Family Cloth Method (How I Stopped Using Toilet Paper)

Cloth toilet paper. That's right today we are getting into the nitty gritty and talking about wiping- zero-waste style!

The breakdown will be the following:

  • Problems with conventional toilet paper.
  • My journey to where I am now- because it is and was a process- not many people just wake up one day and go “ya know what? I'm going to stop using toilet paper”
  • Why I use the family cloth method
  • Tips and tricks 
  • And as always some fewer extreme methods- because I believe that not every swap will be for everyone.

 

The problem with conventional toilet paper

  • The average American butt depletes 141 rolls of toilet paper per year
  • It takes 37 gallons of water to make one roll of toilet paper

 

Here are some common concerns about conventional toilet paper: 

Deforestation

Many are concerned about deforestation, to make one roll of toilet paper will take 1.5 pounds of virgin wood pulp. Virgin fiber pulp (wood pulp that has never been used before) is harvested largely from forests in Canada and Sweden. Overharvesting destroys natural habitats for many native plant and animal species. According to the Natural Resource Defense Council 15% of deforestation is due to toilet paper alone.

 I do want to note that there are forests that are farmed specially to be milled. As it is a farm it is common practice to replant after harvesting but since trees take several years to mature many argue that it is not sustainable. But I do want to add that tidbit for a well-rounded view. 

 

Chemical Pollution

The lengthy process to turn wood pulp to a luxurious butt tissue is harsh. The manufacturing process of toilet paper releases a slew of toxic chemicals.

 Once the harvested trees arrive at a pulp processing mill, the tree is chipped and mixed with “cooking chemicals” to produce pulp. The pulp is then bleached to create that perfect whiten paper we all know. Depending on materials used the paper is then perforated, scented, embossed, and colored. In the 1990’s elemental chlorine bleach was used, which released toxic chemicals into both the air and water. Since then, companies now use elemental chlorine free (ECF) bleach- although an improvement to what was being previously used, ECF bleach as a byproduct still releases chlorine gas into the atmosphere. 

My Journey To Going Paper Free…

I have not always been so open to the idea of not using toilet paper! When I was first getting into zero-waste I read about something called the family cloth method on one of the zero-waste forums. My initial reaction was:

not using toilet paper

 

The thought never crossed my mind again. Fast forward to when I moved out on my own- the idea of buying something to throw it away just did not sit well to me. Being the frugal person I am, I saw it as I was LITERALLY flushing money down the toilet. So, I started looking into alternatives. Again, I came across the family cloth method and decided to try and understand what it was all about. What I learned surprised me and made WAY more sense than what I assumed it was. 

 

So What Is Family Cloth? 

 

Simply put, they are just reusable cloth wipes.

family cloth

Photo Credit: justaddcloth.com

 

Okay… but isn't wiping your butt with cloth gross?

 

Nope! It is reusable- but just like how we rewash and reuse our underwear; they get washed, dried, and cleaned. You have a stack of them, so you aren't using the same one rag every time to wipe (more on the whole process below).

no toilet paper

Photo Credit:etsy.com

 

Benefits of using family cloth method

  • Saves money- A survey from TUSHY found that the average American will spend $11,198 on toilet paper in their lifetime. 
  • Reusable aka good for the environment.
  • No toxic chemicals – We don’t think about toilet paper containing chemicals, but they contain BPA and BPS and are bleached. Imagine wiping those bleached sheets on your most sensitive parts!
  • Softer  
  • Keeps You Cleaner – Family cloth is more substantial and durable than toilet paper, so it does a better job of cleaning you.

So how do I use this method? 

I have a bidi so after I do my business, I power wash my butt hole with my bidi. After I am all clean, I use the cloth to “wipe” but it is more of you drying yourself. Then I put my dirty cloth in a wet bag and that's it!

When my bag is full, and I am running low on wipes I will do a load. I wash it on hot (that is about the only time other than my cleaning rags that I will be on hot, you can toss them in the dryer. (it’s the dryer that does the bulk of the sanitizing) or you can line dry (the sun does the sanitizing). Then they are ready to reuse.  

Now. I live alone- so I don't have to worry about anyone using my butt wipes. For those of you who live with others or a family I recommend assigning different color clothes to each member that way everyone has their own. 

Storing Family Cloth

To store them you can keep them in a basket or box on top of the toilet, next to the toilet, in a clean wet bag, or (and what I personally do) in a drawer next to the toilet. I recommend keeping around 24 pieces of cloth at minimum. You can purchase already made cloth wipes or if you are frugal like me you can cut some pieces of flannel in squares and sew around the edges (or hem them if you are fancy).

 no toilet paper

Photo Credit: veronicashukla.com

Alternative sustainable toilet paper options 

Not ready to give up toilet paper? No worries! Here are a few more eco-friendly options to consider. 

Bidet attachment: 

I LOVE my bidet attachment. I got a Tushy bidet  I will have a full review coming soon. Bidet attachments are great because they reduce or can eliminate toilet paper usage. They also provide a better clean to your bits and bobs. I once heard the great analogy of “You wouldn't just wipe your hands if you had mud on them, you would rinse them- why don't you do the same with your butt!?”

Recycled: 

Look for toilet paper that contains recycled content. 100% and unbleached is the best thing to look for! 

If you can only find recycled paper in plastic film (plastic #4), recycle the film with the plastic grocery bag (plastic #4) recycling. You can usually find this type of recycling in front of grocery stores. 

 

Bulk:

Another great option is to buy this toilet paper by the case. When you buy a case, it often comes packaged in a cardboard box and each roll is individually wrapped in paper. This can be found online or at a local office supply store. 

Remember to do what you can! Reducing your environmental impact is a process, if you don't feel ready for something like family cloth, try out one of the options listed above! 

As always, Have a beautiful day!