Friday, 29 April 2011

Personally Paper Product Free Part Two

More alliteration, jolly good! Now for the one you’ve been waiting for. Toilet paper. I know what you’re thinking, even someone as crunchy granola as Spidergrrl surely must wipe with toilet paper. Nope. Think again. I have used cloth toilet paper (referred to online as “family cloth” --go on google it, you know you want to) for urine for a few years but only recently have converted to using it for everything. Lots of people--particularly families with small children in nappies use it--so why not me? You can even buy posh wipes like these from WallyPop.   

For years I used an old flannel sheet that I cut into squares. But over time it faded and grew stiffer and rougher from the hard water we have and lack of a tumble drier. At that rate I might as well have been using regular toilet paper. So I embarked on a quest to find a solution. I googled “family cloth” and read everything I could get my hands on. Most people were happy to tell you all about how they used it on their baby. How cloth wipes moistened with a bit of warm water and oil cleaned their precious baby’s bottom and they threw used wipes into the nappy pail and washed them that way. Many of these people said their whole family had converted to cloth themselves, but very few people went into details on their own adult personal habits. So I have collated the best of their ideas and plan to tell all. Spiderman, I think, is a bit worried about this disclosure (and wants me to assure everyone this is just me we’re talking about--although I hope to win him over one day) but I think a person needs to be educated. If you knew how easy and clean it was more people would be converted. So here goes:

Flannel is mega soft in the beginning, but only if you have soft water and/or a tumble drier. My experience is it goes all sandpapery which is to be avoided. My choice is fleece.  Not sheep fleece (although I once read something about this man who wiped his arse with a live goose--yuck) but the kind jumpers are made of--polyester fleece. I know some people complain that liquid beads up on fleece but I think this would only be an issue if you were weeing a fountain. The beading up can be solved by dampening the cloth slightly with a spray bottle. More on that in a bit. I have 2 kinds--some polar fleece that my friend who used cloth nappies gave me and some cut up jumpers. I wanted something soft, colourful (because let’s be honest, it is nicer to wipe with something purdy) and something that didn’t ravel in the wash. Also something that dried quickly. Fleece ticks all those boxes.  I bought 2 jumpers from a charity shop--one red and 1 salmon pink. I got them for £1.50 each because it was the end of the cold season and they were making way for summer gear. I cut them up into 6” by 8” rectangles (although the ones from the sleeves are more like 5” by 8”). The yellow fleece with cows used to be used a nappy liners (hence the kid friendly theme) but it was free and beggars can’t be choosers.

I store clean ones in a decorative basket made from woven banana leaves on the back of the toilet. After using one I store it in a mesh laundry bag--the kind for delicates or tights--that hangs up in a hook off the side of the washing machine. This air circulates through the mesh so there’s no smell. Then I just wash them with whatever laundry is going. But what about butt germs? That’s what you are really thinking at this point. I’m not putting butt germs in with everything else. Well, hear me out. This part may get a bit graphic so be warned. Spiderman, avert your eyes.

If you are going to just use them for a little dab o’ pee then what’s the big deal? Urine is essentially sterile. Lots of people just use it for number one--I did for years and if you are anything like me you wee about a dozen times a day. It saves on toilet paper and is softer on your girly bits. That’s fine. But what if you want to try the whole shebang? How do you do it to avoid the dreaded butt germs?

Okay, what you need is rinse system. The reason you use so much paper is because it is dry. Honest. I had to go back to regular TP on the Dr Who holiday and it was murder. You poo, then wipe, get more paper, then wipe, get more paper, then wipe--repeat until you are all covered in linty fluff and your bum hurts from all the rubbing. I know. You thought that’s how it always had to be. But it doesn’t. Rinsing then drying with cloth is so comfortable. But the rinse is the key. People in countries like India have been doing it for centuries, they use their hand to clean, although I advocate a cloth, but the rinsing bit is the part that makes the difference. Don’t you trust your Auntie Spidergrrl?

You need something to rinse with and an empty spray bottle. People from India have a lovely brass pouring pitcher to use but I find that too difficult. If you’ve had a baby and they gave you a “peri bottle” to soothe your torn perineum after birth those work great. I use one of those squeezy mustard bottles. I got it and a ketchup bottle for a total of 50p. I use the ketchup bottle to hold lavender scented vinegar for fabric softener for my wash--but that’s a different story. Fill the spray bottle with water and  glug of light oil (I like sunflower oil) and 3-4 drops lavender essential oil. The oil is there to make wiping easier (and the cloth easier to rinse if you need it) and the lavender is there to make it smell nice but also because lavender is antibacterial it helps cut down on odour or butt germs if you worry about that. 

When you are ready to have your BM fill the squirty bottle with warm water. Then sit down and do the business. When you finish hold the bottle behind you and aim the warm water towards the poop chute. You don’t need to get too close (no fear of contamination of the squirty bottle) the water will just squirt out and rinse. Rinse well. I usually do ¾ of a bottle of warm water. It feels nice because the water is warm. Pick up your spray bottle and give it a shake to mix the oil and water. Then take your soft fleece cloth and give it a few sprays. If it beads up on the fleece you are spraying too close. Move your hand back to allow a light mist to dampen the cloth.  Then give yourself a good old wipe. If you have rinsed well there will be little to no poo to wipe away. 9 times out of 10 there is none. On the occasion you get a tiny pea sized amount of poo on your cloth then give the cloth a quick rinse under the tap. The oil in the water helps the poo to just slide off. But this rarely happens. It fact it happens less and less the better I get at rinsing. Then take another dry cloth and dry yourself. Put them both in your mesh bag to dry and wash your hands.  I can't believe how *clean* I feel afterwards. The rinse really makes a difference. It's like going through a butt car wash. There, now that wasn’t so bad was it?

Now I just wash my fleece rags with whatever wash that’s going. Ewww…I hear you cry. I’m still worried about butt germs. Well, the crotch of your knickers has as much butt germs (more if you leave skid marks) as a wipe. Since I don’t leave skid marks because I have washed myself thoroughly and then dried I don’t feel this is an issue. We haven’t been sick or died yet so I think everything is hunky dory.

Still need convincing? Try these statistics courtesy of one of favourite eco blogs The Crunchy Chicken:
According to Charmin, consumers on average use 8.6 sheets per trip to the bathroom. That's a total of 57 sheets per day and an annual total of 20,805 sheets. There are 230 million adults in the U.S., each averaging a roll and a half per week. Since each roll of toilet paper averages about .5 a pound of paper, that's about 40 pounds of TP per year.

That equals 4.6 million tons of TP used each year. And that's just from adults. To take the calculation even further, if all U.S. adults used only Charmin toilet paper or the like (aka "virgin fiber" with 0% recycled content or post-consumer waste), the environmental cost is approximately (not including the issues with Dioxin):
  78.2 million trees
  1.35 million tons of air pollution
  32 trillion gallons of water
  2.1 trillion gallons of oil
  18.75 trillion Kilowatt hours of energy

All just to wipe your butt. Go green, go cloth! It’s softer on your bits and kinder to the environment.

Spiderman, you can open your eyes now. 

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