Guest Post by Anjanette of Raising The Barrs
It used to be hard for me to imagine a world without disposables. In fact, I grew up regularly using paper plates and plastic silverware at meals. We had a handful of dish rags and hand towels tucked in a drawer, but they were rarely taken out. We even used paper towels in the bathroom.
The first time I saw cloth napkins at a dinner table, I was afraid to use them. The idea of cleaning and reusing cloth items was completely foreign to me.
Now, years and three children later, I have come to appreciate a lifestyle that minimizes dependency on disposable items. We use cloth diapers, cloth menstrual pads, and cloth in place of napkins and paper towels in the kitchen. We’ve even stopped buying toilet paper!
Using cloth instead of paper in the bathroom is politely referred to as “family cloth.” It could be used just for certain family members (potty training toddlers who need wiped frequently), only for urine or bms but not both, or part time with toilet paper available. Our family has more or less replaced toilet paper usage completely, though we still have it around for guests.
Just in case you aren’t completely disgusted (or maybe even if you are but are still intrigued) by the idea, I’ll lay out some of the reasons for and methods of using family cloth:
Why in the world???
- Money – Family cloth is almost free. Other than the cost of water and detergent, there’s no reason to ever spend money on bathroom wipes again. Some people choose to purchase a new set of cloths dedicated to bathroom use, but this is unnecessary as wipes can be made from any available cloth, including old t-shirts and bed sheets.
- Health – Using cloth gives you complete control over the materials you are using to clean your most sensitive parts. If you use a gentle detergent you will have the peace of mind that you aren’t exposing your family to the harsh chemicals (such as chlorine) that are often found in disposable toilet paper. You will also be able to clean skin more thoroughly with cloth wipes because they can be dampened before use. I also find that my hands stay cleaner with cloth than paper.
- Sustainability – You’ll never run out – someone will always be outgrowing or staining some piece of clothing. Even if money gets tight, you won’t have to worry about toilet paper.
- Stewardship – In addition to being easy on your wallet (which means you’ll have more money to use on important things like healthy food), family cloth places less of a burden on the planet we’ve been given to care for. Cloth eliminates the over-use of trees, chemicals, plastic packaging, and if you already cloth diaper then you won’t even be doing an extra load of laundry!
But how does it REALLY work?
- Choose your cloth – As I mentioned above, wipes can be made from old t-shirts or sheets (jersey or flannel work best since they are so soft). You can also re-purpose flat diapers or baby wash cloths. If you are feeling fancy and want to make your own from a material that frays, make sure you hem any raw edges.
- Set up your bathroom – We store our wipes in an open basket on our over-the-toilet organizer. You might want to conceal yours in a bathroom cabinet, or container with a lid. I appreciate ours being within grabbing and wetting distance from the sink and toilet. Find a creative solution that works with your layout & décor.
- Use your cloth – Most people prefer to wet cloths with water as needed and then toss in a lined wet bag (sold in stores that carry cloth diapers), diaper pail, or lidded trash can. Easy peasy! Our wet bag hangs on the back of our bathroom door.
- Wash your cloth – If you use cloth diapers, throw them in the same load and dry on line or in dryer. Otherwise, wash separately. I prefer to do a short load on cold to remove any waste particles, and then a hot wash with detergent to make sure they are clean. Line drying helps keep them looking and smelling nice due to the sun’s bleaching affects. Be careful about using harsh detergent, fabric softener, or bleach, as they will shorten the life of your cloth and potentially irritate your skin.
You don’t have to do all or nothing with family cloth! When we decided to switch, my husband wasn’t keen on the idea but was fine with the rest of us forgoing the paper roll. It didn’t take long for him to get on board, but he still uses paper more than the rest of us. Consider a trial run on just your young kids or on yourself and see how it goes!
What do you think? Way too frugal for your liking? Can’t wrap your mind around a load of “that kind” of laundry? Do you think it would work for you and your family or is it just too extreme?
Anjanette is mother to three young children and wife to a librarian. She lives in Juneau, Alaska and blogs at http://www.raisingthebarrs.com