Most of us know the benefits and are religious users of reusable shopping bags, cloth napkins, dishtowels (instead of paper towels) and on and on. But only a handful of us eco-eccentrics have taken the next logical step into cloth toilet paper.
Recycled toilet paper is great and we keep some on hand for guests. But it still uses an awful lot of resources to produce the roll of toilet paper each person will go through every two weeks. The benefits of cloth toilet paper are numerous, including:
- Economical. They can be made from old materials to cost you nothing or if a special pattern of fabric texture is desired can be purchased for under $5. And as they last for years, it’s the last purchase you’ll need to make!
- Easy to make. Whether you’re using old material or new, they are easy to use and can require little to no sewing depending on the fabric.
- Sustainable. No factory production, shipping, stocking, driving to the store when you’ve run low. No special soaps are required and no separate washes are needed.
- Enjoyable. Once you’ve tried cloth wipes you’ll never go back.
Cloth wipes fall into the same category as cloth diapers and my hope is that one day will be just as accepted. I promise it’s not as gross or as difficult a system as it would seem to be. If you’re thinking this is something you may try, keep reading. (If you’re totally grossed out, bookmark this page and come back to it once the idea has sunk in!)
If you are unsure how this will go, don’t bother buying fabric just yet. Instead find an old shirt that has seen too many days and cut it into squares about 4×4 inches. Jersey tshirts actually make fantastic cloth wipes (they are absorbent and generally soft), so many people stick with this option. They also do not fray and therefore require no sewing, which is perfect for those of us who can’t tell a bobbin from a backstitch. You can also opt for old rags.
Start with only using cloth wipes for urine. Urine is sterile and easiest to wash. This will give you a general idea of how you like using cloth and what system works best for you. After you’re sure, you can try the system with poo. Some people only use cloth for #1 and that’s great! Do what makes you comfortable!
Making Cloth Wipes
If you’re like me and what to add a little pizazz to your bathroom, you can choose to purchase a patterned fabric. I highly suggest choosing flannel. Not only is flannel absorbent, it’s also softest. Fleece, while very soft, is not as absorbent and we don’t like it as much as the flannel. Flannel will need some stitches around the edges to prevent fraying. (Or you can allow it to fray naturally but this may cause your TP to fall apart sooner.) A Serger is nice if you’re so inclined, but a simple stitch is all that’s necessary. Another option, although more expensive, would be to buy a stockpile of inexpensive cotton washcloths or cloth handkerchiefs.
We keep our stack of wipes near the toilet (duh). We also keep a wet bag nearby for storage of used wipes until washing. Some people that use their wipes for #2 find the use of a bucket with a vinegar/water solution handy. We haven’t found it necessary. In one bathroom, our wipes are kept in an old container, which I don’t suggest, as cleaning that thing is a real pain. The wet bag, however, can be thrown into the wash. Easy peasy!
Using the Wipes
Um. I’m sure you guys can figure this one out, but just in case: Each wipe is only used once before they are washed!
This is what everyone wants to know, right? Washing cloth wipes is very simple. It’s really no different than washing underwear. They can be washed in cold, warm or hot water although most people choose the latter two options, especially if anyone has been sick. They do not need to be washed in their own load. However, we don’t mix them with things like dishcloths, napkins, dishtowels, etc. They tend to go in with socks or Justin’s work clothes. Some people soak them first or use extra detergent or a heavier load. We haven’t found any of that to be necessary. They can be line dried (which gives the added benefit of sun sterilization) or thrown in the dryer. If you already use cloth diapers in your home, they are easily worked into that system.
If you’re still worried about germs stick with wipes for urine only (or remember that not all germs are bad and more e.coli germs can usally be found on our toothbrushes than our toilets!).
I’ve gone into more (embarassing, funny, gross) details on my blog but I’ll save you the trauma. You are, of course, welcome to ask me any questions by posting a comment below.
So, have I convinced anyone to try cloth toilet paper? ;)