After reading Being Green, a friend asked me to elaborate on family cloth. She wondered why she would want to use it. Let’s start with this: What is family cloth?
Family cloth is squares of cloth used to wipe at the toilet. Don’t leave yet! Let me explain the logic and benefits first.
I hadn’t thought much about toilet paper. I grew up with it — it was a normal part of life. Well, a lot of “normal” parts of life that I hadn’t thought much about before have now been changed drastically. Like paper towels. Those are long gone. At one point, I found Seventh Generation recycled toilet paper sitting on the grocery store shelf. Well, I scooped that baby right up. Why isn’t all toilet paper made from recycled paper? After all, we wipe our butts with it. Well, apparently particular standards of comfort are only reached with the use of virgin pulp (from freshly harvested trees).
According to this incredible article, which you should read, 27,000 trees are felled each day for paper products. Roughly 10% of that figure is attributed to toilet paper. That means the world uses 2,700 trees a day to wipe their tushies. Due to the high demand for paper products, forests are slashed and plantations are planted. Plantations of trees, yes, but they do not serve the same amazing purposes as forests.
So I was fairly satisfied with using my recycled toilet paper, but my husband was not satisfied with the higher cost. “In fact,” he told me, “In India, they joke about Americans needing paper to wipe.” Well I want to save the planet and all, but I wasn’t quite ready to do it their way either.
Now, I’ve also mentioned that we cloth diaper Forrest. Instead of disposable baby wipes, we use baby wash cloths that I purchased at a second hand store.We just get it wet, wipe his bum, then throw it in the wet bag with the diaper to be washed. I started thinking if we do it for him, what’s the difference if I do it? We have extra space in our diaper loads, because you can only wait so many days before washing them. That means I could wash the wipes I use in the same hot wash and not even use any extra water or electricity to wash them.
At first, I hadn’t really contemplated whether other people did this. But then I came across the words “family cloth” on the internet and found out that that’s what I’m doing. I don’t know who named it that, but it’s kind of a creepy name. I guess I would have ended up calling them flannel butt wipes, but sometimes you have to follow a language instead of making up your own.
I cut up some flannel receiving blankets I had purchased at (yup) the second hand store and faux-serged the edges to prevent fraying. You can use any fabric you have sitting around the house, but use a natural fiber. Polyester will not absorb well. The next batch I make will be cut-up t-shirts, because it sounds heavenly. We keep them in a basket on top of the toilet and then throw them in a wet bag that is hanging next to the toilet. If you are not familiar with wet bags, they are just bags with a waterproof liner, which allow you to keep wet items contained. The one you see here is a Planet Wise wet bag in medium. I just throw it all (bag included) in with the diapers. I have three medium wet bags for diaper changes away from the house. I’d recommend two, so you have a bag up while the other is washing. When we are done with diapers, I will just choose a load of laundry to wash on hot and throw them in that.
Is this sanitary? Right now, we only use our wipes for blowing nose, wiping pee, wiping drippies off the seat, and cleaning hair out of the tub after showers. Just like any other family with kids, we have pee in about every load of laundry. It’s on clothes, sheets, cloths to clean the carpet from accidents, etc. People with pets also sometimes have their fair share of pee laundry. And poo, too. For all of those things. It leaks out of diapers and dogs do it on the floor. It’s okay. We clean it and everything can go on as usual. Use a hot wash or sanitation cycle to be sure.
We’ve still been using recycled toilet paper for the second order of business. But then I read this in the article I linked above: “It is illogical to use something dry to clean the dirtiest part of our body when we use water to clean everything else.” Yeah… It totally is. I plan on buying a hand-held bidet that will double as a diaper sprayer. Then I can spray clean and dry with a flannel wipe. That sounds way cleaner, and comfier.
Comfier they are. Toilet paper is paper. Once you start wiping with soft, absorbent, fluffy fabric, you will wonder why you ever wiped with scratchy paper. And then there are the other flaws with paper. Sometimes it absorbs through. Sometimes it rips. And sometimes it leaves traces. Down there. It’s toilet paper graffiti. And let’s not forget the TP trials that come with children: clogged and overflowing toilets, whole rolls dropped into the toilet, and of course the game of Let’s Unroll This Spinny White Thing.
For added, measure, I’ll include savings. On average, according to Charmin, a person uses 20,805 sheets of toilet paper per year. Let’s say the brand you buy is $0.24 per 100 sheets (I got this estimate here.). That’s $50 per year per person. So a family of four could save $200 a year. It’s not a lot, but it is an unnecessary expense, especially if you are struggling to get by.
Now that wasn’t so bad, was it? You are now more informed and probably yearning to cut up some t-shirts to place elegantly atop your loo.