Reusable Toilet Paper: Handy Solution or Big Pile of Poop?

toilet paperPhoto: Perivallon
Toilet paper made from recycled material.

Most people are familiar with inventive reusable materials or items that can be repurposed; think bottles, pillow stuffing, curtains and even baby diapers. These products can not only help our bank balances but, particularly in the case of diapers, the environment as well. However, there’s one hot topic that divides people just like the “over or under the spool?” argument – that of reusable toilet paper.

Recycled toilet paperPhoto: Levi Szekeres
Recycled toilet paper might not be as green as you think.

Toilet paper made from recycled material is becoming more and more readily available. It works just like regular toilet paper – no instructions necessary. However, unlike standard toilet paper, it’s environmentally friendly, reducing the number of cut-down trees and the amount of water used in its production. Well, that is, up to a point. Recycled paper still requires processing and might also make use of a certain amount of wood pulp from old-growth forests. There are also worries about recycled paper’s safety, as it’s been found to contain BPA, a manmade chemical that can mess about with the endocrine system and may be linked with neurological disorders.

ClothPhoto: Huguette Roe
Most reusable toilet paper is made from cloth scraps.

“Ewww” might be the average person’s knee-jerk reaction to reusing, rather than flushing, what they use in the bathroom. However, some people have proved less squeamish and make do with cloths that can be laundered and reused over and over again as an alternative to traditional toilet paper. With this method, clean cloths are placed next to the toilet along with a pail filled with cleansing, odor-stifling liquids for soiled wipes. The used cloths are then thoroughly cleaned in a washing machine. The “ick factor” isn’t the only potential problem, though, as washing these wipes uses extra water – something that makes this option still slightly flawed in the environmentally friendly stakes.

laundryPhoto: Wavebreakmedia Ltd
Reusable toilet paper may also make for a lot of extra laundry.

However, fans of what has been dubbed the “family cloth” have stressed that this method is still greener than using toilet paper, and that they also save money, when you consider how many times you buy toilet paper every month and how much you buy each time. What’s more, the cloths are soft – and free, if you’re industrious and make them yourself. They can also be long lasting, and you’ll never have to stress out about clogging the toilet again (not mentioning the related embarrassment and work that comes with that upsetting scenario).

DiapersPhoto: MissMessie
Cloth diapers have become more popular – but will cloth toilet paper?

Can such benefits help people overcome their distaste at the very idea of reusable cloth wipes? Perhaps. After all, some may want to save money by cutting down on standard toilet paper. Others may truly want to help the environment. And yet others may just prefer the texture of the cloths. However, at the end of the day, for many, avoiding the hassle and icky thought of having to use or wash the wipes takes priority. To become more profitable, reusable cloth wipes companies should perhaps consider emphasizing all of these positive points – but then there’ll always be a few who are just too grossed-out by the whole business to try the cloths themselves.