Different pads come in different absorbencies, different styles and different fabrics. The absorbencies and fabrics one brand uses may be different to that which another brand uses. To help make it easier for you to choose a pad that has the absorbency you require, we have sub-categories for the absorbency of the pads, so that you can more easily find the pads you are looking for. This page gives you a basic guide to what the styles of pad are, and what sort of absorbency they might have.
The most common style of cloth pad is the "AIO" - however we do have other styles of pad available. This gives a brief explanation of what these more common types of pad are, and what they might be useful for.
These are generally smaller cloth pads, with lighter absorbency. These might be used for discharge, spotting, very light flow, backup for a Menstrual cup or tampon, after sex/pelvic exams etc. They may have waterproofing, or they may not. The absorbency may be equal to or less than a "light" pad.
An "All-in-One" (AIO) pad is a cloth pad that is used as-is. There are no extra inserts/boosters that need to be added, you do not need to fold them or do anything to them. These are "non-waterproofed" - meaning they do not have a leakproof barrier at all, only absorbent layers. Generally speaking a non-waterproofed pad will offer a more "breathable" pad, but it may be bulkier than a "waterproofed" pad, and may not last as long before needing to be changed. These pads are more suitable for women whose flow spreads out more over the pad (rather than seeping through in the one spot). They are classified in 3 absorbency/size categories, however some pads may be listed in this main category and not in the sub categories.
These are a "waterproofed"* AIO pad - meaning they have some form of leakproof/leak resistant barrier. This may be in the form of "PUL" (fabric with a thin plastic layer designed to be almost completely waterproof), fleece (synthetic fabric which offers leak-resistance but is not completely waterproof), wool (a natural fibre that offers leak-resistance), or other form of "waterproofing". Generally speaking a "waterproofed" pad can hold more than a non-waterproofed pad of the same composition, as the waterproofing acts as a barrier to stop leakage, and helps the pad core to soak up more of the flow. These pads may be more suitable for women who have a more "gushy" flow, or who tend to soak through one spot of the pad rather than the flow spreading out across the pad more. They are classified in 3 absorbency/size categories, however some pads may be listed in this main category and not in the sub categories.
The standard "pocket" pad is a pad style a little bit similar to how a pillow case works. The pad is like the empty pillow case, and you put the absorbent inserts inside, like putting in a pillow. This allows you to change the absorbency inside the pad as you need it (using higher absorbency inserts for heavy days and lighter ones for lighter days) and to remove the inserts for easier washing and faster drying. Some pocket pads have the opening for the inserts on the under-side of the pad, some may have it at the end of the pad, or have some other way to open the pad. The absorbency in a pocket pad is adjustable, allowing you to add more absorbency or less absorbency as you need it.
A "boostable" pad is one that is designed to be worn with an extra absorbent "booster". It may be like a regular non-waterproofed pad with a booster that sits underneath it, or it may be another form of pad (other than a pocket pad) which requires a booster for additional absorbency. The booster may snap onto the base of the pad, or there may be another way to secure it to the pad. As with the Pocket pads, these styles of pad can allow for adjustable absorbency, through the use of different boosters.
A "base + Insert" pad is a style of pad where the pad base is designed to hold the absorbent inserts/boosters on top. Often the pad base is non-absorbent, and may be waterproof. The inserts may snap on, be held in place by straps across the pad, or may slot into pocket ends on the pad base. Some base+insert styles will allow more than one insert to be worn at once, to give the option of greater absorbency when needed, some will work with one insert at a time.
A "Custom" is a product that will be made specifically for you by the store. Usually a custom product will have options you can choose, to allow you to have the product made to any specifications you have.
We have asked that all our sellers use these absorbency ratings when placing their pads into the categories, however you will need to check the details of each listing to make sure you know what you are buying.
For the purpose of this guide, "1 layer of absorbency" would be equal to 1 layer of absorbent terry/fleece (bamboo, hemp or cotton), or 4 layers of cotton flannel/flannelette. Or the equivalent absorbency in a composition of other suitably absorbent fabrics. Please be aware that while the "1 layer" definition include any form of absorbent terry/fleece, some fabrics will be more absorbent than others. For example bamboo fleece should be more absorbent than an equivalent size/weight piece of cotton fleece, however bamboo fleece comes in different thicknesses, the thickest version being twice as thick as the thinner one. So that will have an impact on absorbency too. So this is to be used as a guide only.
The absorbency ratings ("Light bleeding" etc.) are based on the Mansfield-Voda-Jorgensen Scale, which is detailed at the bottom of the page.
These may be made from 2-3 layers of flannel/flannelette, which should be suitable for "Spotting" or "Very light bleeding", cup backup, discharge, after pelvic exams or sexual activity. A "pantyliner" may have the same amount of layers as a "light" pad, as the terms are often used interchangeably.
These are a "light" or "low" absorbency pad. Approximately 1 layer of absorbency. Can be suitable for up to "Light bleeding", for cup backup (particularly if you are concerned with leaks) or for mild stress incontinence.
These are a "medium/regular" absorbency pad. Approximately 2 layers of absorbency. Suitable for "moderate bleeding". Can be used through most of the menstrual cycle, though they may need to be changed more regularly for those with a heavy flow.
These are a "heavy" absorbency pad, and may be a longer than average sized pad. Approximately 3+ layers of absorbency. Suitable for use by those with "heavy bleeding" or "very heavy bleeding", on heavier days, incontinence, overnight or post partum (after childbirth). Some of these are longer than average, to suit women who are lying down at night or who need the extra coverage of a longer pad.
The Mansfield-Voda-Jorgensen Menstrual Bleeding Scale, rates the amount of flow you have, and can be used as a guide to which level of flow you have, and (using the list above) which cloth pads can be used for which types of flow. (please note this scale is using standard disposable products, cloth pads may be more absorbent)
"Spotting" - A drop or two of blood, not even requiring sanitary protection, though you may prefer to use some.
"Very Light Bleeding" - Needing to change a low-absorbency tampon or pad one or two times per day, though you may prefer to change them more frequently.
"Light Bleeding" - Needing to change a low- or regular-absorbency tampon or pad two or three times per day, though you may prefer to change more frequently.
"Moderate Bleeding" - Needing to change a regular-absorbency tampon or pad every three to four hours, though you may prefer to change more frequently.
"Heavy Bleeding" - Needing to change a high-absorbency tampon or pad every three to four hours, though you may prefer to change more frequently.
"Very Heavy Bleeding or Gushing" - Protection hardly works at all; you would need to change the highest absorbency tampon or pad every hour or two.
Pads with a more textured fabric top (such as velour, sherpa, minky) will generally absorb a "gushing" flow more quickly than a flatter fabric (such as cotton, silk). Pads with waterproofing* (such as PUL) or water-resistance (such as fleece or wool) will be able to hold more than a pad of the same composition without the waterproofing/resistance.
* (please note that while the term may imply a pad is completely leakproof, there is no guarantee a pad will not leak, and they should be changed regularly to avoid becoming over-full).