We Tried 'Family Cloth' (AKA Reusable Toilet Paper) And It Was As Awful As It Sounds

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
Family Cloth AKA Reusable Toilet Paper
MamaBearBabyWear / lepapierlavable /

Other than food, there are some necessities we think we can’t live without and still maintain our thin veneer of civilization. That most definitely includes toilet paper.

The Toilet Paper Encyclopedia tells us that 69% of people think that TP is the modern convenience most likely to be taken for granted. In fact, if they were stranded on a desert island, the encyclopedia says, 49% of people actually chose toilet paper over food.

We can’t live without the stuff.

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The 9 Billion breaks it down like this: each tree can only make about 1,000 rolls of TP. Americans use 7 billion rolls a year, which means that we’re killing 7 million trees a year to wipe our asses.

This is why I decided to use family cloth.

Family cloth, for those of you who are not totally fucking irredeemable hippies, is a polite euphemism for “reusable toilet paper.” Basically, you use cloth wipes, which you drop in a bucket instead of the toilet. Then you launder them. Then you repeat the cycle. This requires you to do several things:

  1. Wipe your ass with a rag
  2. Leave that pee-or-poop-covered rag in the bathroom
  3. Stick it in your washer

I had no problem with any of these things, which speaks to how far I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of hippie parenting. This is mostly because I cloth diapered, and in my mind, it was only a hop, skip, and (actually a really, really fucking far) jump from cloth diapering to family cloth. I mean, I wiped my son’s butt with a wipe, which I dropped into a pail. Where it sat for a day or two. Which I threw into my washing machine on the sanitary setting. My washer had seen some shit, literally. So, why not add my own?

Plus, I had the wipes. I had made a punful shit ton of them when I was pregnant. So I stationed a pile of them in each bathroom, plus a small plastic trashcan. And you know what? Those cloth wipes felt fucking awesome. They wiped like butta (heh). For poo cleanup, a spritz with a nearby spray bottle, made of the same diaper spray potion I used for my son? Heaven. This family cloth thing rocked. I loved it.

My husband? He totally fucking refused to have anything to do with it.

“I only use TP for one thing,” he said, “and I’m not having it stick around the bathroom.”

The kids, on the other hand, knew no better, so with me wielding the spray bottle, lest they begin spritzing down the walls, they happily family cloth’ed it. Every night, I just dumped the reusable TP into the diaper pail. Easy-peasy, right?

Until the pee smell caught up with me. I don’t know if the PH-balance of adult pee is different than baby pee, or if the pee smell seeped into the plastic trash can, or what happened, but suddenly, our bathroom smelled horribly, fatally, of piss. Think eu de men’s restroom of a subway station. It wouldn’t smell this bad again until my sons started peeing on their own and wielding their wieners like octopus sprinklers.

My husband put his foot down. There would be no more reusing toilet paper. Not now, not in the future, not ever again, because we were redblooded Americans and we could afford to purchase TP and dammit when the apocalypse came we had an entire library of books to wipe our asses with, so we wouldn’t be using cloth then either.

I collected my wipes (rags), rinsed out my (pee) buckets, and washed that last load of (diaper and toilet paper) laundry. I probably saved two rolls of toilet paper during my great Family Cloth experiment. That translates to one twig or something. I also lost a massive amount of hippie cred. But my bathroom no longer smelled like a urinal, and there was far less laundry. These were both positive developments.

But man, when I poop, I still miss my spritzer and my rag.

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