How to Survive the Coronavirus Pandemic Without Bathroom Tissue

I never imagined that the time would arrive when the crazy things I’ve done to save money or live on less would be helpful to a large group of the population. I started doing the things I’m doing just to save money in order to be a stay-at-home single mother to my kid, and I’ve caught so much flak for that decision since then that for the most part I keep my eccentricities to myself these days.

That was before the fights started. Just today, a fight broke out at a local store over bathroom tissue. My daughter’s store is struggling to keep toilet paper in stock along with a number of other items. From what I can discern, the local police in this area are becoming hard-pressed to keep the peace with the shortages we have in our town alone.

If it is this bad in our little town, I shudder to think of what it is like for those who live in major cities. The worst part of this entire situation is that none of us know when the chaos will end.

I’ve spent my days recently documenting this point in history. I’m logging the things I hear and see as well as collecting the occasional news article now that I’ve noticed a few web pages disappear. I don’t know what I’ll do with this chronicle; perhaps it may help my grandkids understand this time period at some point in the future when they become old enough to ask questions.

For now, however, I am more concerned about the bathroom tissue (toilet paper) shortages that seem to be sweeping the nation. Folks all over seem to sense that things could become even more challenging in the upcoming months so they are trying to stock up. I don’t blame them. That said, it makes things hard when you need to wipe your butt and you don’t have anything to wipe it on.

Years ago I wrote several articles about family cloths. I eliminated our use of not only bathroom tissue during that time, but my personal use of sanitary pads as well. For those who may be worried about the shortage of bathroom tissue I am going to republish the original article. I hope it helps.

What are Family Cloths?

Family cloths are a substitute for bathroom tissue. You can take old tee-shirts, washcloths, or other soft fabrics to use when you clean yourself after you go to the bathroom. While you are stuck at home, you can also use them as menstrual pads. They are more bulky than commercial options, but since the US has an apparent shortage of bathroom tissue, I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up with a shortage of menstrual products as well.

Hesitations About Using Family Cloths

The first hesitation some have is the instant ick factor associated with using cloth and washing it as opposed to using disposable paper. There is not much difference in washing family cloths than dirty underwear-both contain bodily solids and fluids.

The second hesitation is a concern over cleanliness. When wiping with cloth as opposed to paper you are free to use an extra cloth or so if you feel “less than fresh”-just toss it in the wash and you can reuse it. Compare this to regular bathroom tissue-how many children get scolded and conditioned to use less tissue to save money in the family budget? Have you seen the underwear of children conditioned to conserve bathroom tissue? It’s not a pretty sight. With family cloths you can encourage your family members to use what is needed to get clean, and even provide a bottle of liquid to help them with the chore!

The third hesitation is the gross-out factor of washing the cloths, but using the proper method you will not have to touch the soiled cloths.

The fourth hesitation is summed up as “What will the neighbors (family, friends) think?” Properly executed, no one will notice that you are using family cloths unless you actually tell them.

How to Begin Using Family Cloths

To actually begin using family cloths very little is needed.

The supply list:

  • Washcloths (old tee-shirts, cut into pieces, makes an excellent and inexpensive substitute)
  • Covered bucket or pail
  • Water
  • 1/4 cup bleach or vinegar
  • Squirt of dish soap or laundry detergent

Step One – Preparing the Family Cloth Bucket

Prepare your bucket by filling half full of water and adding 1/4 cup of bleach or vinegar and a splash of soap. Soaking the cloths in this solution will reduce odors and germs as well as allowing the cloths to come cleaner in the wash. If you do not have bleach or vinegar add some borax to the water instead, but bleach is the preferred liquid for its germ-killing properties. If your bucket is small or large you may want to increase or decrease the amount used. A half ounce of bleach per gallon of water makes a very weak sanitizer solution that is used to clean food preparation surfaces in restaurants. Do not use too much bleach-this will damage your cloths.

Place this bucket in an inconspicuous place within reach of your commode. I use a re-purposed laundry detergent bucket placed between the commode and vanity-my washer and dryer are in my bathroom, so no one notices a container of laundry detergent nearby! This is where you will store the used cloths until washday.

Step Two – Placing the Family Cloths

Place a pile or basket of washcloths within reach of the commode. The reason washcloths are chosen over other fabrics like re-purposed tee-shirts or flannel is simple: camouflage. No one thinks twice about a pile of washcloths in a bathroom, so you can hide these in plain view! Extra cloths can be purchased inexpensively at places like Wal-Mart-in January of 2010 the Southside Paducah Wal-Mart was selling an 18-pack of washcloths in white or a color assortment for $4.

Make sure you keep a roll of bathroom tissue in plain view at all times-this will make you look like you are using bathroom tissue the same as “everyone else.”

Step Three – How to Use Family Cloths

When you use the restroom grab a washcloth and use it to wipe instead. If you want to get really clean take a re-purposed squirt bottle (a dishwashing liquid or shampoo bottle is perfect) and fill with water and add a couple drops of tea tree oil (antiseptic), a couple drops or olive or mineral oil (skin conditioning – you can even use hair conditioner or lotion here), and a couple drops of liquid soap. Squirt this liquid on your cloth before wiping your private areas to get really clean.

When you are finished wiping place the cloth in the covered bucket, flush the commode and wash your hands.

Step Four – How to Wash Family Cloths

Take the bucket and pour it into your washer. Spin the water out of the cloths and wash them in hot water with bleach. Use vinegar instead of fabric softener in the rinse to get them extra clean. Dry well and place the cloths back in use.

Notes about using Family Cloths

Do not use a trash can to store your family cloths in. Someone will invariably toss a nasty piece of trash in there for you to fish out. Marking it as “Do Not Use” will only raise questions from company. Concealment is key. You can place your bucket in a covered wicker basket, or even stash it in the bottom of a laundry hamper-just do not use a trash can or diaper pail unless you are prepared for discovery.

Further Reading

If you are interested in my personal adventures with family cloths, you can check out the posts below. They are old but you may find them relevant to your situation.

Family Cloths

Family Cloth challenge

Forgetting the Family Cloth

Family Cloth and Company

Family Cloth Savings

Simplicity of Menstrual Cloths

On another note, I am also concerned that we may have shortages of items (or money) in the future. If you find yourself in that situation, you may want to check out my books discussing how to live on less:

The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing And You Can Too

The Minimalist Cleaning Method

I’ve written a few more related books. Rather than bore you, here is my page that contains links to some of the retailers that offer my books for sale. I’ve kept the prices low even during this chaos.

While I wish that I could afford to offer these books for free, I have to eat as well. Thanks to the Coronavirus, that eliminates me going out to get a job at the moment so that I can afford to do that. As I’ve said over the years, however, I keep the prices low for a reason. I am not trying to get rich, just pay the bills. At the age of 50, I am in the age group that this stuff is hitting rather hard, so I would rather not risk getting a public job at this time even if I could find one. With our local economy at a standstill, I doubt I could find a job even if I wanted.

If you believe that these books may help a friend, please feel free to share them. I don’t care if you buy a single copy and pass it around if it helps make this easier. Just remember that this old woman needs to eat as well.

Thank you.

Frugality of Family Cloths and Menstrual Pads

Once again I find myself doing a load of whites.  A friend of mine asked me why I have so much laundry, and I simply said “because I don’t use paper towels.”

Truth is, I don’t use paper towels, kleenex, paper napkins, bathroom tissue or sanitary pads. I use cloth instead for all of these items.

When you tell someone you know that you don’t use all of these things, they look at you very strange–like you are nasty or something.  In all actuality I am quite clean and using cloth helps me stay even more so.

I wash a load of whites a week that are composed of all the towels and such.  I generally wash a load or two of colors and one load of whites a week anyhow (unless I’m washing bedclothes or something extra), so I’m not really doing any extra laundry than normal.

It feels so nice to know that I don’t have to run to the store d over instead of paying money for something that will only get thrown away.

I could preach about how I’m helping the environment, but that’s not why I do this.  I do it to save time and money.  For every dollar it takes to buy these things it costs half that much over by the time you calculate taxes, gasoline, storage and if I need tissue or pads. It is nice simply knowing that I don’t have to depend upon big business to provide these things for me.  Instead, I use the same cloths over and over. That is a dollar and a half I don’t have to worry about earning when I use cloth.  My laundry detergent is homemade and costs a couple of pennies, the washer has long been paid for and water doesn’t cost that much either when used in full load increments. I spend a lot less washing a few cloths than I spent on paper products before I switched, and I don’t have to try to stretch the things out—I use what I need!

These days instead of using a dryer for the towels I even save that money by drying them on a line outside! Can’t get much cheaper than letting the outdoors dry your laundry!

Have you ever considered saving money by switching to cloth?  I started simple by just supplementing my paper towels with cloth but gradually ended up going cold turkey on all of my paper usage…  It took a lot of thought before I finally made those final steps, however!

Anyhow, the whites are spinning out.  I normally have them done by now but I had some errands to care for this morning.  Have a nice day!

Simplicity of Menstrual Cloths

As I have stated in earlier posts I now use family cloths instead of bathroom tissue.  I decided to research using menstrual cloths as well when I stumbled upon an article at Associated Content about using regular wash cloths folded in a certain way.

This makes sense in an incredibly simple way.

Think about it:  you already have wash cloths you use for cleaning.  Use those cloths you already have for family cloths, then when you cycle and need protection grab one of those cloths, fold and place in your panties.  Change the cloth each time you use the restroom and you always have a clean pad on.  This would be perfect for pantyliners or anything!

You wouldn’t even have to buy any special cloths, you just use the washcloths you already possess!

The simplicity of that method amazes me.  No having to buy this or that special item–just use something you already have, something that is ubiquitous in the bathroom!

No more worrying about an early period or unexpected spotting, or about leaking when you sneeze those last few months before the baby is due.  Just fold up something you already have and change it whenever you do what you normally do (use the bathroom).  How easy is that?

This doesn’t even have to be about frugality, about saving money or helping the earth.  This can be about simplifying life in general. 

Life is really good.  It is even better when you can figure out a simpler way of doing things….

Family Cloth Savings

I figured it up: When we use bathroom tissue it normally takes about 2 rolls a week of average tissue in our house.

I buy 40 packs of Pom tissue at Sam’s Club. The current price is $18.88 plus tax for those 40 rolls, meaning each roll costs $0.41 each before tax.

I make my own laundry detergent, which costs about a nickel a load. However, I prewash the family cloths before I toss them in with my normal load of whites so at most I am spending a quarter extra to wash them. In the summer I hang them out to dry so that is free, but in winter they are dried with my normal load of whites, which costs me nothing extra cause I have to dry that load anyway.

With all that in mind I think I am saving at least $0.50 a week by using the family cloths. I would be saving more if I used the more expensive tissue, but I’m cheap. That works out to about $26.00 a year savings to me personally, provided I only used 2 rolls of bathroom tissue every week.

That may not seem like much, but every penny counts in this economy. Frankly I see no point in giving Big Business that money if I can use it on something I enjoy more, like a good steak or for seeds for a garden (which will give me something back).

We work to make money then give it all back to the businesses who hire us. It’s like a form of slavery. The more we think we want the more we have to work to get it. The more we work, the more we think we want.

Hmmm…. I think it is time to research menstrual cloths. I may be on to something here…

Family Cloth and Company

Guess what? I had some people come over, and my one kid spent the night.

They used the tissue and I still quietly used the family cloths.

I even washed the cloths in front of one friend. She had no idea what I was washing. She knows I keep a sanitizer bucket for kitchen towels in the kitchen so she may have thought I started keeping a bucket in the bathroom for wiping off the counter and other surfaces.

The main thing is that no one even suspected!

I do believe using the washcloths are a wonderful thing. No one suspects a pile of washcloths in a bathroom!

Forgetting the Family Cloth

Some habits die hard. Bathroom tissue is among them.

Several times today I found myself grabbing off of the roll left in the bathroom for camouflage. Not good.

I will continue to correct myself as I work toward saving more money.

I have more cloths, purchased on sale so that I don’t have to worry about running out before laundry day. I hope I won’t anyhow…

Fortunately I try to do laundry at least twice a week because I don’t like my kitchen towels to soak for too long.

Which reminds me.. I washed the family cloths that I used during my cycle… not a single bloodstain remained on any of them. I am quite pleased.

Family Cloth Challenge

The first challenge came to my use of Family Cloth: my monthly cycle. Darn. I had a decision to make, and I needed to make it fast. I decided to continue with the experiment. It is icky, but it doesn’t feel as icky cleaning that bloody mess with a damp cloth as opposed to a … Continue reading “Family Cloth Challenge”

The first challenge came to my use of Family Cloth: my monthly cycle. Darn.

I had a decision to make, and I needed to make it fast.

I decided to continue with the experiment.

It is icky, but it doesn’t feel as icky cleaning that bloody mess with a damp cloth as opposed to a bunch of dry tissue. I’ve got a bottle filled with water, a drop of olive oil, a drop of tea tree oil and a drop of soap (it’s a really small bottle) that I squirt on the cloth before wiping. I feel much fresher cleaning this way than I did using the bathroom tissue.

I am concerned about the cloths staining. I keep them in a bleach solution until wash day, but I am still paranoid. I read on some menstrual cloth forums that blood stains generally wash clean especially if they are soaked and the water changed frequently. This morning to be sure I changed the water and swished the cloths around some and inspected them. A couple of cloths that had stayed folded still had a bit of blood on them but most were totally free of blood. Maybe this will not be a concern after all….

After going this far to save money I am wondering if I should go whole hog and start using menstrual cloths as well. One lady just folds up her cloths and uses that instead of making anything fancy, and gives an option for using some waterproof flannel(?) as a liner between the cloth and the underwear if one is concerned. Insane as it sounds I may have to research that…

Family Cloths

We got about four inches of snow here last night. When I went to open the door this morning for the dog I discovered a snow drift blocking the door!

I grabbed the broom and swept the area clean in a few minutes, however.

After reading posts for several months I have decided to try Family cloths, where you use cloth instead of bathroom tissue. I was not sure if I would like it so I just placed a small covered bucket of sanitizer (actually bleach water) beside the commode and used washcloths instead of toilet paper whenever I have urinated.

It actually isn’t that bad.

I haven’t attempted to use the cloth for #2 yet but I frequently think of dear Father and his “special cloth” he used and reused just for this purpose his whole life. He would wet the cloth in the sink before use then wash it out by hand and leave it to dry for the next time. I’m thinking that if I create a gentle liquid to dampen the cloths I could just toss them into the sanitizer bucket for the wash without harm.

To wash the cloths I plan to dump the sanitizer bucket in the washer, completely spin out the liquid then pre-wash them before adding my other towels to the mix. That would give them a good initial spin to get rid of the majority of yuck and a good wash to eliminate most if not all of the rest of it before combining it with the rest of my whites. Heavy bleach and a vinegar rinse should kill any and all germs that may be on them. I tried cloth diapers in the past – surely this won’t be much different?

The reason I started seriously considering family cloths was a blow to my frugal soul. While out of town not too long ago the thermostat died and the pipes froze and broke. Sixteen rolls of bathroom tissue were saturated and had to be tossed. Over a third of a box of bathroom tissue gone to the trash because of a little water!

If I used cloth I could have simply washed them and all would have been well.

I hated throwing away that much bathroom tissue. I hate throwing away that much of anything, period–especially without getting any benefit from the use!

I have read a lot of blogs where people are using cut-up tee shirts, flannel and all other types of fabric for the family cloth. I’m just going to use white washcloths instead of doing all of that. My reasons being that wash cloths can be used for so many different things and are easily added to my kitchen towel stash when they become too worn for the bathroom. This will save me time and effort because I will not be using a special towel I can store all of the clean cloths in a single pile. This will also help to camouflage the family cloth in the event of company.

I was scolded for making my own laundry soap by one friend, saying that if I was so poor and needed laundry detergent they would be happy to buy me some! I am routinely pressured to purchase things like televisions and cable subscriptions–even a couch–that we don’t want or need. At this point I really don’t want to listen to the poverty comments, and would just like to live my simple life in peace.

I will quietly use my family cloths and let my friends and neighbors continue to spend their money on stuff they use once and throw away.