I tried re-useable cotton pads for a week — and I'm now converted

If you're engaged in the sustainability chatter surrounding the fashion industry, you'll already be aware that cotton is one of the most damaging fabrics. Even though it's a natural material, the amount of water it takes to produce is astronomical (almost 8,000 litres to make a pair of jeans), but we rarely relate these figures to the beauty industry. We all know now that make-up wipes are bad for our faces and the planet — one only needs to read about the London fatberg to see how they clog up our waterways and sewerage systems. But what about all the cotton pads we use instead?

Although I cleanse my face with a flannel or muslin cloth, I still consistently use cotton pads to remove eye make-up, as they are gentle and precise on this delicate area. But what harm are these causing the planet? The amount of water used to make any cotton product destroys natural habitats and wildlife, so even a small cotton pad is having an effect. They might feel insignificantly small in comparison to other polluters, but I use three a day, every day. Imagine seeing the amount used in a year stacked in front of you — for me, it adds up to over 1,000. Confronting this outrageous number led me to look into re-useable cotton pads to see if I could make the switch.

What's the difference?

The re-useable kind is still made of 100% cotton. But they are not cotton fibres like your average cotton pad; they feel more like fabric. You use them in exactly the same way as a disposable one, by soaking them in make-up remover or toner. Instead of throwing them away afterwards you just pop them in the washing machine so they can be used again.

Where to buy?


Cotton Facial Rounds; €5.45 at etsy.com

Although I haven't seen any in bricks and mortar stores, they are readily available online. Amazon and Etsy stock them in a variety of different sized packs and colours, so they are easy to get a hold of. I chose a small pack of five from Etsy, as I didn't want to commit to a big 24 bundle until I had tried and tested them. They were €5.45 for a pack of five, which is a totally justifiable price when you know they can be used over and over again.

When and how do you wash?

An IMAGE staffer did point out to me that the energy used to wash these would surely cancel out my sustainable good deed. It would if you were washing them in the machine alone, but I wash mine in a small laundry bag that I can throw in with my other washing. This way, they don't get lost or damaged in the machine and you can still feel like you're making a small step to save the planet.

These are 100% cotton so they can be washed at 40°, as well as tumble-dried and ironed. This makes them easy to look after and throw in with any other washing.

How many do you need?

As these are twice the size of an ordinary cotton pad, I find I only need one to remove all my eye makeup, but I would use a second if applying any toner. If that's the case (and considering how frequently I get time to do laundry) I would need 14 to see me through a week. This isn't so bad, as they are often sold online in packs of 20-24.


The verdict

  • I found them super soft and gentle on the eye area
  • More gentle than a flannel/muslin cloth but more effective than regular cotton pads, as they don't disintegrate
  • They washed really well — all my mascara and make-up came off in the machine so they came out looking clean
  • They can get a little misshapen in the wash so make sure to flatten them and dry flat after washing
  • They are a great alternative to disposable cotton pads and I will now definitely be making the switch!

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