Would You Use “Family Cloth?”

Posted on March 10, 2009 by Allie

The other day when I talked about my disappointment with the change in Seventh Generation toilet paper, Mrs. Money commented saying:

“Have you ever thought about trying family cloth? I absolutely love it. The flannel feels so great!”

“Family cloth” refers to using squares of cotton or cotton flannel in place of toilet paper.  You can buy pre-made, hemmed clothes, make your own, or just use old clothes cut into squares.  The cloths are collected in a bucket or bag after use, laundered and reused.

Many families who already use cloth diapers feel it’s no big deal to add these toilet rags to the mix. But, the opposing side has concerns about how sanitary this practice is and/or doesn’t like the idea of keeping a bag or bucket of used rags in the bathroom until wash day.

For me, this is where I draw the line.  I’ll stick to recycled content TP.  What do you think?


  1. I lived in Spain for several years and found that a bidet was much more convenient than toilet paper. And more hygienic

    March 10th, 2009 at 12:46 pm
    Comment by Duncan
  2. I’ve seen these clothes from a site called Wallypop I think. I would be totally ok with it, as I use cloth menstrual pads. My family however…no way! I can hear the squeals of horror now!

    March 10th, 2009 at 1:15 pm
    Comment by Leslie
  3. Surprisingly, yes! I love using old t-shirts as TP. :)

    It’s super easy, feels great (never scratchy!), and has saved us a LOT of money.

    March 10th, 2009 at 1:20 pm
    Comment by ashley.star
  4. I have been debating this step myself. I recently learned to make my own cloth pads, and have thought of switching to cloth tp, just for number one, and just for my own use.

    I would totally keep regular TP in my guest bathroom though, because I don’t force my ‘eco-craziness’ on my family or friends. ;)

    I’ll tell you what worries me most about this step-odor. I have not read whether odor can be a problem if you ‘save up’ the clothes until the bag or can is full, and then you wash them. Any ideas about that aspect?

    I do laundry about once a week and I don’t want a distinct pee odor stinking up my bathroom or hamper. So, do you know Allie? What’s the odor risk?

    March 10th, 2009 at 1:40 pm
    Comment by Katie
  5. Thought about it again–just can’t do it.

    For the commenter above, a friend of mine used cloth diapers for all 3 of her kids and would keep the used ones soaking in a laundry pail (w/lid) full of water and eco-friendly detergent powder. She kept the pail in the garage, and I never smelled anything–not sure if the same method would work in the bathroom, though.

    March 10th, 2009 at 2:48 pm
    Comment by Amy
  6. I have thought about it off and on. I know my family would not be up to it. So we will stick to TP and using less of it. We do cloth diaper and I love it.

    March 10th, 2009 at 3:52 pm
    Comment by sara
  7. Yea, couldn’t do it. Interesting idea, but not for me.

    March 10th, 2009 at 4:59 pm
    Comment by David
  8. I just read “The Big Necessity” by Rose George, a book about human waste sanitation around the world, and it really got me thinking about this stuff. Specifically, at one point she points out how it’s a little silly that we rub our bottoms with dry paper and think that makes us clean — we wouldn’t do that to clean the rest of our bodies. The book goes into all kinds of human rights, health, and ecological issues with the way we handle waste — it was a really good read, and I’d highly recommend it.

    But yeah, right now toilet cloth is a little beyond me. Maybe someday, but right now I just don’t do laundry often enough.

    March 10th, 2009 at 5:46 pm
    Comment by Amanda
  9. i’m with you, allie. i don’t think our neighbors (we share our washer/dryer with them) would appreciate it either.

    March 10th, 2009 at 8:23 pm
    Comment by kir
  10. Thanks for the link… lol! :)

    Some people just use it for number 1 and with that there’s no smell and it’s not as scary for germs. I make sure I boil water, pour it over mine in a bucket, and let it sit with vinegar and tea tree oil in it. I figure that will kill the germs. Then I wash it on the sanitize setting on my washer. It may not make that much of a difference, but it makes me feel like I’m doing something good for the environment. :)

    March 10th, 2009 at 8:57 pm
    Comment by Mrs. Money
  11. Nope, I couldn’t handle reusable cloths. What if you have diarrhea? And the whole family has it too? Yuk. But even normal poo can get gucky.
    What if you have guests over? And you have a naughty little boy (or girl) in your house that “switches” the container of clean cloths for the used ones. LOL!
    Sorry – just being silly.

    March 10th, 2009 at 10:13 pm
    Comment by wendy
  12. Nope, couldn’t do it. If it was just me, then I might give it a go but with a family of five there is just no way we would be able to keep enough clothes to last through the day.

    March 10th, 2009 at 10:54 pm
    Comment by Laura Jean Karr
  13. I think I would have to draw the line. It’s a great idea but the thought of it kind of gives me the willies.

    March 11th, 2009 at 12:09 am
    Comment by Moni
  14. I don’t think I could handle this. I can see where it would save money, and there are plenty of rags around my house – I would just prefer to use them for cleaning.

    Plus, I have two kids, one in diapers, and one almost potty trained. It’s bad enough having a few dirty diapers in the trash, and that gets taken out everyday. I can’t imagine having dirty potty rags stashed away somewhere until wash day. Because would you really throw them in with other laundry, I know I wouldn’t, and I couldn’t let them sit until there was a full load.

    Bravo to those that are doing this though, I really do think it will make a differance. It’s just not for me.

    March 11th, 2009 at 2:16 am
    Comment by Andi
  15. I really don’t think I could do it. And I know for a fact Chris wouldn’t do it. I will have to find other ways to help the earth.

    March 11th, 2009 at 1:38 pm
    Comment by nancypearlwannabe
  16. I went the “toilet cloth” route last year. What i did was sew facecloths to flannel so there was a soft side and a not soft side. To store the cloths, I used a bait bucket which I put vinegar in. The whole system worked out well until I got a wicked rash because the flannel wasn’t absorbent enough. Once I find a flannel which will work better (I used old flannel PJs) I’ll go back to toilet cloths.

    March 11th, 2009 at 2:45 pm
    Comment by Howling Hill
  17. I’ll stick with the Seventh Generation for now.

    March 11th, 2009 at 2:55 pm
    Comment by mickey
  18. No way no how. Recycled TP is fine with me.

    March 14th, 2009 at 7:31 am
    Comment by Beth Terry, aka Fake Plastic Fish
  19. yes, we do for pee only though. If necessary we could now go the whole bit as it really isn’t that bad – in fact its better, softer and can be used damp if necessary.

    Old cotton shirts are good (must be cotton not synthetic)


    March 14th, 2009 at 10:15 am
    Comment by knutty knitter
  20. I use them for number 1 not number 2. I’m the only female and haven’t brought myself to use them for anything else yet, but I love them and hate to use toilet paper now! I keep the used ones in the bathroom in an old tissue box (we use hankies now, too) and they NEVER smell! So much softer and cleaner than TP.

    March 15th, 2009 at 1:29 am
    Comment by Jen
  21. I use flannel cloths and keep the used ones in a container beside the toilet. I wash them once a week and there’s no odor. Also, generally speaking–or rather, speaking for myself, the cloths are not dripping with urine when I toss them in the container. Maybe that’s one reason that there is no odor problem.

    March 15th, 2009 at 4:06 am
    Comment by Sandy
  22. I use homemade cloth wipes. I wish there was a better way to do this while traveling or at work. I would never go back to TP. The cloth is sooo much softer.

    March 16th, 2009 at 8:55 pm
    Comment by Stefanie
  23. Having a few thoughts about this whole thing. I think I could do it pretty easily but the rest of the family (including young boys!) might get grossed out. Being the only adult female, I will give it a try.
    Also, when I used cloth diapers I let them soak in a pail with some earth friendly detergent and it was not a problem so I imagine this would be the same. If it started to smell, I went ahead and washed the load early, even if it was a smaller load. I figured I was still coming out ahead in the long run with saving the earth and money.
    As far as the laundry issue, again I feel if you wash them seperately and it’s a small load – you are still better off than using commercial paper. However if you are using them only for urine and you have any children in the home…odds are you are already washing at least one or two items with a bit of potty accident on them (or even worse LOL).
    Thanks for the tip – got me thinking again.

    March 23rd, 2009 at 1:38 pm
    Comment by Teresa
  24. Sorry, just thought of one more thing. When I used cloth diapers I bought up all the baby wash clothes at thrift stores and yard sales I could find. I used these as cloth baby wipes. Could they not be used again as toilet wipes? That’s what I plan to try. For anyone willing to try this, they are easy to find and very cheap.

    March 23rd, 2009 at 1:40 pm
    Comment by Teresa
  25. There is only my hubby and myself and I replaced TP for myself with family cloth (urine only) about 6 months ago and wouldn’t go back. Feels very soft to use, no left-over paper lint on my “bits”, a plentiful supply (cut up T’s and old towelling), no odour (just try it for a few days and see; I keep my used ones in a plastic bag that holds all those press supplements and throw it when I wash), easily laundered, unbelievable savings on TP which seems more expensive every time I look and, I think about how much less sludge we contribute to the general sewerage system. I have come to really dislike using TP when away from home now, however, I would’nt expect guests to use anything other than regular TP.

    April 5th, 2009 at 3:54 pm
    Comment by MargaritaJMR
  26. I could so do this…and I have. Growing up, my mother who grew up during the depression, used washcloths. We put them in a little bucket by the toilet. We never had a problem with smell but you could sprinkle baking soda on the rag(s) if they smell. Momma washed them when the supply ran low. My kids don’t like the idea…..but hey, think of this: what did people do before the handy TP was invented?

    April 15th, 2009 at 4:47 pm
    Comment by Aud
  27. I use them and really save a lot of money and tp. You can make your own:
    or buy here:

    May 5th, 2009 at 4:27 pm
    Comment by Dianne
  28. I use a cloth for #1 and just wash it out with a little soap and hang to dry. Recycled tp for #2, but cloth as ‘backup’. I live alone, so I can make a roll of tp last for a month.

    Makes me sad to think of all the trees in Canada being cut down for our butts.

    May 18th, 2009 at 12:18 pm
    Comment by Kim
  29. I made some out of flannel, and have a reused shampoo bottle containing water, Dr Bronner’s soap, essential lavender oil, and aloe in it near them to wet them. I feel much cleaner than using toilet paper. I hate using toilet paper when I am out of the house now. I am the only one in my familt who does this, and I wash them with my stuff. I figured that no one throws away stained underwear, you just wash it and go on. I also use cloth menstral pads, and since I liked them, figured this would be the next step. I keep them clean in one basket, and keep a wet bag for the used ones, and wait until I have a few to wash. The lavender and the bag keep them un-noticeable, as my husband was very leary of my mad-science. :)

    September 16th, 2009 at 8:50 pm
    Comment by Jane
  30. I asked my mom to make me these when I was pregnant so we’d have reusable baby wipes, they work great, so much more gentle on baby than commercial wipes, she hardly ever gets diaper rash. I’ve got sensitive skin, so the idea appeals to me for adults too, but just not sure if I could handle it. I can’t use recycled TP because it gives me a rash, I have to use the super plus regular, which makes me sad.

    November 2nd, 2009 at 11:45 am
    Comment by April
  31. I made some out of old facecloths and hand towels, I only use them for pee, and put them in a ceramic canister I got at the Goodwill which has a tight fitting lid. I put baking soda in the water to help with odor but I like the tea tree oil idea! This has saved us oodles of toilet paper, a good thing when you have a septic system.

    June 6th, 2010 at 8:51 pm
    Comment by Karen
  32. I had never even though of this…not sure I could take this step. For the ladies out there just a tip as far as the cloth pads…I switched to a menstrual cup years ago and I feel it was the best move I’ve made, personally and for the environment. There are several out there. I have “The Keeper” and the “Diva Cup” and both are great. Give it a try.

    November 26th, 2010 at 5:10 pm
    Comment by Meme
  33. I use cut up t-shirts for my potty cloths. Just a little vinegar with water in a coffee canister and there is no odor at all. There’s not that much urine on these cloths, so no diaper pail required. I still use TP for poo, then finish cleaning w/ cloth. (A quick prewash in the sink and then into the coffee can.) So many people spend so much money on TP that feels like cloth, and then freak at the thought of using cloth. On laundry day, I drain the water from the coffee canister, refill, give it a shot of soap from the dispenser at the sink, shake the cannister, drain off the water and then into the load of laundry. I use the cloths when hubby is gone, he would totally freak if he knew.
    3/4 of the world does not use toilet paper.

    December 15th, 2010 at 2:25 pm
    Comment by Marianne
  34. What about using a squirt bottle to rinse yourself, then just drying with the cloths? I am recovering from childbirth and the hospital gave me a small squirt bottle to use because wiping would hurt. Ive sort of gotten used to it now and think I might just keep using it. My sink is within reach of the toilet so I fill it with lukewarm water and it feels nice. In India they just keep a bucket of water by the toilet.

    January 17th, 2012 at 10:26 pm
    Comment by liza
  35. We use cloth diapers and cloth wipes for our new baby, and so I have been giving a lot of thought to this. I don’t think I will make the switch because I can’t get my husband on board, and I think a bidet would be easier…no extra laundry. (And we do the wash by hand so extra laundry is kind of a big deal!) I think we will invest in a nice bidet soon.

    Many Muslims (and also Arabic people in general) use a watering can (like you would water plants with) that stays full of water and sits by the toilet. We went to a mosque last year with some Muslim friends in Chicago and all the bathroom stalls there had little watering cans. It is considered cleaner.

    January 21st, 2012 at 4:39 pm
    Comment by Rachael
  36. One day I will buy the Japanese toilet that does the cleaning for you. For now we reduce bathroom waste other ways. We keep it mellow for the most part and I use a diva cup. I don’t think it’s a bad idea for #1 but there is no way I could get my husband on board. There was a recent tv show about cheap people on TLC where the lady did cloth tp and my dh was grossed out. We do need to come up with a better solution though. One of the tp companies is test marketing tubeless rolls in the northwest. Also to save water some people use grey water for flushing.

    January 26th, 2012 at 2:26 am
    Comment by Stephanie

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