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Family Cloth – Beyond Toilet Paper

by Tiffany in A Green Home

Family Cloth Wipes

Remember our discussion about toilet paper awhile back? The fluffy white stuff is generally very bad for the planet. Recycled TP is better and is what we buy as a family. Although in the back of my mind I knew that even recycled TP was not the BEST option for a green family… but the alternative known as “family cloth” really kind of grossed me out. And no it wasn’t really rational because I have no issue with cloth baby wipes and cloth diapers. When some of my lovely readers commented that they were using some form of cloth wipes in their household I knew I had to at least give it a try.

I am not willing to go whole hog at this point and frankly may never be but I am happy with our compromise.

So what is family cloth exactly? It is the name given to the process of using cloth wipes or rags instead of toilet paper. There are many families out there that have made this leap, choosing to ensure that no trees are hazed simply for their convenience in wiping their backsides. Cloth wipes or rags are easy to use, inexpensive, they last a good long while, and they are reusable. Reusable kicks disposable butt hands down.

Some of the moms who commented on my toilet paper post shared that they were either using family cloth all the time or part of the time. I chose to try using cloth part time as well. This means my daughter and I use cloth wipes for clean-up after urination and the whole family used recycled TP for solid waste. Since the females always use the TP and the boys only some of the time that means this switch cut down on TP usage by about 50%. This is a money saver and a planetary resource saver.

Not wanting to sew my own wipes (or dig out my old diaper fabric) I decided to buy from a mom owned store online. I bought a couple dozen, double-sided wipes with flannel and sherpa layers. I put all them in a fabric lined basket that we already had and put them on the bathroom counter. My daughter was thrilled when I explained what they were for. She loved the colorful prints and soft fabric. I imagine this is a much easier transition for a 5 year old girl than a tween or teen. ;)

Our process is pretty simple. We have clean wipes stacked on one side of the basket and when we go in the bathroom we pull one out. Used ones go on the other side of the basket and every 2-3 days when the supply is low I just drop them in the laundry with our clothes. Actually I think having to wash these every 2-3 days keeps me on a laundry schedule so that is a nice bonus.

The cloth wipes are infinitely more comfortable than paper. I have always thought the comparison of recycled toilet paper to sand paper was a bunch of bologna and I still do…but after using cloth, TP does seem seriously disadvantaged in terms of comfort.

I am glad I decided to give it a try even if I may never be comfortable enough to use cloth full time. I am comfortable with what we HAVE been able to do.

It may not be for everybody but if you can make the leap out of your comfort zone, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

So what do you think? Practical, or green girl gone overboard?

  • Calley

    Well…having read your blog for a while now it doesn’t surprise me that you’ve tried this. I am however a little more practical in what steps my family will allow me to take to go green. I know that my hubby would laugh me out of the house if I even mentioned this one! I can see that for the pee it would be easy…afterall I am doing it with our little baby when we use cloth diapers and wipes…and that can get nasty when it’s newborn nursing poo! Whatever works for you is what I always say.

  • Hannah

    I made the switch several months ago, and I love it! I think my husband thought I was a little nuts at first, but he has come around. I keep a stash in both bathrooms for my own use. My daughter is 2, and she learning how to use her own potty, and using cloth wipes is a part of that. (We have always used cloth diapers and wipes for her). I use the Thirsties Fab Wipes- they are so luxeriously soft! And in my upstairs bathroom, I also have hemp/cotton blend wipes that are better for… other things :-) Those get washed with the diapers, but the pee wipes, I just wash with the regular laundry.
    It was so easy to switch, and I have been so happy with my choice to use cloth wipes for myself and my daughter! Huge waste and cost savings! And so much nicer to use than paper!

    Good for you for making the switch! Hopefully others will be inspired to do so as well!

  • I think it’s very practical!! I do the same thing. I can’t quite bring myself to use them 100% of the time, but for the easy ones we use cloth. I am glad you brought it up on your blog. The more we talk about it the less weird it seems. :)

  • Jenn

    I would say… admirable. But, I’m soooo not there yet. I am, however, strictly a 3 squares per pee girl.

  • robin

    I am so going to do this… as soon as I make the time. lol. I can’t purchase wipes at this time but have a bunch of fabric (fleece) that should work out… I’ll only do it for pee times too. lol. You are def not crazy tho’, and the pp was right; the more it’s talked about the less weird it is and who knows… it might even become the norm some day!

  • I’ve been using cloth for a while now and I love it. We use Goodwipes (used flannel scraps sold as a grab bag at Goodwill Stores). I don’t even bother to sew up the edges – who wants to wipe on a hem anyway? My daughters and I use them and toss them into the “wet bag” I use for diapers. I use them all the time in the upstairs bathroom as I am pregnant and the less irritation on those baby pushing parts the better!! DH thinks I’m nuts, but I do the laundry, so too bad :-) Also, my 2 year old always has a rashy bum even without diapers during the day and I’ve found wiping her with cloth is much less bothersome for her – and doesn’t leave any bits of paper behind. She calls them “cozy ones” and enjoys picking which one she wants me to use. Happy wiping!

  • Jen

    I use old t-shirts cut into squares for wipes (pee only so far).

  • I use cloth full-time, but am still cloth diapering (along with EC part-time) my infant so it’s super easy. My daughter sometimes uses cloth (always for #2) and DS does as well when he needs to wipe. DH is not on board. Yet (but it’s been about 3 years now so he may never convert).

    I’m not sure what our system will look like once the diapering days are done. For now, used wipes go straight into the diaper pail. I made my own by cutting up some receiving blankets with pinking shears. They unravel a bit, but it’s not bad and super easy to do!

    • Jaime

      Jenny, don’t worry about it when your done using cloth diapers. It’s super easy, just get a smaller wet bag or trash can. When it comes time to wash, I just run an small load (we do have a LOT of wipes though!) If you don’t have enough to wash them by their selves, you could rinse what you have in the washer with a tiny amount of bleach, rinse again, and then wash with any laundry.

  • Lisa

    I think I could do it your way but not for everything… Right now I have NO room so it would wait until we buy a house, then if it grosses out my hubby I can just keep them in a bathroom he won’t have to use. haha

  • Melinda S.

    I don’t know….kind of like the idea….especially since I use cloth wipes for the kids, so we would be able to use those when we have completed potty training….I know for sure my kids would use them.

  • Jackie

    I’ve been reading more about this lately and although I would eventually like to try, I’m not sure I’m there yet. I use cloth wipes with my 2 diapered kids so I know it really wouldn’t be much extra work to do them part-time. But I also know the resistence I will get from my DH, so I’m not sure I’m really ready for that yet – LOL! But I do love hearing of others tryin it – the more I hear of people making the switch and being happy w/ it, I’m sure will help me to eventually make the switch as well. Thanks!

  • Kim

    I went cloth diapers a couple of months ago and shocked at the savings after the initial investment. I got strict about cloth instead of paper towels in the kitchen and surprised at the difference. Previously, we used a roll of paper towels a day, now almost 1 a wk. I think reuseable female pads and cloth wipes are the next step. My grandparents did this….those who lived in the depression lived differently. With our concern of the environment and the economy, it only makes “cents”

  • Kim

    Where did you buy those wipes?

  • There is always room for cloth wipes… for a while I had a drawstring bag hanging from the side of the toilet paper holder. You could hang one from the shower curtain rod, from a hook over the door, from a hook in the back of the toilet, inside the cabinet, in a closed pail on the floor…endless possibilities!

  • I have just found this blog and already Love it!!

    Family cloth has definitely been something that I’ve been considering, and considering I’m a newly single mom and looking for ways to scrimp and save, as well as be green, this seems like an extremely logical thing to do. I make baby wipes for a local shop, so it just seems natural to make family cloth too!!

    I’m just still debating on whether or not I could do this 100% of the time. I like the idea of just throwing them in the diaper pail, so I might have to give it a trial run!

  • Sheri

    We use cloth wipes here too! I am cloth diapering the wee one, so our cloth wipes just get tossed in the pail. We just use the cloth wipes for pee so far. Our TP usage had been greatly reduced just by having the girls in the hosuse wipe with cloth. I also use cloth menstrual pads (Glad Rags). We are a cloth-lovin’ family :)
    Good for you for switching, and your tie-dye wipies rock!

  • Nieves

    Well I think this is great ! My husband is with me on this –but my teen girl not so much. we do have a diaper sprayer and i have used that when i am on my period , and need to be cleaned off. It sure feels good to feel fresh.
    I am trying to get there, but I have so many other things I need to do first. But I am on my way!!!!

  • Michelle Y

    Definitely going to do this….I read the blog of one the mom’s who left comments for you awhile back and decided then that I should! But I’ve been lazy and haven’t figured out my system yet. I think I’ll start with just pee ones though! Baby steps :) I’m the only female in the house, so I can’t foresee too much complaining, though I know hubs will be like, WTF?!

  • Ashley

    I think it’s practical. We use cloth wipes for the baby, but I always thought it was a whole different thing with grown up solid waste. But, I might give the whole girls use it and we all us TP for the solid waste a try. Do you find that letting the used ones sit on the counter for a day or so leaves any smell?

    • Jaime

      No, I use a hanging wet bag and never noticed any smells. Both me and my daughter use them 100% of the time. Sometimes the bag it’s self will be a little stinky when I dump it out in the washer. But it get’s washed too, so it’s no big deal. I’m not sure I’d leave the used ones sitting out on the counter though.

  • Samantha

    I switched to cloth wipes a couple of weeks ago. I was only going to do it for pees, but I tried it for poos and I realized it’s really not as gross as I thought it was going to be. Really, not much gets on the cloth and if it does you just fold it over and use the other side. With tp you have to grab a handful.. wipe, grab another handful.. wipe. With the wipes I fold it in half then in half again. Wipe, turn over and wipe again. The nice thing is that pee doesn’t soak through like it does with tp. Your hands don’t get wet. I don’t know. I really like it though, and it’s not nearly as hard as I thought it was going to be. You might like wetting the wipe first before #2. I put all my used ones in a little pail and wash them every couple of days, no smell. Love it, love it! I’m glad you posted about this.

  • Estelle

    I’m part Persian and normally Persians have a hose built in to their plumbing that sits next to the toilet and they use it to rinse themselves. But growing up in North America, our houses never had that built it so we used a watering can that sat next to the toilet. Just fill it up with warm water right before you sit down. Then rinse and use a cloth to dry. It makes wiping after #2 much less messy since really your just wiping water. And you feel much cleaner in the end. (Great for “that time of the month”!)

    • JoAnn

      Estelle, thank you for this great idea. I did have a little bulby thing the hospital gave me after my son was born and after I didn’t need it for the stitches anymore I did use it for that time of the month ’til it broke. It was wonderful. This is just the idea I needed to push me over.
      Also, I hate those little paper bits that come off and get tangled up. Even if I am the only one, I will do this.

      • Jennifer

        You can buy more of those “little bulby things” in the baby section at walmart. I have also found that if you go to the travel section of walmart, they have small little bottles there that are empty that you could fill with water to “squirt” in the right areas.

    • Liz

      Thanks for the idea! I was looking at bidet and diaper sprayers online, and they’re out of my price range for now. I don’t have a watering can (which may be why my houseplants never live for too long), but I looked around the house for something that I could repurpose. I found an old shampoo bottle that I can fill with water and squirt around as needed. Now I’m excited for the next time I have to poop!

      Too much? :)

  • Melissa Moulder

    Our family is basically 100% cloth wipes…I only use TP when I don’t have any wipes available. We do purchase TP for guests though!!! My husband loves the wipes though I thought he would never participate. We also use cloth for napkins, kitchen clean up, and basically everything…never even buy paper towels. We love it and YES very practical. I have to say, once you move into 100% cloth (not just pee wipes), you will never go back….so cushy and soft!!!!

  • i’m definitely going to try your system. I’m the only woman in the family–i have two boys–so i don’t need to convince anyone this is a good idea. :) Plus, I’m sick of wasting trees for TP

  • Camille

    This sounds so comfy! I polled my three year old and she said she would do it. My 11 year old neice was also for the idea. My husband, on the other hand, nearly had a stroke at the mention of it. I told him not to fret since he wouldn’t be the one using them! This just makes sense! Just gotta keep an eye on my 2 year old so she doesn’t clog the toilet up with them!

  • Stephanie

    I’m 100% cloth, have been for awhile. I have wet ones I use for #2, it’s not as gross as you’d imagine. And I feel so clean!! My younger kids use them too, but not my teen daughter or husband. They will come around eventually, I’m sure.
    I keep mine in a basket on the back of the toilet. The wet wipes are kept in sandwich keepers..the kind for lunchboxes. The used ones get put in an old ice cream bucket kept beside the toilet. I put a little water and vinegar in it. Dump the bucket and wash every couple days.

  • I have been considering using family wipes for a while – you have me convinced to give it a go. I don’t know why I initially felt it was too gross. we already use cloth nappies and use almost no disposable products in our household. i’m gonna give it a go. i am sure it is much nicer than toilet paper to use.

  • I have toyed with this idea, trying to envision how this would work for a family of 9. Think of all the TP we wouldn’t be using. And the $$ I would save. Maybe I will start small, and just I could use them.

  • Okay… So I’ve thought of this over the years, even had to use a cloth when I couldn’t reach anything else. Think about it, recycled paper is rough on our tender parts, and the cost in my house, (I’m part of a pair), would drop… However, while I can do the #1 right now, there is still the others that just isn’t right for me yet. How do you get the stains out? And the smell? And you can forget Hubby! It took me five years to get him to recycly plastic and paper (and he still forgets while I remember to recycle the empty paper rolls at 3am while I’m still half asleep!).

    • Jaime

      The only time mine have stained was when I used them during my AF. I rarely notice any smells.

  • Kim I got the wipes from Flutterby Baby

  • Michelle

    We have been using mainly cloth for six years and counting now! I cannot seem to get hubby on board, but he is very considerate in his use of the recycled tp we do have in the house.
    Thanks much for bring this up!

  • Very practical! I’ve been using family cloth for about a year and wouldn’t go back to paper now. Your cloths are so pretty :)

  • Tina

    Very interesting post, I can’t wait to give these a try. Not sure I will use 100% of the time, but with how often I pee it will be a money and environment savings.

  • Slack

    I don’t think I could do it… but I don’t have to. Installed a handheld bidet / shattaf last summer, now I don’t use any TP at all and don’t have to wash cloths either.

    Now I’m spoiled and hate public restrooms and find TP obnoxious.

  • .Jein.Noir.

    I had considered doing this before I had finally thought up an alternative I am happy with. The idea hit me back when I started using a neti pot for my sinus infection. It shoots a stream of water exactly where you want it (aiming from the front anyway,) very much like a bidet. However, bidets can be expensive (and are frequently plastic,) not to say there aren’t some good ones out there.

    At any rate, the $16 for a pretty, handmade ceramic neti pot seemed well worth all the use its endured by now. It has its more common use, nasal irrigation, and as a bidet (turns out that they do have pots for this use in India also) that allows for temperature adjustment of the water. Toilet paper production uses quite a bit of water, so I don’t feel guilty about using some for myself minus the dead trees.

    And I just use a towel next to the toilet to dry off. It can also be a regular shower towel that you use for a few days to reduce laundry frequency. No need to worry about it being sanitary (unless you acquire an infection,) as the water has already cleansed you and a large towel will dry out well (no time for bacteria to grow) if different parts are used.

    As for business beyond urination, I’m still having a heck of a time deciding how far that can be pushed. There is the option of cotton and bagasse TP, so that we’re off of trees entirely. I guess they’d never be as gentle to the skin though! I’d still like to have a plastic-free warm/cold bidet eventually though – cut down on all cleaning! Though, the workings of that would also change with a composting toilet for being completely green. A little TP in the toilet would benefit, but water would not.

    As a side note, I know I’m comfortable with reusable menstrual pads if pre-washed/rinsed immediately (but, blood is not the same matter, is it?) Seems these matters don’t have to be icky, if managed correctly.

    • Jaime

      I use cloth mama pads, and don’t rinse them until just before I wash them. They go into my hanging wet pail dry. You really don’t have to rinse them, or store them in a wet pail. Then I toss them in the washer, run a COLD soak/spin cycle, then wash on hot. Never had any problem with smells, or stains.

  • CE

    I think this is a neat idea, and we did it for our baby esp when she was solely breastfed, but I’m not sure how I feel about doing this for us adults.

    I read through most of the comments and did not see anyone mention a bidet. I grew up using one, and have found them to save lots of TP. It was wonderful to have after she was born, much better than the bottle they give from the hospital; and we even use it to clean off solid waste from her diapers. We have had 2 kinds, the kind that was under the seat, and we switched to a hand held when we went with cloth diapering. If you google “mini shower” the main company will come up. They also have an entire changing station that you can install over the toilet to clean your baby.

  • Adrienne

    I think this is a great idea for anyone who wants to try it!!! Everyone has their own personal reasons why they do what they do, and you don’t owe an explanation to anyone!!!

    I sell cloth wipes, but have only recently heard about “family cloth”. I already use cloth menstrual pads and cloth cleaning rads and have used wet wipes for some time because I HATE HATE HATE tp!!!

    I think part of the stigma is that it’s “different” or “weird” because it’s not the norm and we have learned that we should use this horrid method of wiping with paper tissue because it’s convenient.

    My advice??? Give it a try kids, even just for urine. Get or make some pretty cloths.

  • lulu

    I don’t mind the idea of family wipes, but the idea of keeping the used ones right next to the clean ones and out in the open seems highly unsanitary. Maybe put the used ones in a bucket of water/borax type solution until wash day.

    • Jaime

      I agree about keeping clean ones next to dirty ones. I’m afraid I’d mix the two up and grab a dirty one when I thought it was clean! LOL! What I do is keep the clean ones in a basket that sits on top of the toilet. When I was cloth diapering, the used ones would go into the diaper pail. Now that we’re done using diapers, they go into a smaller hanging wet bag that hangs on the door knob. Or you could use a smaller bath room waste basket. You really don’t need to use a wet pail.

  • Jen

    I havent tried this and hubby thinks I’m nuts but I’m going to do it. I already have a small waterproof trashcan I keep filled 1/2 way with water and a little hand soap I use to keep my son’s cloth diapers in untill washday. All I’m missing is a pretty basket =)

  • Jaime

    I use family cloth 100% of the time. I love it, and despise TP. I hate using the restroom outside of home because that means I’m forced to use the dreaded TP! (I’ve even tried to come up with a way of taking family cloth to go with me, but I carry around too much stuff as is!) Using cloth wipes is soooo much more comfy and soft. It works so much better too. I started using it two years ago when I had my first child. We used cloth diapers and wipes full time. I ran out of TP one day and grabbed one of her wipes. I was sold! I also switched to cloth menstrual pads around that time. Even though I’ve been using a Diva Cup (reusable menstrual cup) for years and years. Our most recent switch has been non-paper towels in the kitchen. I love it, and even my husband was down. I wish I would have tried it years ago too!

  • Sharon

    COMFORT is the reason I love my family wipes. For all the fancy advertisements about *soft* toilet paper you won’t know SOFT until you use cloth.

    EASE OF USE—no having to unroll toilet paper; especially off a toilet paper roller on the wall which just makes it even more difficult.
    Just grab a wipe off the clean stack and you’re ready.

    CLEAN- I still use toilet paper for solid waste but find that a family wipe that I have run under the tap makes me feel cleaner than any brand of toilet paper.
    And dealing with laundry is hardly even worth mentioning.
    There are just so many great reasons to love family wipes that I never even mention the *green* aspect.

    And I’m feeling just a tiny bit sad that GladRags weren’t around when I was menstruating.

  • Dawn

    THANK YOU! I’ve been pondering the switch to cloth pads for AF to use and have been putting it off because my hubby has called them “unsanitary” napkins. He’d be freaked if I told him I thought about using cloth wipes for me too! But I’ve noticed having to use three or four disposable wipes for my DD when all it takes is one well used cloth wipe, maybe 2. I’d like to feel clean down there without overdrying, you know? I think I’ma go grab some old swaddlers that we got second hand and cut them up (she never used them anyway so no need to feel guilty). Put them in a pretty container on the toilet, grab a sealable container for putting the used ones in, and there ya have it!

    He’s freaked because of washing them with the other clothes but I wash any of her pooey or peed on diaper covers with all of our clothes and there are no indicators of contamination!! So how will blood or other poeey/pee things going to be any different? Just get a mesh laundry bag to keep their lifetime a bit higher and viola! Oooo, I’m kinda excited that I may have to go now. lol. TMI.

  • Mk

    I hate using toilet paper but I’m forced too cause wipes backs up. So therefore I use about one little rip-off roll, hop in the tub, grab a wash cloth and soap and go to work. The wash cloth is of course dirty but its rinsed off. I’m using soap with it if you understand. Its like washing yaself and I just toss it in the hamster till its time to wash clothes. I agree half on the middle eastern way. I’m definitely not using my hand though, sub with a wash cloth and soap

  • Amy @ Six Flower Mom

    We switch to Family Cloth a few months ago and it is working really well. Would love to know where you bought these, as I am not sure I can justify buying them but they are very cool!

  • Wet tissue  is a better thing to use rather than the dry tissue paper. It is more hygienic and it feels a lot better to use than the ordinary ones. 

  • Wow, I had not thought about this but now you having me thinking we will be doing this at least part time as you explained! Thanks for the info!

  • Sarah

    I do the opposite Tiff, for number one I just use a dab of disposable toilet paper. Literally one sheet. I do not believe that my nether regions have to be completely Sahara dry in order to be sanitary, and using a washcloth for this dab, and then washing it seems just as wasteful as the dtp. For number two we use the washcloths, which are stacked on a shelf behind the toilet. The sink is right next to the toilet in our space, so its just a wetting of the cloth, a wipe, a rinse, a re-wipe, re-rinse, and then usually done. The soiled (but rinsed) cloths go into the bathroom hamper load which gets washed usually every two days. Not only are we saving lots of dtp, but we are much cleaner to boot.

  • Linda Foss

    I’ve no idea why you’d call it ‘familywipes.’  That sounds  a little disturbing. But I’ve just decided to do it using scraps cut from some soft T-shirts. I don’t know why you’d buy cloths.  ??

    I also don’t know how I am going to organize the soiled ones in my tiny bathroom.  I have a vintage kleenex box cover I will use for the clean ones.

  • Linda Foss

    I’ve no idea why you’d call it ‘familywipes.’  That sounds  a little disturbing. But I’ve just decided to do it using scraps cut from some soft T-shirts. I don’t know why you’d buy cloths.  ??

    I also don’t know how I am going to organize the soiled ones in my tiny bathroom.  I have a vintage kleenex box cover I will use for the clean ones.

  • This is a great post. Glad I found your blog. I’m a SAHM of 2 in Surrey, BC and am doing all I can to be green in every way. We’ve been using the recycled toilet paper for quite awhile now but I am ready for the next step. I think doing the cloth for pees is a great idea since we are already using cloth diapers and wipes for the baby :) I hate plastic with a passion so the fact that even the recycled toilet paper comes in a big plastic package bothers me. This will help us even more with buying less of it! Thanks for helping me decide to take the leap :) If you want to check out my blog, please do! It’s definitely not fancy like yours but I’m pretty lame with computers lol! 

    • So glad you found it helpful Jessy and you have a great blog yourself!

  • I think I could do this. Last year I would have said no way because I thought it was gross. We’ve always used cloth diapers and wipes on our kids, but dealing with poop on anyone older than two has always really grossed me out, so I’ve always said no when my husband asked if I wanted to switch. (definitely on my top five grossest things in the world list) But while my husband was out of work last year, someone else was buying our toilet paper and really built up our supply. I don’t want to adjust our budget for buying it again when we run out. I think this might be worth a try for the pee. I think I will feel cleaner too! Thanks!

  • Kleen Bottom

    Better yet, use a modern bidet attachment to your toilet seat. If you are only using toilet paper then you are not completely clean. You are leaving fecal material behind full of germs, viruses and fungus. All you are doing is spreading it around. let me ask you this- if a bird takes a crap on you, would you just wipe it with paper and go on with your day? or would you wash it off with water? I think we should all be using water to clean our butts try the Waterkleen from