How to Make a Cloth Tissue Box For Family Cloth- Reusable Toilet Paper

One of the things I am most famous for, or shall I say, infamous for, is my decision to eschew toilet paper and use- gasp- not newspaper- but something green and reusable- cloth toilet paper, also known as family cloth. I've written all about the hows and the whys, and the sanitary aspects and the benefits and alleviated concerns in this post.
When people hear about the concept, they usually either find it fascinating or shnasty, often a bit of both. But some people have decided to make the plunge to family cloth, and like myself, have never wanted to look back.
Instead of repeating everything I already did in my previous post on the subject, I'll just give a quick overview.

Family cloth does not mean one giant cloth that all our family wipes our bum on repeatedly until it gets filthy enough to need a washing.

Absolutely not.

Family cloth is just a name given to using cloth wipes to wipe your bottom after using the restroom. It costs me no money for the cloths- I just take any cotton or other similar soft and absorbant clothes, that get either stained or ripped beyond repair, chop them up into roughly a square or rectangle large enough to wipe with, and use them. (No hemming or sewing necessary, seriously.)

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To use them, most people use dry after peeing. After a bowel movement, you can use them dry, or you can wet them before use, or you can spray yourself with a bidet or a spray bottle, then dry with the cloth.

Once used, they go into a little garbage can meant for that purpose, and when filled, they get dumped into the laundry as is. (No need to spray and rinse the cloths like you might need to do with cloth diapers.)
I get it, the concept is gross, but in actuality, especially if you clean yourself with a bidet first, there isn't much of anything getting on to the cloths. And if you're too grossed out for that, just use it for pee and you're good.

P.S. Once a baby is eating solid food, their poop is no difference than an adults, so if you're willing to cloth diaper, this isn't far from that. And there is far less on family cloth than with cloth diapers, and you don't need to prewash cloths like with diapers, so I actually find it much less gross than cloth diapers- just use and dump into the wash. And no, it doesn't make a smell. And its so little in quantity that it doesn't cause any more laundry- each "load" of family cloth is roughly the size of one adult t-shirt.

But anyhow, the purpose of this post wasn't to tell you all about family cloth, because I don't need to recycle post topics... (Or should I? )
It was because we don't just put our family cloth in a basket near the toilet for that purpose. No... where's the fun in that?

We make a cute little "tissue box" to hold our family cloth, make it easier to use and pretties up the bathroom a little bit. People have asked me to share instructions for making our family cloth tissue box, so that's what this post is.
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As I've said numerous times in other places, I force no one to use family cloth. Whoever wants to, may. We keep toilet paper on hand in the bathroom for everyone else.

So, how to make your own family cloth tissue box. Takes a few minutes to make the box, and a few minutes to fold up a tissue box worth of cloths. Totally unnecessary, but I think it makes things more fun, so why not?

And if you're not into the idea of reusable cloths for the bathroom, how about making a tissue box with cloth tissues for wiping your nose? Much gentler on the nose when people have colds, not to mention greener and cheaper.

Start off with a container with a cover. We took an old container that used to have a soft cheese in it. (We got it free because my husband used to work at the cheese counter in a grocery store. And no, it doesn't stink- it was washed and is clean, just like any other dishes.)

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Use a razor blade to cut an opening for the tissues/family cloth. This shape has worked perfectly for the job.

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Now that you have your container, it's time to fold the cloths to go inside as tissues.

Lay one cloth (A) down.

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Lay another cloth (B) down, partially on top and to the left of cloth A.

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Fold the uncovered side of cloth A over on to cloth B.

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Now lay cloth C on top of cloth A and B, to the right of cloth B, so that the edge of cloth C aligns with the folded edge of cloth A.

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Now fold cloth B in half over cloth C.

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Put cloth D over cloth B, and to the left of cloth C, so the edge of cloth D aligns with the edge of cloth B.

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Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Until all the cloths are used up.

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When you get to the end of your stack, you'll have a pile of folded cloths, and one hanging over to the side.

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Fold that over on to the stack.

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Place the stack inside the container so the folds of the cloth are in the same direction as the cut in the top of the container.

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Put the cover on it, and turn it over.

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You could leave it like this, and if the box you're using is pretty, like a decorated shoebox, you can have it like this and pretty. But since my box is an ugly plastic container, with a quick fix, I am able to make it cutesy and prettier.

Take a cloth thats wide enough to wrap around the container, with room to spare. I used some extra striped t-shirt material. I think stretchy material is better, but the important thing is that it be opaque.

Place the container upside down in the cloth, and wrap the cloth around it so the overlap of the cloth is at the top. You want cloth draping over the sides.

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Using yarn or ribbon, gather the edges of the cloth, and tie it tightly, like a candy. I made a bow.

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Turn the tissue box rightside up, and cut a slit in the cloth over the opening in the box so you can reach the tissues.

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Reach into the hole/slit and pull out a family cloth tissue.

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The way it works is as you pull out one cloth, a new cloth will come out to replace it, as happens with a regular tissue box.

Voila- family cloth, made cute.

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Ever heard of family cloth before? Know anyone who uses it? If you're a family cloth user, would you make a tissue box like this? If you would never dream of using family cloth, would you make such a tissue box for nose wiping?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. I use cloth, but just for tissues and I have them piled in a shoebox. If I had to fold them each time it would be too much work for me. I do like the idea and would definitely adopt it if I could get someone to do it for me!

  2. I was thinking of this last night. I have some bladder issues and I pee upwards 12x a day. That's ALOT of toilet paper...something to think about in the future when we're broke (I have lots of old clothes that'll work great too).


    1. why wait for financial necessity , maybe you can start now in combination putting the money aside that you would normally spend on paper and after a given time use the money to get something nice you would normally pass up on

  3. I decided to try this after reading your first post :). Anything that saves money! My household has changed in the last year and I went back to tp. Now I'm ready to go back to my family clothes. Spending money on something not needed is just silly. Like you, I keep t.p for guest and my squeamish menfolk, but I actually like the clothe soooo much better. The bonus? My guys don't use them so I'm never out of t.p!

  4. I have heard of family cloth before although i dont know anyone who uses it! I love this idea though it would work great for tissues

  5. I've never been really keen on the pop-up thing even with disposable tissues. Long before we switched to cloth, we started buying recycled-paper tissues that did not pop up but just had a larger box opening. I guess it is less sanitary if your hand is wet when you grab the tissue/cloth--is that the idea? But I'm usually grabbing in advance, with a dry hand.

    When we first started keeping cloths instead of tissues next to our bed, we put them in an empty tissue box. Finally it tore. Now we have baskets, both there and in the bathroom. Our son's room has become too cluttered and dusty for a basket (now that he's responsible for his own room, sigh!) so he has a stack of cloths in a cabinet and keeps one under his pillow in case of nocturnal nosebleed.

  6. I like the idea of a pop up container. Thank you for the pictures and the tutorial. :)

  7. Family cloth is terrific, especially if you have health problems in the family. Some elderly neighbors of mine used them after the wife's cancer surgery. Much more comfortable than even the "ultimate" toilet paper. Wet, they're even more comfortable when you poo a lot. And I'm sure the septic tank blesses them every day.

    There was something like your box, filled with damp TP, around in the 1970s. It didn't last long but was a great idea.

    1. I know a family that more or less got hooked on the cloth. The mom had surprise twins and with soft cut up rags her little boys could wipe them selves properly making it easier for her. after she was no longer washing diapers she was ready to change but the rest of the family was unable to adapt to "scratchy" toilet paper again . and her husband was the biggest convert as he had a few hemorrhoids. Whatever works for the family works!

  8. I have nose bleeds allot, so I have avoided cloth hankies. any suggestions being I don't use bleach?

  9. Thanks for the T-shirt tip! It saved me a lot of sewing. I gave you credit for the idea on my blog :)

  10. I've got to think about this family cloth idea. I am pinning it because I want to remember how to fold the cloths.

  11. I just in the last hour finished sewing some two-layer flannel family cloth. :) I can't wait to try it out!! Anyway, couldn't you just use an empty plastic baby wipes box for this?

  12. I just finished sewing some two-layer flannel family cloth - so excited to start using them!! Anyway, couldn't you do the same thing with an empty wipes container? I'm talking about the hard-sided plastic box-type containers with a removable lid. I have some wipes that have gone dry, so I may try this with one of the boxes. :)

  13. This is useful advice. Now I know what to do if I ever find myself in a war-torn third world nation with no provisions.

    Thank you.

  14. One old pair of flannel pajamas will make 8 12x12 inch wipes which when folded 3 times in both length and width makes a 4x4 stack 6 inches high. When stacked horizontally, 24 can be put on a 18 inch shelf. With each swipe of the bum, the wipe is unfolded to expose a clean section allowing 3 swipes per wipe for each visit. The used wipe is placed in a chamber pot with cover half filled with water and cup of peroxide or bleach. Weekly or when full, the liquid in the chamber pot is dumped to the toilet. The wipes are then washed in a separate load, hung dry and folded and the chamber pot refilled.

  15. Just thought I'd comment... my daughter & I have switched to cloth instead of t.p. Daddy's not convinced. I made them mostly from flannel, some are bamboo terry cloth (these are my fav's, sooo soft) and actually used them for cleaning up after diaper changes (cloth diapered, many homemade, too) and then realized that my bum would like them too. The only time I use tp is during my period (I also use cloth menstrual pads and homemade cotton tampons). All used cloths go into a small step-open garbage can and then to laundry. I usually wait for 2 fills before washing; warm water, Nellie's detergent & clothesline dried when warm enough. Some are stained and the flannel is falling apart after 4 years, but they've certainly been well used. Thanks for this post.

    1. have you thought of making yourself a mini tissue box of cloths to continue to use during your period? rather than reverting back to paper? if you are worried about staining or other people having to use the same cloths that may stain from blood these would e reserved for use in this time only can can be soaked and washed along with your cloth pads and tampons
      I've used sea sponges for over a year now , when they become too old i just pop them in the garden to decomp . it makes me cringe the thought of commercial cotton tampons now

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