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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Reusable Toilet Paper- Family Cloth

A certain impoverished lady I know can frequently be heard repeating the refrain "Toilet paper isn't a luxury". I have to bite my tongue every  time I hear her say that, because, frankly, toilet paper is a luxury.

It may be one that you have absolutely no intention of giving up at any point in your life, and that's absolutely fine, because we all have our luxuries. I just feel that the truth should get out there- that there is a great alternative to buying Charmin month after month- reusable toilet paper, also known as family cloth.

I started off using family cloth when I had forgotten to restock on toilet paper during my usual shopping trip and didn't want to make another trip just for that purpose, so I was determined to make what little toilet paper we had left last as long as possible. Well, it is now nearly half a year later and since then, I've only bought two packages of toilet paper.
What started off as a trial run became something so great that I actually miss my family cloth when I use the bathroom while out.

Why Cloth Toilet Paper is Best

It's free. I cut up worn out and ripped flannel sheets to make our family cloth.
Never run out. Just wash them whenever you wash your cloth diapers. If you find your supply is too small to last, just cut up some more old material. No more getting stuck in the bathroom with no toilet paper.
No lugging home large toilet paper packages. For like myself someone without a car, this is especially beneficial.
It's soft. Flannel is much softer on your skin than toilet paper. Only the most expensive toilet paper comes anywhere near the softness of family cloth.
It doesn't rip. Toilet paper can rip while using if it gets wet. That never happens with family cloth.
It's versatile. Use wet or dry, as family cloth or wipes for your baby's bum. So many more options than toilet paper.
It gets you cleaner, simply because it can be used wet.
It's cute. Half our family cloth was made from an old children's sheet, so our family cloth has all sorts of cute designs. Lee especially likes this. He gets the choice between toilet paper and family cloth and asks for the family cloth every time.
It's green. Absolutely no harm to the environment because of our family cloth. No trees are cut to wipe our bums. I don't even do any extra loads of laundry because of it; family cloth gets washed with my cloth diapers.
No clogging toilets. Because these are getting washed instead of flushed, no worries about too much getting flushed and needing to call a plumber.

Can you see why I like family cloth?

Our Family Cloth Method


We made an old "tissue box" out of a recycled container and cut a hole in the top. I fold the cloths like tissues so that one automatically comes up after you pull out one.
I made a sew free cover for the "tissue box". (I will share instructions for both in a future post. This tissue box can also be used for cloth hankies, as an alternative to tissues.)
This box sits on the toilet or nearby for use as needed. Used family cloth goes in a little garbage can next to the toilet. Dump the little garbage can straight into the washing machine before loading it up with cloth diapers.

No, it doesn't smell.
No, I am never touching poo.
No, there is no extra work involved.
Yes, we keep toilet paper in stock for whoever wants to use it, but we vastly prefer the family cloth for our own use.
No, it's not any grosser than using disposable wipes, because those anyhow will be hanging out in a garbage can in your bathroom because they should not be going in the toilet- they'll clog your septic systems.
Yes, I have little bits of poo sitting around for 2 days at most, but anyone with kids in diapers (especially cloth diaoers) or who uses disposable wipes has poo sitting around for a bit anyhow. Adult poo is no different than kid's poo anyhow- its just how we associate it in our mind.
No, if I washed my laundry by hand I would not be using family cloth.
Yes, it is perfectly sanitary. The family cloth is going through a long hot cycle on my washing machine, then getting sun bleached.

I'm not a martyr for doing this; I am not trying to pull anyone's leg by saying that even if I had lots of money, I'd still be using family cloth. Once you switch, you can't go back to vastly inferior toilet paper.

If the idea of family cloth grosses you out, consider using it just for pee, or using a bidet to clean off prior to wiping.

No, toilet paper is definitely not a need. And for me, its not even on the list of "wants".



What are your thoughts on family cloth? Great idea or gross? Do you know anyone who uses family cloth? Would you ever consider it for your family? Why or why not?


Part of Make it From Scratch.

63 comments:

  1. I am so excited about this! This morning (while on bedrest baking up some twins) I have spent some of my time: researching making my own disposable baby wipes, comparing prices on cloth diaper systems, and entering a contest to win more cloth pads (which I use exclusively for my period) when it struck me. What about cloth toilet paper!??! My partner and i don't flush the toilet at night when we are just peeing and every morning i am astounded by the wasted paper I have to flush away. I have always found it funny how freaked out about poop (everyone does it!) and pee - thank you so much for coming out of the WC as someone who uses cloth TP...i'm right behind you sister!

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    1. Another alternative to cloth pads is the diva cup. It takes a bit to get use to be I have been using the same one for a year now which seems so less wasteful than the alternative.

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    2. My husband grew up in a tiny village in the mountains of Turkey. No toilet paper! They used....guess what? Family cloth!! This is not a new concept in any way. They rinsed first and each family member had their own little towel that was cleaned periodically. It can be argued that reusing the same cloth for each person is not quite sanitary, so having much available is a better option--I agree with the 'much available' version! We use in our home in America, water, then dry off with cloth. We have a 6 person family, so this is a lot of toilet paper that we don't buy, about $20 a month to do something else with. Depending on where you live, over a year, this is a family zoo membership, museum pass, a stack of great books for your kids at a used book store, etc. All for not using toilet paper.

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  2. First of all, the euphemistic name is dumb. Secondly, if you're trying to save paper and be hygienic, why on earth are you wiping your ass within anything at all?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anal_cleansing#Water

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    1. Hey, I didn't make up the name- thats what it is known as. If you want to know the truth, we call them "tushy cloths" in our home. :-S
      And why wipe and not wash? Who said I don't do both? Spray then wipe dry. And girls need to wipe with something dry after peeing.

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    2. Hey anonymous what is up your....*cough* butt? You don't have to agree but sheesh such venom. (:@

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    3. Obviously someone is "Anonymous" because their ashamed of their attitude. I am very hesitant to try this, but I just started using cloth wipes for my baby. Now I'm using cloth diapers. Why not keep the ball rolling with cloth TP? I'm scared. But I'm going to try it. At least it's an excuse to cut up some old T-shirts I NEVER use. And I have about 1,000,001 of them.

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    4. I'm my house my kids and I wash with soap and water then towel dry. We live I america. It's not a new thing if you are filipino lol

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    5. Hello Mr. Anonymous, If you think cloth TP is "dumb" as you put it, why are you on this site at all!

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  3. I'm tempted to try this one now :P

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  4. What are you going to do when your children are all toilet trained, will you be washing these alone?

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  5. I never heard of this. It sounds interesting, but not for me. Good for you!

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  6. I've used family cloth in the past and quit for one reason or another. I'm definitely going back to it. And I do all my laundry by hand by the way.

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  7. Same here Noel ... stopped for one reason or another and have started to use them again ... just wish i could get dear daughter to be of same mind frame ... maybe when she has to start paying for tp she will change her mind ... smiles all

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  8. So what do you do when you have guests over? Do they ask you what the stuff is for? How do you explain it to them? I really want to do this but my SO's family is at my house every other weekend and I'm afraid of what they will think or say to me about it.

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    1. I think you could avoid the hassle and keep a roll of TP available for guests :)

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    2. I was wondering this too! What if they assume they're tissues? Or what if they put garbage or feminine products in the little trash can? Just trying to plan ahead :)

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    3. I would just put them away somewhere. The trash can as well(at least when my sister is around...). I think most of my family would be understanding, but a couple of them I just wouldn't even bother explaining it to and keep a roll of TP around for them.

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  9. I have just started making and using "lavipads" (pads for the lavatory). Right now I use them when I'm only wet because I do not know yet how to sanitize one s that are "dirty". But, I google a lot of questions and looking for ways to sanitize my lavipads. I do not have babies. I'm allergic to most soaps. How do I sanitize "dirty" lavipads? Please reply. Thank you!

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    1. I've read vinegar works, might want to give that a try! Good luck!

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    2. I cloth diapered my second child and bought a diaper sprayer for that purpose. They're great for spraying off the poo prior to dumping in a bucket and then washing. Vinegar is supposed to sanitize, I think, as well as soften. Tea tree essential oil (as well as several other EOs) is also good for deodorizing and sanitizing...and hanging them to dry in the sun is good, too. It's called sun bleaching.

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  10. Thank you,Juliana!. Since my last post above I am NEVER going to use toilet paper from the store again. I can't help it when it comes to public restrooms or other peoples houses. But, at home it's "lavipads" as I call them! I DO wash them by hand in a bucket with a plunger with soap and hot water. Hang dry and reuse. I am of German-Scottish decent. But, my Scottish mother introduced me to "LOTA". (No, not a woman) Lota is a Southeast Asian cleansing method by which you pour water on your unspoken regions with a pot of water. I have gone back to "lota" again. Try it! Ladies, you will feel VERY clean if you do this! I also hand sew my own sanitary napkins (with wings). Just soak them after use and wash them. Mine have a plastic lining. So, hand wash and put in low-temp drier or hang dry!

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    1. I would LOVE to know how to make my own sanitary napkins with wings!! While I wouldn't need them currently (I'm stocked up pretty good) down the road it would be great to have that as an option!! If you can, please email me about how to make them (mom2louis "at" gmail "dot" com). :)

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  11. Thanks so much for your fun way of explaining the benefits of family cloth! After doing a little research on these we decided to start family cloth as well (about a year ago). We have been cloth diapering for the last 5 years (with our 3rd child now in them at 3 months old) and have been using cloth wipes since the 2nd child. This never even entered my brain as an option--and am SO GLAD that we came across your website! I have a small business on Etsy (loveroflifedesigns.etsy.com) where I make flannel cloth wipes in addition to other eco-friendly family products, and am so happy to help others along their journey of being more eco-friendly and economical. I just posted a link to this article onto my facebook page. Thanks so much!!

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  12. Has there been any research to show that cloth diapers or family cloth are actually sanitary, once washed? Does any e coli make it through the process?

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    1. They are sanitary if you wash them correctly. I used a diaper sprayer (think kitchen sink sprayer made to attach to toilet plumbing) to get the #2 off the liners and/or diapers then put the soiled diapers and liners in a diaper pail. When it was time to wash, just dumped pail liner and all into the washer - hot soak, then hot wash. Sometimes I hung them to dry (when I had access to a line) but other times, just threw them in the dryer.

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    2. If you go to the CDC and search "laundry" they explain that soiled linens and the sort can be adequately cleaned by your standard washer and dryer.

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    3. If you go to the CDC website (who would know better than they would?) they will confirm that your standard hot wash with bleach in a washing machine is enough to handle soiled clothing. Search "laundry" on their site.

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    4. Sheets and washcloths at hospitals are soiled by all sorts of unimaginable bacteria. They are washed, bleached and sent back out. I've never understood what the difference is. Do people throw away their infants sheets or clothes if they have a "blow out" in their diaper? We have used cloth toilet paper when we've been out before and my mother acted like I had gone crazy by asking my children to do this. She used cloth diapers and washcloths on us kids as infants. I couldn't understand her reaction. SMH.

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    5. Hospital linen/laundry services use different machines - they function at a significantly higher temperature.

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    6. I don't have a hot water cylinder attached to my washing machine... will cold water do it? No dryer either... often have to air dry inside during rainy months.

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  13. I just went today and bought flannel for us to start using family cloth. I am very excited. We already cloth diaper and I use mama cloth. I still have yet to purchase unpaper paper towels but I really want some of those too.

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  14. Excellent information! I've never heard of this before. I live by myself and see it as a great alternative and plan to give it a go. My kids are all grown now but we were a cloth diaper family for 3 children and I can't even imagine how young families today afford disposable diapers or why they would want to waste the money. Cloth diapers are not difficult. Someone asked whether cloth diapers are sanitary...mine certainly were...toilet rinse for the solids...enzyme soak in the pail...entire contents of the pail into the washer...hot bleach/soap wash...hot dryer or sun dried...soft fluffy unstained white diapers. I see the family cloth idea being basically the same. Thanks so much for the info!

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  15. Here's a funny story about how we did NOT start using family cloth. http://pioneerperfume.com/2013/08/09/cut-from-the-family-cloth/

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  16. I have been using these types of cloths for over 4 years now, ever since I read about them on THE GROCERY SHRINK website. I thought, hey why not? If it doesn't work, I can quit. Well, it WORKS. My husband doesn't use themm, but he sees how much is saved by my and my son using them. When I lived in the mountains, I made them of old soft t-shirts, and would simply burn them in the trash since I had no laundry facilities. But now that I live where I have a washer and dryer--I just wash them. Good post, dear.

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  17. I have been using these types of cloths for over 4 years now, ever since I read about them on THE GROCERY SHRINK website. I thought, hey why not? If it doesn't work, I can quit. Well, it WORKS. My husband doesn't use themm, but he sees how much is saved by my and my son using them. When I lived in the mountains, I made them of old soft t-shirts, and would simply burn them in the trash since I had no laundry facilities. But now that I live where I have a washer and dryer--I just wash them. Good post, dear.

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  18. I love it! I'm now using cloth pads, unpaper towels, & unsponges. I think this will be my next change. I already get weird looks for using cloth pads but I really don't care. I have nothing to hide & narrow mindedness looks terrible on anyone.

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    1. I don't get weird looks for the cloth pads, I get them for the menstrual cup. My mom and husband completely support me on it, to the point my husband tries to convince everyone else to use one, but everyone else thinks I'm crazy. I love how they make menstruation easier. http://cleaningouttheclutter.com/2013/02/a-menstual-cup-is-a-girls-best-friend/

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  19. I love this. I am a big advocate for cloth wipes I use baby wipes for my dog's paws (allergies) and for #1. I actual wrote an article about using cloth wipes and wipe solutions. http://cleaningouttheclutter.com/2013/05/all-about-homemade-cloth-baby-wipes-and-wipe-solutions/ I am in the process of trying to convince my husband to use family cloth for himself. I really hate buying any type of paper products.

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  20. I know it's been YEARS since you posted this, but our family (me, my husband and my 11 year old daughter) are family cloth users and won't use anything else (unless we have, which we do when we are away from home...but we're NOT happy about it!!). This past October made two years of not buying toilet paper for our own use. We tried the "wet bag" approach but it didn't work for us. We go with the under-the-sink-discreet bucket with vinegar and water method to hold the used cloths until laundering.

    I teach music at my house (private piano lessons) and there is toilet paper in the guest bathroom (as well as family cloth but the guests are always oblivious to them). I think I go through a pack of four rolls a year, tops.

    My husband, whom I thought would be the hold out on switching is the biggest advocate. We love that we don't have to buy toilet paper, we are saving a butt-wad of money (yeah I know, cheap shot), and the comfort is second to none. Each week I mix a spray bottle of water with baby wash solution to spray the dry cloths with before use. It's heaven.

    For the squeamish, there's less poo on the cloth when using it than you'd think (usually none at all). For the germophobe, read the CDC's testimony about laundering (look up "laundry" on their site) and feel safe. The laundering costs are negligible, we are saving a mint, and our bottoms have never felt better. The initial output for dark colored cotton flannel cloths off of Etsy was a drop in the bucket and we haven't spent a dime since. Family cloth coupled with the DivaCup and reusable hankies (in white, and tossed in the washer...even my students use these) ...we will never go back to being a paper family.

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  21. What about the electricity/gas and water used to wash the cloth? That adds up in cost to equal the cost of toilet paper. Here's a laundry calculator, http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/laundry.html. At 3 loads a week you're looking at least $17 a month. This isn't even including the time and calories expenditure spent doing the laundry. Although minimal, it does add up. Another option you might want to look into is getting a bidet. It's much more sanitary in terms of personal hygiene than any paper or cloth could be since you're actually washing each time you go. It would use water but I think the increased hygiene makes it the best option of the three for likely a similar or reduced cost.

    I've been down the road of reusing, diy and so on. One thing I kept coming back to is working. It seems logical to take all the energy used reusing, doing it yourself and such and instead spend it working in a way you enjoy, to make money. I understand it is fun to save money, especially when you've gotten used to the feeling it gives you, but why not find a way to take part in this amazing and useful society by putting yourself to work in the network of humans. There's a reason why we have gotten so far as a species, it's by working together. When you use water, you contribute to the need for it and in turn, the continued operation of our water purification systems. If we were to stop using all of the services/products that we've created, they stop existing, and suddenly we're a third world country. I believe forward is the direction we're trying to go and not backwards.

    We're much closer to apes than you might think.

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    1. I looked at the website. One thing that I noticed is it mentioned that you don't have to use hot water to disinfect and that hot water doesn't really do much anyway because the water isn't hot enough unless your washer has a built in water heater. The dryer will actually sanitize and the sun will if you hang dry. So, assuming I wash in cold and dry in dryer, I will spend 4 dollars a month on the one extra load per week this would create for me. Right off, this is cheaper than purchasing toilet paper, plus I have not spent fuel to get it. (Sure I can get tp when I shop, but what if I run out? Then I have to take another trip.) I can't imagine it would take three loads a week to do only the cloths unless I just don't have enough.

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    2. I only wash my family cloth with my cloth diapers, that I have to do daily anyway. It saves me a ton, and the cost of laundering them for me is $0 , I line dry mine so no added time in the dryer either.

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  22. We are a family of 7. Two in cloth diapers at night only, two using cloth menstrual pads and 7 (usually) using cloth wipes. I wash it all in one load per week in a front-loader machine and hang it to dry. This absolutely saves us money, even if it was just for the wipes.

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  23. At some point in my life we had no money and had to use soapy washcloths to clean our potty parts. I was actually happier doing that. It was so much cleaner…That experience made it a no-brainer on the decision to ditch the toilet paper.

    We have been using cloth wipes (we call them toilet rags) for about 3 years now. I’m so happy not to have to worry about TP or the expense of it. My husband is the “don’t knock it til you’ve tried it” kinda guy (I love him). My boys literally go with the flow, it’s rare for them to resist change. The boys were 15 and 11 when we started our trial run. I had recently bought a bag of microfiber rags at Costco and thought I’d start with those since it’s what I had on hand. I folded each one in fourths and cut them up. Some of the quarters I took and quarted again so the boys could have something small to wipe the dribble off their boy parts, and come to find out, it works fantastically for dribble on girl parts! I hate using the restroom at work or in public, I have to use TP…gross… We are all happy with the change, no one wishes to return to TP. I have a storage pail in each bathroom along with a spray bottle of water. Never has a stinky smell come forth. But we also eat more organically and try to avoid processed foods as much as possible. I don’t know if that’s the difference but we don’t have an icky smell in the bathrooms. We have guests. LOTS of guests! LOL I do the same thing anytime someone new to our “weird ways” comes over. “We don’t use toilet paper we use toilet rags. There’s a spray bottle of water next to the commode to mist it with. Don’t soak it just dampen it. When you’re done there’s a bin with a lid for you to toss it in.” A few people have freaked but then came around after they have used it. It’s always the same questions about why we do it. That list is long I’m thinking of printing it out and handing it over when they ask. :)

    I wash them in a load by themselves with hot water, homemade detergent and vinegar. They are nice and soft and fresh smelling when they come out of the dryer.

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  24. Everyone in the US may need to use whatever they can before long. In a dictatorship, there is no choice.

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    1. Good point!! I found this post while looking for alternatives to tp for best friend in Venezuela. Where they have almost dictator style govnt, are suffering today with 300% inflation and she stood in line for A WHOLE DAY for toilet paper.... call it for the good of your wallet, enviro, body, whatever. If you are faced with NEEDING something, you will put your pride down, and get over your qualms. Venezuela too, probably never thought they would consider needing certain items, but look... and we up here in North America are not that far from desperate days either. The list of reasons to just TRY IT, are building...

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  25. To sanitize I add pine cleaner into the wash. It is antibacterial, or you could use a small amount of bleach, they just won't look as nice. We call them "butt wipers" and myself and my 5 year old daughter prefer them. The man of the house, and my 16 year old daughter don't want anything to do with them. He is Hispanic by the way, and in his country they shower after every bowel movement, I think because they're too poor for toilet paper, and the plumbing there cannot handle it. I'm considering moving there with him, but will be using cloth wipes instead.

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  26. I saw the bit about a lady who cloth wipes on extreme cheapskates. I was a little grossed out about it. But then I wondered will it actually save me any money? Did the calculations & figured out we use 352.00 in toilet paper annually. So I decided to use cloth with pees only, regular to for #2s which we do a lot less. I like it, I'm actually thinking about switching to cloth wipes for my babies too (#1s only) also we don't have a water bill. So it basically is free.

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    1. I'm so happy to hear that you can look past your initial "grossed out" reaction, "Anonymous." Plus, remember when you are watching those shows they are exploiting the people on them. They present these lifestyles as "shocking" or "weird". i'm sure the music, voiceover setup, and reaction shots of other people is not meant to show an interesting and unconventional lifestyle, they are all meant to shock and horrify. If that was not the case, the show would be called "New Lifestyles" or that episode would be called "Natural Living." but no, the title even is meant to shock and appeal to one's baser curiosity about the freakish and bizarre. That probably was not the best way to get introduced to this idea. But how awesome that despite that introduction, you are willing to try. After awhile, it will seem second nature.

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  27. It's so funny when people ask if it is "sanitary" as if we as humans even had tp for the last several eons. Cloth diapers and no diapers have been around for as long as human history. I changed and washed so many cloth diapers, I can't imagine the count. My dad said it was paper from Sears Roebuck catalog and corn cobs that they used for toilet duty and cloth diapers for babies, wrung out by hand and washed by hand. We all survived somehow!

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  28. Just imagine, when the apocalypse comes (zombie, disease, whatever LOL), we'll be ready with our family cloth. Other people will be selling their last steak for a roll of TP. LOL!

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  29. Very interesting. I'm thinking about it. I'm really looking for ways to cut down on waste. Also, it seems like it would do a much better job of cleaning one's bottom.

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  30. They need a new name, I don't care who came up with it the name is stupid and does nothing to convey what it is unless that is the point.

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  31. Hmmmm....I'm not sure about using 'Family Cloth' but I just saw the show Exreme Cheapskates on TLC and have to say it grossed me the heck out when a mother of 6 who apparently has a good income entire family uses them. I can understand having it as a backup and then throwing the used cloth immediately into the wash but to do this routinely then leave it sitting around next to the toilet in a garbage can - it's just not sanitary. The bathroom must smell awful. That same Mom was involved in a babysitting co-op and part of that is preparing food for the extra kids, well she went out to a local park where animals pee and poo and snipped off 'edible' things for her salad she would be feeding them. Nothing against foraging but I don't think I'd like knowing my child might be being fed something that has been urinated on or possibly has a concentration of pesticide on it. She also made pizza that night with sauce that had expired in the package 2 years earlier. Having said all of this, I am looking for ways to save money in my food and household budget, so I'm open to ideas.

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    1. In our house, bidet (water) first, then family cloth. The garbage can with the cloth has no smell...
      I forage, but again, I do it for my family, not for others without their permission. But do you really think animals don't pee on the stuff you buy in the store? Even feild workers sometimes do! But guess what- pee is washable?

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    2. I can understand your "grossed" reaction, "Anonymous." However, remember when you are watching those shows they are exploiting the people on them. They present these lifestyles as "shocking" or "weird". i'm sure the music, voiceover setup, and reaction shots of other people is not meant to show an interesting and unconventional lifestyle, they are all meant to shock and horrify. If that was not the case, the show would be called "New Lifestyles" or that episode would be called "Natural Living." but no, the title even is meant to shock and appeal to one's baser curiosity about the freakish and bizarre. That probably was not the best way to get introduced to this idea.

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  32. Hi Penny,
    This is actually the second time I've heard of this type of "tissue", although it was called something different before. Anyway, I actually think its a great idea. I mean, I'm seriously considering it. We use water first also (astinjah), for religious reasons. I don't actually spend that much on tp but every lil bit helps right? lol. Anyway, LOOOVE the blog and your lifestyle!

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  33. Very Good point!! we are saving a butt-wad of money (yeah I know, cheap shot), and the comfort is second to none. Each week I mix a spray bottle of water with baby wash solution to spray the dry cloths with before use. It's heaven.
    Infoeminent Technology

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  34. If you are into saving money, or avoiding spending money, then why not. Human waste is not radio active, just smells.
    Besides, could it be worse than washing underwear? Same type of exposure.
    On a final note I have noticed the tp rolls out there are getting fluffier, bigger centre cardboard roll and more expensive.
    Some people have to choose if they are going to eat or spend on TP, so they need to do what they need to do.
    We have been brainwashed that anything "poo" is to be feared and disgusted, how profitable for the tp companies.

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  35. I could never convince my husband to use this, but I'm going to start reusing cloth when I go #1. I have to pee too many times a day. I do my laundry by hand and then in a mini washer/spin dryer, I think dried urine will be alright if I pre-soak the load a bit. I always wash cold and soak in very little water, not sure if I'm ready to use these for #2 yet (until we have a baby and do cloth diapers anyway).

    Love your blog!!!

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