The short version: It's going great and I love them.
The long version: What I did was, I ordered 1 or 2 pads from each of a bunch of Etsy sellers. I didn't know what I was doing AT ALL and just tried to get an assortment of sizes and shapes. After trying them out I discovered my favorite type was long, hourglass-shaped, waterproof layer, stitched all around. My top favorites are the regular pads and long liners sold by SugarMonkies.
Here is what surprised me: I PREFER the cloth pads. I would RATHER use them. I'd thought I was making a Noble And Laudable Sacrifice For The Environment, but it turns out I like the cloth ones BETTER and would now choose them even if they were WORSE for the environment. Disposable pads are to cloth pads as disposable underwear is to cotton underwear: the cloth pads are so comfy and nice. This is not the way I'd expected things to be.
If you think you might interested in trying pads but you have reservations and concerns, what I suggest is buying just one or two. When I was considering switching, I got all overwhelmed about it---like, I must CHOOSE THE BEST KIND and then I must BUY A FULL EXPENSIVE SUPPLY and then I must COMMIT TO A STRANGE NEW WASHING ROUTINE, and then what if I don't like them after all, OH WHAT THEN?? So I kept wringing my hands and putting it off. But there is no need to rush and/or commit. Take it slowwwwww.
Last time we talked, a few people mentioned the problem of not wanting to carry home used pads from work or a long day out of the house. Dear me, no, I wouldn't want to either. You can use the cloth pads at home and the disposable kind when you're out, or whatever combination works for you. There is no need to Fully Convert.
Same with Flow Issues: if you try a cloth pad and find them Insufficient (though I've found the ones with a waterproof layer to be the same sufficiency as disposables), you could use disposables early on and cloth later when things lighten up.
Perhaps you hate pads and only use tampons? Then cloth pads are not for you: they are a substitute for disposable pads. If you use a little liner with your tampon or in the last days of your period, though, there are little cloth liners available.
And perhaps you hate the whole idea and don't want to try it or think about it and in fact right now you have the squeemies and feel like you need to go wash your hands? Dude, you will not hear WORD ONE from me about it. Each of us does the mix of Good For The Environment stuff that makes the most sense for our individual situations, and just because this one makes sense for me doesn't mean I think it makes sense for you. Look at all the good stuff YOU do that I don't do.
There are lots of ways to wash them, so I picked the one that most appealed to me. I start by buying the pads in medium or dark colors, which helps tremendously. I rinse each one in cold water, then wring it out and put it in a net lingerie bag hanging in the bathroom closet. When the bag is full I put them in a low, cold load of wash with a cup of vinegar and a full load's worth of detergent, and I let them swish on the vigorous cycle and then soak for a few hours or overnight. Then I set the water level on high and add other clothes to make a full load and then run it. Some people line-dry them; I put them through the dryer. If they don't get completely dry, I put them in again with the next load of clothes I'm drying.
Edit to add some questions from the comments section:
How do they stay in place? They look like they might snap underneath?-R-- Yes, all the ones I use have little wings that snap together on the other side.
1. when they snap around the crotch, do they slide from front to back? without adhesive like disposables is this a problem?Jessica-
2. cleaning: is it kind of icky to rinse out or no big deal. Do you use your bare hands and your bathroom sink (I assume you would)?
3. Does Paul mind seeing the used-awaiting-laundry bag (see-through mesh I assume) when he opens the closet?
1. They do slide a little. I generally adjust each time I go to the bathroom. This is one reason I prefer pads that are on the LONG side, and also why I prefer the hourglass shape, which seems to slide less.
2. The first time I had to rinse one I felt kind of RESISTANT about it, but then it turned out to be no big deal. Yes, I use bare hands and bathroom sink.
3. He doesn't mind the bag in the closet (it's with the linens and spare bathroom supplies, so he rarely goes in there), but he doesn't like to find a pad soaking in the sink. I guess I wouldn't either, if it were someone else's pad.
I go through several pads in a day (I like tampons at night), so does than mean I'd need the same amount of reusables a day? Do they last longer or do they get gross fast?Ashley- I find I go through about the same number of reusable as I did disposable. At first I was going to count and compare so I'd know for sure, but it turned out I was too forgetful to keep track. They're less stainy and easier to rinse out if you change them more often.
I find myself balking at the prices. Since you have researched this, what links offered the cheapest options?Wendy- One thing I like about SugarMonkies is that her shipping is only $1.50, which is nice if you're just trying one pad or if you're buying a lot. She takes 10% off custom orders of three or more, which is nice if you decide to use them and start stocking up. Her prices are also the most reasonable to begin with. Randumosity has free shipping on sale pads, so that's like a deal on top of a deal, and also you get one free if you buy three---so I would buy three sale pads, get a fourth sale pad free, AND get free shipping. I also had some success buying "seconds" from various sellers---pads that work just fine but that had little stitching errors. That's kind of hit-and-miss, though---when I was first buying pads I found three or four of them, but I did a quick search now and didn't find much.
But the MOST IMPORTANT POINT here is that the cloth pads are WAY CUTER. And most sellers do custom orders, so you can pick the fabrics you like best.
SugarMonkies (my favorites):