It is the ultimate challenge in frugal living: Stop using toilet paper.
Mary Beth Quirk at Consumerist explains the reasons why some might try toilet paper alternatives: "Every time you wipe in the bathroom, you're basically flushing money down the toilet, not to mention creating well, waste with your waste."
But how can it be done?
In a New York Times article titled "The Year Without Toilet Paper," a couple trying to live in a environmentally "zero impact" manner gave up toilet paper. All the article does is describe the process in this cryptic parenthetical: "(Nothing is a substitute for toilet paper, by the way; think of bowls of water and lots of air drying.)"
A post by "Penny" on the blog Penniless Parenting claims that toilet paper is a luxury. "It may be one that you have absolutely no intention of giving up at any point in your life," she says, "and that's absolutely fine, because we all have our luxuries."
Instead her family uses flannel cloth squares.
The advantages, according to the blog: It's free. Never run out. It's soft. It doesn't rip. It's cute. It's green. No clogging toilets.
"Because these are getting washed instead of flushed," she says, "no worries about too much getting flushed and needing to call a plumber."
Here is how it works.
People use the cloth wet or dry. They put the used cloth in a garbage pail. They dump it into the washing machine every few days with "a long hot cycle" and dry them in the sun.
"Once you switch, you can't go back to vastly inferior toilet paper," she says. "No, toilet paper is definitely not a need. And for me, it's not even on the list of 'wants.'"
Courtney Polivka, who blogs at Revived Kitchen, did the same thing, using cloths that look like square potholders. Apparently the common term for such things is "family cloth."
"With family cloth, we use a mini spray bottle in conjunction with the cloth," Polivka says. "We only ever need to use one square at a time; and overall, it seems much more hygienic than regular paper toilet paper, which sometimes doesn't get everything and can leave paper particles. (Ew.)"
The "ew" was Polivka's comment.
She says there is no smell with the family cloths.
"And if you're really concerned about bacteria," she says, "instead of throwing the used cloths into a dry bin, you can throw them into a vinegar and water solution, and perhaps add a little tea tree oil, as well. Voilà!"
Consumerist did an online poll on the question, "Would you ever give up toilet paper for reusable cloths?"
At the time this roundup was written, the percentages were:
Maybe, but I don't have a washer/dryer close enough to make it worth it: 5.3 percent.21 comments on this story
Sure, if babies can use fabric diapers, why can't I swipe with a cloth too?: 14.56 percent.
Are you kidding? Never: 80.14 percent
Another study asked if people were willing to help trees by eliminating toilet paper. Chris Matyszczyk at CNET summarized: "It seems that a mere 6 percent of Americans are prepared to reduce the reams of toilet paper they use in order to keep themselves fresh and ready for a frolic with bears in the woods."
Living without toilet paper 'luxury'
Woman explains her toilet paper alternative.