An updated repost of a blog I wrote for Etsy Cloth Diaper Team, Saturday, September 29, 2012
The "UnPaper" Solution
A relatively new product you might be seeing around is really a redo of a very old solution - long before the advent of paper towels, toilet paper, and facial tissue there was POC (plain old cloth). People prettied it up (kerchiefs), cut it up (flour sacks), washed it up, and used it over again. Somewhere along the way we were sold on the "convenience" of throw-away products for all of these common reusables. In fact, it goes further every day! Now we have throwaway convenience in plates, diapers, mops, even CLOTHES!!
While admittedly this does a lot to reduce the "ick" factor in some cases, one might argue that all the time and money spent shopping on these disposables as well as the struggle we face when we unexpectedly run out drastically reduces the convenience factor. In addition, we are piling our landfills and dumps with tons and tons of paper products (often laden with poisonous chemicals), and chewing through natural resources at a stupendous rate.
Switching to Reusables
If you already cloth diaper this is a common-sense next step. It simplifies laundry and diaper changing because you can just toss the soiled wipes in with the soiled dipes, less mess, less fuss, less fuzz in the laundry.
However, cloth wipes can make sense for anyone, even if your kids are years out of diapers, or you don't have any children at all!
Commonly called "family cloth" and "unpaper", cloth wipes can take the place of nearly every disposable cleansing or hygiene paper product in the house. Replace the facial tissues in your house with a stack for runny noses. Stack some on a kitchen counter for quick spill clean-ups and other messes. Tuck them into your purse or diaper bag for on-the-go cleanups. Leave a stack in the bathroom to replace face-cleansing or makeup removal towels. Or you could take the ultimate plunge and replace your toilet tissue with a stack on the back of the toilet.
Pretty fabrics, and specialty items such as snap-together "unpaper towels" that unroll from a regular paper towel holder makes unpaper easy and appealing. Use a pail storage system and eliminate the "ick-factor" completely. When your pail is full just dump it into the washing machine, no touch, no mess. Wash, dry, restack, reuse.
Replacing even one product in your home such as paper towels or facial tissue can reduce landfill waste, save trees, improve your families health but reducing chemically laden wipes and cleansing cloths, cut your monthly expenses, and on top of all that, brighten your day with cheerful prints and colors!
So How Do I Get My Family to Go For This?
You might find it easiest to "ease" your family into the idea of cloth. Start with something simple like replacing paper napkins with cute cloth napkins. Once that's gone over well, get some "unpaper towels" and replace that roll in your kitchen with something cute that you can sew up yourself or purchase ready-made.
Who wouldn't want something gorgeous sitting on their kitchen counter instead of those 'printed' paper towels!
Once your family has gotten comfortable with using cloth around the house, you can try for something a little more personal: facial tissue. Replace the puffs with some super soft and comfy wipes like these:
When it becomes "the new normal" to use cloth for everything, you can take the ultimate plunge and suggest your family try replacing toilet paper with wipes. You might want to begin by offering both cloth and disposable toilet paper until everyone is comfortable with the transition, or you may even continue to offer both, but drastically cut down on your tissue usage. Place a small bucket (1-3 gallon) or trashcan with a lid next to the toilet. This is where soiled wipes will go until it's time to wash them. You can sprinkle a little baking soda in the bottom to keep it fresh and odor-free until wash time, but you don't want to put water in it. When full, just dump it into your washing machine and wash on hot with a frangrance free soap. Voila! Never buy toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, kleenex, cotton balls, baby wipes, counter wipes, etc. etc. again!
Using Cloth Wipes
Cloth wipes can be used wet or dry. I keep mine in a Prince Lionheart wipes warmer in each bathroom and by the changing table in the nursery. To most effectively keep them warm I prefer the wet method, plus this makes them work more like "baby wipes". In the kitchen we keep them dry for mess clean-up.
To use the wet method, you can simply make your own wipes solution in a bowl and pour this over your wipes in your wipes container or warmer. There are a lot of simple wipes solutions that you can make at home with products you already own, or you can purchase ready-made solution or concentrates such as these which you mix with water. I'll post some recipes later. :o)
Why Use Cloth Wipes?
There are a number of reasons to use cloth wipes and other "unpaper" products:
~ Better for the environment: less trees, less trucking/shipping on the production end, less trips to the store on your end, less solid waste
~ Pretty and customizable to match your decor
~ Less expensive over time
~ Healthier for sensitive skin
~ Customizable scents and cleansing products
~ Simplify cloth diapering
~ Never run out of toilet paper/paper towels/kleenex again
~ Never have to "limit" the amount of toilet paper or tissue used by your family members again
~ Reduce packaging waste in addition to paper product waste
~ Better for septic and sewage systems since you are reducing the solid waste passing through