Updated: Nov 2, 2020
When you think about ditching plastic or reducing your waste you usually go to straight to things made of single-use plastics. You may not go straight to cotton pads, but they are a large area of waste in many peoples daily routine. People often use multiple cotton pads in the morning and evening, every day, for both makeup removal or applying skincare.
You may think that cotton pads can't be too bad for the environment because it's a natural fibre that biodegrades. While your right it is natural, the production of cotton can cause a massive amount of damage to not only the environment but to people too! To make one pair of jeans and a single t-shirt out of cotton you need 20,000 litres of water! Additionally, conventional cotton farming uses numerous fertilizer and pesticides. These pesticides and fertilizer causes degradation of the soil and can have harmful effects on the surrounding biodiversity and people from run-off that leaks into rivers and surrounding habitats.
Organic cotton doesn't use these harmful pesticides and fertilizer, however, the amount of water needed is still high meaning continuously rebuying organic cotton items still takes its toll on the environment - especially when they are wrapped in plastic like cotton pads usually are. Cotton is a hardwearing and long-lasting material so I'm in no way saying you should cut it out completely! But instead, we should buy products that are made to be reused over ones that are meant to be used once. So I've made this DIY for reusable cotton pads so you can make your own and in turn, reduce the amount of waste you produce!
Single-use cotton pads may be made out of natural fibres, however, they require a lot of energy to produce and can't be reused (plus they are often wrapped in plastic).
What you will need:
➤ Scrap fabric (Any old material works well you just want to make sure it's soft so it's gentle on your face)
➤ Absorbent material (I used fleece fabric, you can use an old towel or flannel)
➤ Sewing machine (or you can use needle and thread)
➤ Circle template (Can use anything circle to draw round or a compass)
➤ I chose to make mine patterned on one side and plain on the other, the patterned side is more for aesthetics than anything else so feel free to make both sides out of your absorbent material
➤ When picking your material chose something without/ little stretch to make it easier when sewing
➤ If cutting and sewing isn't your forte then make the cotton pads square-shaped! - It'll make it easier to cut and sew them.
➤ Feel free to make the cotton pads smaller or larger to fit your needs! - if you have a particular container you want to store them in, use that as the template.
➤ If you want to use these cotton pads for makeup removal just keep in mind this can lead to staining, so if you want to prevent this use a darker coloured material.
What to do:
1. Iron your material to remove any creases in the fabric.
2. Using either a compass or a template, draw out a circle on the 'wrong' side of your fabric and then cut it out.
3. Using the previous circle, pin it to your fabric and cut around it to ensure the cotton pads are the same size. If you are using two types of fabric make sure you cut out the same amount of circles in each (I made 6 cotton pads so need 12 circles in total - 6 in each material).
4. Once they are all cut out pin a circle from each material together, wrong sides facing.
I used a candle holder to trace out the circles (left), once you've cut out your circles in one fabric use them to cut around in your other fabric to make sure they match (right).
Once all your circles are cut out you should have the same number in each type of fabric (left). Pin matching circles together wrong sides facing each other (right).
5. If you are using a sewing machine you want to switch your settings to either zig-zag or mock serge stitching (I used mock serge stitching but zig-zag works if you don't have that setting). I've included a photo of the stitch settings I put my sewing machine at for guidance, but it's best to check your sewing machine manual for their recommended settings. If you have an overcasting foot you want to attach that now if you don't the standard foot will work too.
6. When placing the circle under the sewing foot make sure the edge of the fabric is right up against the edge of the foot (this is made easier if using an overcasting foot). When you start to sew you want the needle to go into the fabric on the left and then land just over the edge of the fabric on the right.
➤ If you are sewing by hand then you want to use a blanket stitch around the edges - there is a video here that explains how to do this!
My sewing machine was set to mock serge stitch, stitch length 1.5 and width 3.5 (left). Before you start sewing put the circle edge right against the side of the overcasting foot (right).
7. As you sew around the circle make sure you are sewing through both pieces of fabric and remove the pins as you go so not to damage the needle.
8. Once you've sewed around the full edge of the circle make sure you sew over the beginning stitches, to help reinforce the stitching.
9. Lastly, You want to cut any loose threads and check you haven't missed any areas of the fabric (If you have you can just sew back over these areas). If everything is in order then you've made your first cotton pad! - repeat these steps for the rest of your circles.
Once you finish sewing around the edge of the circle make sure you sew over the point you started to prevent it from coming undone (left). How cute are the finished cotton pads (right)?!
How to keep them fresh and cute
Now that you have some beautiful homemade cotton pads you want to make sure you look after them to keep them cute for longer! Once used simply put them inside a mesh wash bag (or inside a pillowcase if you don't have one!) and put them in the washing machine on a cold, gentle cycle. When I'm not using my cotton pads I like to keep them in an airtight container to prevent moisture building up - this is especially important if you keep them in your bathroom.
I store my cotton pads in a jar to prevent moisture building up from the steamy bathroom (left). When washing pop them into a mesh bag or pillowcase (right).
Brands we recommend
If you don't have the time or the equipment to make these cotton pads, we still highly recommend you think about purchasing some instead, if you have the money to do so. Here is a couple that we like:
If you do make these or any of our other DIYs take a picture and tag us on Instagram -@oceanumrimor!