How to make your own reusable toilet paper
A few years back, my family took a 10-day adventure to make our own cloth toilet paper (reusable cloth wipes). The response varied between milk curiosity to downright ANGER. Who knew that people cared so much about how strangers wiped their privates?
If you’re also curious or perhaps even interested in giving this reusable toilet paper thing a shot, here are answers to your cloth toilet paper questions:
What is a family cloth/reusable toilet paper/reusable wipe?
A piece of cloth that is used in lieu of toilet paper that can be washed and used again.
How do you make reusable wipes?
You can buy cloth baby wipes off Amazon, etsy, a wholesale site or make them yourself. The cheapest option is cut up an old t-shirt, bath towel, flannel bed sheet, or something else, or you can make some out of fabric from the fabric store.
I went the sewing route. I purchased about seven yards of soft flannel from my local fabric store, washed it a couple of times, and sewed them double strength (two layers). Total overkill — the two layers were actually too thick for most situations.
If I did it again, I’d just cut up the fabric with pinking shears so the edges wouldn’t fray. If a double layer was needed, just fold the thing in half. I made each wipe about 7 x 5 inches finished (similar to the size of a baby wipe).
Actually, if I did it again, I’d just buy a pack of cloth baby wipes off Amazon. I don’t suggest you use regular washcloths — they are way to thick for this business.
I selected a patterned design just because I could. If you’re concerned about staining, buy brown or another dark color.
I seriously spent WAY too much time researching the size, material, and construction of these things. I suggest you just cut some and see how it goes because, come on, you’re wiping yourself with these. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
How many wipes do you need?
I suggest you have a 3-4 day supply for your family. If you have less, you’ll be annoyed with how much laundry you have to do. If you have more, you won’t do laundry often enough and stuff will start stinking.
So, if you’re stocking for men and boys, you don’t need so many, right? The ladies will need a bunch more.
For my family of six, I should have about 100 wipes to have a four-day supply. Ideally, I’d want to wash every three days.
Where do you store the clean wipes?
- In a drawer next to the toilet
- In a basket on the toilet tank
- In a re-purposed baby wipes tub on the toilet tank
- In a drawstring bag hanging from the toilet paper holder
How do you actually use them?
Just use them dry for urine and wet them a bit in the sink for the other stuff. I did put a bunch in a plastic wipes container and wet them down to save the “wet one in the sink” step, but they started smelling mildew-y within a day or two.
You can also keep a spray bottle filled with water by the toilet to wet them down. I knew our bathroom would experience significant water damage if I gave my boys a water bottle while pooping, so we went with the “wet before you sit down” strategy.
You could use a bidet, a spray hose installed in your toilet, or even a peri-bottle to clean off after poop, then wipe with a dry cloth if you’re super concerned by the mess.
Do you use the wipes again or do you wash them between uses?
This question cracked me up. Sorry. Obviously you wash them between uses. “Reusable” means you don’t throw them away, but they are washed between uses.
Where do you store the used wipes?
Again, a few options.
Obviously, in a container of some sort. Most people instinctively want to throw them in a bucket-o-liquid (like water, water + baking soda, water + bleach), but there are a number of problems with this. Buckets with liquid pose a drowning risk for small children and obviously buckets with bleach pose a danger, especially for, say, boys with diminished brain capacity (read: all boys under 12).
Another problem is that throwing them in water actually breeds bacteria growth. I realize that most people a few decades ago threw the dirty diapers in a pail with some liquid solution, but that’s pretty much not the recommended method anymore.
So, no water soak.
You can put them in a “wet bag” made for dirty diapers or a plastic garbage can or a sweater-sized mesh laundry bag, which is what we did. I purchased a small can with a swinging lid from the Dollar Tree for each bathroom and they worked perfectly.
This drawstring mesh laundry bag from Amazon should work well if you want a liner.
Do the stored used wipes stink?
Eh, not really. If you’re washing them every few days you’ll catch them before the urine smell gets too toxic. And honestly it’s the urine you’ll smell before the poop. Weird, I know.
How do you wash the wipes?
Again, I did some serious research into this not because I personally cared (I am not a germ-a-phob) but because I knew some of you were going to freak on me over the washing of these things.
There’s not a ton of information out there about how to properly wash reusable wipes. Most of the directions are on washing cloth diapers which is close, but not exactly the same.
Cloth diaper washing techniques are concerned with preserving the cloth diaper itself (shape, absorbency, pH balance, color) as the thing is on the baby’s bottom for a couple of hours, so this stuff actually matters. We really don’t care about all of this with wipes because they are touching our skin for 1-2 seconds and keeping the shape and absorbency on a small piece of cloth isn’t worth the extra washing care involved.
These factors pushed me to the conclusion that most of the “wash separately, add certain detergent, soak for a certain amount of time, add an extra rinse cycle, do a final vinegar rinse” routine was unnecessary.
I was concerned with two things:
1. Washing the wipes in hot water and drying them in the dryer on hot to kill feces germs (urine is sterile).
2. Washing the wipes separate from kitchen towels in the rare case of contamination.
Yes, I washed the wipes with other stuff. And no, I wasn’t worried about poop touching the other clothing. Seriously? I’ve been accidentally touching other people’s poop ON MY SKIN for almost a decade. Direct contact, people. Washing wipes with my clothes isn’t a big deal at this point.
Some factors to consider: Most of us with children just throw pee-clothes and poop-streaked underwear in the wash with everything else. We don’t bust out the haz-mat suits. This is the same. Plus, all of our undies contain some amount of germs and we are assured that the washing/drying routine gets them clean enough to wear again without killing us. Again, a similar situation with the wipes.
YES, I know it’s not exactly the same, but it’s not as bad as some of you are imagining.
If you use a mesh laundry bag or a wet bag, you just pull it out of the garbage can and dump the contents into the washer along with the bag. This keeps you from any direct contact with the soiled wipes. If you have a top-loading washing machine, it’s super easy to just dump the contents into the washer without needing a bag.
You’ll probably want to rinse out the bucket and let it air dry every couple of days to avoid mildew issues.
Do you use fabric softener or a vinegar rinse or bleach?
No. The flannel I used for the wipes is soft and actually gets softer with use so I don’t think any softener is necessary. And bleach is so 1977, right? I just used regular fragrance-free laundry detergent (that’s what we use on everything).
How did you convince your husband to use wipes?
Really? You must not know the man. He hasn’t used toilet paper in 15 years and calls toilet paper “sand paper.” He’s been using baby wipes for his wiping purposes since 2000 and was the first one to fist-pump this experiment.
Do you make guests use the wipes?
Of course not. I want to keep my friends. I had toilet paper available right there on the roll for their wiping pleasure.
Will you be making this change for the long term?
No. But, rest assured, my husband has is a full-on reusable wipes convert. I have switched to the one-ply toilet paper in an effort to use less natural resources.
Still fascinated? Be sure to read why we tried out using reusable cloth toilet paper and the reasons why one might use reusable cloth toilet paper.
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