Once upon a time, I was UrbanHippieMama – a Mommy Blogger.
I wrote about my daily life with three small children, as a crunchy-attachment-parent – we are a special and tired breed. Blogging helped me feel connected to other full-grown humans, while that season of life required 110% of my energy and attention…kind of like a shelter in place order may.
When my dear, toiletpaperless, friend called the other night to ask about my experience using “family cloth,” I realized my crunchy roots may be helpful to a more mainstream audience right now. If you don’t know what “family cloth” means, read on. If you already do, feel free to stop at any time – that is, unless you have run out of toilet paper and have resorted to paper towels or leaves collected from a nearby wildlife area (yes, people are in fact doing this). What you are about to read may actually be the saner, more sanitary choice – and it’s definitely a hell-of-a-lot more gentle on your behind.
So without further ado, I bring you UrbanHippieMama, with all of the details you never thought you’d want to know about “family cloth.”
February 20th, 2008
As most of you know, we exclusively use cloth diapers on our boys, and what is known as “family cloth” for the rest of the members of our family. Some of you might recoil at the thought of cloth diapering… I can’t imagine what you did when you clicked on that link for family cloth, and realized that we wipe our bums with a piece of fabric (our favorites are terry, sherpa, and flannel).
To dispel one commonly held false belief: No, we do not all share the same cloth. We don’t even reuse a cloth. We get a fresh cloth EVERY time we wipe! There…I’m glad I got that out of the way.
Back to the recoilers: I know that different people have different tolerances for different substances that seem gross or dirty or just plain smelly. I get that. But, to tell you the honest truth, the only thing that I think anyone would really cringe about is the actually dunk, swish, and wring-out of the poopy diaper in the toilet…that is really the only time I come in contact with the poo. And, if I really didn’t want to, I wouldn’t have to–there are plenty of nifty gadgets out there that will do the poop-removal for you. I just have never minded enough to go spend money on one of those things. But, even if you did, the investment you make in cloth diapers and gadgets for them would still FAAAAAAAAAR outweigh what one would spend on disposables. (2020 note: this may or may not be a factual statement when you run the numbers – depending on many factors – but I do appreciate the gusto). And that doesn’t even take into consideration what those plastic diapers are doing to our earth. Ick.
Anyway, I didn’t come here to convince you to actually try any of our methods (although that would be a nice bonus)… I promised a description of our system. So, here is what it looks like:
Next to each toilet there is a small trash basket with a flip-top lid that is filled halfway with water and a few good squirts of Bac-Out. After you use a cloth wipe, you open the lid, toss it in the water to soak, and close the lid. About once or twice a week I take off the lid, pour off as much water as I can into the toilet, and I dump the wipes straight into the washing machine with the dirty diapers.
**A side note about the functionality of the wipes for #2: they rock. Rich even admitted to me last week that he hates to use TP now, just because the cloth wipes are so much more comfortable and you get so much cleaner. It is probably a step towards how I heard a woman who grew up in a European country with a bidet explain her first experience after moving to the US and her astonishment and disgustedness when she had to use toilet paper, feeling as if she was just “smearing it all around.” Ewwww.
Back to the wash: so, all of the diapers and wipes are in the washing machine. I put in a little less than the recommended amount of Charlie’s soap (we also have used Country Save and SUN Free & Clear…(although the latter wasn’t made for HE washers so we stopped using it), set the machine on it’s sanitary cycle (which is pretty cool as far as ease of mental stress about whether the diapers are really getting “clean” or not, but is actually totally unnecessary and really probably wears our diapers out much faster) with the extra skin care rinse (to get out alllllll of the detergent–the most important thing about washing cloth diapers), and let her rip. Sometimes I will add a pre-wash with non-chlorine bleach, or an extra rinse with white vinegar, but this is our standard routine.
After they are done doing their thing, I (currently) toss them all up into the dryer with NO dryer sheet or fabric softener or anything (this leaves a residue that makes fabric not absorbant–the opposite of what we want our diapers and wipes to be!) and set them on the hottest setting. After we move I will hang them on the clothes lines out back, instead, and then maybe give them a little fluff in the dryer afterwards.
It was very easy for us to incorporate family cloth, since we were already washing diapers anyway–but I have contemplated whether or not it will continue after the boys are out of diapers, and I do believe it will. (2020 Note: It did not. But it may make a guest appearance now!) The wipe laundry would constitute about a load a week, and since our washing machine knows what size the load is, it should use the appropriate amount of water (which is not a whole lot). It is definitely worth it to us for the comfort, savings, and reduction in paper product usage.
If you give some version of cloth TP a try, I’d love to know how it goes and what you learn! Take good care, my friend. Be well.