Tuesday, April 7, 2020

How to survive (and enjoy!) living without toilet paper

Hobo Mama wants you to know she's a professional blogger! Look at how professional she's being!

If you've been staring at bare paper-products aisles in distress, I have some suggestions to brighten your day. You can cut down or cut out your use of toilet paper while maintaining your comfort and convenience.

I recommend a mix of family cloth, a bidet attachment, and, optionally, a much smaller quantity of toilet paper or wet wipes as needed, such as for guests -- in the future, when guests are a thing again. You might remember I first tried family cloth, or reusable cloth toilet paper, several years ago after a lot of debate and skepticism. I'm glad to report I've kept using it, but I admit I didn't get my family fully on board until this coronavirus epidemic! Necessity is the mother of getting your kids to use less toilet paper, apparently. Happily, this transition is going very well. I think we can stick with it, so I'll share my updated thoughts on managing family cloth for a whole family.

Using it without losing it

Speaking for myself (and what I observe of my husband, not that I'm snooping that hard), I can use family cloth for #1 and during my time of the month, no worries. I even made myself a batch of bright red flannel wipes for the occasion! For #2, I just...still...can't use a dry wipe for it. I don't know why, but we all have our mental blocks. Fortunately, we have two things going for us: a beloved bidet attachment (love! it! so! much!) and a small stock of toilet paper from a shipment we received just before the metaphorical poop hit the fan. So I use the bidet to hose off what I can and then pat and wipe as needed with the paper. Depending on the consistency (I'm not going to go into details), sometimes I'm sure I could get away with just using the cloth, but sometimes...not. I think some people just use a bidet and no wiping at all? I don't get that, honestly. We must have different intestinal experiences. Anyway, we all use what works for us.

Speaking of which, my kids are happily using the family cloth for pee, just as the adults are. Since they have just a little tip dribble to wipe up, I'm happy that they're wasting so much less paper. (Seriously, sometimes I was aghast at how many sheets they thought they needed!) For poop, though, they all prefer wet wipes (and are afraid of the bidet). That's fine -- we keep a container of wipes on the back of the toilet, and they get to choose their weapon. You can use either disposable baby wipes or a handmade solution with cloth wipes. Alternatively, you could keep a spray bottle of wipes solution near the toilet to spritz single wipes as needed, or just use water.

Separating and storing the stash

In our upstairs bathroom, I have a wet-dry bag hanging on the back of the door from our cloth-diapering days. The clean wipes go in the front pocket. As they're used, they're dropped in the waterproof wet side.

Downstairs, I hung two little bags from the unused toilet-paper bar. One is a random cloth gift bag that had a drawstring. I put the dry wipes in there. The other is a small wet bag we used to bring in the diaper bag for wet diapers. I poked a safety pin through the zipper pull and threaded a string through to hang it next to the dry bag. You could use any combo that makes sense to you -- maybe a little box of dry wipes and a mini-garbage can or a plastic bag for the wet ones.

Keeping it clean

To clean the wipes, I just add them to the laundry. I used to think I needed to do something special with them, but I don't anymore, and...I dunno...they're fine. I always check that they don't smell as I pull them out of the wash, and they don't. I check again as I pull them from the dryer, and they're nice and clean. So my laundry routine with more family cloth is the same as my routine without: Everything dirty goes straight into the washer, and when it's full, I run a load. I don't sort. I don't do a lot of interesting additives or extra cycles. I just wash on normal, and I use warm water for the wash cycle during the colder months and cold during the warmer so that it's always kind of lukewarm. Then I pop them all in the dryer and dry on low. Out they come and back into the dry bags.

I'd say I do have to do laundry more often now, so you'll want to consider whether your region or your water bill can handle the extra washing. However, it's not a huge inconvenience, considering I'd be doing laundry anyway, and family cloth doesn't take up too much space in a load.

The best supply list

For the family cloth itself, my favorites are either two layers of jersey fabric sewn together and flipped right side out, as Dionna made for me, or some of the flannel ones I sewed for myself. It turns out you don't need to get fancy at all. I tried a lot of different styles, and the ones I like the best of the kinds I made were very basic: two layers of flannel, sewn with a straight stitch all along the outside. You'd think serging or zigzagging would be better, but the straight stitch is actually really comfortable as it frays a bit. It doesn't fray enough to ruin the cloth, just enough to make the edges snuggly soft. For flannel, you can buy it, of course, but I seem to have an inexhaustible supply of old pajamas and holey sheets, so I go with those. A decent size is 7"x5", though your butt won't care if the sizing is off. I just get annoyed that I made a few so small that my hand gets wet when I use them! (Could I stop using them? I could. I won't.)

If you don't want to make your own, of course you can buy ready-made wipes. You can also experiment with cut-up old t-shirts (jersey doesn't fray) or thin washcloths. It's wiping your butt, so you really don't have to get fancy.

For a bidet, there are so many seats and attachments available nowadays that your heart can fly free comparing all the specs. If you have easy access to a hot water source, I hear having warm water shooting out at you is pleasant. We did not, but we find the cold water bracing (even in winter). I seriously have not regretted our choice at all, and I miss my bidet so much whenever we travel! If you can afford only the most basic model, that's fine, really. If that's not in the cards, either, a peri bottle or diaper sprayer could be your manual mini-bidet!

Go long

As long as you're transitioning to family cloth in the bathroom, why not replace all the paper products in your home with durable and comfortable cloth alternatives? We've swapped our tissues and napkins with handkerchiefs and our paper towels with kitchen towels, microfiber cloths, and rags. To make hankies and cleaning rags, I use the same material as for family cloth -- old flannel, which is so absorbent and comfy -- but I cut and sew it a little differently. For one thing, I find a single layer of flannel is softest on the nose and easy to maneuver for cleaning. (You'll naturally bunch it up for more absorbency as needed.) My hankies are about an 8"x8" square, and the kitchen cloths are more like 12"x12" or larger. Again, these are estimates, and you can work with whatever fabric you have. I still just hem a straight stitch along the edges, and they work great! Toss them in with your laundry as well, and you're set.

I hope that if you're wanting to take the plunge into family cloth -- or if you're being forced to by supply-chain circumstances -- that this gives you some confidence and useful advice. Let me know if you have any questions or tips of your own to share!



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