Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Family Cloth... Really??

Welcome to the January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Experiments in Natural Family Living

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have reported on weeklong trials to make their lives a little greener. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


The first time I really read about "Family Cloth" was on OrganicSister.com. I thought it was a nice, green idea... but a little too far out there for this self-proclaimed "slightly crunchy momma." Still... I read the entire thing with some fascination.
Visit Natural Parents Network
I've since gotten more involved in some crunchy circles and heard mention of others that practice the use of family cloth. As you may (or may not) recall, in October we traveled to a gathering of just such a crunchy circle (the Natural Parents Network Volunteers).

Visit Code Name: MamaThis was to be my very first in-person experience with family cloth. Our host (Code Name: Mama) offered regular toilet paper, but I immediately recognized a stack of family cloth in a basket on the back of the toilet. After looking around a bit, I realized that the bag on the doorknob was a "wet bag." I could hardly believe I was in the situation. So... I tried it! What did I have to lose?

Our host let us know that we were ALL welcome to use the Family Cloth if we'd like to do so. One of my very first impressions of my stay was feeling pampered. Using such soft cloth as opposed to paper (no mater how quilted) just felt so nice! My husband was a bit grossed out at the idea at first, but people always jump to "for poop?!" No, it seems most people do not use family cloth for poop, though some certainly do. (I asked our host about menstruation and she chooses not to use it then, either.) He actually used the family cloth on Sasha whenever he took her to the restroom, too! (I was so proud of him!)

Since October, the idea of family cloth (and having my own) has been percolating in the back of my mind. I even asked Code Name: Mama to write a guest post, possibly a tutorial for my blog. She also shared with me an old post she wrote on the topic. (That article has a ton of great information!) Since then we have had a video chat and she gave me a quick crash course on how to make my own! (Tune in tomorrow for a tutorial on my Wordless Wednesday!)

I started cutting my cloth on November 22nd. I got my first handful of them sewn that night. Once I got the first batch (of 16) done, I stacked them in my closet in our tiny room. After a few days I figured I probably ought to try using them! I started taking one into the shared bathroom with me. Since then, I have made a space in the bathroom for them to stay. I also made a second batch (of 15) plus a tiny batch of (4) smaller ones for Sasha. And that's where it occurred to me... Sasha uses a BBLP and I've always just kept a burp rag nearby for "pat pat patting" after she goes potty. So... I was already using cloth on her all along!

In a household of 6, we were really flying through the toilet paper, especially with me being in my third trimester! I believe we're using a lot less TP! I'm the only one using it and I just toss each cloth into my regular hamper (in our room) when I'm done. I haven't noticed any foul smells at all (and the hamper sits right next to my bed).

Family cloth seemed like such a far-fetched crazy idea at first, even though I realize that toilet paper hasn't always been around. A little exposure to real people that use it made a huge difference for me. It made the idea seem more realistic.

When I explained the project to my teenage daughter, she immediately let me know that she was not going to use it. I told her that was fine, I was not going to force her to use family cloth. I went on to explain how pampering it was, though. I also gave her some "fun facts" I learned from the Code Name: Mama post I linked above. Then she seemed a bit more receptive to the idea. I mean, who wants to wipe themselves with carcinogens?? So far, though, Sasha and I are the only ones actually using the family cloth. And we love it! Thirty-one sounds like plenty, but I think I'd like to have MORE. I even mentioned to my husband that this was something I could make / sell on Etsy! I may not feel the need for more once I'm washing cloth diapers on the regular.

I will say that one main problem is learning not to throw the cloth into the toilet! I did that twice on our trip. I just fetched the cloth out, rinsed it, squeezed out the excess water, and put the cloth into the wet bag. I have not yet made the same mistake at home! Sasha almost has, but I caught her. I think I confused her because I blew my nose on toilet paper while she was going and I threw that into the toilet. She has dropped the cloth into her BBLP, but not the big toilet.

Yeah, I know, why am I using TP for my nose but cloth elsewhere? I'm workin' on it, folks. I'm workin' on it. Besides, I often use a burp rag to blow my nose, so there!

In case you're interested, here is another article on Family Cloths: Frugal or Freaky? I'm sure there are tons of articles on Family Cloth, though, especially during this carnival!

What "out there" green idea have you tried implementing in your home?
Was your family supportive?


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Make your own moisturizer! — Megan at boho mama whips up a winter skin-friendly moisturizer.
  • Cold Water Only — Brittany at The Pistachio Project talks about how you do not need hot water to wash laundry.
  • Family Cloth... Really?? — After lots of forethought and consideration, Momma Jorje finally decides to take the plunge with family cloth.
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle : 5-5-5 Things A Day — Luschka from Diary of a First Child writes about decluttering her home in an attempt to create a gentler living space. She takes on a new project where she sets a goal of reducing, reusing and recycling every day.
  • Pros and cons of family cloth — Lauren at Hobo Mama would love to continue replacing paper products with family cloth … if she could only get over how damp she feels.
  • Craftily Parenting — Kellie at Our Mindful Life finds that crafting makes her a better parent.
  • Changes — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen couldn't choose just one area to experiment with, so she wrote a long post about all the fun changes initiated in her life!
  • Life without Internet: Not all it's Cracked up to Be — Adrienne at Mommying My Way tries to go a week without the Internet, only to realize a healthy dose of Internet usage really helps keep this stay-at-home mom connected.
  • My Progression to Raw Milk — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares her natural parenting progression all the way to trying raw milk.
  • mama's new little friend. — Sarah at Bitty Bird tries a menstrual cup to "green her period," and is pleasantly surprised when she falls in love with the product!
  • Before you throw it out, try homemade laundry soap! — Jennifer at Practical OH Mommy shows visual proof that homemade laundry soap is cheaper, easier, and works better than the store-bought chemicals!
  • Oil, Oil, No Toil, No Trouble — K from Very Simple Secret talks about her foray into the oil-cleansing method.
  • I Need a Hobby — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro couldn't decide which experiment to run, so she did them all.
  • 7 days of macrobiotics for a balanced family — The Stones make a [successful] attempt to release the "holiday junking" with 7 days of macrobiotic meals to balance their bodies and souls. Elisabeth at Manic Mrs. Stone includes an explanation of macrobiotics.
  • Chemical Free Beauty Challenge — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction turned to natural alternatives for her daily beauty and cleaning routine, with great results.
  • Greening my Armpits!? My Green Resolution — Shannon at The Artful Mama talks about how she decided to give up her traditional antiperspirant and make the switch over to crystal deodorants and definitely isn't looking back!
  • Going Raw (for a while) — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom shares her family's experience with raw food.
  • Do we get to eat gluten today? — Sheila at A Gift Universe has been trying to figure out if her son does better with or without gluten in his diet … but it's really hard to tell for sure.
  • Hippies Can Smell and Look Fabulous Too! — Arpita of Up, Down And Natural details her experience of going shampoo-free and overhauling her cosmetics to find the balance between feeling beautifully fabulous and honoring her inner hippie.
  • Our cupboards are full...but there's nothing to eat — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud takes on the challenge of chomping through the contents of her storecupboard rather than going shopping — but there's something that she just can't bring herself to do …
  • Elimination Experiment 3.0MudpieMama recounts the messy adventures of her baby daughter trying to be diaper free.
  • Family Cloth Trial — Amyables at Toddler in Tow talks about making and using family cloth wipes in the bathroom for the first time.
  • Taking a Hiatus — Amy at Peace 4 Parents shares how her experience of much less internet interaction affected her family and how it will change her approach in the future.
  • Trying Out the Menstrual Cup — Lindsey at an unschooling adventure ditches the tampons and gives menstrual cups a try.
  • Managing Food Waste in Our Home — Tired of the holiday waste, Robbie at Going Green Mama takes a weeklong focus on reducing food waste in her home, and learns some lessons that can take her through the new year.
  • Going Offline, Cloth Tissues, and Simplicity — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama muses over her time away from blogging and social networking. In addition, she shares her newfound love of cloth tissues and simplicity.


  1. It's funny that you mention that tp hasn't been around for all *that* long. My grandmother often spoke of the cloth wipes they kept both for the bathroom and for periods. We use cloth wipes for the kids... I wonder how many I'd have to make to add myself in?

  2. I still owe you that guest post ;) If you don't end up doing the tutorial for WW, let me know and I'll write one for you! And I'm so glad I could help pamper your nether regions (ha!) - I really try to go the extra mile to make my guests feel welcome ;) (No seriously, I'm so glad you tried it at my house and liked it!!)

  3. My extended family thinks babywearing, exclusive breastfeeding, co-sleeping, etc are all "out there" lol! They also think it's weird that I want to avoid HFCS and not wear "normal" deodorant.

  4. I can totally relate to the feeling you wrote about of feeling like it wasn't so weird once you knew that people you *know* actually use family cloth. I'm enjoying using it very much, and it's not at all weird or awkward (as I had feared it would be). Looking forward to that tutorial!

  5. I have thought about family cloth for some many years, but haven't been brave enough. I don't know why, we use cloth diapers and wipes on the babies. And I adore reading real life reviews like yours. Normal (slighty crunchy) people do this! Ok. You've re-sparked my interest. I need to make some up. I don't have to force my spouse to use 'em, I can just use 'em myself. And my potty trained girl. Thanks for your post!

  6. I gave FC a try a while back but I was using un-sewn flannel and after one wash it frayed and I just gave up. It does feel great though and I'd love to use less TP. I should probably sew some FC up properly this time and give it another try. :)

  7. Oh I never even thought of that. How funny when I use cloth nappies and wipes for my daughter. Think I'll give it a go!

  8. Hmm. I think I'm inspired to try this! I use cloth wipes on the twins so it wouldn't be a stretch to just put some in our bathroom for us too...A tip for cleaning: I bought a mesh lingerie bag at Target and put all the cloth wipes in that when I wash them because they were getting caught in the door of the front loader and not getting washed at all!

  9. I want to do this. I do. I just haven't quite gotten there. I'm not sure I can do it. What a weird taboo we have - like you said, we'd rather wipe with all of these carcinogens than think of using cloth. That seem so backwards.

  10. I really love this idea. I'm going to give it some thought. :)

  11. So nice to hear your perspective! I've thrown ours in the toilet twice — whoops. I was surprised how well Mikko cottoned to the idea. He loves it. I'm impressed that you just put it with your regular laundry. I'm still getting over the ick factor, personally. But with the carnival post telling me to wash in cold water, I might just have to accept that everything can go in one big load of cold and get over it. ;)

  12. You make it sound so easy! And I'm sure it is, but we are just so used to the idea of being disposable. But you're right that if you use cloth diapers/wipes, ans I use cloth pads so I'm already kind of there...just a tiny bit further and the whole family could be using cloth! Looking forward for the tutorial :-)

  13. I'm glad to be in such good company doing the cloth experiment. Glad it went so well for you as well. I'm so happy with the switch. Never thought about offering them to guests at my house though...I have to ponder that one!

  14. I wrote about using bathroom cloth here: http://lovelivegrow.com/2010/06/switching-to-bathroom-cloth/

    I'm glad you tried it, too! It's so much easier and nicer than it seems like in your imagination before hand. I haven't made the switch to cloth wipes for Dylan yet, though.

  15. We love our FC! So glad you enjoyed making the leap. :D

  16. This sounds great! I've switched to cloth diapers and mamacloth, but I've been stalling on this one. I'm not sure I can convince anyone else in my family to do it, but I guess if I do it, it still would reduce our household use of TP.

  17. In my on-ward and upward strive to create a "greener" lifestyle around our home, FC is the next step. I am heading out the door now to purchase some cloth and then I am going to go to my neighbor and ask her to sew the edges for me, as I do not have a machine. I wonder how "CrAzY" she will look at me when I tell her what they are for! :)

  18. Our 'homemade' contributor, the Beekeeper's Wife, wrote about her beginning experiences with FC here: http://daisyandzelda.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/homemade-with-the-beekeepers-wife-just-a-wee-one/ Between you, you've almost got me convinced!

  19. We thought about it. And then we had a very conversation about it. http://www.mommajorje.com/2012/01/family-cloth-really.html

  20. I have terrible, sensitive skin. I am at the point that I can't wear deodorant or use most soaps, lotions, etc. Luckily, I can use a fairly cheap body wash that I can only find at Walmart! I am almost "no 'poo" too. I have gone from daily shampoo/conditioner to weekly (with using as little as I can possibly get by with!) and when I am done with these bottles, I will quit altogether! These little changes make a difference!
    I am a quilter and I am guilty of buying cotton clothes to turn into quilts. I had purchased a plaid, flannel dress a few years ago for $1. It is really soft, thick, rich fabric and I haven't found any other scraps of the same weight, so it has been in storage. I finally cut them up to use instead of TP. I live with my teen son and my husband. My husband, who thinks using cotton menstrual pads is awesome, cannot get behind me using the pee pads. I stacked them under the sink and use a bucket of water with a little borax after I use them. I didn't try to get him to use them, and I don't use them for poops. He doesn't want to talk about it! I dumped the bucket in the bathtub twice in a week to rinse while I shower (as I've always done my period pads). I washed them with the towels. I like it, but it's not life-changing. I figure I saved us a roll of TP in a week, which saves about $50/year and it's no trouble. The fabric is dark and the bucket is dark, so you can't even see them in there. I did spend an hour or so tearing them into squares and then zig-zagging them in the machine, but I guess, technically, they have paid for themselves in just a week. Looks like I used about half my stack last week, and I stacked the laundered ones on the bottom (first in, last out) to keep them rotated! If I had another girl in the house, I don't know I would be comfortable with "sharing" them. I'd have to make a stack out of different fabric for her to use.

    1. When we moved into our new home, my daughters got their own bathroom to share. I picked up some flannel my oldest would like and made them their own "pat pat pats" for their bathroom. I even got my husband on board! His only reservation was that I might handle or even see the cloth after he'd used it. We use shopping bags upstairs, then dump into the washer or the cloth diaper hamper (we are out of diapers anyway). I dump it directly into the washing machine. I wash them on cold, then another cycle on hot.

      I also have a set for my youngest (not quite a baby anymore), but it serves as back up if / when we run out of regular cloth. It doesn't bother me to share any of it, though I wouldn't want to shower with it (we do use it for poop). lol

      Have you tried washing your hair with Baking Soda, rinsing with Apple Cider Vinegar?

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