Eco-quandary: To use toilet paper or to use toilet cloth … that is the oh-so-personal question

cloth tpWell, I did it. I switched to cloth toilet paper.

I am the lone voyager on this journey in my household. Little Cheap is interested, but frightened that she will flush the cloth down the toilet accidentally and get in trouble (she’s gleefully on the “let it mellow” bandwagon, however). Mr. Cheap is quietly aghast.

I’ve been thinking about the process for a while, and was further inspired by a discussion at Simple Living: Simplify + Reduce.

Then I had to accumulate my materials: a yard of flannel bought on sale for $1, a squirt bottle of water, the pinking shears to (hopefully) prevent my having to sew a zillion little cloths, and — the coup de grace — a fabulous asparagus pot bought at a yard sale for $1.

Potential “too much information” alert!

This week I dove into the process. (I’m going to share, because on most sites, nobody will talk nitty-gritty and I found it frustrating.) First, I cut wipes in rectangles about 4″ by 8″ — but this was really more than necessary, and I’m paranoid about Little Cheap’s fear, so I cut those in half to 4″ by 4″ squares. (If need be, we can use two!) As an added benefit, the small size fits nicely into a basket in the bathroom.

Following numerous suggestions online, I go, I squirt, I wipe, and I throw the wipe in the asparagus steamer. The asparagus steamer is a tall metal pot with two handles at the top and a ventilating lid, and inside a basket with a handle and drain holes in the bottom. I’ve loaded it with a solution of a tablespoon of washing soda and a few drops of tea tree oil (a natural antibacterial).

When laundry day comes, I’ll drain and rinse the pot and throw the wipes in with the towels or whatever. I’ll wash that load on hot, add vinegar to the rinse, and hang outside to dry, as we do with everything. This process worked well through two and a half years of cloth diapers, so I anticipate it will be fine here, too.

If you’re not ready for that step …

… at least consider the type of toilet paper you use. I’ll confess that I only recently, reluctantly renounced (again) my preference for cheap over green in this department, but it really is sick to think about using virgin wood to wipe your bum. This link at the Natural Resources Defense Council addresses the impact of non-recycled paper products on the environment:

I also am putting together a cost chart on types of toilet paper in my area (we’ll at least be keeping a courtesy roll on hand for guests). Watch for that next week. And meanwhile, “if it’s yellow, let it mellow.”


17 thoughts on “Eco-quandary: To use toilet paper or to use toilet cloth … that is the oh-so-personal question

  1. Jefferson says:

    Ok, so I’ve been enjoying reading your new(ish) blog (I’ve even subscribed to the RSS). While I don’t think I’ve taken any actions based on your advice, it’s certainly been good food for thought.

    This one though? Well, let’s just say I’m in the “quietly aghast” camp.

    I guess it’s not terribly different from cloth diapers, but I seem to recall something about a newborn’s diet being intrinsically *ahem* unsullied by the odors of an adult diet (which might explain why our cloth diapers seemed to disappear shortly after breastfeeding ended).

    Anyway, I wish you nothing but the best of luck with this endeavor, but please accept this message as a friendly declination of any future dinner invitations that may include asparagus.

  2. Keirra says:

    Ive been considering doing this, iam 17 & Iam about to move out of home with my partner and my newborn son.I really want to teach my children how to be eco-freindly and iam scabby and want to save money, I mean people must spend thousands on TP (it really does add up).Iam also using cloth nappies, cloth menstral pads…(they both have come a long way).They come in new absorbant materials like hemp and bamboo and there is alot of styles of nappies (pockets, fitted, AIO,flats ect)….

    Iam still deciding whether or not to use cloth toilet paper for number twos or not…lol how clean is it? would washing them in vinegar work?? do they need soaking ect? I will be line drying them so the sun should help sterilize them….

  3. erin says:

    Cool. I am glad I found this link. I realize that it is really not much different from what we do today with our toddler twins – we use cloth wipes primarily and cloth diapers. We put the dirty diapers in a covered pail and once a day we throw them in our front loading washing machine. It doesn’t seem to far to add our #1 cloths to say the least. I will have to see what the rest of my family thinks but thanks for the idea.

  4. cheaplikeme says:

    Great, glad you found it! I have kind of put this on hold over the winter, because I strongly prefer hanging the wipes to dry — but I have never heard of someone dying of the germs from normal use of cloth wipes (or more commonly used cloth diapers), so I’m going to get back on it this spring.

  5. Leanne says:

    I’m here. Am I fashionably late enough for this party.

    I think they’re a great idea. Not entirely sure hubby would go for it but I can always try.

    I would doubt germs would be an issue. I mean TP doesn’t get to be pure white or a selection of pretty pastel shades by accident. Trees don’t grow like that. That stuff is bleached and died and treated.

    Baby wet wipes are another evil. They’ve been banned from his house ever since DD basically got burnt by one and not a cheapy brand either but a really well known big brand here in the UK, I’ve used cloth fr her for over three years now. I can’t understand why the double standard between babies and adults.

    Btw I love that you provide more than the bog standard tips and tricks and I’ve added you to my blogroll. I’ll be back often.

  6. Becca says:

    As well, thank you for the nitty-gritty details. When you’re just evaluating the move (as we are), it’s imperative to know every detail. I did see something on another blog that I liked better than you asparagus pot. The woman used a drawstring PUL lined bag. Every two days, she dumped bag and all into the washer. I thought that might be even simpler.

    Thanks for your post!

  7. In the bush says:

    This is a great idea I have been using cloth menstrual pads for a while now and this seems like a logical step, slowly slowly. I used cloth nappies (Thats what we call them in Australia) with my older children. Thanks for posting this information. I might just start of using them for urine and see how it goes.

  8. Lori says:

    In our house is just me and my husband who uses VERY little paper. I use family wipes for urine only. I got a little step to open trash can for used wipes and recycled a cute basket for clean wipes. I made my own out of old T-shirts and bits of flannel I already had. Love those made out of very thick T-shirts…the flannel are just OK. I made my wipes double thick and 12″ squares that I fold into fourths. I wipe…lay it, wet side up, on top of the trash can to dry. By the time I need a wipe it is dry and I fold it over and use a clean section and lay it out to dry. I get 4 uses out of each cloth, never having to touch a dirty side and they go into the trash can dry. I do laundry once a week and have never had an odor problem. I feel like I get much cleaner with the family wipes than using TP. I actually miss them when I am away from home!

  9. beth sokolowski says:

    hi ! just wanted to say that using cloth wipes are no different than using cloth diapers on babies.i make my wipes the size of paper napkins.that way i can use napkin holders to store my wipes and look pretty too. I only use wipes for # 1. After use i put in a nice looking small trash can with a moving lid, then i just dump in the wash with towels.They come out fine. i use printed terrycloth. there are some very pretty prints out there. or i sometimes recycle old bath robes. I’ve been giving them as gifts. I call them coochy cloths and everyone loves them once they try them.our household spends average of20 to 30 dollars a month on toilet i never run out of my coochy cloths. Ilove to recycle

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