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!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cloth wipes: all you ever wanted to know

Cloth Wipe Challenge 2009A few questions have come up regarding the latest challenge, the Cloth Wipe Challenge 2009. So, I've updated the content from a few posts that I put up over the years explaining some of the details.

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.

What about shared bathrooms with roommates?
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?

How much does it cost to get setup? - 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 (if you use one) 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.

Is it more comfortable than using super Charmin? - 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 some recycled toilet papers. Enough said.

What's the environmental impact of washing the wipes? - 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).

In sum, the benefits are: you win with cost savings and comfort (with minimal extra work) and the environment wins every time you wipe!

In the next post, I'll go into more detail about the cloth wipe setup.


Robj98168 said...

I think I will "sit" this one out Crunch- I already bidet my butt so don't see the need to start wiping it with cloth as well- and yes I let my butt air dry.

Robj98168 said...

PS as far as Number 1- I Shake shake Shake my grove thang- Of Course I know you women folk can't do that. That's why it's good to be Me! (I knew someday I would get to qoute Gene Simmons!)

Unknown said...

I have a few questions. Do you think that if you use water to rinse first, then cloth wipes, that the benefits are negated by the extra water usage, especially with, well, poopy loads, which I'm assuming you DON'T throw in with the regular wash? Don't they start to stink up wherever they are being kept, even if it just for a few days? I really want to like this challenge, but the germaphobe in me is just cringing. We've been using water for a long time, so use less toilet paper cause it is just for "drying," so it would make sense to do this, I just can't bring myself to yet, though.

Mitten from Smitten said...

I want to do this but my family has threatened to have a complete rebellion darn them and with three women in the house along with various guests it's insane the amount of toilet paper we go through :(

Color Me Green said...

laundry twice a week?! see, that is a lot to me. i live in a rental and do my laundry about every two or three weeks and i have to schlep it two blocks to the laundromat. so that's why i'd like to try cloth wipes but won't be doing so until some far day in the future when i have my own washing machine or at least one in the building

SusanB said...

I don't see this working for us since -- because of the way I sort laundry and our small household -- we don't generate a full load of wash every week.

Kim from Milwaukee said...

I live alone, so I have one cloth I use each time, rinse when I wash my hands, and hang up to dry discretely behind my towels.

It's not hard, people!!! We need to teach our kids that trees on this planet to create our oxygen are more important than not getting our little fingers dirty. This germaphobia's getting out of hand and it's gonna destroy our planet.

*whew* ok, off my soapbox. thanks for listening.

Tina Cardone said...

Don't worry about doing laundry as often as Crunchy does, you just need more wipes! I live alone and so I don't generate much laundry. I keep the used wipes in a repurposed plastic bread bag. They dry quickly and don't smell at all. I can let them pile up with no ill effects, except a dwindling pile of clean ones. Also, its a really small pile, this doesn't take up much space in the bathroom or the laundry. I made mine out of old t-shirts so just imagine the tiny ball that a t-shirt is. I only use them for pee though since I'm not interested in doing any sterilization.

mudnessa said...

I did this last year, for #1 only and I do my laundry maybe twice a month. I don't create much wipe wise and after I use one I put it in a mesh bag I have hanging next to the toilet. They air dry with no smell or any other nastiness. When it gets full I put it in with the next load I do. I usually wash them with my sheets or work clothes since I work with animals my clothes are already covered in pee and stuff. My husband still has no idea I do this, I guess his inability to see things is nice sometimes, hehe.

Carla said...

I am remembering back to using cloth diapers on our babies 30 years ago. While I AM trying out your idea of a washcloth for urine (discretely rinsed after each use) I don't care to return to the days of dipping otherwise soiled cloth into the toilet to give it a preliminary cleaning, which is how I used to do it. After that I scrubbed them in the sink with soap before tossing them into the diaper pail to await their turn in the washing machine. Thanks anyway.

Amy in Tacoma said...

OK, I'm going to try it, starting small, with just myself, and just #1.

Krista said...

Since I already use cloth diapers and wipes on my boy it wasn't such a large leap to use cloth on the adults of the family. We keep them dry in reused diaper wipe containers on the back of the toilet and toss them in the diaper pail. We do the dry pail method for our diapers, and if we keep the lid on it doesn't stink.

As for feeling like you have to completely rinse and scrub poopy diapers, it just isn't needed. The washing machine does a great job at, well, washing your clothes. We shake off the worst of it and call it good. Maybe it helps that we're vegan and our poop isn't so "yucky".

Tressa said...

OK I'm in. I use cloth pads now so this isn't much different. Gonna do it for #1 and try for #2 as well. Don't know what hubbie will think. I'll work on him.

Samantha said...

pardon my naivete, but where exactly do i get cloth wipes? like do you just use any type of cloth (washcloth, cloth diaper, etc), or are there specific ones that i will need to buy? i'm totally down to try this. living on a boat, we can't flush TP anyway, so i always have a bag for used TP in the bathroom, which i'm not so keen on. the cloth wipes would probably be perfect for me. :)

Krista said...

I made my wipes from old flannel sheets, some people use old T-shirts.