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Using Cloth In a Disposable Society

Just the other day at Walgreens, I saw the sign up on the marquee: four 8-pack rolls of Charmin for only $3.99 each. Now, we no longer use toilet paper, but dang, what a bargain! Or is it? Just how much does that add up to be in a year’s time? Let’s see…before kids, an 8-pack likely would’ve lasted about a month between the two of us. With taxes, that amounts to about $50 a year. With two kids, I am guessing that our toilet paper usage would be doubled by now and we’d be going through at least two 8-pack rolls a month. At $3.99 per pack, that would be $95.76, before taxes. A hundred bucks a year on toilet paper?? I can think of a lot of things I’d rather do with $100 than blow it on toilet paper. Luckily, there is another option. In this post, we’ll discuss it along with:

  • Cloth Napkins
  • Cloth Diapers
  • Cloth Pads
  • Handkerchiefs

There are so many benefits that come with using cloth. Cloth is healthier. Using cloth is another method of eliminating excess waste. It is a wise investment – buy once and use it hundreds of times. Over time, it can save a family thousands of dollars. Did I mention it is natural? And to top it off, it does a better job.


Around three years ago we made the switch to cloth toilet wipes and we have never looked back. The difference between cloth wipes and toilet paper is really like night and day. Cloth is much gentler and softer. It doesn’t tear and leave pieces behind on the skin.  There is no chance of it clogging up the toilet since cloth wipes are set aside to be washed and re-used. Other benefits? Less consumption/waste, very economical and oh yeah, no chemicals. For more info, visit Wallypop’s very informative article about cloth toilet wipes (a.k.a. family cloth)


Cloth napkins are versatile and wonderful to have on hand. I recommend using only 100% cotton cloth napkins, as anything else does a rather shoddy job. In addition to using them in our home, we also keep some in the car. While on road trips I place a cloth napkin in my lap and make sandwiches or peel fruit. It keeps my lap crumb and fruit juice-free. When I am done I will usually place the fruit peelings inside of a cloth napkin and set it aside until I can deposit it for compost. Totally handy. I also use them to hold food for our two boys when we are out and about in the car or elsewhere. They eat off the napkins like they would from a plate at home. And usually one cloth napkin can be used more than once if the meal consists of things that aren’t messy – such as sandwiches or grapes. Other benefits of cloth napkins (besides the ease) is that they are much softer and gentler to use – and the tender skin of little babies and toddlers appreciate that pleasantness too!


Cloth diapers. What can I say? The benefits are numerous, there is NO comparison between cloth dipes and disposable. Really, there isn’t. Are you aware of the chemicals in a disposable? To me, that is a reason above all to cloth diaper.

We’ve been cloth diapering for almost four years now. We’re on our second child. We’ve never once used a disposable. I do not mention that to brag. My point is that cloth diapering is not very difficult at all provided you use cloth diapers that are actually absorbent (i.e. not cloth diapers like the ones from Gerber brand – made with synthetics which means it won’t absorb very well, if at all) and have a bit of knowledge about what you’re doing (utilize covers when necessary, try different diapers and methods to see what works best for you, etc). There were moments when my kid peed right through the diaper and it leaked on the floor. The last thing I thought was, “oh crap, these things don’t work”. The reality is that he was wearing a pre-fold (one layer of cloth) without a cover….so it’s definitely helpful to have a bit of knowledge on hand when setting out to use cloth diapers.

After going at this for nearly four years now I have never once regretted using them. And besides, what we have kept off of our kids’ skin by using cloth is surely the most important aspect. In everything I’ve written so far I’ve yet to mention the financial benefits of cloth diapering. This article here sums it up well as I don’t have much to share about this aspect. Sure, I appreciate that cloth diapers pay for themselves over time. But saving money was not my motivation for using cloth diapers – just a pleasant bonus.


The thought of cloth pads may cause some to cringe, but the benefits are worth a second glance. Disposable pads contain carcinogenic chemicals (much like disposable diapers.) Supposedly these chemicals can cause menstruation to be heavier than it would normally be. From what I read a few years ago (I cannot find it now, unfortunately) there are chemicals in disposables that are designed to lock in moisture. These chemicals are a magnet for moisture, essentially pulling moisture to the pad. Thus, the heavier flow is caused by the chemicals pulling the blood out of the body before its time.

Cloth pads are MUCH more comfortable than disposables ever were. No bunching, no adhesives that pull hairs and cause pain. Not to mention so much softer. And no smell. I can’t say the same for disposables.

For those who are a little wary of cloth pads (or would like to supplement along with them) there are menstrual cups. The two that I have heard mentioned the most are The Keeper Cup and The Diva Cup . But there are also other several other brands. With so many brands it can be confusing to know which cup is right for you; check out for in-depth reviews of several of the many cups out there.


I cannot end this post without mentioning the wonderful, but often forgotten handkerchief. Handkerchiefs are a high-quality and comfy alternative to those flimsy, fuzz ball-laden paper tissues. They won’t tear into gross little pieces and leave fuzz behind…something that always made my nose itch and my allergies much worse. If you are concerned about hygiene or messiness, the trick is to fold aside the used portion and keep a clean area ready. Once all clean areas are used, simply toss the handkerchief in the dirty laundry. I recommend keeping several handkerchiefs on hand. They are economical. Especially if you make your own or purchase some for cheap from a thrift store. If neither of those are options, there are some awesome, handmade handkerchiefs on Etsy. And like with the cloth napkins, I highly recommend only 100% cotton handkerchiefs, as anything else doesn’t do the job nearly as well.

So there you have it. Any questions? Leave a comment.

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10 comments to Using Cloth In a Disposable Society

  • Nev

    Ooooh.. interesting. :)
    We have started using Cloth Nappies on our almost 10month old on the first of February this year. I bought some when I was still pregnant but for some reason never took the plunge. After numerous poo-xplosions and leaks I thought: what difference does it make if these happen in cloth? so we started using them and despite using up the rest of the ‘sposies here and there we’ve never looked back. :D

    From the nappy it was just a small step to cloth for me so now I am using pads as well and I love them. It’s like wearing just knickers. :D

    Oh, and we’re now also finally 100% cloth baby wipes.

    Not sure about the toilet paper though…hmmm

    Nev :)

  • I am curious as to how much laundry you have to do. We live in an apartment building and have to pay 4$ per load which I found was expensive for cloth diapering and so have been using disposables until we move into a home. How do you store used cloth wipes etc as well?

    • We average 4 – 5 loads per week. It was more, but we’ve been using Elimination Communication with the littlest one and the diaper changes are getting to be much less frequent. I couldn’t imagine paying $4 per load – hopefully that includes drying! As for used wipes, we place those in a plastic grocery bag until wash day. We intend to implement a cloth bag soon.

  • This is an amazingly informative article – and I’m very impressed with your family!

    We’ve switched to cloth napkins, diapers, and pads (though I still cheat with disposable stuff at times :p) – I am now inspired to really make the attempt to go to family cloth. The idea of it doesn’t bother me…I just don’t know if I can get my husband on board! I’ll give it a try though… :)

    Thanks for the great post!

    • Switching to family cloth sounds like a bigger deal than it is. The cloth is much more absorbent, so you’ll find that you’re done in half the time. Reclaim that space under the bathroom sink for more important things, and save a bunch of money in the process. Really, you can’t go wrong.

  • Great article! Thank you so much for sharing this.

    I’ve used cloth nappies on all four of my kiddos when they were babies and found them super easy to deal with and very soft and comfy on baby’s skin.

    We also always use cloth napkins in our house and would never go to paper. Cloth is so simple! Wet, wipe, and wash! I never thought about using the napkin as a plate when we’re out and about, but am definitely going to try it.

    I haven’t used cloth pads in a very long time as I am a faithful Diva Cup user. I was a little scared to give it a try at first but now prefer it by far to any other menstrual product. No mess, no fuss. Love it!

  • What a fantastic resource! I never give much thought to the chemicals in toilet paper, but that’s the one area where we have yet to go full cloth. Maybe it’s just easier for me not to think about it? I’m going to have my work cut out for me if I try to convince the husband, but the more I read, the more I think it’s only responsible. Thanks for the motivation, and the great article!

  • a fabulous list.

    I have another for you
    Cloth Napkins or hankies (or table clothes) instead of wrapping paper for gifts – the wrap becomes an eco friendly reusable gift too!

    Also I don’t use toilet rolls. I wash with a hand held bidet (looks a bit like a shower plumbed into the water inlet pipe). Then I dry myself with an old terry’s nappy (my kids don’t need to wear them any more) Change the nappy/towel daily and have a different one for each person. This is the eastern way. I also have a special washing jug for when we visit relatives that an aid worker friend brought back from Afghanistan for me.
    Angela (Toucan Scraps) recently posted..St Nicholas DayMy Profile

  • I couldn’t agree with you more on the cloth debate and a really informative post thank you!
    I’m so glad you dropped by and I really welcomed this contribution last week to the Seasonal Celebration Linky- a great collection of seasonal recipes, homemaking, crafts, homeschooling and motherhood thank you so much!
    Seasonal Celebration is live once more, so feel free to pop over and join this wonderful celebration of creative talent! Rebecca x
    Rebecca @ Natural Mothers Network recently posted..Frozen vs Fresh and How Fresh is Fresh?My Profile

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