Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Cloth toilet paper

Also called cloth wipes or family cloth, cloth toilet paper is simply replacing disposable paper products with reusable, washable cloth ones. I made the switch last month and I really like it! When I was sewing some teeny tiny diapers for Zari's new doll, I noticed that I had lots of smaller scraps left over from making diapers. They were mostly washcloth sized--perfect for cloth wipes. I rounded off all the irregular corners and had an instant stash of cloth toilet paper. It's no extra work to use cloth toilet paper since they go in the wash together with Zari's diapers.

I keep the clean wipes in the bottom drawer of my bathroom vanity, which I can reach when I'm sitting on the toilet. Used wipes go in the diaper pail, which is right outside the bathroom door.

I should note that I keep "regular" toilet paper on hand for poop and other really messy things that I don't fancy throwing in the wash. I am amazed at how little toilet paper we go through now. If I were really motivated, I suppose I could dispense with the disposable TP altogether, but for now I'm content using cloth for pee (and blowing noses, etc) and paper for poop. Now that I'm pregnant, I have to pee all the time and the cloth has really cut down on our TP bills.

Although there are places that sell cloth toilet paper, it's ridiculously easy to make your own for cheap or even free. Cut up old t-shirts, flannel diapers/pajamas, or other knit material--no need to hem or serge! Cut old towels into smaller pieces and serge or hem the edges. Use old socks that have holes in the heels or toes. My own wipes are made of hemp fleece, cotton terry, or bamboo velour with the occasional old sock thrown in.

For only $0.50, you can download a Guide to Family Bathroom Wipes at Fern and Faerie. This blog post at Walk Slowly Live Wildly also has a detailed explanation of how her family uses cloth toilet paper, as well as just about every other imaginable cloth product to replace disposables.

If you aren't already using cloth toilet paper, I challenge you to make the switch!


  1. Radio West had a great interview with Rose George, author of The Big Necessity, a couple days ago. I thought her comments about the differences btw paper and water cultures were fascinating. People in water cultures think we're quite unhygienic to use just paper to cleanse the dirty stuff from our bodies. (The discussion about how urine isn't really "waste" and about recyclable/composting toilets, etc was fascinating too).

    So when I started reading your post, I was expecting something about your using water (and soap!) with the washcloths. Maybe a dry paper could be used to remove large particles, and then a wet washcloth for cleanliness -- though of course that wouldn't cut down on use of paper.

    When my mom made me soft cloth nursing pads, I liked those so much better than the disposable kind. I'd imagine cloth toilet paper would be similarly comfortable.

  2. One idea for poop is to use a peri bottle to rinse, and then you just sort of have to pat dry. Much less messy than using the cloth t.p. to actually wipe, and you're still not using disposable t.p.

  3. I no longer have anyone in diapers, but when I did, I used cloth toilet paper exclusively. I used it wet, like a wipe and found that I felt cleaner and since I was doing poopy diapers anyways, it wasn't bothersome.
    With 6 people in our house, plus all my clients, I often think of switching back for our family's use. We go through so much TP.

  4. Check out www.biffy.com! You'll never go back to any sort of tp ever. Seriously. We absolutely love ours.

  5. Hmm, the Biffy looks pretty cool although at $99 the price isn't very appealing. So after you wash, how do you dry off if you don't use some kind of tp, cloth or otherwise? I could also see little people (i.e., Zari) spraying the bathroom with it when I'm not supervising!

  6. We were discussing this at our playgroup today- one of the ladies does use family cloth and was talking about it. Since I've switched to cloth wipes- I started using the wipes as cloth pads and I wonder about using them for TP... They all get washed together anyway.

  7. I live on a boat, and paper down the head is a bother, a nuisance, and a continual source of disaster. Family cloth is the way to go. And I totally agree with Jane... once you're a water person, the paper thing is kinda gross. But of course you can't say that to most people; we're so hooked in to disposable paper everything.

    But really, once you've made the transition to cloth-everything-else, family cloth makes a lot of sense. And anything that keeps me from giving my money to someone else with nothing to show for it is a good thing.

  8. We have cloths that we'll use for both, peeing and pooping. If it's wet with warm water it works nicely and with less wipes on the rear end.

    We haven't had a diaper bucket in quite a while and I'm glad to sad good bye to it but I do need a replacement as a consequence.

  9. we have been using cloth family wipes for a few years. you'll never go back. we keep this info to ourselves mostly and supply TP for guests.

  10. love it! we'd been using cloth dipes from the beginning, and it occurred to us to switch everything over about 3 years ago. i've found that french terry makes a perfect wipe. smooth on one side, bumpy on the other, no need for spray or wetting, and just toss in the wash. i've washed poop wipes with regular clothes and not had a problem. my kids have had poop accidents in their pants and it washes out in the regular laundry, so i figure tossing in some wipes is essentially the same.

    we've stopped keeping regular TP for guests, too. instead i use it as an opportunity to get their brains moving in a different direction.

  11. Interesting. I don't see a lot of use for it now (since Brian rarely "wipes" with pee and I don't go through much) but I can see this being great when you have older kids and everyone is using tp -- esp. since kids seem to love to have enormous wads of tp to wipe with. Also prob. saves on water bills, too. Interesting, Rixa!! Almost every time I've switched from paper to cloth I've been really pleased (only exception is nursing pads which I really pref'd to be paper -- oh well, diff. strokes). Thanks!

  12. Hey, thanks for the link! I love family cloth.

    It is super easy to make your own - all of our family's are made from old towels! But many households these days don't have sewing machines, which is too bad!


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