Monday Monthly Mission #8

December 1st, 2009 - filed under: Furthermore » Monday Monthly Mission

On the first Monday of every month, we take on a ‘mission’ – a shift or habit or inspiration – to work on together. There’s strength (and support) in numbers! On the last Thursday of the month, we reconvene to see how far we’ve come.


You’ve all been so amazing joining me in these grand experiments each month, willingly committing yourselves to new, sometimes drastic life changes. And I think, this month, I’m really going to test your faith in me! Eek!

Okay. So, this month I’m going to switch to family cloth. “Now, what is family cloth?”, you may ask. “That sounds so sweet, like a big warm blankey for sharing”.

But yeah, no.

Family cloth is cotton toilet paper. Basically, you replace your standard bleached, chemically-treated paper TP, with reusable wipes made of fabric (bought new or upcycled from old clothes/towels). Keep your clean cloths near the toilet, in a drawer or a pretty basket or bag. Keep a ‘dirty rag’ receptacle near the toilet as well, a bin with a lid or a hanging drawstring sack. Launder the used wipes as necessary.

Sound crazy? I thought so too, at first. It’s honestly taken me a while to warm up to the idea. But the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Obviously, it’s a great environmental gain. We already know from our research into paper napkins, that washing reusables is much more resource/energy efficient. And I remember from the switch to cloth menstrual pads, how surprised I was at the comfort that came with cotton. I hope to get the same benefit from the family cloth.

I’ll be spending this first month using family cloth for #1 only. So I’ll keep some TP in the bathrooms, for guests and for #2.

And what about you, my dear green go-getters. Is this just too extreme to be gotten? Or, are you with me? Will you accept this mission?


  • Anne

    Oh wow, this IS extreme!
    I like the idea but it honestly also grosses me out. Perhaps it’s something to consider down the road, although there’s no way the Hubby would go along with it, no way no how! I couldn’t even persuade him to go from the nasty bleached white triple ply TP to non-bleached or recycled..
    I’m curious to read about the different experiences in here, but so far I think I’ll stick with paper TP.

  • Jenny K

    I’ve seen others do this (via livejournal). It was totally odd to me at first. When I lived in Mexico, we threw the TP in the trash instead of flushing it, so it is not completely far out there. I’ve also converted to cloth pads and menstrual cups (and don’t plan to ever go back). It makes sense to do this, but I’m still a little leery of using family cloth for #2. I’ll definitely take this challenge on for my #1 this month!

  • Valerie

    I agree with Anne, this is extreme! Then I got to thinking about it: People use cloth diapers with their babies. But then again a baby’s poo consists of milk basically.
    Sayward have you done any research about sanitization? Does the water in your washer get hot enough? What about using specific soaps? Please share with us your findings.

  • Minna

    Yes-yes… This does sound extreme. But I love extreme! I think that changing life like that (for a lot of people it may seem as changing life more uncomfortable) is challenging and very interesting.

    I would also like to know how exactly you wash these things? Does it need anything special to make it perfectly clean?

    It’s actually a lot like reusable diapers. You wash them and use them again. I wonder if people used to use “family cloth” a long ago when there was no paper =/


  • Mrs. Money

    I’ve used it for well over a year now. :) It works well for me. And, like you, I only use it for #1!

  • Staar

    This my be a little extreme but in a lt of parts of the world people don’t use toilet paper so there are other options. I just finished reading, “Sleeping Naked is Green” and one of the things the author did was switch to using water to wash from number one. But she stuck to toilet paper for #2. As far as sanitization is concerned urine is completly safe at least at first. But I would be leery of doing anything other than using tp for #2 because of health concerns.

  • Sue

    We actually started trying this out and it isn’t as out there as one would expect. (Although we sadly fell out of practice. Must get back to it!) But then again, I have gone through cloth diapering two children now and used cloth wipes for them. After the age of one, a kids diapers are practically no different. And it made it easy because we laundered the cloths with the diapers. Using hot water with a combo of baking soda and vinegar takes care of sanitization.

    And just because I’m thinking of it, I highly recommend a diaper sprayer. It was one of the best investments we made with cloth diapering. It attaches to the toilet and helps spray out the diapers when needed. Also works out well when I rinse out the tub too. :)

  • Desert Dweller

    It’s very common not to use toilet paper to cleanse yourself. When I lived in the middle east, each time we did our thing we actually had a bucket and soap and we’d cleanse with warm water and soap and then dry with our own designated cloth. It worked out great-no toilet paper! And I felt WAY cleaner afterwards.

  • akeeyu

    Once you start using cloth diapers on the kiddo, you’re going to find yourself using little flannel cloths for a LOT of things, then throwing it all in the diaper pail.

    They’ll all come out spiffy clean.

    For the easily squicked or sanitation concerned: I kind of doubt you’d throw out the pajamas and sheets if your baby got their diaper off during a nap, or toss every bacteria laden cleaning cloth or hand towel, right?

    Washed properly, cloth diapers and wipes end up being the cleanest laundry in the house.

  • Tenise Rae

    This is definitely a little extreme for me…but you are right, it does make sense. I like it…..however, my husband will NOT go for this at all. I have a hard time getting him to even recycle. :-\ I know…I hate it too. I end up digging around in the garbage most of the time trying to find his cans and bottles…..I’m workin’ on him though. He’s now starting to put the recyclables next to the sink for me to rinse and dispose of properly. Anyway….what I was going to say was my grandmother used to live in this ancient house that had horrible plumbing. So we couldn’t ever flush toilet paper. Sometimes if you went #2 you could flush a little but for the most part she always had a little paper bag next to the toilet to put the used tp. We got used to it and it didn’t seem to be all that bad really. I think your mission is very doable. :D
    Kudos to you for taking on this unique and extreme challenge.

  • Sarah

    I may start this too. Like you, just for #1 :) My husband won’t have to be on board that way :P I’ve attempted to talk him into it before…

    It’ll be super easy since I have a 17mo in cloth diapers. I can just toss them in the diaper pail that already lives near the toilet :)
    Do you think I should use separate wipes for me and baby? I use old cut up (thin) diapers and old cheap washcloths for him.

  • Sayward

    Haha, oh dear, I’m an extremist! Ah well, such is life. I’m happy to take the risk of going first!

    I definitely agree with those that made the analogy to cloth diapering and menstrual pads. I’ve done the pads and we plan to cloth diaper (and cloth wipe – no disposable ‘wet-naps’ for us) our son, so really this seems like a natural next step.

    I *will* continue using TP for #2, at least at first.

    As for sanitation, well urine is essentially sterile so I’m not concerned about that right now. #2 is a different issue, and one I’ll have to look into some more before I can comment further.

    I totally understand that this seems pretty far out there for most people. I hope that my experience may help to break down the barriers of ‘ick’ and social taboo. Or maybe not, who know? I may hate it! We’ll just have to see.

    Regardless, thank you to all who will be following my journey, and especially huge THANK YOU’s to those brave ones who are coming along for the ride!


  • Crystal

    This is something the completely interests me- and I feel as though it is a logical step.. Since I’ve never cloth diapered (not babies yet!) I don’t have a feel for the process. I mean I get it and everything- but I sometimes have issues keeping up with the regular laundry! So how often would you wash these wipes? Essentially I’m sure you could have enough wipes that you wouldn’t have to wash them each day or every other- but maybe that would be unpleasant to leave them for a longer amount of time? I think it’s something that I would like to try and will try… I need to get some flannel!

  • Sayward

    @ Crystal – Well, I’m imagining washing about once per week. Since I won’t be using wipes for #2, I’m not too concerned about odor build up – but I do plan to preempt that issue with a very tight fitting lid on my rag receptacle. Urine is truly near-sterile, so I don’t think once-a-week will be a problem. Luck! (also, you can just cut up old tee shirts or towels or whatever you have around)

  • Kelly

    If only all our toilets had bidets…We’d be set! I hear some even have built-in dryers!

  • Sayward

    @ Kelly – Bidets kind of freak me out, but I do not speak from experience. And dryers?! Crazy!

  • aneelee

    oh my! i had heard about your challenges and finally tuned in this month with a bit of gung-ho in me. gung-ho now gone. don’t think i can do it and no for certain that the husband will scream, “bloody hell!”

    shall join you next month hopefully. am gonna give you’re no-poo a whirl in its place.

  • Sayward

    @ analee – Understood. =) I shall see you next month, and god luck with the no-poo!

  • http://none Heather

    Big money saving tip. Make your own wipes. You can use new or “vintage” flannel (if new, use the quilters flannel) Cut squares anywhere from 6″x6″ to 8″x8″ (pick a size and stick to it) and then sew 2 pieces back to back. If you have a serger, great, if not use a mid side zigzag stitch and let the right stitch fall off the side of the fabric. Makes a super thick wipe that stays super soft forever. And my experiance is thick is better when dealing with #2, especialy when it’s the baby. You can use the same idea to make burp cloths too, just enlarge. Also you can use tea tree oil in your collection bag (just a few drops on a cloth and throw it in) to ease any “smell” issues. Good Luck!

  • Sayward

    @ Heather – Awesome, thanks for the great tips!

  • Cyn

    I applaud anyone’s efforts to live greener – I don’t do a very good job of it myself but am trying to improve but this one raises a question for me. Is all the water and electricity used to wash the wipes a savings over using the “green” unbleached recycled toilet paper out there? Not criticizing-am truly asking the question of what kind of difference there is between the two so I understand better.

  • Sayward

    @ Cyn – It’s a great question and one that any thinking person should ask. =)

    But yes, studies have been done and it is definitely more energy- and resource-efficient to wash and reuse cloths as opposed to buying new or even recycled paper products.

  • bashtree


    I’m a new reader of yours (came via Lifehacker and the candle post) but I like your [life]style! I am not sure I’m ready for this, but you’ve definitely put a bug in my ear about it. I know for a fact that my husband would never in a million years go for it, but that doesn’t mean I can’t! I’m gonna go read about your cloth menstrual pads now too…

  • Eric Normand

    Have you ever considered the water method? It’s easy and sanitary if you wash your hands afterward.

  • Sayward

    @ bashtree – Yeah, and you can always ease in slowly, doing it part time and just for #1 (so your husband doesn’t have to be involved). It’s awesome that your so open-minded!

    @ Eric Normand – You mean like a squirt bottle? I know a lot of women who do this while healing after giving birth, and thay all swear by it. To me it sounds a bit . . . cold, haha. But maybe I’ll give it a try (maybe after this baby!)

  • PWA

    Why not just compost your waste? Google “humanure” and you’ll find the guide to getting started. Two big pluses for composting waste is (1) the paper you use gets broken down with your waste and provides much needed nutrition for your garden, and (2) you stop wasting valuable water on waste disposal. Its win win!

  • Rob

    Years ago in Mother Earth News I read about using nightcrawlers to compost used TP. They were kept in a hamper like container in the bathroom and instead of stinking added an “earthy” smell to the bathroom.

  • Sayward

    @ PWA – That is definitely something to look into in the future. I have a family member who set up a composting toilet but it’s entirely out doors. It does require special attention and I’m not at a place where that’s an option for me right now. But it’s something I look forward to exploring some day!

    @ Rob – Interesting, I’ve heard of worm bins for food compost, but not for bathroom waste. I’ll look into that, thanks!

  • Eric Normand

    @Sayward: Not really a spray bottle. It’s a little hard to explain, but you use your right hand to run water behind you using a bottle or kettle and your left hand to clean yourself. You can alternatively use a bidet. I used this method myself in the Peace Corps. It’s probably more sanitary than paper because with paper you just smear everything around. Just be sure to wash your hands with plenty of soap and water!

    This has a little info:

  • Sprgtime

    Just found your blog a few days ago (love it!) so I’m late to comment…

    I switched to using cloth wipes about 6 months ago. If I had to describe it in one word, it would be: LUXURIOUS
    I had to get past my initial squick factor to even give it a try, but decided since I already had cloth wipes for my cloth diapered baby, I’d at least just try it for a day.
    Cloth wipes are soooo comfortable. Mine are flannel, and I made them from old flannel receiving blankets. They do a much better job than TP, and leave me far cleaner feeling.
    As for #2 – I have a toilet diaper sprayer. Sort of a hand-held wand bidet, if you will. We bought it for the baby’s poopy diapers (and it was amazing for post partum, that alone was worth getting it). I now use the sprayer after #2. Then I use a cloth wipe but that’s basically to dry off.
    We keep TP in the bathroom for guests. Our cloth wipes are kept folded in a Huggies pop-up dispenser so I don’t think others notice it, and it’s really easy to just pull out the next one – they pop right out like kleenex.
    We also use them in place of kleenex, heavenly on your nose. My son used to scream when I’d wipe his nose with kleenex, but he loves fleece wipes on his nose and will let me do that.
    As for laundry: They don’t add anything more to the wash. My cloth wipes are 6″x6″ and I toss them in whenever I’m either already doing a load of diapers or sheets/towels. They don’t actually add more bulk to the load.
    Love all the money I’m saving on TP, and never having to reload the TP roll, but most of all it’s just so much more comfortable, I don’t like using other people’s toilets anymore.

  • Sayward

    @ Sprgtime – I couldn’t agree more! *Luxurious* is the perfect way to put it.

    The diaper sprayer seems a great way to go if you’re going to use cloth for #2 (which I haven’t tried yet). I will be cloth diapering but haven’t picked up a diaper sprayer yet. Do you think I should get one? I wasn’t sure how necessary it was and was leaning towards skipping it, but now I’m reconsidering. I’d love any input you have!

  • Sprgtime

    The diaper sprayer is awesome for post partum, so I’d say get it before baby comes! :)

    As far as using it for cloth diapers: The first 6 months you can just put soiled diapers into pail, then into machine, with no rinsing required so the sprayer isn’t needed until they start solid foods.
    When they start solid foods, it totally depends on the kid as to whether you’ll find the sprayer useful or not. I expected to use my sprayer (and I’m totally poop-phobic) so I wasn’t looking forward to the after-6-mo part. However, my son’s poops turned into solid formed little logs. They rolled right off the diaper and plopped into the toilet. I only used the sprayer when he was sick with diarrhea or something (and at those times I was really glad to have it). However, from other moms I’ve spoken with, many of their kids go through a 4-10 month stage (starting at 6+ months of age) of squishy gross food-filled poop before getting logs that roll off.
    Since they can be had relatively cheaply, I think they’re nice. I also use it when I clean the bathroom sink & the toilet – it’s handy to have a little hand-held sprayer in there!
    Oh, and using sprayer & cloth for #2 is really nice if you end up with hemorrhoids… just FYI. :)

  • Rachel Drum

    Wow, I have gone long enough exploring this wonderful site without commenting, but this is just too crazy not to comment on, haha. What a great way to make something so un-American possible! Thank you Sayward for taking the fear-factor out of something I myself, as well as others have thought about, but ran away from because of one thing or another. I’m going to give it a go! I think I will splurge and buy new flannel that matches my shower curtain to make it feel that much more luxurious. Yay for saving money, environment, and comfort!

  • Sayward

    @ Sprgtime – Thanks so much for all the experience and info!

    @ Rachel Drum – Hooray! You are brave – good for you! It’s well worth it. Can’t wait to hear about your experience. =)