We used cloth diapers for our youngest daughter and were using wash cloths and warm water many times a day for her wipes already. Back in June of 2007, after reading a few blogs from households using cloth wipes, I decided it just made sense to make the switch. We were already washing cloth diapers and wipes, what are a few more wipes? It really doesn't add to the laundry as much as you might think.
In a household full of girls (3 age 8 and under at the time we switched), this makes economical sense. Teaching little girls not to use too much toilet paper has been an ongoing issue in our house. There would be days that it seemed like I was replacing a roll a day in one bathroom or the other. Not to mention how much better it is for your septic system not to have all that paper flushed into it. Paper products like toilet paper, napkins, paper towels, and tissues just seemed to fly out the door at our house. Such a waste - something only used for a few seconds - so we switched all of them to their cloth alternatives. The girls love the switch and I have to say that it is way more comfortable to use the cloth wipes than the paper.
And read this from today's news: Toilet Paper Worse on the Environment than Hummers.
So here's how we do it. We have 2.5 baths in our house (3 toilets). I purchased enough of the flannel wipes to have about 15 or so in each bathroom. Yes, you can make your own from old flannel sheets or flannel shirts for even more frugality, but with my husband gone on active duty at the time and 3 youngsters I just didn't have the time at that moment for sewing. The cost of those I purchased was in no way excessive. In the future, I'll be delving into my husbands worn flannel shirts, old T-shirts and our flannel sheets for sure - recycling at its finest!
You could even use washcloths, which is what we did for a week before our wipes came in the mail. If you are squeamish about using washcloths that might later be used to wash your face, just pick a different color or style and designate them as your cloth wipes. The washcloths aren't as soft as the flannel wipes though.
We ordered 2 different cloth wipes. From Green Mountain Diapers, I ordered their economy flannel wipes. These are 8x8 white or unbleached flannel wipes with serged edges in pink, blue or yellow. They shrank to about 6x6 after washing which is a perfect size. These are the ones we use the most for day to day general wiping for #1 jobs. A great value. These have held up exceptionally well - I have yet to have any fray to the point of discard since starting to use them in June. You can also check these at SoftClothBunz which are very similar.
I also ordered some of the wipes from Wallypop. Hers are flannel on one side and terry cloth on the other and come in great fabric patterns. We ordered the "fun and funky" for the girls and the "understated and neutral variety pack" for me. These are thicker then the economy flannel wipes and the ones I use most for the baby and for the girls for #2 jobs. Another great value from a working at home mom. These have held up very well with constant use.
Instead of using a diaper pail liner, which I found was way too big for holding the wipes, I purchased the draw-string lingerie-style washing bags. I found these little gems at Walgreens and there are 4 of the bags for less than $4. I put one bag on each toilet paper roll holder. We just drop the cloth wipe into the little bag after use.
For #1 we just dab and then put the wipe into the bag. For #2, I decided instead of keeping a wipes warmer going all the time, to invest in the Kissaluvs Diaper Lotion Potion Concentrate. I also purchased this from Green Mountain Diapers (check link and scroll down the page a little). I have a spray bottle of this mixed up that can be lightly sprayed onto the wipe as needed. The recipe is 1-2 teaspoons to 1/2 cup of witch hazel. Easy as pie. The Diaper Lotion Concentrate is made of jojoba oil, chamomile, lavender and tea tree oil. It smells heavenly and the tea tree oil is antiseptic - for anyone worried about smell or germs before getting the wipes into the wash.
I can then toss the whole little bag into the wash, or I can empty the bag into the wash as needed. I usually keep a soak in the washing machine during the day for the diapers. Right now I use a little of the oxy-wash and a little of our Shaklee laundry detergent in the soak load. At the end of each day or each morning, whichever works out, I just run the load through on my extra-small cycle in warm water. I find that by doing this very small load daily or every other day, I can quickly wash the wipes without having to fill the whole machine. I have an electric hot water heater, so we try to eliminate as much hot water washing as possible, because this is what seems to really run up our electric bill. By selecting the extra small load cycle on my washer, I use just the minimum amount of water needed to get the wipes clean and sanitary. We dry them on the economy dry setting in my dryer or on the drying rack.
So, what are you waiting for? Step outside your comfort zone a little and give it a try. You'll be glad you did! I initially told the girls we'd give it a try for a week and then make a decision. There's no looking back on this one now! Oh, and I do still keep a few rolls of regular toilet paper for guests to use!
From a prepping standpoint, keeping some flannel wipes on hand or in your 72-hour kit is much easier to store than a whole warehouse full of toilet paper!
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