, and one might be a thinner less quality one. How well is the product is sewn? Is it “serged/overlocked” or is it “Turned and Topstitched”? Does one have decorative top stitching? Is the shape and style is something you think suits you? This is why it is important to pay attention to what the product descriptions tell you about the products.

So when just comparing prices for something like a “pantyliner” it is important to look at what it’s made of for a start. While one may be much more expensive than the other, the fabrics used may be quite different. There may be more layers and of more expensive fabrics in the higher priced pantyliner. So with the higher priced one if it’s got more fabric in it, or uses more expensive fabric, its monetary value is higher – most cost has gone into it. So a higher price is to be expected.

Is it better to have a more expensive fancy pad or a cheaper less fancy one?
It depends on your preference. If you’d find it more enjoyable to wear a fancy velour pad, then you would mostly like find it to be better “value for money” than a cheaper less fancy pad, because you would place a higher value on it (you would like it more), so then it’s value goes up. If you really don’t care about fancy fabrics and a $3 flannel pantyliner will suit you just fine, then for you, the enjoyment you would get for the fancier more expensive fabrics isn’t worth the extra price you would pay, so it wouldn’t be good value for money for you.

Absorbency, shape and how the pad suits you!
And it’s more than just the fabrics too. Absorbency, and the pad being suitable for your flow,body shape and lifestyle, is really THE most important thing you should be looking for in a pad (though I think many of us are swayed by now a pad looks). If you buy a cheap pad that isn’t sufficient for your needs, then its probably going to be tossed in the back of your stash and not used. So that’s just a waste of money, not value for money. Again, not all cheap pads are inferior quality or made with less fabrics, but often when comparing prices, what you are getting for your money if different, so it is important to look at the fabrics used, amount of layers and what the pad is actually made of.

There is no point buying a $4 pad because it’s cheaper than a $10 one, if you just bleed straight through the $4 pad because it’s not absorbent enough. Composition is *the* most important thing to look at. Then you can shop around and look for the brand that offers the particular specifics you want for the best price.

Other factors affecting price and value for money
There are other factors that might influence value for money as well. Not just of the physical products on offer, but also how much value you put on the business making them as well. Some people prefer to shop at farmer’s markets and small stores rather than large chains – because they prefer their money to go to smaller businesses who may have better business ethics than larger corporations. These choices are made on the feeling for the business, rather than on the actual items. You may feel buying from certain businesses is better even if it comes at a higher price.

For example if a pad seller used green energy (to power their machine & computer for example), used only recycled paper, purchased carbon offsets, sourced eco-friendly fabrics, but as a result offered their products at a higher price to someone not doing those things, then for some people that extra price would be worth it. Or someone who spends a lot of time and effort on customer service, who is sewing pads instead of having a job out of the home, so that they can stay home with their children rather than putting them in daycare, even if their pads aren’t such good quality… might represent a better value for money for you than a large factory type business whose quality is greater but customer service not as personal.

Different people place different importance on these non-product aspects of a business. Some examples:

  • Does the seller have a good reputation for quality and place a lot of care into making their products?
  • Does the seller have a good reputation for being friendly and nice to deal with?
  • Does the seller ever do anything for charity, pad advocacy, or to help other pad makers? (things that show they are interested in more than just selling)
  • Does the seller work in an environmentally sustainable/conscious way?
  • Does the seller use reclaimed, organic or environmentally conscious fabrics?
  • Does the seller take the time and effort to produce hand dyed fabrics
  • Is the seller making pads to earn a living or supplement an income so they can stay at home with their children?
  • Does the seller seem to put a lot of thought into their fabric choices?

While price might be the ultimate deciding factor for many people, it really is about more than that.

There are a lot of hidden costs that go into making pads (See my article on Why do Cloth Pads cost so much), it’s worth remembering that the majority of cloth pads are handcrafted items. It can take from around 10 to 30 mins (or more) to make a single pad. From ironing fabrics, tracing out the pattern, cutting all the layers out, sewing them together, applying fasteners. Not to mention the business side of answering mail, searching for fabrics, photographing and uploading products, which can add up to be as consuming as a “proper” job.

I imagine most people dislike the idea of sweatshops. Surely everyone deserves to be paid a decent amount for the work they do? That also applies to pad makers. If a single pad can take 15 mins to make, 10 minutes to photograph and make available online, 1 minute in communicating with the buyer, 2 minutes packaging and sending…plus the cost of materials to make the pad…. how much would that person make in wages for that time working somewhere else? For the most part, you’ll probably find that most cloth pads are undervalued in terms of what the cost of producing them is. So many of them are already “cheap” for what they are and the amount of work that goes into producing them.

No… you don’t understand…it really is ONLY about the price!
For some people, cost really is a major concern, and getting cloth pads for the cheapest possible price is the ultimate goal. Some people are not in a position to be able to afford or justify paying extra for fancy fabrics, and for a seller to be able to work from home… and do really have to look for whatever is cheapest, and that’s fair enough. But just comparing pads themselves by price alone is not a guarantee of providing the best thing for you… If the cheapest is also the best for you, then that’s fantastic! But to avoid being disappointed and wasting money on things that don’t work for you, put some thought into what you need and want as well as how much you want to pay for them.

Ultimately if you’re after a “cheap” pad, then you are probably best to make your own, since that is going to be the cheapest option. There are tutorials and guides online that will enable almost anyone to make their own basic pads (try www.clothpads.org for a start – which has links to mad making guides). If you can’t or don’t want to make your own, then the next cheapest option would be to shop around and look for the best deals in cloth pads. Remember, it’s not about finding the *cheapest* pads, its about finding the *cheapest pads that will suit your needs*…. the best Value for money.

Pads in sets of more than one tend to offer the best value. Usually a pad maker will make the individual price of a set of pads lower than they would be to buy them separately. Also look for “seconds” pads, as often these have only minor visual imperfections (wonky stitching for example), and still make a perfectly serviceable pad. Buying pads from the one seller can save you money on postage, but sometimes it’s nice to have a range of different styles to suit the different needs you’ll have through your cycle. Also be aware that buying lots of pads from the one maker before you’ve tried the pads is risky… not all pads work for everyone, and you could end up buying a lot of pads you don’t end up liking or that don’t work for you.

The styles that allow for most flexibility, and therefore make the cheapest option are probably ones where the absorbent inserts sit ontop of a winged base. Like Sckoon, Lunapads and other such designs The inserts can be changed leaving the base part on, and often the pads are sold with a set of inserts, so that the one pad may be able to be worn longer than another style of pad. You also have the advantage of being able to use a folded facewasher or other such absorbent DIY insert in them if needed. These styles often do not come in a waterproofed version, but you can always cut a piece of plastic to fit under the inserts if you need to. Pocket pads likewise allow for extra boosting to go inside, and the opportunity to add waterproofing if none is included, however pocket pads need to have the entire pad changed when you would change the pad.

Also… don’t forget the possibility of asking for friends/family to buy pads for you… If they know that rather than a pair of socks for your birthday you’d prefer a pad, they might be willing to buy that instead…. you never know until you ask 😉 You could also barter with someone who can make pads and wants something you can offer…

Search for a bargain by all means, but also think of the real value of a cloth pad…Not just complain that they cost so much and “where can I buy the cheapest pads”.