Reusable Cloth Costs verses disposables
The financial cost of periods is significant across a woman’s lifetime. For those on tighter incomes, the monthly cost can be a huge expense, and for girls and women in poverty, they often forgo protection for other living costs.
So, what is the cost of protection?
The cheapest pads can be bought for about $2.50 per box (the most expensive are upwards of $8). The cheapest tampons cost around $3.50 and up to $10.
On average, a woman will bleed from age 13 until 51. However, girls are increasingly beginning menstrual earlier (by 12) and conditions such as endometriosis are increasing bleeding times from days into weeks.
For the purposes of average, let’s assume a woman will have 450 periods or 2250 days. That’s 6 years of her life!
Let’s also assume a woman will change her disposable menstrual item every 4-6 hours, so 4 times in a day, and once for overnight: 5 items per day/ 25 per cycle.
Those 5 items per day, at .30c, for five days, would cost her $7.50 (or up to $10 if she chose more expensive items).
And we’re being very conservative here. Most woman would agree that they use closer to two boxes of products per month.
Without factoring in the cost of period pain relief, wheat bags, chocolate, paracetamol, sick days for very heavy and painful bleeding, the minimum cost is $450 per five years, or a total of $3420 for 38 years of periods.
And what is the cost of reusable options?
Menstrual cups range in cost from $25 to $55. For the purposes of factoring costs, let’s assume a woman has two cups at $35 each (so she can wear one and sterilise the other) and they can last up to 10 years a piece - $35 for a five-year cost.
Menstrual underwear costs $20 - $35 per pair. Without staining her other underwear, there is no need to spend $20 each year replacing the soiled ones. Let’s assume that 4 pairs of period knickers last her a cycle and she replaces these after two and a half years. Five years of underwear - $280 (plus the savings from not having to replace stained underwear 5 x $20 = $100) – new total of $180 for five years.
Cloth pads vary in cost but a pack of 10 in a range of absorbencies can be bought for $120 and are designed to last 5 years or more. $120.
Even factoring in a few boxes of Milton or boiling the pot for sterilising the cup, a couple boxes of laundry powder for the underwear or pads, there are massive savings here.
(But what about the cost of running the washing machine?! Well yes, but there is no need to run a separate load, simply add your menstrual products to an existing load of laundry. They don’t up much room! Plus, the benefits to the environment/reduction in your rubbish outweighs this!)
Even assuming a woman bought pads, a cup and her underwear, she is still sitting at an investment of $375 compared to the minimum of $450 for disposable products.
In addition, if a menstruating woman used more than 5 items per day because her cycle was heavy, or she replaced an additional tampon after sex each day of her period, or her period was six days, the cost per period increases – just one extra item per day could add $100 ($5.50).
It would be reasonably safe to assume that the cup, half the pads and half the underwear last well past the sixth year, further reducing the overall cost.
Simply put, yes, it is a significant investment, but it pays off – the cost of four pairs of underwear ($35 each/$140) will take only 18 months to match the cost of $7.50 a month on disposable products.