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Frugality

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.