Thursday, October 27, 2016

Essentials for preppers: feminine hygiene, toilet paper

(See "UPDATE" at bottom of this post)

Okay, guys -- time to disappear for awhile. Ladies, please stay.

Some of you might recall our neighbor Enola Gay began a business several years ago making washable reusable feminine hygiene products. The business was so successful she couldn't keep up, so she sold it to another young family that lives in north Idaho. The business, called Naturally Cozy, continues to flourish.

Before switching to washables, I'd long been dissatisfied with store-bought sanitary napkins for a number of reasons. One, I don't like what they're made of. Two, I don't like the price. Three, I don't like that they're non-biodegradable. Four, I don't like the idea of being, say, trapped in a blizzard and unable to make a dash for the store for emergency supplies. Five, I don't like things that aren't reusable (a couple of years ago we phased out whatever reusable household items we could, and feminine hygiene was high on the list). And six, as a prepper, I can think of no finer prep item than washable hygiene. Can you?

So when Enola started her business, we (Older and Younger Daughters and I) were just about her first customers.

We've been using these products for over seven years now, and I thought it was time to touch base once again and offer our experiences on how well they work.

Keep in mind the quality has improved drastically since we purchased our original sets of napkins. The fabrics and sewing techniques used in their construction have improved the products' quality, softness, thickness, and absorbancy. Yet our original napkins are still going strong. They show only the slightest bit of fraying around the edges and continue to perform their function superbly.

I also have about a month's worth of the daily-use panty liners and have come to loathe the store-bought versions after seven years of cloth softness.

So what’s it like, using washable hygiene? In a word, comfortable. The pads are made of soft flannel and organic cotton, so there is no chafing and it’s easier on the “lady parts.” The fabrics breathe, which decreases trapped moisture and the problems that accompany it.

We keep a dedicated bucket in our washroom for soiled pads, with a pair of dedicated tongs hooked over the edge. The bucket should be full enough of water that the soiled portion of the napkin is always submerged. Sometimes we’ll add a splash of hydrogen peroxide to the water, which helps loosen blood from fabric.

When we’ve all finished our cycles and the soak bucket is full, I use the tongs to lift the pads into the washing machine where I wash them by themselves, twice. The napkins should NOT be put in the dryer. Instead, we lay them on a wire shelf we installed near the washing machine and allow them to air dry.

About twice a year I soak all the (clean) pads in vinegar, then wash. This gets rid of any odor buildup.

We keep another dedicated bucket of water in the washroom for panty liners, then wash them with our whites (socks, underwear, etc.).

Contrary to popular belief, washable hygiene isn't "icky" any more than washable cloth diapers are icky.

Women can choose their personal flannel pattern, which makes it easy to distinguish between pads for different family members.

Patterns range from playful to dignified.

Of course the initial cost of purchasing pads and panty liners are higher than disposables. But it’s also worth adding up how many disposables you purchase on a monthly or yearly basis, and compare them to the cost of washables. So far we’ve gotten seven years’ worth of use out of our pads and they’re still going strong.

There is also the satisfaction of giving business to a hard-working young family which is hand-producing high-quality products. These kinds of cottage industries are known for their sensitive response to customer needs, and Naturally Cozy is no exception. They even offer a line of incontinence products because customers asked for them.

I don't endorse products very often. When I do, it's because I can strongly recommend them. That's how I feel about these particular hygiene items. They're wonderful.

Naturally Cozy has item samples you can order to "test drive" a product, if you want to try them out before ordering a full set.

Ladies, I urge you to think about washable reusable hygiene items as a gift to yourself this upcoming new year.

Naturally Cozy also started another business addressing essential goods for the prepper: toilet paper. Specifically, an astounding amount of TP packed into a very small space. They call their company Privy Paper.

This is good-quality two-ply stuff.

And we're talking a lot of it.

If anyone is local, Naturally Cozy/Privy Paper will be at the Bonner County Citizens Preparedness Expo this upcoming weekend.

If you stop by, tell them I said "hi."

UPDATE: A day after posting this piece, I saw an article entitled "China 'fake sanitary pads' scam sparks health concerns." It seems "the discovery of a huge 'fake sanitary towel' operation in southeast China has prompted fears about the possible impact on women's health." Granted, this issue seems to be confined to China; however in my opinion it just reinforces how lovely it is to have a good handmade reusable version of a monthly necessity.


  1. I recently won third place in the SurvivalBlog writing contest, and was sent the "Prepper Pack Menstrual Kit" as one of the prizes offered. I had been wanting to try them for the longest time, but I was worried about spending the money--I had purchased items from EarthGirl on Amazon in the past, and they were really just fancy pantiliners. Imagine my surprise when the package from Naturally Cozy came in the mail! These beat anything else I've seen by a mile. They're so well made--such care goes into making each one--and they're easy to wash and hang in my closet to dry (from clothespins on a hanger). Looking back, I know now they would have definitely been worth the investment.

  2. Like you, I have tried to reduce or eliminate items that are one-use-only. Long ago I decided that no matter how much TP a person stocks up, eventually you will run out. Also, since I live in a camper most of the year where storage space is at a premium (and TP fills up the black water tank pretty quickly) I wanted to come up with a better plan.
    Back in the day my children were cloth diapered, as are my grandchildren now, and one day when I was visiting my older daughter she was making flannel baby wipes. Eureka!
    I purchased 2 yards of organic cotton flannel and cut it into 6" squares. I used a dark colored flannel so any stains will be virtually unnoticeable. Two squares are stacked back to back and sewn together with a zigzag stitch along the edges. These flannel squares live on a shelf next to the toilet. In my camper the bathroom sink is right beside the stool so I can wet the flannel before use. I keep a diaper wet bag to place used wipes in, and wash them by themselves in hot water. I'm still using the original ones I made over 4 years ago. I do keep a roll of regular toilet paper on hand for guests, but I tell them "If you got pee or poo on your hand, would you just wipe it off with a piece of dry paper and call it good? Think about it."

  3. So glad you come back to this kind of post every so often. I would like to add my complete satisfaction with Naturally Cozy products. I have placed two orders in the past from both the original owners and the new owners and the quality from both was/is great.

    I turned to this product for a reason not yet mentioned: the chemicals in disposable pads (both menstrual and incontinence) have always caused painful skin irritation. Since switching to these irritation.

  4. Four years in, I LOVE LOVE LOVE my Naturally Cozy pads. I love them so much that I get a little grumpy when I realize I'm going to be menstruating away from home and have to use disposables for the comfort of my host.

    I'm getting on toward menopause and have some "surprise tsunami events." I have NEVER had one of these pads leak on me. They do not bunch up overnight. I do not have to deal with adhesive sticking to the hair "down there." They do not irritate my skin, and I've noticed that intimate relations are more comfortable right after "Aunt Flo" visits because I'm not all dried out downstairs.

    I toss them in the washing machine with my towels, then lay them on a flat surface to dry. I have messed up and put a few in the dryer, though, and they seemed to handle it OK. The only thing they have not managed to stand up to is my daughter's puppy (but the bucket didn't make it either, so I don't think that was a manufacturing defect LOL).

    The water from the soak bucket makes a great fertilizer, if you have a strong stomach.

  5. I haven't had the opportunity to use the products from Naturally Cozy yet, but I've used a different brand of liners along with a Diva Cup with success. So glad you addressed this issue and I'm very glad to see such glowing reviews of the NC products - it does influence who I'll purchase from when I stock up further.

    I sure do like the idea of the big roll of paper though - it would be handy for guests and a stopgap for our family. I've started knitting personal wipes but I have arthritis, so it's slow going (no pun intended) getting them made up. I'd love to pick up some cloth personal wipes at some point - a friend suggested packs of baby wash cloths and I might have to just bite the bullet and buy those, I suppose.

    I do hope that some of the men who read your blog stuck around and read this post though! I realize it's a sensitive subject for many, but my husband has emphasized that as a husband, father, son, and brother, it's important to him to know what we gals need to be healthy and clean, particularly in an emergency where we can't just run to the corner store. I hope your post will help male readers understand some of what we need, and helps them start a conversation with the women in their lives about how they can prepare this way. We wouldn't shirk talking about how many diapers and wipes our babies need; you've given them the perfect way to start that feminine hygiene conversation here. :)

  6. Also in the highly reusable feminine product category are menstrual cups. Several companies make them from medical grade silicon, they last 10 years or more, you boil to sanitize, and you don't get the chafe that comes from collecting dampness on a pad all day. I work construction, and being able to not worry about changing out feminine products on the jobsite is a blessing. You do have to deal with dumping out an ounce of blood at a time; I just do it in the shower. Not for the squeamish, but all the women I've introduced to menstrual cups have been permanently converted within two cycles, and if you're washing cloth pads, you're already dealing with the blood. My sister finds then particularly useful when she's ministering in foreign counties with poor infrastructure.

    1. I'm going to third the menstrual cup suggestion! (See Melonie above, also.) I have used the Diva Cup for many years and it makes me forget I'm in the middle of having my monthly sometimes b/c it is so comfortable, and you can go up to twelve hours w/o emptying it after things slow down a bit! My cramps are also much lessened with this product. And sooooo much cheaper than any kind of pad.

  7. Being a man, and a retired nurse, I have had these conversation with female family members and some patients. The only real good of store bought feminine products are use as an emergency wound dressing if you are shoot or say a chain saw accident. they are highly absorbent and sterile. I learned this when I was in the Army. So no, most men aren't put off by this topic and it needs to be discussed so men know what women need to stay healthy and clean.

  8. I went to gyn after gyn after doctor after doctor from the age of fourteen for chronic groin inflammation. I must have had close to a hundred tests for various STDs -- from the age of fourteen!, though I insisted every time it wasn't possible unless there was a lot more in the story of dirty public toilet seats than doctors are admitting. Well, I ran out of tp for most of a week once and had to use cotton rags, and within two days, forty years of inflammation completely ended. And I won't even mention the monthly blistered skin. Who knew there were so many toxic chemicals in 'sanitary' products? I certainly didn't. And clearly doctors didn't, and still don't. Ladies, I assure you, cotton is a health bargain.

  9. I did the math...I bought these 3 years ago (based on a previous Patrice post), and I think they cost $189. So, using that number with Patrice's 7 years use, it would cost $2.25 per cycle. I'm planning on buying more now that my older daughter is getting close to starting, knowing she'd love to pick out her own fabric. Plus, she's seen mine in the cupboard or hanging up drying. They're also not hard to hand wash (like when camping).

  10. I think I like reading about chickens and strawberries in tires better--ken

  11. So, I'm way past needed the wonderful looking pads but I sure will pass this info onto others. What a neat product!

  12. When I first saw these I couldn't afford to buy them,but it inspired me to try making my own.That was over 5 years ago and they are still in use,though I must say mine don't look as nice.Also made toilet cloths and baby wipes buy cutting up old t shirts,no sewing required?My pads were made with worn out flannel shirts and towels,and some waterproof material I had around the house.The pattern was made by tracing one of my store bought pads.Mine are a little different.I made a body with and opening,and then I made pads to fit inside.This way I could adjust the thickness as needed,to handle heavier flows.

  13. I started using wash cloths instead of tp and all my tender lady parts no long itched and felt like I was being burned.

    Now, I cut up old panties, old knit pants, all sorts of things to use for tp along with wash cloths. These are also cheaper than tp.

    I had been doing this for about 7 or 8 years. Then, after a hysterectomy, my bowels were not right, so I went back to tp for bowels and cloth for urine.

    The incontinence pads will be investigated as soon as I leave here. Thanks.

  14. OK........passed that all right by but will mention one thing. I lived in the Middle Est for awhile and they did something worthwhile. Next to the toilet they and installed a sprayer, just like the one on a kitchen sink for washing veggies. It hooked right into the toilet water intake line so was easy to install. Makes a cheap bidet. Worked too and might be something to put away for after SHFT. More so than a closet full of TP anyway.

  15. I really like the tp idea. Great thing to have.

  16. I'm a single man of 6 years now, twice divorced and I haven't even had a girlfriend in 3 years, yet I still read this article with interest. I suppose if there's ever another woman in my life sometime in the future she might benefit from my knowledge of these products.

  17. Just have to say. I've also been using reusable cloth feminine hygiene products for several years now and hands down better than disposable. Just had blessing number 5 (in the hospital) and was forced to use disposable. Couldn't wait to get home and switch back to cloth. Everything heals soooo much better and faster. Seriously. My body reacts completely differently to disposable products. Cloth is just better in every way. I think the ick factor is childish. Maybe that's because I'm a mom to five and believe in cloth diapers as well. Mind you we're not strictly cloth as there is a time and purpose for disposables... and sometimes a season even. But it's just SO much better and such a savings.

    Learning in NY