When I first read about using family cloth in “What’s the Deal with Family Cloth?” from Maman Loup’s Den last year, my initial reaction was, “Heck, no!” Why would I want to wash and reuse cloth wipes for the family toilet when I had perfectly good toilet paper? Then I started thinking. I already used cloth diapers on my babies and cloth pads for myself. I had also recently switched to upcycled cloth napkins. I also use cloth rags made from old towels and wash cloths instead of paper towels when possible. So why not make the switch to family cloth as well?
After getting over my initial negative reaction, I decided to take the plunge into the world of family cloth. I started by purchasing some flannel receiving blankets from a local thrift shop. I then cut the blankets into squares, and, voila, I had some super basic family cloth. To keep the family cloth, or “potty cloth” as my daughter says, separate from the rest of our cloth products, I labeled the corner of each one with a P (for potty) in black permanent marker. Then last spring, after saving up my fun money, I purchased myself a serger. I then went back and serged all the edges of my family cloth. The unserged edges worked fine but did unravel a bit in the wash. I went over half a year with unfinished edges, but I must admit that I like the finished edges better. If you do not have access to a serger, you can also fold and hem the edges for family cloth with a more finished look.
In my home, I share my bathroom with my kids. (My husband uses his own bathroom most of the time.) I found using my family cloth especially helpful when I potty trained my daughter last spring. Even though she was reluctant to use the toilet, she did enjoy picking out potty cloths. She can now also wipe herself, and she definitely prefers the potty cloths over the “paper wipes” (toilet paper). I can honestly say that I also prefer the softness of the flannel wipes over scratchy toilet paper. I definitely notice the difference when I am away from home.
My biggest reason for my initial “ick” reaction to family cloth was the laundry. But, as with cloth diapers and cloth pads, I have found that washing my family cloth is super simple. First, my daughter and I use the family cloth for pee only. (I keep toilet paper and toddler wipes in the bathroom for, uh hem, other business.) I store the clean wipes in a plastic container next to the toilet. I also keep a hanging wet back on a hook next to the toilet. Dirty wipes go in the bag. When the bag gets full, I either wash the wipes on a small load or with my cloth diapers if the bag gets full on diaper laundry day. I use the same laundry routine as with my diapers: hot wash with detergent and OxiClean followed by two cold rinses and then tumble dry. Easy peasy!
Now that I have been using family cloth for almost a year, I plan to continue for two main reasons. First, using reusable wipes means my family and I produce less waste. I have purchased significantly less toilet paper over the past months, which means I am flushing away less waste. Second, I am also literally flushing less of my money down the toilet. Repurposing thrift shop flannel blankets into wipes cost me only a few dollars (minus the cost of the serger, which I bought to use for general sewing projects, not just to make family cloth). I also used up most of the random thread that I inherited from my grandmother, meaning I did not spend any extra money to finish the edges of my wipes. Making the switch to family cloth means I save green, both the Earth and my money.
After reading about my experience with family cloth, would you ever consider making the switch?
Flannel Receiving Blankets © 2014 Heather Johnson
Flannel Wipes with Unfinished Edges © 2014 Heather Johnson
Marking the Family Cloth with the Letter P © 2014 Heather Johnson
Serging the Edges of the Wipes 1 © 2015 Heather Johnson
Serging the Edges of the Wipes 2 © 2015 Heather Johnson
Flannel Wipe with Serged Edges © 2015 Heather Johnson
Pile of Family Cloth © 2015 Heather Johnson
Family Cloth in the Bathroom © 2015 Heather Johnson