I have never used reusable pads, but several of my friends do. From what my roommate says, they are much more comfortable than disposable pads, being soft and flannelly and able to absorb a lot of fluid. However, the bulkier ones can start to chafe once they are wet. She liked them a lot for awhile, even though they are bigger than most disposable pads and you have to deal with more mess.
My boyfriend's mum designed the flannel pads that some of my friends use. He used to help make them. He is cute.
The reusable pads that I am familiar with have an envelope shaped like a regular maxi with wings, only made of flannel with a snap or velcro to hold the wings wrapped around your panties. The bottom layer is nylon or something waterproof. Inside the pocket of the envelope there is a liner made of a folded sheet of flannel. This can be taken out so that both parts can be rinsed and washed and can be seen to be clean. You can soak all your pads until you want to do laundry (ice cream bucket is your friend). I think my roommate only needs a package of eight to get her through her whole period, but she might wash some in the middle.
For awhile she wore the flannels all the time, but I think she eventually got tired of carting home bloody cloth if she had to change a pad at work, and decided to just use them at home. It still makes less garbage than using throw-aways all the time.
If I was in the market for pads I'd be into the cloth ones. There are various companies that make them, in a variety of sizes and fabric patterns (friend's sister has little astronauts prints-- kickass!). I'll put links up when I get around to finding some, but try a natural food/health market near you. Different brands can be more or less thin, soft, and generally comfortable, so don't give up right away if your first try is awkward. Also, they would probably be easy to make at home.
See also the Vaginal Arts & Crafts zine for instructions to make pads at home.
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