Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Familiarity of an Idea

The first time I heard of cloth toilet paper, it was some years ago an internet homesteading group, and the person posting called it "unpapering." They asked if any other people didn't use disposable paper or plastic products at all, and while we were already doing cloth napkins and rags, my immediate reaction to the idea of cloth toilet paper, which I'd never encountered before was "ugh!"

At around the same time, I had four small kids in diapers, using partly cloth (two were going to school and had to use plastic there), including cloth wipes. That is, I was wiping the behinds of not one but four small children with what was effectively cloth toilet paper, and I still reacted to the idea of using it on me with an instinctive "I'll never do that." I had managed to comparmentalize, imagining, that somehow, my rear end was fundamentally different than the rear ends I was wiping.

I ran into the idea here and there in the oddest places over a while, until I got to the point that I would actually defend cloth toilet paper as "perfectly reasonable" - I just hadn't done it yet. But over time and with regular contact with the concept, it moved from "out there" to "ok in principle" quite quickly. I stopped compartmentalizing at some point - I made the connection between the fact that I wipe up bottoms *all the time* with cloth, and that it really wouldn't be that different.

Then came the radical transition point - someone mentioned something that had never occurred to me - that you could keep your paper tp for pooping, and use cloth for pee. Suddenly, the light went on, and I began looking speculatively at a pile of old t shirts. I suddenly realized that one of my most basic assumptions - that this was an all-or-nothing idea, was wrong. Pretty soon the scissors were out, and we were using cloth tp. It didn't take long until we preferred it - way more comfy.

Cloth toilet paper took me longer than most ecological changes to make, because it involved so many other cultural assumptions - first I had to get over the idea that one's out bodily output was too gross to have anything to do with. Parenthood and my first read of Jenkins's _Humanure Handbook_ took care of that. Then I had to run into the idea, get over my immediate aversion, see that it was an idea that others held and that it wasn't too "weird," and then find an accessible way to do it. And then I actually figure out what I could use for tp, try it and keep trying it.

The most fundamental issue here for me, was familiarity. There are some ideas you run into once and immediately say "Why didn't I think of that" and implement it in your own life, but there are many other things where the first time you confront an idea, you can't do much more than file it away as a weird factoid. Without context and familiarity, it is just too hard and too strange.

How do we differentiate between ideas that immediately get dismissed and those that percolate a while, perhaps leading to further change? How do we help people get familiar with any change that seems to go against cultural pressures, from putting a garden on their front lawn to composting their own wastes?

My own experience is that the following five things all help a lot. I think one of the most important things that bloggers and other environmental activists can do is to simply present new stuff in an accessible way, that helps get people past those first hurdles of resistance.

1. Expose people to the new idea, repeatedly if necessary. They say that to get a toddler to try a new food, you may have to offer it to her as many as 20 times. Grownups, I think, are often even more conservative than toddlers - the first time we confront an idea, we might not even notice it. The second time we might instinctively reject it. It might take three or four or twenty times for an idea even to translate all the way into awareness of it.

Think about peak oil - the idea that we'll eventually run out of fossil fuels itself is often hard for people to grasp, which is weird, because of course, we all should know that. In order to get to the idea that we're at or near an oil peak right now, we have to get people to grasp a whole host of subtler ideas, including the fact that oil is a finite resource for which there's no obvious replacement. Intellectually, most of us know that. In practice, millions of people, maybe billions, have never gotten their heads around that factoid enough to be able to translate information about peak oil into knowledge. The more times they hear this information, and the more sources they hear it from, the more that "click" moment is likely to happen, allowing them to take the next intellectual step. So it is important to reiterate information all the time - yes, it can be boring for those in the know, but it is absolutely essential.

2. Let people know that other people who they know, like and respect are doing this. Let's be honest, we're all vulnerable to peer pressure, at least a little. When I run into a new idea, I usually categorize it by the context I find it in - that is, if it comes along with a lot of other things I find crazy or wrong, I might not do the hard work of sorting out the one gem in there. And if I'm forced to think "Oh, well Annie does that, and she's not too weird..." I can associate it with "normal" people.

I'm not sure that this is one that I do especially well - I doubt many people think "Oh, Sharon's so normal..." ;-), but I do think that one of the most helpful things I can do is point out "I bake my own bread for a family of six. I am a normal slob of a person, not some superwoman, but I can do it." Other people may then begin to think "we normal slobs can begin to bake our own breads..."

2. Respond to the appeal to "irrelevant authorities" - that is, people like to think that new ideas come with authorization. If you can show someone an article in the paper, or print out a list from the internet that mentions your new idea, you've automatically transferred it from teh category of "weird thoughts in my head" to "thoughts worthy of being written down." Now we all know that just because things are written does not make them truth, but still, there's something to words on a page or a screen that makes the idea accessible.

I've come to realize one of my own primary roles in the world is to take the heat from other people's spouses off of them. That is, I can't count the times that someone has told me "I got my wife to do X, and said to blame it all on you because you said so." And I think that's great (I just wish it worked on my husband, who has a much more jaundiced view of "Sharon said" than many people's spouses apparently do ;-)). I'm fully prepared to blamed by people I've never met and often never will meet for driving them crazy. The simple fact is that my authority is totally irrelevant - but I won't tell if you don't.

3. Provide accessible way into the idea. Getting a garden on a front lawn might be scary - what if then neighbors object? What if the town gives us trouble? What if it gets messy, and I don't have time to maintain it and I ruin all the property values around me? What if the neighbor's kids ruin it? But half the time we don't even know why we find an idea scary or overwhelming - we can't articulate what it is that seems wrong to us, so we just say "no way." The more access we give people to new ideas, the more likely they are to adopt them - for example, offering ways to try it out without too much commitment, say, suggesting we replace foundation plantings with blueberries or that we start with one bed and interplant with flowers. The more of us who can tell our own personal stories about how we got here - or even how we're working on getting there the more times we may touch off one of those "Oh, I thought..." moments where we suddenly realize what the problem is.

4. Find the pleasure. This does not mean endless, mindless cheerleading about how everything will always be wonderful, but I do find, for example, that locating pleasures can help you jump over some of the necessary intellectual steps. I know lots of people who will not (yet) grow food to save themselves from the ravages of climate change - they simply aren't there yet, and they would have to take too many intellectual steps to get there. That may happen over time, but because I want them to grow food more than I want them to agree with me, I can circumvent the whole discussion by observing that I grow food because the food is better than any you can possibly buy, no matter how rich you are. Or that my food budget is manageable because I grow food.

It doesn't have to go systematically - you don't have to accept peak oil, for example, to see the value of local food and energy systems that provide better, healthier food. Think of it as an intellectual checkers game - figure out where you want to go, and see how many "steps" you can jump right over to get there.

5. Encourage people to try things. I'm a reader, one of those people who, confronting a new idea, gets as many books as possible together. And that's great, those books can save you a lot of time and energy. But they also can bog you down into not trying things. I know I'm perfectly capable of getting caught up in research and getting distracted from the larger question. Reminding ourselves that there's no substitute for direct experience is important - go on, try the cloth toilet paper, try making bread - the worst that happens is that you won't like it. Internet challenges and other "do it with me" projects here are enormously valuable - trying something new is intimidating, trying something new with other people to ask for advice, and other people brave enough to admit their errors is different.

Getting past our fear of failure is the other thing that we need to work on. Even when there are no stakes at all, people hate to make mistakes or be wrong. I think one of the most important things we can do is admit our mistakes, laugh at them, and encourage other people to try and fail sometimes. Because the reality is that the stakes are small in many cases - if you've never built anything before, and you get out there with a hammer and nails, the worst thing you'll do is get a sore finger and have your chicken tractor fall apart. Life goes on. There are some things you shouldn't try without knowing what you are doing - pressure canning, using a chainsaw, anything that can kill you. But for the most part, you have to make some mistakes to get good at something, you have to take some risks and try something before you can do it - and the more we can help people feel comfortable with making mistakes, the more competent people there will be out there.

Me, I'm past the cloth tp hurdle and moving on to the "make your own pet foods" challenge, an idea that has been percolating for a while. How about the rest of you?



Tracy Glomski said...

I'm at the stage of TC for front-end wiping. I was first exposed to the idea in an article about simplicity published in the December 2006 issue of Yoga Journal. The author of the article basically took the attitude, "There there, you don't have to be as extreme as the Compacters who are making their own deodorant and abandoning TP." That's what got my inner contrarian thinking, heh.

About ten months went by before I found the motivation to cut up an old flannel pillowcase and sew it into proper squares, however. Meanwhile, I stumbled across a couple of blogs where very thoughtful and mostly normal people talked about their switch to TC. And now I find myself agreeing with them—it is softer and nicer than TP. So yup, once again, your analysis agrees spot-on with my own experiences.

Incidentally, that was the last issue of Yoga Journal I ever bought.

Anonymous said...

My 8 year old, who think bottom is the funniest word in the world, followed by toilet would love this post.

I loved it to, beucase there is a lot we can help each other and ourselves get over.

I'm wondering about the impact of using old cloth that is beyond any other use and throwing it out vs. paper rather than using the paper and letting the cloth just sit there. And the question of what will the c. dif. spores do in the landfill vs. the sewage treatment plant.


homebrewlibrarian said...

Accepting a new idea only after multiple approaches, research and considerable reluctancy is nothing new to me. Learning how to put together age appropriate children's programming at the library I ran (for three-year-olds) when I had no children of my own, no background in early learning and no experience working with children was way more stressful than shifting over to TC (although I'm still shifting...slowly...really, really s-l-o-w-l-y...). I never did quite reach an acceptable comfort level even after nearly 20 programs but I did learn that I enjoy three-year-olds and that was enough to keep me working at it.

Ironically, discovering and accepting peak oil and climate change has seemed remarkably easy. I think it's because I was already moving towards reducing overall consumption of everything and becoming committed to supporting local and sustainable foods. What has been more difficult is explaining why reduction is necessary to my friends, colleagues and family. And at the same time not coming across as a complete nut job. I appreciate this post because it gives me some ideas how to present my views without scaring the bejeezus out of people. Well, maybe it will for some of them but being mindful that I should make it brief but frequent will make hearing what I'm saying more likely.

Thanks, Sharon, for your tips and I promise I'll shift over to TC in the near future. Um, yeah...


Anonymous said...

Sharon -- just realized, first you have us getting those extra butts into the house, and then have us thinking about how they are going to be wipe...I hate to think what is coming next.


Green Bean said...

I still haven't crossed the cloth TP hurdle but I'm working on the victory garden slowly but surely. Slipping in vegetables here and there, planting an apple tree, replacing our front planting strip with the lasagna mulch soon to be replaced will all edibles. At first neighbors would make comments like "well, that's different" but at least they were thinking about it. The longer they see it, the more acceptable of an idea it is. As for the cloth TP, we'll get there one day. So long as we're all moving in the right direction.

homebrewlibrarian said...

Discussion about cloth tp from motheringdotcommune:


Not only is this a discussion amongst mothers who use cloth everything else for their kids but some side comments on cloth hygiene products for the moms too. Plus amusing comments on creeped out husbands.

Note the thread started in 2005. Am I like the only person that never heard of this before??


lavonne said...

I'm stuck at the pre-TC stage -- wanting to do it [at least for #1] but having trouble figuring out how to introduce the idea to the other people I live with. They haven't been receptive to helping me cut back on water or electricity, so I'm pretty sure they won't be interested in using TC themselves. Which means my mental hurdle involves embarrassment in using TC myself and knowing they can see it hanging to dry between uses. [That's how you do it, right?] But I recall using cloth diapers when my oldest son was little and I had no problem with that. I could set up a little 'diaper pail' for my TC -- which could then include the use of it for #2... but wait a minute. My washer is portable and drains into the kitchen sink. Oy. So many things to think about...

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post, Sharon!

Energy Bulletin

Anonymous said...

Bare fingers with a drop of Dr. Bronner's Soap (I like lavender, but peppermint is an experience!) and a bit of water work well. This is how I cleaned my kids. I've been doing it for years! No paper, no cotton, no washing of rags, etc.

Save the trees!

Vegan/Leaving So. FL

Anonymous said...

My next major hurdle seems to be food storage and emergency preparedness. I have 60 pounds of grain products arriving in a few weeks, so I'd better figure out how to keep the bugs out of them by then!

I think storing food and other things for emergencies is one of the things I'm doing that most directly implies that there's going to be an emergency. So then I end up not wanting to think about it, and don't get around to it.

But mail-ordering a two-pound bag of flour just really didn't seem worth it, once I'd decided that I wanted to invest in local grain products. A 20-pound bag is a much better use of resources. So now I can get myself to stock up food because it's "more practical" that way.

Robyn M. said...

Nice post, Sharon. We don't use cloth TP, although I've got friends who do and don't particularly mind it myself. I think I just don't want to do yet more laundry! Ack!

I wanted to point out one issue with, if I remember correctly, #2--about having something in print. This can be a good or bad strategy depending on the situation. If the person you're interacting with is curious, or at least not being hostile, then having "in print" justifiers can be great. But if the person is hostile, defensive, or otherwise non-responsive, referring to print is not going to help. Typically, it will only make you look defensive, possibly that you're trying to attack them. If the person is really hostile to your ideas, and is on the attack, referring them to articles just keeps the discussion going longer, often in unproductive ways. Similarly to the toddler who shakes his head and seals his mouth on attempt #1-19 of a new food, better to drop the subject and move on to something else. Maybe on #20 they'll get it.

Mum said...

Hi, I'm just starting out on this road so I may be way behind you all, but is this link any use?
If we're talking about looking for ways to get to a 'critical mass', guerilla bagging could be a way to get superstore shoppers to take their first step and might start them thinking about the issues...

Anonymous said...

Hey, it beats using corn cobs or pages out of Sears catalogs, as was done before toilet paper and indoor toilets. I've used newspaper in an emergency, and the lack of news about Peak Oil makes it more satisfying. This could be a good way of recycling newspapers. Wiping and getting even at the same time. Now that is conservation.

Anonymous said...

I'm spearheading a Transition Town initiative(see over here in my small city in California. I think it has wonderful potential in helping us face the coming change.

Part of facing the coming change collectively is helping more people become actors in the creation of the new way of life, helping them past confusion, fears, and ambivalence. The inaugurators of the Transition Town movement have found concepts and techniques from addiction therapy very useful for that. There's a series of 5-minute videos from an interview with a UK addictions therapist available on YouTube. I found these enlightening. See, for example: .


Anonymous said...

Cloth toilet paper?

What about using water like 90% of the rest of the world?

Wiping is how hepatitis is spread. You get dried fecal flakes all over your hands when you smear it around and rub it into your skin then procede to spread them everywhere else....

The most important thing I ever learned traveling was how to clean myself properly.

katecontinued said...

For those who use water, like the last commenter, I'd like to ask if you need to assume a yoga position? A friend told me this only really works with a toilet one can squat down over - as in many asian countries. I am not that flexible and lithe to figure out the logistics.

If you prefer you might email me at katecontined(at)gmail(dot)com. I am seriouusly interested. I have allowed myself months to get used to the idea of cloth wipes and was waiting until the first of the year. Thanks for this great post, Sharon.

Capturing Today said...

We started using cloth wipes in June of this year when we embarked on Crunchy Chickens "Low Impact Week" challenge. Started the diva cup then as well, which I love.

I have 3 little girls, ages 8, 5, and 2. Toilet paper was a HUGE deal in our house - we were going through so much of it! I have told friends the story about my husband, the drill sergeant, implementing a 5 square rule! They laugh, but it is truly a big deal when teaching little ones frugality.

Now, they love the cloth wipes and wouldn't think of going back to tp!

I agree, with enough repetition, your friends start to see that perhaps your ideas aren't *that* weird, then next thing you know they are discussing it and pretty soon others are trying it. Continuing to talk about our options is one of the best things we can do to pull others in the loop.

mlebeau said...

This is very interesting but I want to point out that until we all figure out how to stop ALL of the junk paper coming into our homes and businesses this is an effort of last resort. The amount of forest destroyed daily to provide us with newspapers and unwanted mail far exceeds our backside wiping adventures. I'm all for alternatives hygiene but let's not invite a run of cholera while reading our 7 weekly newspapers or our Eddie Bauer or Victoria's Secret catalogs.

Anonymous said...

I've found that call the 800 number and having a nice chat with the customer service person and then asking if they can take me off any other lists helps. I try to keep everything light and friendly. Once I tripped over the compost bucket while I was the on the phone and ended up giving an quick and dirty compost 101 to the young man on the other end of the line who wanted to start a composting, but thought he'd need to buy a huge drum.

What I can't get rid of is the local papers which come free.


Anonymous said...

Why would using cloth instead of paper cause a cholera outbreak? It's not hard to get them properly clean.

At this point the only unwanted mail I routinely get is the local stuff that's much harder to stop. For nonlocal stuff, there are some helpful "do-not-mail" lists, and calling individual companies to tell them to take you off their lists usually works. I don't use mail-order catalogs, magazines, or newspapers.

I'm also curious about using just water. I tried that for #1 for a while, but I found that it left me unpleasantly damp and I was worried about contamination issues if I used the same hand towel each time to dry off.

stacy o. said...

I have used cloth menstrual pads for over a year, so that was my transition into cloth toilet wipes. My fam of 4 (hubby and 2 small boys) have been using cloth for several months for 1 and 2. No big deal. My boys love it, and my husband is slowly making the transition. Its now his responsibility to buy toilet paper if he wants it, and we haven't had any in the house for several weeks now. Using water is an interesting idea, though. Squirt bottles? What is the system?

Anonymous said...

I don't have any numbers for what I am about to say, so think what you will.

Why are you so certain that cloth TP is a good idea?

1) If you use it once through, I'm reasonably certain it took less resources to make an appropriate amount of paper than an appropriate amount of cloth.

2) If you launder it, again I think the energy involved in heating water to wash it is more, or at least close to that required to put that paper in your bathroom. Even with using air drying. If you use a clothes dryer I'd think it would definitely be higher.

It's a fine sentiment, but I'm not so sure this makes sense. I could be wrong though, but the idea seems screwy.

Chile said...

Lavonne, I throw my cloths in a bucket with the lid on loosely. If used for #1 only, they are barely damp. I can leave them a couple of weeks without odor. Then I soak and wash with a regular load of laundry.

LimeSarah, see this site for food storage help.

Anonymous said...

The system for using water that I use after #2 is squating in the bathtub while wiping and rinsing myself with my hand/fingers or just doing the same but standing with legs wide open and bent knees in front of the bathroom sink. One can try a drop or two of Bronner's soap to feel even fresher afterwards.

For #1, I either do not wipe myself at all (if one waits a bit there is less moisture that will penetrate one's underpants) or use an organic cotton piece of cloth which I have cut from old organic t-shirts. After using it several times, I wash the small cloth (5" x 5") by hand with cold water and a bit of lavender or peppermint Bronner's soap.

When my children were babies, I used to sit them on the edge of the bathroom sink with their back facing the faucet and, again, wipe them with my bare fingers/hand and a bit of soap and water. You could try a squirting bottle if you don't have running water or even pouring water from a cup into your hand as I've done. I never used wipes and no one ever got cholera or other infection from this "system."

We must be mindful regarding the conscious or subconscious use of fear to deter others and ourselves from trying none Western or non-technological ways of doing things. Let's not forget that our culture's obsession with "cleanliness" has led to superbugs from the use of anti-bacteria soaps, overuse of antibiotics, use of pesticides, etc.

Anything we can do to reduce our conspicuous consumption/squander of natural resources helps our environment and every sentient being on our planet.

Yes, cancelling catalog and newspaper subscriptions as well as not eating factory farmed meats (one of main, if not the main, contributor to deforestation) is well worth our efforts.

Choosing to deindustrialize our lifestyles or "riot for austerity" is an urgently needed worthy and noble cause. Each of us does make a difference!

Go green and reduce your footprint!

~Vegan/Leaving So. FL

Anonymous said...

Sharon, I agree wholeheartedly about talking with others about the things we are doing. It's very important. Whereas before I would keep silent, I now have no second thoughts about sharing with acquaintances (and strangers) how I do things in an alternative way.

For instance, while I was chatting with a group of parents last night the subject of the new local superstore came up and people were asking how everyone liked/disliked it. I took the opportunity, as part of the casual conversation, to tell everyone about the CSA we've joined. And though folks had that "Ok for you, but not for me" look in their eyes, there nevertheless were lots of good questions and comments and a real conversation took place, not just small talk.

I consider it a seed planted in their minds and that's often what we must hope for. So we need to be spreading these idea-seeds. For me the hurdle was getting over the fear of appearing eccentric or even a nut bar. I'm over that now, because of the imperative that drives me.

Susan in Ontario

jewishfarmer said...

Anonymous, I suspect making cloth for cloth tp and washing it every time in a powered washer wouldn't be more efficient. On the other hand, the average American has enough clothing to last them several lifetimes, and rummage sales throw into landfills millions and millions of pounds of clothes they can't get rid of every year, so I don't think that that's an objection that applies so much in the present - there is plenty of cloth lying around, keeping it out of the landfills by using it as tp seems like not a bad use. I find that "pee wipes" can be used multiple times, and cloth tp is very, very small - it would take a long, long, long time to use it up.

Vegan, I have used your method too when travelling in other countries - but I suspect in some ways, conserving water may be a bigger issue than conserving old clothes - I don't live in an especially water poor area, but many people in the US now do, and I think it is one of those things you have to think about - because I have little doubt that to wash myself as I go would require more water than using the cloth wipes and washing myself as I go.

Mlebeau, it isn't an either/or project - we're doing both.

But my point was not to say that TC is the one true light, but to use it as an example of how people confront different ideas. I'm not invested in how people wipe their bums so much as how we get people to think about all the aspects of their lives.


suburbanfarmgirl said...

Great post; very true. I first heard about cloth TP 18 years ago as something Deep Ecologists do. At the time, I thought that was soooo extreme. It took 16 long years of pondering before I finally went for it.

I like Tracy's term "front-end wiping." I think that's the term I'll use when I finally get brave enough to let friends and family know that I use cloth TP for that purpose.

Your post is really encouraging; just by doing things and being open about it, we get others thinking about it. I hope it won't take them 16 years, though!

I use a cat food recipe I found at under "Finicky Feline Diet Recipe." The cats love it, and it uses ingredients I can get locally aside from some bulk rice. I do, however, 'cut' it with some commercial, as cats need taurine (naturally found in fresh, raw meat), and my cats don't hunt much.

Chile said...

The concern I would have with cleansing fecal matter off in the tub or sink would be the pathogens that are then in the graywater. The toilet, whether it is humanure, composting, or standard, keeps all the pathogens out of the graywater system. I think this is what causes my hubby's resistance to the idea since we live in a desert and need to re-use water as much as possible.

Anonymous said...

I bet the folks who do like Vegan don't have jobs. Just can't imagine stripping off my pants and shoes to stand in my employer's multistall restroom wiping **** off with my fingers in front of the sinks. Yeesh.

ideasinca said...

I've been circling around this one for awhile and think I am definitely ready to try it, at least with "front end" wiping. I have lots of spare cloth squirreled away, old sheets, towels, etc. As we have a bidet, we even have conveniently located towel bars in our bathroom for the cloths to airdry between uses. My question is this -- as one who is clueless about sewing (working on it, but other priorities rank higher), do I need to hem the old sheet or towel once I've cut it to the right size? Or can I just use it as is? Many thanks to this community for support and ideas in these challenging times!

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess anonymous above exemplies how one can be mocked and belittled ("don't have jobs"?) in our culture and even in this forum when one articulates personal/sustainable options. BTW, I do have many jobs at home! My husband's salary is more than sufficient to support our simple lifestyle.

Chile, one does have to consider that. Your husband is probably right since you have to reuse water to such a degree. However, if you are very concerned about fecal pathogens in the graywater, I would suspect that graywater might have some fecal pathogens from washing hands in the sink or tub usage after tc or tp back-end wiping.

We have a septic system due to code enforcement in So. FL. A graywater system from water used in the kitchen sink would work better for us if we wanted graywater free from fecal pathogens.

~Vegan/Leaving So. FL

Anonymous said...

Okay, Vegan, I'm not knocking the stay at home moms. You have jobs at home. But your husband has a job to provide you with cash income, and I bet he uses TP when he has to take a #2 at work.

And as for the guy who said using TP spreads hepatitis, guess what, it's when you go to countries where they don't have TP and people use their bare hands that you're told to get hepatitis shots first. Not when you go to Europe. Not when people from other countries come here, either.

Tracy Glomski said...

>>My question is this -- as one who is clueless about sewing (working on it, but other priorities rank higher), do I need to hem the old sheet or towel once I've cut it to the right size?<<

If you're using a knit material like old t-shirts, ideasinca, you might not need to hem. The edges may curl, but they probably won't fray much. That'd be a smart choice of material for non-sewers.

If the fabric is woven, however, and if you're unable to stitch the edges, you might try cutting the squares with pinking shears. They'll still fray, but not as quickly or badly.

My TC squares are refabricated cotton flannel—about 6" x 6"—with the raw edges sewn to the inside. I put in extra effort because I wanted them to be nice and to last a long time.

To feel more comfortable about back-end wiping, I would need to sew a separate set in a different fabric pattern. Although no one can catch hepatitis or cholera from their own poo, it is technically possible to develop an infection from fecal bacteria accidentally introduced to the vaginal area. That's why moms teach their girls to wipe front-to-back!

Probably the laundry process is sufficiently sanitary, and the odds are truly small that there'd ever be a problem, but eh, I'm a very risk-adverse person. I've always used separate TP squares for the two areas, so I want separate TC squares, too. When I've had a chance to sit at my sewing machine again, I'll try the next step. I'm tired of paying $3 for every four-pack of recycled toilet paper. I have better places to spend my money, and TC feels more luxurious on the skin anyhow.

Anonymous said...

You people are crazy!
In Thailand, every toilet has installed a spray head, roughly similar to the kind used to wash potatoes and dishes in our modern sinks.
You wash your butt squeaky clean with a jet of pressurized water, drip dry for a few extra seconds, and go on your merry way.
The supreme advantage is that you can then flush the nutrient rich wastewater from a large underground holding tank (a very good replacement for the obsolete septic tank) onto your gardens (or flower beds if you find that idea too icky).
Since we have a highly varied diet, human manure contains far more valuable micronutrients and nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium than any other kind, in my opinion.
Also, what goes in your mouth goes back out onto the land in a perfect, sustainable cycle. Using toilet paper in such a system would leave it hopelessly clogged in a matter of days. Also, toilet paper contains heavy metals from the manufacturing process.
So give up on paper and enjoy life with a clean bum for a change!

Ariel said...

Water for the potty-trained

Hmm, well it certainly seems like the water issue has stirred up a lot of murky commentary.

we use something called a duve, although i think its probably not the one you are thinking of. its simply a plastic (yes i know) contraption that sits under the toilet seat, and has a water outlet directed straight at your sunshine spot..., the flow of water is regulated by a little lever to the right of the toilet seat (its all one piece), and Presto!
butt clean, extremely efficient water-usage (you don't really need a lot of water) and NO special Yoga posture needed. and NO bathtub or nothing... and the great thing is, you can install this little (yes its plastic, im sorry) contraption in any standard toilet..
enjoy your clean butts!

Marnie said...

Just a quick note from a different perspective: urinary tract infections are most often caused by fecal matter bacteria, so just a gentle reminder to the ladies: WASH your behinds after #2 :-)

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Every time the topic of what toilet style is best comes up I am reminded of Rabelais famous satires on Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532 and on) which include a long argument on what the best way to wash ones ass after defecating is. After much argument (they reject paper as too expensive) they settle on goose feathers as the ideal.

So there you have it, goose feathers!

-Brian M.

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Marnie said: "... reminder to ladies: "Wash your behinds after #2."

You're right!

As a child I saw my now 84 year old mother washing after #2. She's never had a bladder infection, neither have my two sisters or I who do likewise.

This practice does not call for wasting water. If one washes mindfully, one need not use more than a cup of water as I've done in situations where no running water was available.

~Vegan/Leaving So. FL

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My family isn't even close to TCing yet, but we have begun a paper-slashing campaign. The first to go were the paper towels, four years ago. We cloth-diapered our second child. Now, I have switched to cloth napkins and have begun exploring cloth menstrual pads. I think we have a ways to go before my husband will accept the TC idea, but I'll be working on it.

My mother-in-law (who would now be grossed out by the TC concept) told me that as children, they would fight over paper from peach and apricot crates. See,in the
50s, her family of 11 would get fruit in big wooden crates. Each fruit was individually wrapped with soft paper and, of course, this paper was way softer than the harsh TP the family had in stock. Hmm, wouldn't TCs be even softer?

I hear all kinds of hunting stories from the guys in my family. They tell about their pooping adventures in the woods (what is it about guys and poop anyway?). My husband often grabs assorted leaves when he must do a duty out in the back 80. Another relative laughed about the times he just ripped chunks off of his t-shirt to use as TP. Obviously, they aren't being environmentally sound here, but the same tone rings through here. They are using alternatives without a single apprehension here. I guess you have to reach that point in everyday life before you willfully consider the concept.

Nice post, thanks.


Polly said...

To Kerri who never heard of things like this before -- Mothering Magazine is about 30 years ahead of the rest of the country.

For monthly feminine hygiene -- after years of homemade cloth pads, I've settled on chunks of sea sponge - a great alternative.

the Prince of Thrift said...

my concern, would be the smell of having all those smelly rags in the bathroom, until you do the laundry.

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Wow, no more paper TP, maybe not so unthinkable. Hmm, I live alone. I've run out of TP before and have used paper napkins, kleenex or paper towels in a pinch, all of which, by the way, I no longer buy. No periods anymore, thank God, another plus. And with a slight case of hemorrhoids, using a wash cloth to clean up has been a necessity. So, hey, yeah, I could make this no paper TP thing work. I'll save a paper roll for company, though, ha-ha.

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