Zero Waste Toilet Paper: Switching to Family Cloth (aka reusable cloth wipes)

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I’ve been using family cloth for about a year now. If you told me two years ago that future me would go full blown hippy and start using cloth wipes instead of toilet paper I wouldn’t have believed you. The truth is, I didn’t make the switch for the reasons you would think. I didn’t do it because it’s more environmental friendly (sorry), I didn’t do it prove anything to anyone or to fit into a particular stereotype, and I didn’t do it to because other cool bloggers said I should. Hah. I did it almost out of necessity. Almost.

Because of my IBS, I would find myself running to the restroom 5-10 times a day, depending on how reactive my stomach was. This led to the problem of going through crazy amounts of toilet paper. Buying toilet paper for the house became my particular responsibility since I was the reason we were out all the time. And let me tell you, buying a large bundle of toilet paper every other week was getting expensive and really really annoying. Along with the expense, I was also having issues with really irritated skin. I decided to switch to wet wipes to which my husband immediately got on my case about due to the damage it makes to the plumbing. I knew this of course but I honestly didn’t really care. Sorry, not sorry, I was desperate. I jumped on google to try to find biodegradable wet wipes which would be much better for plumbing (I think) when I came across the term “family cloth”.

Family cloth are essentially cloth wipes that you use instead of toilet paper. You wash/dry them and they will last for years. 

What do I need to get started?

Clean Storage: I use a discrete wicker box with a lid that sits next to my toilet. I store 24 wipes in there at a time which lasts through the week. Your storage can be anything; it can be a drawer in your bathroom or you can even just leave a stack on the toilets tank. It’s up to you. 

Dirty Storage: You need a place to store your dirty wipes. I use a wet bag that hangs on my toilet roll hanger. It has a waterproof layer so you won’t get any leakage. The soiled wipes are in the bag for no longer then a week so I’ve never had any issues with odor. If you wait longer to wash them then you might have a problem with your bathroom stinking up. Etsy has some really cute wetbags but if you don’t want to use a wetbag then your other option is a small trashcan with a reusable liner. 

Wipes: You can either buy your wipes or make them. I personally use flannel and birdseye cotton wipes but your fabric choice is 100% up to you. I would recommend trying an assortment of fabrics to see which you like better. My other suggestion is that you use a thin fabric. I’ve found that my birdseye cotton wipes are just too thick and rough so I don’t recommend them. I bought my wipes at Green Mountain Diapers and I suggest you try out their sampler pack. It should give you a good idea of which fabric will work best for you. 

For my Lichen Sclerosus peeps, I recommend you use a soft, non-dyed, natural fabric (like flannel) and blot instead of wipe when going #1 to reduce the friction/damage to your skin.

So how do I use them?

You use them like you would use toilet paper except instead of throwing the wipes in the toilet, you put them in the wetbag. My wet bag, pictured here, can fit all my wet wipes if needed. Everyone is different but I like to use my flannel wipes as wet wipes (I just run it under the faucet) and my birdseye cotton wipes as dry wipes.   

How do I clean them?

Cleaning your cloth wipes is simple. I run my 24 wipes through the wash, twice, on my lowest capacity setting. I wash twice because my washer only uses cold water at the moment (it’s a long story) and I want to make sure the washer really gets them clean. You only need to run them through once if you use hot water. You don’t need to use a special detergent. I use Tide free and clear for both washes and it gets the job done. You can either dry them in the dryer or hang dry. I like to hang dry because it dries faster outside here in San Diego and the sun dulls the stains.

I wash my wetbag with my wipes every other week. The wetbag must be hung up to dry becuase the dryer might melt the waterproof PUL fabric. 

How do I get rid of the stains?

Run them through the wash like you always do, then soak them in oxiclean or super washing soda until the stains are gone. I like to use super washing soda because it simply uses less chemicals. Once the stains are gone you can either run the wipes through the wash again or rinse them out by hand. I personally don’t bother with the stains since I’m the only one who ever sees them.

So that’s everything that I can think of when it comes to family cloth. I will update this post as I continue using my cloth wipes and if I find a brand that I LOVE I will be sure to share it with you. Please post any questions you have in the comment section!!!    


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