Alternatives to Toilet Paper: Switching to Family Cloth

Could you live without toilet paper? How to ditch toilet paper and save money. Learn to make and use reusable family cloth (cloth wipes).

How to live without toilet paper: Saving money and the environment by switching to reusable cloth wipes.

Could you live without toilet paper? How to ditch toilet paper and save money.

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You don't need toilet paper. It is NOT a necessity. I was reading a survival site and they were trying to estimate how much toilet paper you should save up for the apocalypse and I had to chuckle because toilet paper is NOT the item I'd recommend trying to store for the (relatively unlikely) imminent collapse of our society. Perhaps I'm an optimist, perhaps I'm just conscious of our storage space, or perhaps it's because I'm a realist- but if there's an apocalypse, I'll be okay if toilet paper is the item I run out of.  Let's talk about why.

We began using cloth wipes and cloth diapers on my first son in 2011. I liked the idea of the soft fabrics of cloth diapers against my son's skin instead of plastic. At the time, I was super grossed out by the idea of cloth wipes. Eventually, after reading other peoples' experiences with cloth, I became curious. Now I'm a convert.

Cloth wipes are often called "family cloth" and they are like using a washcloth to wipe yourself. They're comfortable, they're clean, and they're affordable.

Yes, it seems gross when you hear it. But THINK about it. You launder soiled underwear. Most people don't just throw their underwear away. And if you have children, then you've likely dealt with a diaper explosion before- and you probably didn't throw those clothes away. You just deal with it and launder the clothes.

By using cloth wipes, you can save money and decrease your impact on the environment.  We still buy toilet paper for guests and occasional use, but we have been transitioning more and more to using just cloth. We've noticed a significant decrease in how much we spend on many disposable products. And once you switch to family cloth, using regular toilet paper is akin to using the cheapest toilet paper on the shelf. "Ew, toilet paper."

Using Cloth Wipes

Wetting the wipes with water first is the most comfortable option. Wipe. Dirty wipes are put into a wet bag and then laundered. Very simple. And the best part is that it's a much cleaner option than toilet paper. It's also a lot easier to use than disposable wipes or toilet paper when potty training a child. Unlike toilet paper, fabric doesn't leave "residue" behind on your body. It also seems to do a better job cleaning you than toilet paper does.

A wet bag can hold all of your dirty family cloth until you're ready to launder them.
Wet Bag

Laundering Cloth Wipes

To wash family cloth, I usually put them through with our cloth diapers. But you could wash them by themselves or with towels, depending on your preference. I run my diapers and wipes through the washer on a quick cycle with NO detergent first- this is just to rinse the diapers and wipes with cold water. Next I put them in for a full "heavy soil" cycle with high heat, detergent, and a bit of white vinegar.

You don't want to put any "solids" (if you know what I mean) through the wash. This really shouldn't be a frequent issue. But if you happen to have some solids, you can just rinse the wipes in your toilet. Again- not really a typical issue. If this is confusing, think of it this way- if you would launder your clothes with the degree of soiling, then it will be fine in the wash. But you probably would shake out anything loose on your clothes to avoid having it stay in your washing machine. For example, I've found that mud washes out, but if I launder sand then I end up with sand throughout my washer and dryer. Similarly, food particles tend to hang out in my washer and dryer.

Don't use any detergent that has fabric softener in it- fabric softeners tend to decrease the absorbency of fabrics so they're not a good option for cloth diapers or wipes. I use method Free & Clear which I like because it's less messy than other detergents, I can subscribe and save the refills, and I can buy refills for the pump.

If you don't want to deal with #2, then you can use the cloth wipes for #1 and save your toilet paper for #1.

Sewing Cloth Wipes

Sewing cloth wipes is very easy. You just use squares of flannel. I use "two ply" or two layers and serge them together. They're cheap to make, easy to sew, and easy to wash. If you don't sew, you can just buy cloth wipes to use (or use thin wash cloths). I recommend picking up flannel when it's on sale.

I wrote all about using reusable cloth products and other products that save me money in my book, "The Complete Guide to Using, Laundering, and Sewing Reusable Cloth Products." You get sign up below for a FREE sample of the book.  Enjoy!

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DIY Danielle: Alternatives to Toilet Paper: Switching to Family Cloth
Alternatives to Toilet Paper: Switching to Family Cloth
Could you live without toilet paper? How to ditch toilet paper and save money. Learn to make and use reusable family cloth (cloth wipes).
DIY Danielle
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