Frequently Asked Questions
1. Where do I start?
Menstrual use – We would recommend starting by measuring your current pad. If you are unsure about the whole cloth thing entirely, start with just swapping your lighter days for either our 8” LITE (or our Tween/SLIM LITE if you are more petite) and see how you get on. If you’re sure you want to do cloth, then choose your most commonly used pad and measure that one to gauge length. For capacity, an average tampon holds 12-15ml and an average pad holds 15-20ml so you can expect even our thinnest lightest pads to hold two or three times that.
If you’re still unsure exactly what to choose, our “Menstrual starter pack” is a set of the 4 most popular pads with a wetbag. We will top them with a mix of the different fabric toppings we offer and you will then have a mix of lengths, widths and cores to try.
Continence use – We would recommend starting by weighing one of your current pads after use. This will tell you how much fluid it is holding and therefore what capacity you need roughly. You can then decide which length you feel would be most comfortable and use the capacity you measured to decide which core strength to go for.
PottiPad – holds up to 50ml (narrowest point/gusset width 5cm)
Tween/SLIM LITE – holds up to 50ml (width 5cm)
Tween/SLIM Original – holds up to 70ml (width 5cm)
8″ LITE – holds up to 60ml (width 6.5cm)
8″ Original – holds up to 90ml (width 6.5cm)
8″ Extra – holds up to 120ml (width 6.5cm)
Long SLIM LITE – holds up to 70ml (width 5cm)
Long SLIM Original – holds up to 130ml (width 5cm)
11” Lite – holds up to 80ml (width 6.5cm)
11″ Original – holds up to 150ml (width 6.5cm)
11″ Extra – holds up to 200ml (width 6.5cm)
13″ LITE – holds up to 110ml (width 6.5cm)
13″ Original – holds up to 250ml (width 6.5cm)
13″ Extra – holds up to 320ml (width 6.5cm)
16″ LITE – holds up to 210ml (width 6.5cm)
16″ Original – holds up to 350ml (width 6.5cm)
16″ Extra – holds up to 420ml (width 6.5cm)
If you’re still unsure exactly what to choose, our “Continence starter pack” is a set of the 4 most popular pads with a wetbag. We will top them with a mix of the different fabric toppings we offer and you will then have a mix of lengths, widths and cores to try.
2. What are the topping fabrics/materials and their differences?
There are various fabrics available to top your pad with and they all have slightly different properties.
Pros – super soft, feels more dry against the skin, holds slightly more than cotton, bamboo is a sustainable fast-growing plant, more stain resistant than woven or jersey fabrics
Cons – bamboo doesn’t like heat so avoid direct contact with radiators etc, not as hard wearing as some other fabrics, bamboo velour can be warmer than other fabrics, doesn’t come in prints so is coloured by hand-dying
Pros – soft against skin, doesn’t crease or stain as easily as woven cotton, can feel cooler and more breathable than velours, stretchy and flexible, comes in lots of prints and can be dyed too, can be tumble dried but expect some shrinkage
Cons – stains more easily than velours, not as robust as woven cotton so caution with stain removers, can stretch over time and become ‘poofy’
Pros – very fast absorbing, holds slightly more fluid than other topping fabrics, soft against the skin, robust, can use stain removers, can be tumble dried, can go directly on radiators, doesn’t stain as easily as woven cotton, cooler than velours
Cons – ‘bobbles’ fairly fast, doesn’t come in prints, shows creasing
Pros – very fast absorbing, dimpled so great for gushy or fast flow, robust and hard wearing, can use stain removers, can be tumble dried, can go directly on radiators, cooler than velours
Cons – can feel more rough against the skin, limited colour options/no prints
If you would like a material that we do not offer as standard, or would prefer your pads without a PUL layer inside, please contact us. We are also happy to top your pads with material that you send to us. Pop us a message to arrange.
For deeper information about the fabrics we use and why, please see here.
If you would like a material that we do not offer as standard, or would prefer your pads without a PUL layer inside, please contact us. We are also happy to top your pads with material that you send to us. Pop us a message to arrange.
3. What is your turnaround and delivery time?
As pads are hand-made to order, orders with pads have a turnaround of up to 10 working days, although you can usually expect turnaround to be faster and your order to be dispatched within a week. Orders will be sent second class via Royal Mail unless otherwise agreed, or you can collect from Penny in Malvern if you are local. Pop us a message to arrange so that we can contact you once your order is ready to collect.
4. Do you offer a wider range of prints/designs/colours?
We offer a limited range of prints/fabric colours for topping options so that we can keep the prices as low as possible. The more choice we offer, the longer it takes to cut each pad (we cut everything by hand, there are no fancy machines to do it for us!) and therefore we’d need to charge more for the extra time. We’d also be able to make fewer pads overall. By limiting the range, we can work faster and get more pads made whilst keeping the prices down. As prints/colours run out, we will replace them with new prints and colours so do check back periodically or join our Facebook group, the Minivivi ViviClub, to be the first to hear about new additions.
5. Can I make special requests?
Yes, but we can’t promise that we can do it! We are happy to make pads without the PUL layer if required – just add a note when you order. For any other requests, pop us an email or Facebook message and we will see what we can do for you.
6. How do I wear and wash my pads?
When you first get your pads, they won’t be very absorbent as the fibres will need “fluffing up” by repeated washing and drying (think expanding and contracting to “puff” up each strand of material from it’s very smooth initial state so that it has greater surface area and can absorb more and more). Hemp and cotton are both natural fibres that become more absorbent the more they are washed and dried so I always prewash mine at least 3 times before use, drying in between helps as absorbency builds faster as the fibres expand and contract. Hemp can take up to 10 washes to become fully absorbent depending on how vigorously it’s washed, so change sooner to start with and bear in mind that it’ll get more absorbent each time it is used.
Once you’re happy with your prewashing, wear your pad with the longer end at the front, it can be turned round for spending longer periods lying down or if you sleep on your back. The grey fleece is the backing and goes against your underwear (this layer is impregnated with charcoal during manufacture to absorb any odours. This will eventually wash out. It lasts approximately 200 washes, which is around 4 years if washing once a week) then the wings reach underneath the gusset and fasten with the snaps. There are two wing settings to suit different underwear styles.
When you want to change your pad, undo the snaps (we’ve added a handy tab to make this easier) and rinse under cold water if required to reduce staining (or you can soak in cold water for a few hours prior to washing if preferred) then fold with the grey fleece facing out, and place in a wetbag to store until washing.
Wash at 40 or 60 degrees on a cotton cycle with your usual non-bio detergent or ecoegg, do not use fabric conditioner as this coats the fibres and reduces absorbency. Rinsing or soaking in cold water should reduce or prevent staining, but hanging outside will also fade staining even in the rain or clouds. Avoid harsh stain removers, but Violet’s earth-friendly bleach should be fine if you need something to shift stubborn staining. Biological detergent wears natural fibres such as hemp and cotton faster than non-bio detergent so we advise against using biological detergents with Minivivi pads.
When your pads come out the wash, give them a gentle stretch and flatten back into shape before drying. Then check your topping fabric type above and dry accordingly. Repeated tumble drying, even on low heat, will reduce the life of your pads so line or airer drying is recommended (if you peg to an airer they’ll dry faster than if you drape them over it) avoiding direct contact with radiators.
Because our pads have a hemp and cotton core, they will shrink slightly for the first few washes and this has been taken into consideration when making them. Gently stretching and flattening when removing from washing machine before drying helps them keep their length and shape.
7. Further washing hints and tips
Your Minivivi pads are very robust and should last many years if looked after well. There should be no need for harsh products like bleach if there is a good wash routine in place. As you want your pads to remain absorbent, washing them with your towels is a good idea. Towels also tend to be some of the more microbe-rich items in our laundry so if your towels are coming out fresh and clean, so should your pads.
Fabric conditioner and some dryer sheets will coat fibres and reduce their absorbency so we would recommend avoiding fabric conditioner on your pads, towels and anything else that you want to keep absorbent. If your pads (or towels) feel stiff or hard after line drying, rubbing them together briskly but lightly will usually soften them.
If staining is a concern, olive oil soap (any 100% olive oil soap) will usually remove most stains and is suitable for all types of fabric. A cold water soak for a couple of hours, then a rub with olive oil soap and a cool wash with your normal detergent is often all that is needed to remove stains. Olive oil soap is also inexpensive and long lasting. Some more harsh stain removers can damage certain fabrics so if you are concerned about your pads and olive oil soap is not having the desired effect, do contact us for further assistance.
Biological detergents can damage natural fabrics like hemp and cotton when used regularly over time. We would recommend using a non-bio detergent for longevity. As a rule, non-biological detergent can be used at higher temperatures, whereas biological detergents tend to be more effective at lower temperatures.
To be continued………………………
8. Core options and capacity
Minivivi pads currently have three core options, LITE is just two layers of our core materials (light grey snaps), Original is four layers of our core materials (black snaps), then Extra is 6 layers of our core materials (blue snaps). Obviously the thicker the core and the longer the pad, the higher the capacity. There is a limit to the amount of fabric one can put between the legs to absorb fluid without needing more strongly elasticated legs, so our pads maximum capacity is around 450ml. We also hope to stock other products in the future, and we can advise you on where to go if you need higher capacity than we offer.
The following chart shows the “working capacities” of various single-use products alongside reusable products. These figures were contributed to and put together by independent volunteers in the UK Nappy Network and various continence-based Facebook groups. If you would like to contribute to this chart, we would be grateful for your input and details on how to help are below.
To measure the working capacity of your pad, weigh it after normal use. Record the weight in grams and as much detail about the brand and type of pad that you can (a picture of the box or a link to it would be helpful if you are unsure what details we need. If your pad is already listed, we will still take your measurement into consideration – the more weights we have, the more accurate the chart will get as the volume we put in the chart is an average of all the information we are sent/have recorded. This is an ongoing project and will be regularly updated so do email us your results if you’d like to help! Obviously people have different output at different times of the day, and different people have very different output to one another, so the more data we can gather, the more accurate and helpful the chart will become. You can email to firstname.lastname@example.org
9. What do the different snap colours mean/How can I tell which core type my pad is?
Blue snaps – Extra core (6 layers of organic hemp and cotton)
Black snaps – Original core (4 layers of organic hemp and cotton)
Grey snaps – LITE core (2 layers of organic hemp and cotton)
White snaps – Seconds – a pad that has a flaw and has therefore been reduced in price. (These will also have either black, blue or grey snaps depending on their core)
10. How wide are the pads?
Our standard pads are all 6.5cm wide at the gusset. Our SLIM pads are 5cm wide at the gusset. The wings also have two snap options to suit different width underwear, meaning you can tighten or loosen the wings as needed depending on the width of your gusset. The SLIM pads have smaller wings so the Extra core option is not available on SLIM pads.
11. What length pad do I need?
If you measure the pads you currently use, you can pick a similar length from our collection. However, you will also want to refer to the capacity chart to choose your length and core strength. Some will prefer a longer thinner pad, others may prefer a shorter, thicker pad. We offer many options to suit as many people as possible.
12. How many pads do I need?
This is a difficult question to answer. For menstrual use, most people agree that 10 pads will be enough to wash just once at the end of the week. For incontinence, if you weigh one of your current pads after use, it will tell you how much fluid the pad is holding. You can then work out how many pads you are likely to need from there. We can help you do this if required. Your pads will be fine in a wetbag for several days before washing them, so you may need less than you think.
You can also extend how long pads last when using them for menstruation by using interlabial pads and of course the more often you wash your pads, the less you need to buy overall. We would recommend starting with 4 or 5 and then building up your collection once you know how long they last and which style suits you best for your period. You may prefer different lengths or widths for nights as opposed to days for example. Our starter packs are a great way to buy a selection of pads at a good price – you can choose 5 different pads to try and we give you a free wetbag for storing them.
13. Understanding pricing
Initially reusable pads seem very expensive. We felt the same when we first came across cloth pads. However, each pad takes approximately 45 minutes to make, and they are handmade in the UK for you rather than factory made abroad and shipped in. Our organic hemp/cotton blend material in the core is made specially for us and is the fastest absorbing and highest capacity material for how thin it is that we could find. We also wanted to avoid plastic and use ethically sourced, natural materials as much as possible so hemp remains our favourite fabric for the core despite the high price tag on it.
All the materials we use are tested thoroughly to ensure our pads are very robust and will last as long as possible but whilst also being ethically sourced and produced. Our pads can withstand at least 200 washes at 60 degrees with a low-heat tumble dry. For menstrual use, if you are washing at the end of your cycle, that’s 16 years! Even if washing weekly for incontinence, 200 washes is almost 4 years of use. When you compare that to how much you’d spend on single-use pads during that time, even using the cheapest single-use products available, our pads will save you a significant amount of money, and if you wash them with your bath towels each week, you’re not even running an extra washing cycle, saving you even more money!
Price comparison and cost breakdown
From a menstrual point of view, according to https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/family/cheap-sanitary-products/ the average menstruating person will use around 10,500 menstrual products over their menstruating lifetime at an average cost of £1,470 at 2019 product prices. This is before taking leakage and other costs into consideration (See their link for more details and breakdowns). Minivivi pads are tested to 200 washes (but should last much longer if looked after properly) so assuming each smaller Minivivi pad lasts 200 uses, you would need 52.5 to cover the 10,500 single use products, at a cost of £446.25 and with much higher capacity in each pad, most people find they need significantly fewer changes with washable products as well, saving even more money. This is over the entire lifetime of menstruating. On a monthly basis you will only need around 10-15 Minivivi pads and they can be washed with towels at the end of the week so no increase in washing or laundering costs.
Menstrual saving – £1,023.75 over menstruating lifetime
From an incontinence point of view, the savings are even more. At an average cost per pad of around 25p for light to moderate incontinence (2019 prices taken from average price for moderate incontinence products via “Incontinence Choice” website) and with the NHS recommendation to change single use pads at least 4 times a day we are looking at 1,460 pads used each year at an average cost of £365. If a Minivivi pad can be washed 200 times and therefore replace 200 single use pads, the average cost of Minivivi for a year (based on using the 11” pads) would be £70.30 which is a significant saving. Most people using reusable pads wash with their towels and thus have no extra washing costs to factor in, but if we assume that we are doing an extra load of laundry each week at an average cost of 45p a week, the total yearly cost for Minivivi pads would be £93.70 so still a large saving.
Incontinence saving – £294.70 per year
14. What are the features and benefits of Minivivi pads?
- A choice of different materials for the top, to suit different skin types/preferences
- A unique organic sustainable hemp and cotton blend core for highest capacity
- The pads are extremely thin for what they hold
- A hidden waterproof layer for extra security against leaks
- Thin microfleece backing and wings to grip to underwear and prevent slipping
- Charcoal impregnated into the backing fabric to absorb and reduce any odour
- Reinforced non-wick wings to prevent damp thighs
- A special tab to help undo the wings if you have pain in hands or fingers
- Two width settings to suit different underwear
- A choice of lengths and core options to suit a wide variety of needs
- Cut, sewn and checked at every stage by people, not machines
- Tested to 200 washes, Minivivi pads are very robust
- Designed and shaped specifically for incontinence by someone with incontinence needs
- Reversible design means you can turn the pad around if you’d prefer the length at the back
- Environmentally conscious with ethically sourced and carefully considered materials
- Personal service from people who understand incontinence
15. What are interlabial/intergluteal pads and how do I use them?
Interlabial pads are small, leaf shaped cotton pads that you pop between your labia to direct flow towards the center and back of the pad. They are literally “Into labia” pads. Although it sounds uncomfortable they are surprisingly comfy and actually prevent the gushy feeling that can come with a heavy flow. They also add an extra 10-15ml of capacity so are like little absorbency boosters for your pads. If you change your interlabial pad often, you can make your actual pad last longer, which saves you quite a bit of money as our Interlabial pads are only £1-£1.50 each. See the images below for how to wear them, you can wear them with either the cotton jersey side up or the brushed cotton side up depending which you prefer. You’ll want to leave a cm or two out the front so that you can grab it when you go to the loo, otherwise they become “into toilet” pads!
Intergluteal pads are very similar but designed to sit between the buttocks (your gluteal muscles) to absorb moisture and any leakage due to Crohns, IBS or other bowel disorders. They are also very handy for stopping your menstrual flow running between your buttocks and off the back of your pad at night or when lying down for long periods! You actually might not need larger pads for nights by using these handy little things! Again, see the drawings below for how you wear them. You may find that you prefer to fold in a different way to suggested and that’s fine – there’s no right or wrong, just see what works for you!
Our interlabial/Intergluteal pads come in 3 different sizes (size 1 is the most popular/standard size) and can be bought here.
16. More extensive information about our fabrics
We spent a very long time researching fabrics and their capacity/absorption speeds before deciding what to use for Minivivi pads. Penny has many years experience in cloth nappies and research into fabrics, detergents and laundry, so was able to utilise this when developing our pads.
Our core is a blend of organic hemp and organic cotton fibres in a jersey weave. The blend is milled especially for us by a mill based in China that works solely with organic fabrics. As the hemp/cotton blend is very stiff when dry, we intersperse an organic brushed cotton layer to soften the pad. In terms of capacity, the solution is to have many thin layers, rather than one thicker layer, as fluid can sit between the layers of fabric as well as within the fibres themselves. This results in a very thin but high capacity pad. We use hemp and cotton rather than plastic-based fabrics for various reasons; they do not hold odour like plastic-based fabrics can, nor do they suffer compression leaks (which may be an issue if sitting, lying down or moving around, especially with incontinence). With natural fibres, the fluid is held within the fibre itself, whereas with plastic-based materials the fluid sits between the fibres and can easily be shaken or squashed out like a sponge. Air flow is very important too and natural fabrics tend to be more breathable than plastic fibres.
Unfortunately there is currently no avoiding plastic when it comes to waterproofing. For the waterproof layer the only fabric that does the job we want is PUL/polyurethane laminate. We use a very high quality PUL that can withstand at least 200 washes at 60 degrees with low heat tumble drying. Most PUL cannot withstand that kind of treatment and will delaminate/lose the waterproofing layer if washed at higher temperatures or tumble dried. It is important that the pad is not placed directly onto a very hot surface (eg. radiator or pipes) as it can melt the PUL if the temperature is higher than 75 degrees. If you are concerned about the PUL inside your pads (if it is squeaky, or feels ruckled, or if you feel it is no longer waterproof) please return the pad to us with as much detail as possible about your wash routine and we will troubleshoot with you to ensure it doesn’t happen again!
The backing and wings of our pads are made using a very thin and lightweight polyester microfleece that is impregnated with bamboo charcoal during milling. Bamboo charcoal absorbs odour and the microfleece grips to your underwear. If we backed the pads with the PUL layer, the pad could slide around in your underwear, and would have no odour-reducing properties. Although odour control isn’t really a concern with menstrual flow, it can be a concern for incontinence, especially when on certain medications. Again we have ensured that the charcoal remains active for at least 200 washes and if you feel your pad has lost its odour-reducing properties before this time, let us know and we will troubleshoot with you.
You have a choice when it comes to the material that is against your skin. Each fabric has different properties so is suitable for different needs. For example, we recommend brushed cotton, also known as flannel, for fastest absorption. We offer this plain, or dyed. We hand-dye in house, using fibre reactive dyes that are non-toxic and do not adversely affect the water supply or environment. We also hand-dye our bamboo velour and cotton pique. Bamboo velour is very soft and has more of a stay-dry feeling against the skin than cotton does. This is because of the way the bamboo cellulose is processed into viscous for the fabric. Bamboo, like hemp, is a very fast-growing plant that requires less water and space than cotton. However, it is not without its flaws; once turned into viscous it degrades much slower than cotton (when discarded at the end of its usable life), and as a velour it feels warm, and is easily damaged by heat. If you can’t hold your hand against the heat source, then it is too hot for bamboo velour. This can be a pain when drying your pad. Our bamboo velour can withstand 60 degree washes and low heat tumble drying but will last much longer if air dried and washed at a lower temperature. Washing hints and tips can be found earlier in the FAQs. You will also receive a care card with your order.