There are a variety of reasons women choose to use cloth pads. Health, comfort, money-savings, and environmental concerns generally top the list. As cloth pads have a very specific job to do and are something you wear next to your most intimate body parts, fabric selection is of utmost importance. In this article, we will explore the superior qualities of hemp textiles and why they are an excellent choice for cloth pads.
Functionality and Durability
The functionality and durability of hemp textiles is unparalleled making it an ideal fabric for cloth pads.. The following are just a handful of the benefits of hemp textiles:
- Due to its porous nature, hemp is extremely absorbent, 3x more absorbent than cotton. As such, it requires less layers to achieve the same absorbency as cotton. Less layers sewn together makes a hemp cloth pad easier to sanitize with faster drying time.
- Hemp is naturally antimicrobial, anti-fungal, and resistant to mold, mildew. and ultraviolet light. Our trusted hemp supplier, Enviro Textiles paid for special lab testing to prove hemp's ability to kill Staphylococcus Aureus (staph) and Klebsiella Pneumoniae (pneumonia) with the goal of providing hemp fabrics to hospitals. There is another published study on hemp's ability to kill MRSA here.
- Washing hemp does not wear it out nor make it rough. Instead, washing makes it smoother and softer. Hemp is one of the few fabrics that is stronger when wet and actually benefits from washing. Hemp requires no special care in laundering.
- Hemp is one of the strongest, most durable natural fibers.. Did you know Hemp fibers are strong enough to replace metal and glass. Hemp fabrics far outlast the competition.
There is little doubt that "on paper" hemp fabrics shine but "the proof is in the pudding" as they say. We hear raves from customers frequently who are still using the cloth pads they bought 5-10 years ago!
While functionality and durability are certainly impressive, they are not the only benefits of hemp.. There is also an abundance of ecologically positive benefits for growing and using hemp in a large variety of applications. Hemp is sustainable and biodegradable. Hemp plants can be grown with little to no herbicides or pesticides. In fact, hemp leaves are used as natural pesticides for companion crops as well as to ward off pests on produce in storage. Hemp plants enrich soil depleted of nutrients from over-farming and also detoxify contaminated soils. Hemp was planted near and around the Chernobyl nuclear disaster with amazing results. Hemp requires 50% less land and 50% less water than cotton to produce the same yield. Hemp is less picky about climate and can be grown in a larger range of climate zones. Hemp does not require a long growing season and in one calendar year, a farmer can harvest two full crops of it - compare this to only one harvest of cotton. There are many other environmental benefits of hemp - I've barely scratched the surface.
Unfortunately, growing industrial hemp is still illegal in the US with the exception of research and as such, the environmental positives are not being utilized to the fullest potential here. For the time being, all hemp products are imported. This is more than unfortunate because the uses of hemp extend far beyond textiles. Below are just a few examples of hemp products that are all biodegradable and currently available to the consumer (if you look hard enough) but because hemp has to be imported to the US, they come with a much higher cost.
- Building supplies such as: boards, cement, bricks, and insulation that are fire and water proof. Also paint and varnish.
- Food: Seeds are a rich and easily digestible form of fiber and omegas.
- Fuel: Biodiesel from the oil in seeds and stalks. Biofuel from the fiberous stalks.
- Paper products
- Foam products: couch cushions, etc.
- Body care products
- Art Supplies
- Plastics:: CD cases and shower curtains
- Chemical clean-up – soil contamination, soil enrichment.
- Livestock feed and bedding
Industrial hemp was legal to farm in the US until September of 1937 when it was inappropriately classified as marijuana and outlawed. Hemp grown for industrial use (cannabis sativa) vs. marijuana use (cannabis indica) are quite different, yet they were erroneously lumped into the same category. Currently, the US is the leading importer of hemp goods and as such there are ongoing amendments being proposed to the farm bills in the US each year to make industrial hemp legal to grow in the US again. This would not only create jobs but would also make more of the above-mentioned eco-friendly products more readily available and affordable to consumers. Barbara Filippone, owner of Enviro Textiles, is at the forefront of this push to legalize industrial hemp in the US. You will find a very comprehensive interview with her here. We choose to buy hemp from Enviro Textiles in order to support Barbara's work. When you purchase our cloth pads, you are helping to support this work as well, thank you!
If you are interested in the history of hemp farming and consumption in the US, there is a brief article here.
If your #1 reason for using cloth pads is to get away from harsh and toxic chemicals, then hemp is a great choice. Not only can it be grown without herbicides and pesticides, it can also be mechanically processed into yarn and eventually woven or knit into fabric without harsh or toxic chemicals. As stated previously, we purchase our hemp textiles from Enviro Textiles who provides all consumers with transparent information about each step that takes place when a product is made, from the raw materials used to the labor conditions involved. You can view it here.
It is important to note that the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS is the creme de la creme of organic certifications) advises consumers that it is technically nearly impossible to produce any textiles in an industrial way without the use of chemical inputs. Thus, they have set certain requirements on toxicity and biodegradability/eliminability on certain chemicals and eliminated toxic heavy metals, formaldehyde, aromatic solvents, functional nano particles, genetically modified organisms (GMO) and their enzymes.
The reasonable conclusion drawn from the above is that NO fabric, even certified organic fabrics, are 100% free of chemicals in their creation. However, any chemical input used in the manufacturing process of those fabrics is expected to be non-toxic, biodegradable and eliminated through laundering. The same cannot be said of some "green-labeled" fabrics nor of any synthetic. Below is a short list of commonly used fabrics in cloth pads.
- Bamboo, (viscose/rayon) requires a significant amount of chemical processing (123 toxic chemicals including formaldehyde) to have the soft luxurious hand it is known for. Due to the misleading labeling on bamboo products,the Federal Trade Commission added mandatory labeling standards for fabrics made from bamboo. There is very little mechanically processed certified organic bamboo fabric (bamboo linen) available because it is more labor intensive and costly.
- Cotton is often thought of as a safe, natural fabric, but unless it is certified organic, it is laden with chemicals as well.
- Other popular fabrics for cloth pads are synthetics made from polyester with special wicking or stain resistant qualities added such as minky, suede cloth, and microfiber. All of these fabrics began their lives in a chemical vat and those special characteristics are "chemical finishes" intended to be retained throughout the useful life of the fabric - they don't wash out but instead, they slowly leach into your skin, bloodstream and vital organs..
f you are ditching disposable pads to get away from the chemicals in those products, please make certain you are not trading one set of chemicals for another. Did you know that organic clothing retailers stress that your first purchases.be intimate apparel and base layers? They know that what you put directly on your skin is of greatest importance because the skin both absorbs and repels.. This same recommendation should be applied to cloth pads. The uppermost fabric, at the very least, should be free of harsh and toxic chemicals to protect your most intimate parts. Hemp fabrics fit this criteria very well.
All in all, hemp's functionality and durability make it an excellent choice for cloth pads that are highly absorbent and last for many years. Factor in hemp's environmental benefits and safety for the consumer and it is an exceptional fabric for cloth pads.