Switch away from paper products

There are things that everyone knows hippies do.  They eat organic, they reuse water bottles, they recycle, they wear their hair long, and they do yoga.  Then there are things the hardcore hippies do.  They cloth diaper, they drink kombucha, they boycott Amazon and Walmart, and they don’t shave.  So what kind of person refuses to use paper for anything but writing and drawing?  That is too much for most of even the hardcore hippies.  Today I’m going to show you how to switch away from paper products for hygiene.  Are you ready?

Just say no to disposables

So what exactly do I not use?  I think it is a rather comprehensive list:

  • paper towels
  • razors (my razor does use disposable blades, but they last me many months – in fact, I can’t recall when I last changed it)
  • menstrual products
  • swiffer mops
  • paper dishes and plastic silverware
  • tissues
  • toilet paper…

Wait!  Toilet paper?  That’s right.  We don’t use toilet paper.

I will confess to being somewhat of an extremist here, but I am not alone.  Inhabit.com has an article calling them “family cloths”.  Becomingpeculiar.com has another one, and then there is the post from Crunchy Chicken where I first got this crazy idea.  Come to think of it, Crunchy Chicken had an enormous influence on me.  I made the switch back in 2008 and I have never looked back.  I even got my mom to make the switch.  Go, Mom!

The problems with toilet paper

Quite honestly, I was already frustrated with toilet paper, but until I learned about the cloth option, I just dealt with my disgust.  Toilet paper is supposed to be sanitary, but just how sanitary is it when your finger pokes through as the wet paper disintegrates?  Yuck!  “That’s why you wash your hands.”  No.  Just no.  If I wanted my hand to get contaminated, I would do it the way Eastern cultures do and skip the paper completely.  To avoid this, I feel like I have to use copiously wasteful amounts of paper.  And not to get too personal here (kids, close your eyes), but it is quite humiliating to have your husband get intimate with you and have to pause to remove balled up paper wads that got stuck down there the last time you were in the bathroom.

I also take umbrage at the idea of cutting down perfectly good trees just so I can wipe my butt.  Heat my house, yes.  Build my house, yes.  Make paper for writing on, sure.  But wipe my butt?  How undignified an end can you make for a majestic tree?  And I have not seen any toilet papers that are 100% post-consumer recycled content.  Admittedly, I haven’t looked in nearly a decade, either.

What to do instead

So I don’t want to use paper, and I don’t want to use my bare hand.  Well, what other options are there?  Cloth.  We use them for babies, and their poop is no better than ours (once they start eating solids), and cloth diapers are becoming very socially acceptable.  Fifteen years ago when I started cloth diapering, it wasn’t so much, but the trend has shifted and now you can find beautiful diaper covers for sale by moms who have been there.  I suspect that cloth diapers may follow the same path, albeit more slowly.

We use flannel that I cut to 9″ squares, and then I stitch two layers together on my sewing machine or serger.  I have found that keeping the two layers flat and either serging them or zigzagging over the raw edges makes them last the longest.  Hemming them just creates a weak line along the stitching line, and they don’t stack as nicely.  I keep a covered bucket beside the toilet for dropping them in when we are done.  Every other day or so (when we run out of wipes), I just dump the bucket straight into the washer.  Only the really nasty things go in that load of laundry – the dirty wipes, rags that have cleaned up spills on the floor, cloth menstrual pads, diapers, etc.

I also want to point out that flannel on your most intimate parts is very soft and comfy.  It is, of course, best to use organic flannel for this so you don’t apply pesticides to your nether regions.  I have to laugh at the preppers who stockpile toilet paper.  I can just picture someone stuffing half their bug-out bag with unnecessary tubes of paper.  There are much better things to spend your prepper money on than toilet paper.

Social acceptance has a ways to go yet

When I first made the switch, I lived in public housing, where everyone is nosy and wants to get you in trouble for something, either real or imagined.  Our two-year-old son had flushed all of the toothbrushes down the toilet and clogged it up to the point that I had to call maintenance to fix the toilet (it was the only one in the apartment for our family of seven).  A few days later we got a visit from the head of the housing authority and the city board of health.  They grilled us on our lack of toilet paper, and when I explained that we use cloth, the city health officer asked if we used a separate washing machine for them.  I looked at him like he had ten heads. I asked if all cloth diapering parents are required to use a separate washing machine.  They said they would consider the matter and get back to us.  We never heard from them again.  I guess the logic was too overwhelming.  🙂

We do try to keep a single roll of paper available for guests.  Repeat guests (like my kids’ closest friends) have come to just roll with our idiosyncrasies, but they still prefer to use paper.  When my best friend visited last year, she brought her own roll of toilet paper.  I asked her why and she said that she knew my practice and decided to simply supply her own rather than asking me to go get some just for her visit.  “If you know you’re going to need something, just bring it yourself.”

Other hygiene substitutes

Toilet paper isn’t the only paper product I have banned from my house.  We use rags for cleaning up spills or dish towels instead of paper towels, cloth menstrual pads or silicone cups instead of regular pads or tampons, handkerchiefs instead of tissues, and a broom instead of a swiffer mop.  If you use a swiffer mop, I have seen patterns on Ravelry for crafting your own covers.  My goal is that we only use paper for writing or drawing, and I am generally very successful in that endeavor.

Your turn

Have you given up something that most people consider absolutely essential to civilization?  Would you consider using cloth wipes instead of toilet paper?  Do you still want to visit my house?  🙂


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