Reusable Toilet Paper Is A Thing Now — Why Some People Are Opting For The 'Family Cloth' Over Paper

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Reusable Toilet Paper Is A Thing Now — Why Some People Are Opting For The 'Family Cloth' Over Paper getty

I wont lie, when I saw this new thing called the “family cloth” on my Facebook feed and read what it was, I thought it was a joke. But upon further research I found that it's not — reusable toilet paper is a real thing people are doing now.

And, frankly, I can’t decide how I feel about it. My pampered lifestyle definitely made my first reaction, well, shock.

In reality, we shouldn't be too surprised — people use cloth diapers all over the world as an eco-friendly (and sometimes — but not always — cheaper) solution to diapers that get thrown away, and this isn’t that much different. 


But I wont pretend that I’m not having trouble wrapping my mind around it.

I’m all for being more eco-friendly, but wow. I don’t think I can get behind this "life hack", y’all. And people all across the web have been feeling the same way.


And you thought laundry was a chore before! Now you get to do an extra 2-3 loads a week to wash your potty cloths (and I’m sure whoever gets to do that will really enjoy that smell).


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Personally, I have tried to at least go “tube free” (buying toilet paper that doesn’t use the useless cardboard tube to hold the roll)  but that’s about as “eco-friendly” as I will be getting with my toilet needs for now, thank you very much.

But regardless of my feelings on it, I decided to get over myself and do some research to answer my own questions on this seemingly medieval practice. Here is what I found:

What is it? How does it work?

“Family cloth” is a system of reusable cloth “bathroom wipes” that are used as toilet paper (can be used wet or dry for urine or feces) and then thrown away into a sealed container until wash day.


From my research, it looks like most families do a load every 2-3 days (some do a separate load from their clothes on the hot setting — others just mix them in with their regular clothes loads). A lot of people who use them even opt to get each family member their own pattern so everyone has their own set. (Read: “Mom, sissy wiped her bum on my ninja turtles again!!”)

Some have started light and will only use the cloths for #1 and have disposable toilet paper on hand for their #2 needs, but some have dived all in and only have disposable for guests and emergencies (if that).


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Why are people switching to reusable cloth wipes if it's more work?

People that have opted to start using “family cloth” list several reasons for making the switch — all of which, frankly, are valid.

Switching from disposable and flushable toilet paper to reusable toilet paper has the potential to be eco-friendly and can save you big bucks. (Most still have rolls in their house for emergencies and guests, but still — way less money literally flushed down the toilet every month.)

The cloths themselves are relatively cheap and can be reused for a long time if taken care of properly. Plus, users of family cloth say that this system is more comfortable for your bottom and actually makes you feel cleaner (although, arguably, you may feel less clean in your clothes that share a washer with butt wipes, just saying).


Are cloth wipes sanitary?

Obviously, those who have already opted to make the switch seem to think it's just as sanitary as regular toilet paper, responding with reasoning along the lines of “Do you throw your underwear out after each use?”. They have a point. 

And, to give credit where it's due, mothers have been washing their kids pee stained sheets in the same washer as your clothes for literally ever — and I’ve never heard of that being linked to anything negative.

But that doesn’t make washing crappy (pun intended) clothes in your washing machine sanitary. According to a recently published article from USA Today, this practice may not be as sanitary as those who practice it claim it is.


According to Kelly Reynolds (a director and public health researcher at the University of Arizona), the "Family Cloth" is “a risky practice” because cross contamination is possible from the pathogens that are present in bodily fluids (i.e. poop or pee), which can result in illness.

While Reynolds admits that if sanitized properly, this could work, she says that it is unlikely people are using proper protocol. The right mixture to kill all bacteria is the right mixture of bleach and hot water (water “hotter than most home launderers use”).

Plus, Reynolds argues that this practice may not even be THAT eco-friendly, because “actually using the proper protocol to sanitize cloth toilet wipes — or cloth diapers, for that matter — may require enough water and energy to offset the sustainability benefits versus toilet paper.”


Personally, I’ve heard all the justification I need to continue to use paper to keep myself clean. More power to you, though, if you decide to try it out. 

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Nicole Bradley-Bernard is a writer who needs coffee more than she needs anyone’s approval. She enjoys putting bright colors in her curly brown hair, spending time outside on cool days and being with her partner in life, Eric, who she considers a continuing source of inspiration.