Can We Talk About The Family Cloth?


Recently, I just learned about a concept that is apparently a popular fad among the crunchiest of families called “The Family Cloth.” For those with weak stomachs, proceed with caution because it lives up to its ominous name.

The Family Cloth is a substitution for the rolls and rolls of toilet paper that we use on a daily basis in an attempt to save on paper waste to preserve the environment. Maybe it’s also for folks looking to maintain and healthy septic tank, but hey – I’m just speculating and trying to give the benefit of the doubt.

You heard it right. It’s a bin of towels or washcloths that are solely used for post-urinating and defecating clean-up. Use it once, throw it in the wash. Rinse and repeat.

Y’all, I am one crunchy mama. There’s not a toxic cleaner in this house, and I make most of our lotions and soaps by hand. I recycle, buy organically as often as the budget allows, and prefer homeopathy over Western medicine. But I simply cannot get on board with this monstrosity.

We’ve all been there. You know you have. You’re out of TP and realize it too late. Maybe you don’t want to scream across the house for someone to bring in the magic roll, or things have gotten serious in the bathroom. Either way, you scramble for a solution – and the cabinet of towels are there. Am I the only one who throws that away rather than recycle and reuse it? Color me paranoid, but I just think there are some germs that don’t go away, nor do I want to be haunted by the incident every time I wash my face. Was this the washcloth? Is it really clean? Nope, nope, nope.

But to willfully and deliberately reach for that every time – that’s just craziness. Look, I get it. The cloth diaper pendulum has swung back our way, and what’s the difference? Well, the difference is that most folks outsource that mess. They put it in a bin somewhere and leave it on the front porch for a service to pick up and drop off fresh ones. You know who normally does the laundry around the house? You got it – the moms.

It is one thing to have to wipe the bottoms of helpless infants. It is an entirely different one to subject yourself to interacting with the fecal matter of your significant other and grown children. I feel like the first rule of Family Cloth Club should be that Everyone Washes His or Her Own Cloth.

My second issue with this is: with all the detergent and water it would take to run the loads necessary to clean these “cloths” in a timely manner, it nearly negates the environmental benefits of not using toilet paper. Basically, you’re taking one environmental sin and trading it for another. It’s like the folks who drive to five different grocery stores to use different coupons to save money. It’s all great in theory, but aren’t you just making up the difference in the gas money in travel?

If you are using The Family Cloth, I’d love to hear the rationale behind it and the logistics on how your family makes it work. Not because I ever will entertain the idea but more out of  morbid fascination. And if you can make it work, I tip my freshly-pressed, laced-with-probiotics-and-fish-oil green juice to you.


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