How Do You Wash Reusable Breast Pads: The Ultimate Guide



How Do You Wash Reusable Breast Pads hero

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Maintaining hygiene and durability of reusable breast pads is key for nursing mothers. Reusable breast pads offer an eco-friendly, cost-effective alternative to their disposable counterparts, but their effectiveness hinges on proper care and maintenance.

In this guide, we delve into the intricacies of keeping your breast pads clean, hygienic, and comfortable. From understanding different materials to tackling tough stains and ensuring thorough sanitization, we cover everything you need to know to extend the life of your pads and ensure a healthy breastfeeding experience.

Whether you’re a new mom or a seasoned parent, this guide will equip you with practical, easy-to-follow advice for caring for your reusable breast pads. Let’s embark on this journey to ensure your comfort and peace of mind during this special time.

Key Takeaways: Washing Reusable Breast Pads

Regular washing is essential. To maintain hygiene, wash reusable breast pads frequently, ideally after each use.

Pre-rinse with cold water. Rinse pads in cold water to remove milk residue before putting them in the washing machine.

Use a gentle detergent. Opt for a mild, hypoallergenic detergent to avoid irritating sensitive skin.

Avoid fabric softeners. Fabric softeners can reduce absorbency by coating the fibers.

Wash in a mesh laundry bag. This prevents the pads from getting lost in the laundry and helps maintain their shape.

Choose a gentle cycle. Wash them on a delicate cycle in the washing machine to prevent damage.

Dry thoroughly. Air dry or use a low heat setting in the dryer. Ensure they are completely dry before reuse to prevent bacterial growth.

Sanitize occasionally. For a deeper clean, you can boil the pads for a few minutes or use a sanitizing cycle on your washing machine if available.

Inspect regularly. Check for signs of wear and tear and replace the pads if they start to lose their shape or absorbency.

Types of Reusable Breast Pads and Materials Used

When choosing reusable breast pads, it’s important to consider the type of material used.

  • Cotton and bamboo are popular choices as they are absorbent, soft, and gentle on the skin.
  • Hemp is another option, known for its antimicrobial properties and durability.
  • Microfiber pads are also available, but some women may find them less breathable and less comfortable to wear.
  • Wool is super soft but needs more careful washing.

How to Wash Reusable Breast Pads

Rinse After Use

  • After removing the breast pads, rinse them in cold water.
  • This helps to remove any breast milk and prevent staining.

Soak if Necessary

  • If the pads are heavily soiled, soak them in a mixture of cold water and gentle detergent.
  • Allow them to soak for a few hours or overnight to help loosen any dried milk.


  • Wash the breast pads in the washing machine or by hand.
  • Use a gentle cycle if using a washing machine, and mild detergent.
  • For hand washing, gently scrub the pads in a basin of warm soapy water.

Avoid Fabric Softeners and Bleach

  • Do not use bleach or fabric softeners.
  • These can irritate the skin and reduce the absorbency of the pads.

Rinse Thoroughly

  • Ensure all soap is rinsed out.
  • Remaining detergent can cause skin irritation.


  • Air dry the pads by laying them flat or hanging them up.
  • Avoid using a tumble dryer as high heat can damage the pads.

Check Before Use

  • Once dry, check the pads for any damage or wear.
  • Replace them if they show signs of deterioration.

To prepare your reusable breast pads for washing, it’s important to first remove any excess milk or moisture. This can be done by gently pressing a clean towel or cloth against the pad to absorb any liquid. You can also rinse them under cool water to remove any residue.

Washing Methods

When washing your reusable breast pads, it’s best to use a mild detergent and avoid using fabric softener or bleach. You can wash them in the washing machine on a gentle cycle with warm water, or hand wash them in a sink or basin with warm water and detergent. Some types of breast pads may require specific washing instructions, so be sure to read the care instructions on the packaging.

Using a Laundry Bag

Using a laundry bag can help protect your reusable breast pads during the washing process. It can also help prevent them from getting lost in the washing machine. Simply place your breast pads inside the laundry bag and wash as usual.

Stain Removal

If your breast pads have stains, you can try pre-treating them before washing. One method is to mix equal parts baking soda and water to create a paste, apply it to the stain, and let it sit for 30 minutes before washing.

Another method is to soak the breast pads in a solution of cold water and vinegar for a few hours before washing.

Hygiene Considerations

It’s important to wash your breast pads after each use to prevent the growth of bacteria and to keep them hygienic.

If you have a yeast infection or thrush, it’s recommended to use disposable breast pads until the infection clears up to prevent the spread of the infection.

Drying Methods

To dry your reusable breast pads, you can hang them to air dry or place them in the dryer on a low heat setting. Avoid using high heat or drying in direct sunlight, as this can damage the fabric and reduce the effectiveness of the pads.

Storing and Reusing

After washing and drying, store your reusable breast pads in a clean, dry place until ready for use. It’s a good idea to have multiple pairs on hand so you can rotate them throughout the day. Be sure to wash them after each use to ensure they remain clean and hygienic.

Troubleshooting Tips

If you notice that your breast pads are not as absorbent as they used to be, or if they have an odor, it may be time to replace them. Over time, the fabric can become worn and less effective at absorbing milk. Using too much detergent or fabric softener can cause buildup on the pads, reducing their absorbency.

Selecting the Ideal Detergent for Your Breast Pads

Choosing the right cleaning agents for washing reusable breast pads is crucial to ensure they remain gentle on the skin and effective in use. The ideal detergent should be mild and free from harsh chemicals, fragrances, and dyes. These gentle detergents are less likely to irritate sensitive skin or cause allergic reactions, making them safe for both the mother and the baby.

Harsh chemicals found in some regular detergents can degrade the fabric of the breast pads over time, reducing their absorbency and lifespan. They can also leave residues that might irritate the sensitive skin of the breasts, leading to discomfort or skin issues.

Opting for hypoallergenic or baby-specific detergents is a wise choice. These detergents are formulated to be gentle yet effective, ensuring the breast pads are thoroughly cleaned without any harmful residues.

Using the right detergent helps in maintaining the pad’s shape and texture. It ensures that the pads remain soft and comfortable for every use. Regular, proper care with suitable cleaning agents not only extends the life of the pads but also contributes to the overall health and comfort during breastfeeding.

Material-Specific Washing Tips for Reusable Breast Pads

Washing reusable breast pads correctly is key to maintaining their quality and ensuring they remain hygienic for use. Each material, whether it’s cotton, bamboo, hemp, or wool, requires specific care during the washing process, check the laundry symbols for the correct wash for each.

For cotton pads, the focus is on balancing thorough cleaning with material care. Cotton is durable and can typically withstand regular machine washing. Use a gentle, fragrance-free detergent and wash in warm water to effectively remove milk residues while preserving the fabric’s softness. Avoid high heat in the dryer as it can cause shrinkage; instead, opt for air drying or a low heat setting.

Bamboo pads require a delicate approach due to their softer fibers. They should be washed in cold or lukewarm water to prevent shrinking and maintain their antibacterial qualities. A mild detergent is recommended, and bamboo pads should be air-dried to retain their softness and shape. Avoid using fabric softeners, as they can reduce the absorbency of the pads.

When it comes to hemp pads, their durability allows for machine washing, but with a few considerations. Hemp fibers become softer over time, so gentle washing is preferred. Use cold or warm water and a mild detergent, and avoid bleach or harsh chemicals that can break down the fibers. Hemp pads can be air-dried or tumble-dried on a low setting, but they may take longer to dry compared to other materials.

Wool pads are unique and require the most careful washing. Hand washing in cool water with a wool-specific detergent is ideal to maintain their natural lanolin, which provides moisture-wicking properties. Gently squeeze out the water without wringing, and lay them flat to air dry. Wool pads should never be put in the dryer, as high heat can damage the fibers and cause shrinkage.

How Often Should You Wash Reusable Breast Pads?

Determining the right frequency for washing reusable breast pads is essential for maintaining hygiene and comfort. The frequency largely depends on the usage intensity and individual hygiene needs. Typically, it’s advisable to wash the pads after each use, especially if they are damp or soiled. This practice helps in preventing the growth of bacteria and maintains skin health.

For mothers who are leaking frequently, having several pairs of pads on hand is beneficial. This allows for a rotation system, where used pads can be washed while clean ones are in use. Washing them daily or every other day is a good routine, depending on the number of pads available and the level of breast milk leakage experienced.

In terms of personal hygiene, clean pads are crucial to avoid irritation or infections. It’s important to consider skin sensitivity when deciding washing frequency. For those with sensitive skin or prone to infections, washing pads after every use is particularly important.

Regular washing not only keeps the pads fresh but also ensures that they remain effective in absorbing milk leaks, providing comfort and confidence throughout the day.

Ensuring Hygiene: Sanitization of Reusable Breast Pads

For breastfeeding mothers, maintaining hygiene with reusable breast pads is not just about cleanliness but also about ensuring they are free from harmful bacteria. Proper sanitization of the pads is crucial to prevent the risk of infections, both for the mother and the baby.

A simple yet effective way to sanitize breast pads is by boiling them in water (depending on the material). After regular washing, boiling the pads for a few minutes can kill any remaining bacteria, ensuring a high level of hygiene.

Another method to ensure thorough cleaning is to use a steam sterilizer, commonly used for baby bottles and nipples. This method is efficient and effective in killing bacteria without the need for harsh chemicals. It’s also convenient and saves time, especially for busy mothers. If these options are not available, soaking the pads in a solution of hot water and a safe, non-toxic disinfectant for a short period can also be effective in sanitizing them.

Removing Stains from Reusable Breast Pads

Effectively removing tough stains from reusable breast pads involves gentle yet efficient techniques. One of the key methods is to treat the stain as soon as possible. Soaking the pads in cold water shortly after staining helps in preventing the stain from setting in.

For more stubborn stains, using a mild, eco-friendly stain remover can be effective. It’s important to avoid harsh chemicals, as these can damage the fabric and potentially irritate the skin.

Another helpful approach is to use natural stain-fighting agents. For instance, baking soda and vinegar have natural cleansing properties that can break down stains without harming the fabric.

Applying a paste of baking soda on the stain, letting it sit for a few minutes, and then rinsing it off can lift the stain. A final rinse with a mixture of water and vinegar can remove any remaining residues and odors.

Preventing stains from becoming an issue in the first place is also crucial. Regular changing of breast pads helps to avoid excessive build-up of milk that can lead to staining. Having an adequate number of pads in rotation ensures that each pad doesn’t get overused, which can contribute to staining and wear.

How do you get smells out of reusable nursing pads?

Getting smells out of reusable nursing pads is an important part of their care. One effective method is to soak the pads in a mixture of water and baking soda before washing them. Baking soda is good at removing odors. One can add a half cup of baking soda to a basin of warm water and soak the pads for a few hours.

Another way to remove odors is to use white vinegar. Vinegar works well to neutralize smells. After soaking the pads in the baking soda solution, rinse them, and then soak in a mixture of water and a small amount of vinegar. This second soak can be for a shorter time, about 30 minutes to an hour.

After soaking, wash the pads as usual, either by hand or in a washing machine with a gentle detergent. It’s important to rinse them thoroughly to remove any remaining baking soda or vinegar. Air drying the pads in a well-ventilated area or in sunlight can help further eliminate any lingering odors. This routine will keep the nursing pads fresh and odor-free.

How to clean silicone breast pads

Cleaning silicone breast pads is straightforward and ensures they are hygienic for repeated use. First, rinse the pads with cold water right after use. This helps remove any breast milk and prevents stains. Cold water is better than hot for this initial rinse because it doesn’t set in the proteins found in milk.

Next, use a mild soap to clean the pads. You can do this by hand, gently rubbing the soap into each pad. It’s important to use a gentle, fragrance-free soap to avoid skin irritation. Silicone is a non-porous material, which means it doesn’t absorb the soap, so a thorough rinse after washing is crucial.

After washing and rinsing, air drying the pads is the best option. Laying them flat in a well-ventilated area ensures they dry completely. Avoid using heat or direct sunlight to dry silicone pads, as prolonged exposure to heat can degrade the quality of the silicone. Once dry, the silicone breast pads are ready for use again, clean and hygienic.

FAQs on how to wash breast pads:

Can breast pads be washed in the washing machine?

Yes, most breast pads can be washed in the washing machine. However, it’s important to read the care instructions on the packaging to ensure proper washing instructions.

Do I need to wash breast pads before using them?

Yes, it’s recommended to wash breast pads before using them for the first time. This will remove any dirt or residue from the manufacturing process and ensure they are clean and safe to use.

How often should I wash breast pads?

It’s recommended to wash breast pads after each use to ensure they are clean and hygienic. However, if you have reusable breast pads, you can usually wash several pads together in the washing machine.

Can I use fabric softener when washing breast pads?

It’s recommended to avoid using fabric softener when washing breast pads, as this can reduce their absorbency. Instead, use a mild detergent and rinse thoroughly to remove any soap residue.

How should I dry breast pads?

Most breast pads can be air-dried or tumble-dried on a low heat setting. Avoid using high heat or drying breast pads in direct sunlight, as this can damage the fabric and reduce their effectiveness. Using a dryer will shorten the lifespan of your reusable breast pads.

By following these common FAQs, you can ensure your breast pads are clean, hygienic, and effective at preventing leaks.

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