During a nationwide toilet paper crisis!
I hate to give the coronavirus anymore attention that what it already has. Every news outlet is reporting, my social newsfeeds are packed with it and anyone you speak to is speaking about it. Not to downplay the seriousness of this issue, but the hysteria has really gotten out of hand!
One of the more surprising outcomes has been the the amount of toilet paper that was snatched up in a matter of days from every store within fifty miles of my house. Now being a homesteader I am normally more prepared for these situations but this time around I was down to a measily six rolls of TP! This amount wouldn't cause me any concern accept the toilet paper isn't getting restocked or if it does people are racing eachother to get to it. Now that's a situation I happily opt out of.
I don't buy into the scarcity mentality. I also don't like to depend on outside sources for my needs. So I decided the best way to avoid the chaos and regain some control and independence was to make my own toilet paper! I know some of you are going to think "Ew! Gross!" and I completely understand your reaction. I would have felt the same way before I had kids. Those little germballs sure do alter your way of thinking.
It wasn't until my third child I decided to cloth diaper. Once you enter that realm, family cloth becomes way less taboo. And once you can't get your hands on any toilet paper, you're willing to wipe with anything! :P And I havent even gotten into the environmental impacts of ditching paper toilet paper! (although I'm sure you can figure that out) Plus my septic system will fill up with less waste. From every angle, I see a lot of positives.
Let me assure you, cleaning cloth toilet paper is not as gross as it sounds either. But first let's start by how to make cloth toilet paper...
Finding fabric for FREE or very cheap
Sewing your cloth toilet paper
You will need:
Several burp clothes or flannel fabric
Lip edge ruler
There are many different tutorials on cloth toilet paper. I prefer to make mine two ply. It's more absorbant so you use less. I also cut my squares into 7x7 inches. They shrink up a tad in the wash but that size works very well for us and creates less waste if you're repurposing burp clothes.
I begin by folding my fabric in half, trying to get all four corners to match up. Not all burp clothes are perfect though so you may have some wonky edges. Do the best you can and dont worry about it. This project doesnt require perfection! Makes a great introduction to sewing and even young ones can get involved if they want. After folding the burp cloth in half, fold it again the same direction, like a hot dog is how I remember my teacher explaining it. Use a cutting mat to square up your pieces the best you can and cut your 7 inch wide strips.
Once you have your strips, open them up and lay one on top of the other. I end up stacking 5-6 on top of each other to speed up the cutting process. Then cut your strips into 7 inch squares. You will now take your 7x7 squares and stack them together, right sides facing out.
Grab your sewing machine and set your stitch to a zig zag. I like this stitch best for this project because I can get very close to the edge which prevents the flannel from unraveling too much. Some sewing machines have the option to keep the needle down even when you lift up on the presser foot. Using this option helps you turn the corners. Make sure to stitch in place or make a few backstitches so the threads do not unravel after repeated washing. Now sew around your 7x7 square, getting as close to the edge as you can. If you don't stay close to the edge you will ened up washing the TP 2-3 times to get all the unraveled fabric off them. Not a big deal, but sort of a pain. When you come to the end, backstitch again to end your stitch. Repeat these steps until you're finished with your stack!
Throw them in the wash before the first use. This helps them become absorbant and if you're using second hand burp cloths then you will want them to be clean. Washing them will also get the frayed ends to come off. Over time you will not have this issue. You can seen in the photo my newly washed cloths next to a cloth that has been washed many times.
How many will I need?
The number will vary from family member to family member. My children definetly use more than I do in a day. Also consider how often you want to wash your cloth toilet paper. I like to wash every third day. Any longer than that and you might get some funky smells come wash day or the next time you open your wet bag.
I would say a minimum of 20 cloths for adults and 40 for kids. I use these same cloths as baby wipes too. I just soak them in a basic solution so they are moist and ready to wipe baby's bottom.
How to care for my cloth toilet paper?
It's not as complicated as you may think! I just wash mine with my towels in the hottest water, in the highest soil level with a normal amount of detergent. I don't add bleach. You can add baking soda or use cloth diaper detergent such as this. If you're familiar with cloth diapering then the same rules apply. You can toss these in with your cloth diapers too.
I have never needed to rinse a number two off my cloth toilet paper. Maybe if you have serious digestive distress this would be an issue. We keep toilet paper in the house for guests and for such issues. Basically, just don't flush them and you'll be golden. If you come across issues, feel free to contact me and we can figure it out.
If you have hard water like me it will be a huge benefit to use this in each cloth toilet paper load. Minerals can build up in your cloths and hold onto ammonia and other bacteria. Using this with each wash will prevent any build up. I actually find it very helpful to use it with most of my laundry. It keeps my whites brighter and removes build up from my towels.
If you end up with staining there is no harm. If the stains bother you, lay your cloths in the sun to sun bleach the stains away. This works well for many stains and is probably why people used to hang their clothes out in the sun to dry. I haven't had any staining yet but I'm sure it happens.
You may be wondering if your wash routine changes during your monthly cycle. I use "mama cloth" or cloth pads and wash everything the same way.
My bathroom set-up
I keep my cloth toilet paper in a basket on the back of the toilet. You will need a wet bag to hang your used cloths in while they wait for the washing machine. I used a command strip to secure my wet bag next to the toilet.
For children or maybe a messy situation, it can be nice to have a clean bottom spray next to your toilet. Spray the cloth before wiping for extra cleaning power. (recipe to come)
If making your own cloth toilet paper is not something you're interested in doing but you want to become more sustainable, then chceck out the merchantile to purchase some already made cloth TP!
Francesca, wife and mother of three, eagerly shares day-to-day life on her ten acre farm in northern Colorado.