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What To Know About Reusable Toilet Paper And The ‘Family Cloth’ Movement

We've answered the questions you were afraid to ask about reusable toilet paper.

Saving Mother Earth is a team effort. Most of us try to participate in reducing waste as best we can, by doing small things like drinking from reusable water bottles, using cloth towels instead of paper towels and even air-drying our clothes instead of using the dryer.

But some people have been taking it to the extreme by switching to reusable cloth wipes instead of good old toilet paper when it comes time to use the bathroom.

This movement—with washable wipes known as “family cloths”—has been gaining traction online recently. Many families have taken the step to reduce their eco-footprint by ditching flushable toilet paper and instead opting for more earth-friendly ways to keep their bums clean.

How Does It Work?

If you’re interested in experimenting with the family cloth method, either buy or make several strips of cloth (such as by tearing up old t-shirts or blankets), then place them in a basket near the toilet. You can also buy family cloth from Etsy sellers that make actual rolls of washable cloths that have snaps on them, allowing you to store them right on the toilet paper roll holder that’s probably sticking out of your wall!

But what do you do with the cloths after they’ve been used?

After you’ve wiped with a family cloth, you toss the used cloth into a nearby basket or hanging bag, such as the one used by the Instagram user in the video below.

The #familycloth project is finished! The setup is the same in both of our bathrooms. A bidet, #repurposed baby receiver #clothwipes, #PUL laundry bags, and a spray bottle with a gentle cleansing solution (diluted unscented #DrBronners ). Don't worry, visitors of my home. I have #eco #bamboo tp stashed away just for you. 😚 #zerowaste #veganaf #ecologyismyreligion Update: This is, like, the best thing we have ever done. Contrary to my initial worry, there is nothing gross about this. The #bidet eliminates the mess and the cloth is simply to dry! I am obsessed! And Chad sent me a Snap today of him in the stall at work holding #toiletpaper and a big frown on his face with the caption "I miss Family Cloth 😢". Above all else, I consider that a win.

A post shared by Kāssi Safarik (@spectral_werehound) on

Some people use family cloths for both “Number 1” and “Number 2,” while others prefer to stick with traditional toilet paper for the latter. To each her own.

When the bag is full, the cloths go into the washing machine. Some people wash them separately and even soak them ahead of time in a vinegar solution—but others, like the blog Frugal Living NW, say that is unnecessary and that they simply toss the cloths in with the rest of their clothes and regular laundry detergent. But if you have young children and plan to soak your family cloths after use, it’s not a good idea to keep the basin in your bathroom, as it could pose a drowning risk.

Oh, and if you happen to see on social media that one of the friends you regularly visit is adopting the family cloth method, don’t panic. According to Yahoo, most family cloth homes still keep a roll of toilet paper in the bathroom for visitors!

toilet paper roll photo
Flickr | wuestenigel

Why Is This Becoming A Thing?

Still unclear as to why anyone would opt to use washable toilet cloths? Well, for one thing, it can apparently save money. The cost of toilet paper can obviously add up, especially for big families.

Another reason many people have started doing this is because toilet paper is bad for the environment. In 2009, some environmental scientists told The Guardian that making toilet paper—especially extra-soft, quilted varieties—causes more environmental damage than gas-guzzling vehicles do.

This has caused some people to switch to recycled toilet paper, but many have complained about the rough quality of it. Enter another reason for switching to family cloth: it’s good for sensitive skin. Depending on the type of cloth, some say it’s downright tender on your tush.

Would you try using cloth wipes instead of toilet paper or does the whole thing just weird you out too much?