Panty Liners vs. Sanitary Pads: What’s The Difference and Which One Is Right for You?

13 February 2024

Panty liners and sanitary pads both have their uses and most people will want a few of each in their stash of reusable period protection. Customers often question which they should buy and what they should use the different types we sell for, read on for our explanations and common uses of each.

What Are Panty Liners?

Panty liners are designed with poppers or to stick into your your regular underwear and are thin, small, lightly absorbent pads to protect underwear from discharge, spotting, light period flow or very small bladder leaks and to keep you feeling clean and fresh. They can also be used to backup a tampon or menstrual cup.

They can be used when you are waiting for your period to start and aren't sure when it is coming, if you have break out bleeding in between periods. They are useful to keep you feeling dry if you have daily vaginal discharge or more over ovulation. Perfect for tweens and teens on their first few lighter menstrual cycles or when they first start having discharge. Light flow period pants can be used for these situations too. 


What Are Sanitary Pads?

Period pads are more absorbent, longer, thicker pads to catch and absorb heavy flow period blood, offer extra protection for urinary leaks or your waters when in labour. They have an adhesive strip or popper into underwear to prevents leaks onto your clothes, they come in a variety of sizes and materials to cover regular to heavy menstrual flow. 

Key Differences Between Panty Liners and Sanitary Pads

The key differences between panty liners and sanitary pads are -

  • absorbency levels - panty liners absorb less
  • thickness - sanitary napkins are thicker
  • size - panty liners are smaller in length, period pads come in longer sizes to cover day, night and maternity use
  • intended use - panty liners for anything in small amounts like spotting, very light menstrual flow, discharge, very mild bladder weakness; menstrual pads and incontinence pads are for regular to heavy period flow including perimenopausal flooding, mild to moderate pee leaks
  • cost - because they are smaller, panty liners tend to be cheaper or with disposables there will be more liners in the pack than heavier flow pads


"Washable pads I ordered some washable pads with a charcoal lining, they're super soft and wash lovely. I started using washable pads from Cheeky Wipes a few years ago and have never looked back - I also buy them for my daughters to use.

Exchanging items is also straightforward, as I had to exchange my initial order as I had made a mistake when ordering. The replacement pads were sent quickly. I always look forward to an email on Cheeky Tuesday with their offers!" Poppy, Feb '24 Trustpilot

Panty Liners vs. Sanitary Pads: Which One Should I Choose?

The top factors to consider when choosing between panty liners and sanitary towels might include flow and activity level based on different situations - daily wear, exercise, length of wear, overnight, postpartum for example.

If your tracker says your period is imminent opt for a panty liner in your underwear just incase, if you are on day 2 of your period and you have some flooding usually, opt for a night pad.

If you know that you tend to have tiny bladder leaks when you arrive home from a walk opt for a panty liner, if you tend to have larger leaks when doing star jumps opt for a heavier absorbency incontinence pad for your exercise classes.

If you are working from home and have access to the toilet regularly opt to wear panty liners for light flow but if you are heading out for 3 or 4 hours and aren't sure whether you will have access to toilets go for a more absorbent menstrual pad.

Periods, discharge and pee leaks are so unpredictable. Disposable period products can be wasted if you need to wear them 'just incase', choosing reusable period pads, reusable panty liners and reusable incontinence pads can reduce your monthly costs, be gentler on your skin, and reduce landfill.

Choosing sustainable eco friendly feminine care products means that you always have supplies at hand to suit all situations. 

Can You Use Panty Liners as Pads?

In general, panty liners aren’t as suitable for a period as a sanitary pad. However, for personal preference if you have very light flow, then you could use a panty liner where others might use a pad.

"Great reusable panty liners I already had a few of the fearless superlight incontinence pads. I use these as panty liners and they are really great for that. I bought some more as I kept running out of them before they came back from the washing pile.

They are the best at staying in place. They don't slip and don't spin round your pants. As usual, the customer service from Cheeky Wipes is great." Nicola, September '23 Trustpilot

If you found this blog useful and want to read more - 

Menstrual cup v's pad: What's right for you?

Do you need to wear a pad with period pants?

If you want to more information about switching to reusable pee and period products, feel free to contact the team. You can drop them a email or use the online chat. The team all use the products themselves and nothing is TMI. We all happily overshare our own experiences.

About the Author : Kirstin on our customer services team loves spending her days helping customers with their reusable period product needs and advising cloth nappy using families. Kirstin lives with her three teenagers and loves walking and sea swimming year round in our beautiful bay.

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