The other day I noticed we were on our last roll of toilet paper, so of course I added it to the grocery list on the fridge.
(What an exciting lead for a blog post, amiright? Last roll of toilet paper? I’m on the edge of my seat! Tell me more!)
Once at the grocery store, I scanned the aisle (half an aisle — both sides — in our local superstore is devoted to throwaway paper products) for whatever was on sale. Half off on Charmin? Sold. I hoisted the enormous cellophane-wrapped package — the size of a small treasure chest — into my cart, cringing at the additional $13 on our grocery bill, and the fact that there is no dignified way to buy toilet paper. You simply have to manhandle a ginormous, crinkly, saggy package of toilet paper rolls and wheel it around the store with you. There is no other way.
Once at home, I had the task of removing all that superfluous plastic packaging and stacking the rolls in our closet. But I discovered, to my dismay, that Charmin double-wraps its toilet paper: there’s the main packaging around the whole thing, but then inside, each pair of toilet paper rolls is also wrapped in another layer of plastic to hold everything together more neatly.
By the time I was done unwrapping everything, I had a huge pile of cellophane on my hands, which I had to stuff into my kitchen garbage can.
And more than ever before, this just did not feel right to me.
Respecting the Toilet Paper
I wrote recently about how I feel called to respect the material world around me. For me, this means eliminating disposables from my life as much as possible.
Respect means to look back or to look again. I talked about how using disposable items seems disrespectful to me — we buy things with the intent to only see them once.
Among other things, I’ve recently become troubled with our use of toilet paper. It just feels so wasteful. So . . . disrespectful.
We buy it, all wrapped up in plastic, and carry it into our bathrooms with the sole purpose of throwing it out. Just so we can go out and buy more of it.
(If you want more specific info about the environmental cost of toilet paper, check out Crunchy Chicken’s Post).
I know there are probably lots of other practices I engage in which are more wasteful and disrespectful of the earth’s resources, and I’m working on those, too; but this one seemed like a pretty quick and easy thing to change since we already use cloth diapers. (Actually, we just finished with diapers. HOORAY! But that’s another blog post.)
(I also want to briefly reiterate what I said in my last post: I am not assuming that this lifestyle change is realistic for everybody. It might not be an option for you right now. That’s okay. Guilt has no place in the Kingdom. I personally first read about cloth wipes a couple of years ago from SortaCrunchy Megan, and I filed it away in the Maybe Someday compartment of my brain. Until now.)
Anyway, we’d already been using cloth wipes on our babe, and it didn’t seem like a big adjustment to change all our personal hygiene items to cloth. We already had the lidded garbage cans hanging aroung and were used to throwing a load of smelly cloths into the wash every other night; we could totally handle this.
So here’s how we did it.
[Side note: one dear reader pointed out to me that since we already have a diaper sprayer attached to our toilet, we could use that as a bidet and forgo wipes altogether, like they do in countries all over the world. I thought that was a brilliant idea . . . until I let one drop of water from the sprayer drop onto my bare thigh. HOLY ICICLES! At least during a Canadian winter, I’m afraid that’s not an option. Perhaps I’ll try again in the summer.]
Our Switch to Cloth Toilet Paper
I’m finding that with all non-disposable items, the most difficult thing is putting a system in place that allows for easy/frequent laundering. Here’s how we’re tackling that.
You may recall our bathroom setup for cloth diapers, which included a second garbage can with a step-opening lid near the toilet. Even though we were just transitioning out of diapers with our little one, I decided to leave it there.
There’s still regular TP and a normal waste basket for guests to use (and for ourselves, at times).
I put a small basket on the toilet tank to hold the wipes. I’m sure there’s a more discreet approach, for people who don’t necessarily want to advertise their unconventional ways in the bathroom, but I already had this on hand.
I started out using Lydia’s old cloth wipes (which were just cheap baby wash cloths) to try out, but they were too big. I dunno – I just didn’t like the feel of a big 8×8-inch piece of fabric, folded up several times, to do such a small job. You know?
So I made my own.
I just took an old flannel receiving blanket and divided it into 25 or so 5½ x 5½–inch squares with a ruler and pencil. (One blanket was all I needed, since you only need one sheet per use).
I borrowed my mom’s serger, which cut and serged the edges so they wouldn’t fray in the wash. I believe pinking shears would give similar results.
I put them in the basket on the back of the toilet. Done!
When I’m done with a wipe, I just toss it into the garbage can with the lid. The inner pail can be removed and brought down to the laundry room.
After a week of using the cloth wipes, I discovered that I preferred to line the garbage can with an old pillowcase. It felt kinda gross to toss damp cloths into a sealed plastic can for some reason. And with the pillowcase, I don’t have to see the cloths again until they’re clean. I can just throw the whole pillowcase — with all its contents — into the wash.
Right now, we’re still using that same garbage can to hold any wet training pants when Lydia has an accident, and we wash everything every 2-3 days. As her accidents get more infrequent, we’ll probably stretch that out to about once a week.
After washing, I hang them up in our laundry room in the basement with this handy-dandy tool from Ikea. Quick and easy! They dry super-fast.
FAQ’s and Notes for the
(Note: Not for the Faint of Heart)
Can I just use cloth part-time?
Absolutely! We’re not completely committed to using it 100% of the time, but it’s at least available for when we want to use cloth.
If using cloth for #2 seems too much, you could use them just for #1. That’s what we’re doing for now.
What about That Time of the Month?
As above: you don’t have to use cloth 100%. You totally can use it throughout your cycle — especially if you already use cloth pads — but if you don’t want to stain your cloth, or for whatever reason, you can use regular toilet paper during that part of your cycle. Also note that if you’re using a Diva Cup or tampon, there’s not that much blood to clean up.
How does it work with natural family planning / fertility awareness?
I confess, this has given me a little bit of trouble. Many women use toilet paper to help them observe cervical fluid. Since cloth is more absorbent, this might make it a little tricky.
Since I also rely on my basal body temperature to pinpoint ovulation, and since I’m not trying to prevent pregnancy, it’s not that big a deal for me. I’m just doing my best with the cloth. Others might have to improvise.
I won’t go into any more detail.
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So, what do you think? Too gag-inducing? Seem to complicated? Have any questions? Am I forgetting any important details?
Shared on Your Green Resource with SortaCrunchy.