Yesterday, I did a wrap-up on how to implement using cloth wipes during the Cloth Wipe Challenge. Today, I thought I'd review the benefits of using cloth for those of you still wondering why we are bothering to go through all this when TP is aplenty and readily available.
1. Cost - Outside of the initial investment in wipes (see my doin' it on the cheap post), the costs beyond that are for a container to put the wipes in and whatever cleaning agent you use. If you are washing them with other stuff, the amount of detergent used over the course of a year is pretty small. On the other hand, toilet paper is expensive, especially if you are springing for 100% recycled toilet paper.
2. Comfort - OMG, I cannot even describe how much more comfortable it is to wipe using 100% cotton flannel than even the softest of Charminy TPs. Now compare that to the relative scratchitude of recycled toilet papers. Enough said.
3. Environment - This is the big one so I've broken it down.
a. Energy - Yes, washing cloth wipes does require some extra energy in your washing machine, but unless you are using a million wipes a week, there's no way you're going to fill up your machine. So just throw them in with your other stuff. #1 wipes can go in with anything (except maybe kitchen towels) and #2 wipes can go in with towels or the like. They don't take up much space. Really.
b. Water - Again, washing cloth wipes requires some water, but if you're throwing them in with a load of other stuff, it's fairly negligible.
Compare the minimal energy and water usage at home with how much water and energy is used in the production of toilet paper. It's a pretty water and energy intensive process. Even recycled toilet paper uses a lot more of both than what your using with cloth wipes.
c. Natural Resources - If you're not using recycled toilet paper, the amount of trees saved is equivalent to that little pile of cloth you have at the end of the day. Add into both regular or recycled TP extra waste in processing. Plus, don't forget the other natural resources used like water and energy (minus whatever went into making the cloth, amortized over time). You can also throw in the harm caused by whatever chemicals are used in the processing (most likely bleach).
So, the benefits are: you win with cost savings and comfort (with minimal extra work) and the environment wins every time you wipe!