How to Use Cloth Pads (Mama Pads, Cycle Pads)
Like Family Wipes, cloth pads aren't nearly as gross as many people imagine. Quite frankly, the first time I tried a cloth pantiliner, I was hooked and I have not looked back.
So, practically speaking, how do I use cloth pads?
Get one out, attach it to your panties, and you're done. Wallypop Cycle Pads close with a snap on the wrap-around wings, and are held in place by that snap, as well as the grippiness of the cotton fabric on the back of the pad against your undies.
OK, so when you're out and about and it's time to change your pad, you'll be needing some place to store the used one. Many women carry a small wet bag for this purpose, or a ziplock bag (Wallypop sells Cycle Pad Bags). Many pads, Wallypop ones included, will fold up and snap together into a neat little square, if you so desire.
When you get home (or if you're already at home), you can rinse them out, soak them, or just toss them aside until wash day.
Option One: Rinse Your Pads
This is what I prefer to do, because I have no good place to soak my pads. I rinse the pads out under COLD water for just a minute or two, to get out most of the blood. Menstrual blood doesn't bother me, so there is no ick factor here for me. If this is too icky, you might want to soak your pads instead! After rinsing, I toss the pads in the pail with the family wipes. (If you have babies in diapers, your pads could go in the diaper pail. Otherwise, store them separately from the rest of your wash in a wet bag or other suitable container.)
Option Two: Soak Your Pads
Get yourself some sort of pretty container. Some women use old teapots, or old cookie jars or kitchen canisters. Some women make or buy special clay pots for themselves. Whatever trips your trigger. Heck, even an old Tupperware would work just fine.
Put your pads in, fill with enough water to cover. Some women soak in plain water (if you choose this option, you can use the soak water to water your plants). Other women like to add a small amount of detergent and hydrogen peroxide to help break up stains (I don't recommend putting THIS on your plants). Some women like to change the soak water daily, others don't change it at all. If opting not to change the water daily, I would definitely keep an eye (and nose) on it to make sure it doesn't get to smelly or start to grow things.
Wash separately, with baby's diapers, or with the family wipes.
Option Three: Do Nothing
Some women prefer to just simply toss their used pads aside until wash day, either in the diaper pail, with the family wipes, or alone. I don't have any problem doing this for pads that are only lightly used, but I am very uncomfortable leaving pads with a significant amount of "use" to just sit. But YOU do what is comfortable for YOU. Note that you will have more staining using this method.
If you're washing pads separately, I recommend running them through a cold rinse first, then washing on hot, but you could easily skip the cold rinse. Any stains can be bleached out with the sun. As with cloth diapers, don't use fabric softener.
Some families wash their pads with the towels and/or rags. I wash mine with our family wipes.
Why Cloth Pads?
Well, for all the same reasons as cloth diapers! They're more economical. They're better for the environment. They create far less waste. They're so soft and feel so good in comparison to paper pads. Personally, I get all hot and itchy with disposable pads and find cloth to be just so much more comfortale. Many women find that their PMS and cramping is lessened with cloth pads, and that their periods don't last as long. (I have no idea why, and no, I don't have any studies to back that up.)
An interesting link if you're interested in the history of monthly bleeding.