Reusable Cloth Toilet Paper
We have hit the one-week “using cloth wipes instead of toilet paper” mark and we haven’t died. Nor have I given up shaving my armpits. So win-win.
Many of you, after throwing up a bit in your mouth, wondered why people go the reusable toilet paper/cloth wipes/family cloth route. Here’s a big list of reasons why one might ditch the tp and use homemade wipes instead. To be clear, we switched to reusable wipes as an experiment. Some of the reasons listed below are personally compelling to me, some are not.
Most modern toilet paper in the developed world is designed to decompose in septic tanks, so there’s no information I could find indicating it messes with our sewage. I’m assuming there’s little to no environmental concern with tp once it is flushed, but I could be totally wrong and the stuff could be causing fish death or the increasing growth of female facial hair.
The environmental issue comes from the manufacturing and delivery of the toilet paper. The average American uses 50 pounds of tissue paper per year which is 50% more than the average of Western countries or Japan. We use more toilet paper because much of the world use bidets or spray hoses to clean off the poop and we wipe it.
Toilet paper requires trees and Americans like their soft, fluffy toilet paper. From a NY Times article:
Fluffiness comes at a price: millions of trees harvested in North America and in Latin American countries, including some percentage of trees from rare old-growth forests in Canada. Although toilet tissue can be made at similar cost from recycled material, it is the fiber taken from standing trees that help give it that plush feel, and most large manufacturers rely on them.
Customers “demand soft and comfortable,” said James Malone, a spokesman for Georgia Pacific, the maker of Quilted Northern. “Recycled fiber cannot do it.”
Our wonderfully soft, white toilet paper requires using standing trees, and oftentimes it’s old-growth forests.
Recycled toilet paper is certainly a better environmental choice, given that it doesn’t require cutting down trees, but there is still the manufacturing that uses natural resources and I think it’s naive to discount the amount of energy, water, chemicals, and fuel it takes to make the toilet paper.
Using reusable wipes means:
- You’re not using trees to make the toilet paper.
- You’re not using the chemicals and resources required to manufacture the toilet paper.
- You don’t need the packaging to keep the rolls together (plastic shell and the paper covering individual rolls in some cases).
- You don’t need the fuel to transport the resources to the toilet paper making plant and the product from the plant to the store.
Every single person out there reporting on their experience with reusable homemade wipes rave about how it feels. After the first few uses, everyone sees the wipes as an actual upgrade from toilet paper, even the fluffy three-ply stuff.
- Wipes are soft.
- They clean your parts better (and don’t leave bits of paper behind), partly because you’re using a wet cloth for #2.
- No chance of “finger break-through” that puts you in contact with feces (urine is sterile, so you’re good with that type of contact).
- They help prevent hemorrhoid irritation (you know that wiping paper on those things makes it worse, right?).
- Toilet paper creation requires chemicals. Wipes means no bleach, BPA, BPS, or other processing chemicals coming in contact with your body.
Many, many, many of you commented that washing the wipes would negate any savings over buying toilet paper. Wrong. It’s actually much cheaper to buy and wash reusable wipes.
Cost of using toilet paper:
Americans use an average of 20,000 sheets of toilet paper a year. Here’s the math for my family of 6 (I’m not counting Baby Lucy), using the average sheets per person:
20,000 sheets x 6 people = 120,000 sheets used by our family per year
120,000 sheets / 264 sheets (the # of sheets in an Angel Soft double roll — the Amazon deal we often promote) = 454 rolls
454 rolls x $.50 (the most I’d pay for a double roll) = $227 per year
I don’t like paying $.50 per double roll — I shoot for $.30, so that would be $136.20 per year spent on toilet paper for our family.
Cost of using reusable wipes:
$21 for 7 yards of cotton flannel fabric at JoAnn’s to make the wipes
$2 for 2 plastic garbage bins
$4 for 2 sweater-sized laundry mesh bags to line the garbage bins so I don’t have to touch my husband’s wipes
Our entire wipes supply fill up about one-fifth of our front-loading washing machine. I end up needing to wash them about three times a week and they do get washed with other clothing in hot water. I used the calculator here to determine it costs about $.50 per load using our equipment (washed with hot water and dried on hot, including detergent costs).
0.6 loads per week x $.50 per load = $.30 per week to wash the wipes
$.30 per week x 52 weeks = $15.60 per year
YEARLY COST COMPARISON:
Toilet paper = $136.20
Reusable wipes = $42.60
Obviously, the price of wipes in the second year will plummet because you’re not factoring in the cost making them. Also, you could just cut up an old towel, shirt, whatever to make the wipes for free.
Still fascinated? Be sure to read why we tried out using reusable cloth toilet paper and our big reusable cloth toilet paper FAQ post.
Reusable toilet paper not your thing? No biggie. Here are the best deals on toilet paper and baby wipes — all of them are cheaper than Costco:
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