I attach a label to the underside of the pads to indicate the level of absorbency. As a general rule one layer bamboo/hemp is "Light", 2 are "Medium" and 3 is "Heavy". Reversible pads have no labels. Most pads have PUL waterproofing. Medium absorbency pads without PUL have an "No PUL" label. (Older pads used the format of "L" for "Light", "M" for "Medium" and "H" for "Heavy").
To wear the pad, place it into your underpants as you would place a disposable pad. The side with the label goes against your underpants and the wings wrap around and snap together. My longer length pads are designed with a wider back section, however you can wear the pads with the wider section at the front if you find that suits you better. How long you can go before changing pads will depend on your flow and preference. Some women like to change their pads frequently to remain dry, other women are happy to leave the pads on longer. Every 2-4 hours is about average for a moderate flow and a medium absorbency pad. You would change as often as you would do with a disposable pad. Pads without waterproofing should be checked for leaking through every so often until you are familiar with your flow and how well the pad performs. Pads become heavier as they become more "full", which is one way to judge when to change the pad.
Which way up?
Some of my pads are made with print side facing up, some have it facing down. To help solve this common problem of which way up, and to help you work out the absorbency, I normally attach a label on the underneath (the side that goes against your underpants) of the pad. If the pad has no label, then it should be able to be worn either side up.
Cloth Pads & Underpants
Different shaped underpants may have an effect on the way the pads snap around at the crotch. Sometimes wider gussetted underpants will gather ("bunch") in at the crotch when a pad is snapped around them. This generally does not affect the performance of the pad, and the underpants will flare back out to their normal shape at the ends of the pad. Often the gusset of the underpants curves/bunches/gathers slightly while being worn anyway, but you can't see it. Some of my pads have 2 snap settings to allow you to adjust the width to suit your needs. If a winged pad slides around in your underpants, it is usually due to the underpants being too loose, or the wings may be snapped too loosely for the crotch width of your underpants. Snug fitting cotton underpants are recommended for use with cloth pads (synthetic underpants can be too "slippery" for cloth pad use).
When you change pads, there are different methods to deal with washing the pad. Lifestyle as well as your blood's tendancy to stain can determine which method you find suits you best. If using the soaking method (my personal preference), place the used pad in a container of plain cold water to soak until you wash them. You may leave them soaking until the end of your period and wash them all together at the end, or wash at the end of each day. A little teatree or lavender essential oil in the soaking water helps combat any odour, however it is recommended to change the soaking water every day or two if not washing straight away. If you prefer to "dry pail" your pads (that is to not soak them), then you would either just place the used pads into your laundry basket and leave them until you wash them, or rinse them out until almost clean, then put them in the laundry pile. Some women like to rinse the pads out straight away, some like to rinse them in the shower each morning. The cloth pads can be handwashed or machine washed, on hot, cold or warm setting. You should not use fabric softeners or dryer sheets on cloth pads, as this can cause them to repel liquid. Bleach and other sanitising/stain removing compounds are not recommended as they can deteriorate and fade the fabric over time. A little baking soda rubbed onto fresh stains before washing can help remove stains. Hot wash only if you have thoroughly rinsed the pads first, as hot water can set stains. Tumble drying pads is not recommended, as synthetic fibres (eg fleece or PUL) and snaps may be effected (also be careful of the snaps as they can become hot to touch). If you need to iron the pad (cotton can become wrinkled), do so on a low heat and iron only the cotton side (do not iron PUL or synthetic fabric), being careful not to touch the snaps.
The snaps I use are professionally applied polyacetal resin snaps. These do not rust and are very durable. When unsnapping your pads, you should carefully pull apart the two sides by holding the part of the fabric close to the snap. Do not simply grab the pad by the wings and "rip" the snaps open. Doing so can damage the pad and wear out the snaps quicker.