Sanitary pads (also known as menstrual pads) are by far the product of choice when it comes to that time of the month. According to Retail World, in 2018 pads were worth a whopping $155.4 million in grocery value (in comparison, tampons were worth $68.6 million).
When buying sanitary pads, you'll quickly realise how much there is on offer – and navigating through the different products and brands can be confusing. This is why we decided to test all the sanitary pads we could find from the major supermarkets.
Regular pads offer medium absorbency, perfect for when your flow isn't at its heaviest (generally from around day three onwards).
Super pads offer high absorbency, perfect for those heavy days (usually the first couple of days of your period).
Night pads are generally thicker and longer. The extra length offers greater absorbency for the hours that you're asleep and helps to keep you covered, regardless of your sleeping position.
If you prefer to use tampons, using an overnight pad (or super pad) for when you go to bed is a good idea.
Ideally, you shouldn't leave a tampon in for longer than eight hours, as that increases the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).
Maternity pads are extra thick, perfect for new mums. Some products even add Aloe-Vera for soothing.
Liners are handy:
- if you're expecting your period
- if you're at the end of your period
- for everyday use to keep your undies fresh.
During our research, we noticed that there are varying levels of thickness among liners. Some products are wafer thin, providing very little (to nothing) in terms of absorbency. These types of liners will do the job if you're just looking for everyday freshness, but we haven't tested them as they aren't comparable to the rest.
You're likely to use a mixture of liners, regular and super (and maybe night) pads throughout the different stages of your period.
Once you're familiar with your period and its different stages, you'll know when to use certain products for the best protection.
Period underwear are a relatively new addition to the market but offer an alternative for environmentally concious consumers. They have a moisture-wicking layer over an absorbent layer in the gusset, protected by a leak-resistant layer, and most importantly are washable and re-useable (and some claim to be re-useable for a couple of years).
We've previously trialled period underwear (as well as menstrual cups) and have recently included period underwear from Modibodi in our comparative testing to see how they stack up against pads. Check our review for the results.
Pads are available in a variety of pack sizes and the the per-product cost ranges from $0.05 to $0.60.
Considering you'll generally get your period every month for around 40 years, this cost definitely adds up. So looking for value for money as well as a good performing product is important.
Look for larger packs if theyre available and stock up when you find them on sale.
Making sanitary products exempt from GST has been long argued since the GST was introduced in the year 2000.
Following an 18-year-long campaign, states and territories removed the tax in January 2019.
The menstrual products to be exempt are expected to include:
- menstrual cups
- maternity pads
- leak-proof underwear.
This is the most important consideration to make when choosing sanitary pads.
Along with using the words liners, regular, super, etc to describe the pad, some manufacturers also use images of 'droplets' on their packaging to describe their absorbency rate.
Ideally sanitary pads should absorb the flow away from the surface of the pad, leaving you feeling dry. However, some products do a better job at this than others.
Wings are the extra material on the sides of the pad that fold over the sides of your undies. They work to keep the pad securely attached and give extra protection against leaks.
In our testing, we found that the wings help to draw liquid back into the pad.
But whether you choose a product with or without wings all comes down to personal preference.
Some products are thicker than others, which can affect how discreet the product looks and feels.
Some manufacturers use terms like "extra long" when their product is longer in length for added protection.
Some of the marketing claims made by manufactures include:
- flow guards
- body-contoured shape
- anti-leak protection
All these claims can make it difficult when choosing what to buy.
You may need to try a few different products before you find the one that's right for you. But ultimately you need a product that's absorbent and comfortable.
The best way to dispose of a sanitary pad is in a bin.
Shopping centres and other public places have sanitary disposal bins. Use these when they're available. It's the most hygienic way to dispose of your sanitary pads.
Never dispose of your pads by flushing them down the toilet. It can cause serious drain blockage
It's understandable that being discreet during this time of the month is important to many, but never dispose of your pads by flushing them down the toilet. It can cause serious drain blockage, not to mention becoming hazardous waste.
On average, girls experience their first period when they're aged around 12 years old. But it can happen earlier or later.
Since they have quite a few years of menstrual cycles ahead of them, it's important to equip them with the knowledge on what to expect and what products are available for them to use.
Some manufacturers offer free samples of their various products. For example, Libra offers free samples as well as educational resources for parents and girls as well as teachers and educators.
Menstrual cups, tampons and period underwear are other alternatives to sanitary pads.
For more information, have a look at our menstrual cup buying guide.