Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Potty Talk: Your cloth wipe questions answered

Cloth Wipe Challenge 2008First off, I wanted to address a few questions that came up in regards to the upcoming Cloth Wipe Challenge at the end of the month. I'll be getting into some more nitty-gritty fun factoids in a later post.

The whole famdamily issue
If you are dubious about washing cloth wipes for six people in your household, then just try them yourself. No one said you had to drag family and friends into this. In our household, the kids don't use cloth wipes yet as they are too young and we would be spending far more in plumbing bills than we would be saving by having them use cloth.

Maybe when they are a little older and pay more attention to what should and shouldn't go in the toilet we'll have them use cloth. In the meantime, we risk just flushing the benefits down the toilet. So to speak. Anyway, just start small and see how it goes.

Shared bathrooms
If you live with other people who aren't as enthused about it as you, it's a little more difficult, but not undoable. You just need to be a bit more sneaky and run a covert cloth wipe operation. I would suggest going for #1 only - it will be easier to hide. Find a container of some sort and hide it under the sink somewhere. You can always go for some cammo patterned cloth remnants.

Even if someone asks you what it is, it won't be readily obvious what you're doing. Feel free to tell them, or just say you use them for cleaning your armpits or some other misdirection. It won't totally gross them out but it will keep them from fiddling with your wipes.

It's going to create too much laundry
Umm, unless you are repurposing ship's sails in their original size, you won't be generating much laundry. For #1 use for two people, we wash the "pee pads", as my mom calls them, a couple times a week. We just throw them in with the rest of the laundry and they don't take up any more space than a small t-shirt. The water usage and soap is negligible. You'll find you won't need a very big piece to do the job as cloth is way more absorbent than TP.

Why don't you try the "hand and water method"?
By gum, if you've got spunk enough to do that, be my guest. I just have a few words for you: fingernails and fecal matter. Someone brought up the whole drying after the rinse cycle issue and, unless you've got time to air dry, you're ending up using a cloth to dry, no?


Anonymous said...

I'd say water and hand, having lived many years in the East BUT: keep nails trimmed short, only use left hand [eat with right hand].

After a little while anything else doesn't feel clean.

Bev said...

My husband and I made the switch last year after the first challenge, and it really isn't as bad as people might think. We use cloths for both #1 and #2 and it didn't even add half a load to our weekly laundry (mostly because you shouldn't overestimate how big a piece of fabric to use).

In our house we call them "potty rags". LOL

Segwyne said...

We have no problems with the youngest ones flushing them. The baby was potty trained with them these last several months and the 4-year-old understood that was what the bucket in the bathroom was for. Of course, we never had a problem with them flushing things to begin with, so that could be an issue if your kids tend to flush things.

Greenpa said...

Then there's the old original disposable- corn cobs.

Hey, corn is a "renewable resource!" according to the ethanol people! (It really isn't, but we're just having fun here.)

Frankly, I've never understood the actual mechanics involved in using a corn cob for this job.

Any experience out there? :-)

Ashley // Our Little Apartment said...

Funny - my little sister asked what they were when I took my laundry to my parents' house last year.

I told her they were really tiny rags.

She laughed. But believed me. :)

Ashley // Our Little Apartment said...

Greenpa -

To that end, I believe No Impact Man spoke about using old magazine and newspaper pages. He'd crumple them up to make them soft and then wipe with them.

Not for ME, but eh. It works.

betsyohs said...

just wanted to address the issue of needing to dry off after rinsing with water...I don't. It's not a whole ton of water, and since it's clean water, my undies are as good a cloth to dry off with as any. :)

Also - on the fecal matter + finger nails...we're not digging, people! Just adding a little umph to the rinse with the fingertips.

Like the people who have lived in the east said, this is common practice in much of the world. If they can do it for thousands of years without poop-induced epidemics, so can we. :)

Mrs. Stam said...

we use wipe (I'm the only one who does cause boy are not into that lol) and put the wipe in the clothes diaper pail works good for us!

katecontinued said...

The water method is most logical (after 10 months she says). And, as Betsy says, we are not scratching at our butts. Just a brushing assist to the water's action. Washing hands afterwards . . .

Thousands upon thousand of years people figured out how to urinate and deficate, yet we are like little children. We are so funny.

mudnessa said...

"Umm, unless you are repurposing ship's sails in their original size, you won't be generating much laundry."

hahaha that made me laugh so hard. exact thought i was having when people were wondering about the laundry. they are so small, i dont notice a difference at all. i am only on #1 for now at least

Riana Lagarde said...

lmao @ greenpa. i am so glad that you posted this,I get so many cloth wipe questions, now i can just send them this a way to read up on the info.

we all use them for both and wouldnt ever go back. it's so much cleaner and actually more sanitary (thick wipes) and softer and our toilet is cleaner too.

we had guests yesterday (we leave a roll out for them) and the littlest one (3years old) went in, peed, used a fresh cloth wipe, and put it in the cloth wipe basket. unprompted. maybe she reads my blog and knows that we use cloth wipes?

yogainthegarden said...

Just wondering...does anyone use paper alternatives (cloth wipes, etc.) outside the home? I have no problem with them at home, but since I work I would say that my home bathroom gets considerably less use most days compared to the facilities at work. This is just a question that has nagged at me for a while.

Thanks for the blog. It's always very inspiring.

Frisky said...

probably not until we at least get a little storage in our new apartment's tiny bathroom. most of our stuff is on a box on the floor. and the laundry is piling up anyway...

excuses. so convenient when you really don't want to do something.

off to the farmer's market for some really palatable ways to reduce waste! good luck to you guys!

Anonymous said...

Along with Betsy again: you're not that wet! And (this made me snort with laughter, Betsy!) you're not digging, so don't worry about getting poo under your nails.

If you can't stand to be wet, use a cloth to blot dry. Since it's clean water that you are blotting, there's no need to wash that rag each time, and it won't smell, any more than your bath towel.

I really agree with Anonymous 12:33, anything else doesn't feel quite clean.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I had a thought for Jacqueline -- you could take your own cup to the bathroom at work, if you went the water/hand route. I may start doing that myself.

True Mama said...

I've been using cloth wipes (mostly for #1, but I also get the cloth wet and soapy for REALLY cleaning after I wipe with TP for #2) for a while now.

I have a question, though -- Crunchy, you said you just through your wipes in with the regular laundry. I've been putting ours in with the cloth diapers, which get washed in hot water. What temperature is the water you use?

I just can't get over the idea of washing the wipes in cold with the rest of our clothing, and am wondering what I'll do when my son is out of diapers.

True Mama said...

THROW. I meant THROW your wipes. Yikes.

Anonymous said...

Re: making too much laundry. I have the opposite problem. We only do laundry about every two weeks, and I can't imagine just letting potty rags just sit around for that length of time. Any solutions, or am I doomed to hand wash?

Gretchen said...

Okay, for the record, when I commented that I have 6 people in my family and that it would create too much laundry, here's what I mean:

pee pads for 1 adult (hubs does #1 standing up with the shake-shake method) and 4 kids means I have to wash pee pads for 5 people's urine. I am not thrilled about handling that. Yes, as it is I do wash my kids pee pants occasionally but that is something we are trying to get AWAY from, not jump into headfirst. And the amount of laundry isn't the issue. As you said, it's not much. It's the sorting and putting away that consumes extra time I don't wish to part with. (I'm assuming you don't need to fold pee rags unless you're OCD, which if you are I'm sure you wouldn't use a pee rag)

And I wondered, as per your post, if your kids don't use pee rags, and you and your hubs only use them for #1, and assuming he also does the stand-up-shake-shake, isn't the only person in your house using them YOU? Just wondering.

Gretchen said...

Oh, and one other thing, I know... not an issue for some folks... I have a toddler who is very normal, and into everything. I guarantee no matter where I hid the bucket of "used wipes" she would find it and... put them on her face, or in her mouth.... let's not talk about it, okay?

Anonymous said...

Okay, I think I am willing to give it try. I just switched my youngest to cloth diapers and seems I could just as easily toss my wipes in the diaper pail with her wipes. I have my own blog and this is totally going to freak out each and every friend and family member over here. Oh well!

Anonymous said...

I love your blog, but the thought of washing pee-pads is gagging me! :)


Sharlene said...

If you sit back and think about how much pee and feces you come into contact with out in public, handling a pee rag ain't no big thang. My twins are in diapers still. Disposable diapers (Once again forced to duck for cover as tomatoes are thrown at her from the crowd) because I simply can't imagine dealing with that many cloth diapers. But I do think I can handle #1 for me and my husband who mostly does just shake shake shake as Texas Momma put it. Well i guess I better look into getting some soft cloth from the fabric store.

Sharlene said...

oh- and here is my main reason for not using my hand to wipe #2. Stank hand. We have all had it happen to us before. You wash and wash but you can't the smell of feces off your hand. It happens to me all the time with toddlers and its gross. Sorry- I am whiny American and I will have no part in it!

Anonymous said...

We (DH, DS who is 9 and me) have been using cloth TP for several months for both #1 an #2. Love it and won't go back!

I have no qualms with throwing them in with a wash of anything not including dishcloths or napkins. I only wash in cold water and have had no problem. I'm not worried about germs at all. It's really not any different than washing your hubbys underwear. LOL

anonymous: About washing them less often, we keep ours in a water/vinegar solution until they need washing, usually weekly. By adding more vinegar than I use, you could probably easily go up to two weeks. You don't really have to worry about odor/germs with #1 since urine is pretty much sterile and should be odorless, but another option would be to rinse #2 after use. This would probably use quite a bit of water though and sorta defeat the purpose.

Good luck newbies!

Gretchen said...

Crunchy, you never answered the question: Who is using cloth wipes at your house? Only you?

And, Tara: Urine doesn't smell because it's sterile? um, have you ever been to a nursing home? Or how about have you ever been in the bedroom of a young child who wet the bed, less than 12 hours previous? If not, I am inviting you to our house. One bedroom smells like a chicken coop and it is a constant source of irritation for me.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Greenpa - I'll leave the corn cobs up to you although I'd hate to see your compost pile. I'm assuming they wouldn't work in the THWASPCO.

As for practical corn cob use - I believe they are left out to dry after the edible corn has been eaten and/or removed. It's probably pretty scratchy, but not much more than the traditional shell scraping method. Ouch!

Crunchy Chicken said...

As for those not digging with the water method - I really have a hard time believing that a little water and a rinse is getting things clean.

Unless you are using a power washer to do the job. Also, you guys apparently don't have very many hairy people in your family.

I'm pretty sure there are tons of poop induced epidemics that are the result of not washing hands well after handling fecal matter. Hepatitis and gastroenteritis are a few that spring to mind.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Jacqueline - I think it's entirely possible to use cloth wipes outside the home. It wouldn't be that much different than handling a diaper bag - just on a much smaller level. Just carry clean wipes with you and a waterproof bag for transport and you're good to go.

Of course, this is easier said than done and it takes quite a commitment to achieve, but it's not impossible.

Crunchy Chicken said...

New mama - I'm throwing the #1 wipes in cold water with the rest of our clothes. They get clean just fine. And, frankly, having two small kids there's always something suspicious in the laundry anyway.

If I were using the wipes for #2 I would be included to wash in hot water to ensure that you are killing off all the microorganisms.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Texan mama - My husband and I both use the cloths for #1. Like other men who have commented, he's rather fastidious and the "shake-shake" method doesn't do the job for him. So, I am washing pads for two.

Oh, and my daughter loves folding them.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Texan mama - regarding the smell... you're not peeing on the cloth so there's very little urine. I don't think Tara was implying that urine doesn't smell.

If you aren't going to wash the #1 cloths right away, a lot of people do soak them in different solutions of vinegar or baking soda or something to handle any odor. I haven't ever had an issue - the used wipes get stored in a mesh bag hanging on the tp roll holder.

Anonymous said...

I went to a fellow environmentalists home that I had met on the net. I asked to use the bathroom. I noticed she had a whole bunch of white washcloths all nicely stacked in a pretty basket on the back of her toilet. I gave some thought to it before I decided it really was not appropriate to use someone elses wipes with out permision. So I used paper. I mentioned it to her afterwards and she was a bit shocked and said "oh no those are hand towels. We don't use cloth wipes." I was so glad I had not used them!
Cindy in FL