Reusable Toilet Paper Cloths

DIYers, we need you! Homesteaders, take the lead! The supply and demand of toilet paper is off-kilter during COVID-19 lockdown, and the nation needs us to reduce the demand. We have been practicing sustainability and resilience for years, sometimes just because it feels like the right thing to do. Now, in a time of need, we have the skills and mindset for resilience. Now is the time to roll up our sleeves to make roll replacements–reuseable “toilet not-paper” cloths.

As a homesteader, I could eat for weeks from my home supplies, but I don’t grow toilet paper. However, I can make some. 

Making reusable toilet “paper” cloths is easy. Dig through the fabric bin for some nice soft cotton or flannel to cut into more cloths. Use pinking shears if you have them, to prevent fraying edges, or sew the edges. You can make your cloths as simple or fancy as you like. There are also pretty cloths in patterns and bright colors for sale by small companies. They are soft and lovely and nice on my skin. I bought some at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR (wish I remembered the vendor name!). I may never go back!

Make them or buy them, conserving your paper rolls for when you really need them and helping out the desperate customers at Costco. Ladies, if you like these, you’ll love GladRags for your monthly moon cycle. I’ve turned several friends onto GladRags who have thanked me for this lifestyle change.

As I take inventory of the two rolls in my bathroom and dread the store outing to find toilet paper, I am motivated for change. I can make it last longer. I’ve heard about the shortages in my town this week. I certainly don’t want to make several trips out of distancing, in a search for toilet paper. And I definitely don’t want to join the masses competing for short supply, fights, grabs and all. I don’t want to play. I’d rather adjust my habits. Cloth for pee, squares reserved for poo.

Washing reusable toilet cloths is easy. I used cloth diapers for my babies. I know all about washing bathroom products. A bag of pee cloths would be no big deal at all. A shake of oxygen bleach or vinegar in a hot wash cycle for good measure, and we’re good. If there ever was a time to take this on, now would be good.

There is a reason beyond hoarding for the shortage. Toilet paper is sitting unused in the supply cabinets of schools and workplaces and restaurants, while kids and employees are at home all day and evening. They are using their home bathrooms now all the time, using 40% more toilet paper at home.* Cloth sets are only reasonable to use at home, which is exactly where we are all using the bathroom these days.

This has been popular just for fun and sustainability, often dubbed The Family Cloth. That label doesn’t resonate with me. It sounds like too much family sharing. As the only female in my household, these will be my own private cloth set. But I imagine a household full of women and girls could really save some rolls here. 

My only word of caution: Don’t flush them! Flushing cotton wipes will clog pipes and damage septic systems. But there is a surprisingly persistent habit to toss the paper in the bowl. So the key is to close the lid before wiping. It breaks the habitual toss into the bowl. I keep the wipes in a small container or drawstring bag until washing. 

Saving the squares for Number Two will conserve significant rollage. This is my game plan. But even for that, I have to say, paper is not a requirement. In Japan, they use a bidet instead of paper. Can’t we adjust? I’ve got a squirt bottle and a towel; I’m set! I’m not kidding. This can be done if necessary.

So “pee cloths” or “toilet cloth” or my friend’s term, “ladies wipes”, call them what you want, but considering using them, at least for a while. And why not? As a resilient homesteader, I know how to roll with the punches, wipe out the issue, clean up the problem. I can create a self-sustainable, reusable bathroom wiping system that works. Especially now. 

written by Ilene White Freedman for Mother Earth News published on 4/7/2020

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