Most people don’t think about the idea that things that we use on daily basis, such as, toilet paper can be dangerous to our health. We don’t want you to make you feel upset, but to be aware of the possible dangers that you consume or use every day and how to make right choices in order to keep yourself in good health.
Every day, we absorb thousands of chemicals into our bodies from personal hygiene paper and other products. We wipe our faces, hands and intimate areas with these products, exposing our bodies to harmful chemicals and toxins over and into our bodies repeatedly. We do so thinking we’re limiting the risk of disease, not increasing it.
When it comes to toilet paper, everyone will go for the softest and the whitest paper possible. But the truth is, this kind is the most toxic for your body. The shocking information is that there are 100.000 chemicals used in commercial paper products: baby wipes, paper towels, coffee filters, milk cartons, ect. The most dangerous of these toxins is chlorine, and along with other chemicals, these substances enter through our skin, get into our blood and can cause serious illnesses. Chlorine is dangerous in a way that forms dangerous toxins dioxin and furans.
Why White Toilet Paper is Toxic
It is well known that toilet paper is made from wood and the logic tells us that it should be brown. Why is it so white than? Unfortunately, paper industries use chlorine and chlorine dioxide to bleach it. Bleached paper is believed to be the most carcinogenic chemical known to science! These chemicals react with organic molecules in the wood and other fibers to create many toxic byproducts, including dioxin. The term dioxin is often used to include three acutely toxic chemical groups: true dioxins, furans and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). All these are responsible for many health problems such ascancer,hormone imbalances,immune system impairments,reduced fertility and birth defects. Chlorinated toilet paper contains highest amount of furans out of all cosmetic tissues, and is one of the most toxic human-made chemicals. The scary thing is that dioxins accumulate in our body overtime because it cannot be excreted, and causes dangerous health situation. Studies have found correlations between high workplace exposure to dioxins and increased risk of cancer.
Other Harmful Chemicals in Toilet Paper
What’s worse, there are other chemicals in toilet paper that you are wiping onto your body and which are known to be carcinogenic:
–Bisphenol A (BPA) concentration is proven to be very high in paper products, including recycled toilet paper.
–Formaldehyde which is used ”to improve the wet-strength and other ‘important’ characteristics of paper and paper products”.
What Should You Do?
Just like food packaging, you need to read the labels on your toilet tissue too. Here’s what to look for:
–Brown or beige paper! Toilet paper brown or beige in color is usually made without bleach but lacks softness and contort.
–BPA-free paper products that have not been recycled and have not, therefore, ever been exposed to chlorinated bleach.
–TCF (Totally Chlorine-Free items) Look for toilet paper marked TCF which is non-recycled paper bleached with oxygen, ozone, or hydrogen or
– PCF (Processed Chlorine-Free), recycled paper bleached with oxygen, ozone or hydrogen peroxide, therefore, processed chlorine-free.
–Avoid paper marker ECF (Elemental Chlorine-Free) which may contain higher levels of toxicity.
There are Truly Sustainable, and Safer Alternatives.
For most of us, having a secondary bidet unit in our bathrooms isn't possible because of limited space, or too costly. But current trends point to Bidet Attachments for your current toilet and toilet seat. They set up easily, and can be purchased from $30 (cold water/ single nozzle) to $80 (warm water/ double nozzle units). The Luxe Neo Bidet is an affordable option.
The use of bidets will eliminate, or seriously reduce your need of toilet paper. And since most of the cleaning happens with the Bidet attachment, using clothe wipes for drying is a great, healthy addition. Which leads to the next alternative, with or without a Bidet.
The Facts About Cloth Toilet Paper
If you're really ready to go green and live healthy, cloth toilet paper is the answer. I know, I know…it sounds pretty “out there” when you first hear about it. But I encourage you to keep reading before you form an opinion on trying cloth toilet paper (or “family cloth”, which I think sounds way grosser).
Toilet paper itself is a pretty new invention. Historically we've used Sears catalogs, soft plant material (such as broad leaves) and yes, cloth. There were a few key differences: Cloth wipes back in the day weren't washed after each use and family members may have actually shared the same dirty cloth. Um yeah, that's not what we're recommending here.
The first concern of most is: Is this sanitary?
The answer is absolutely…if it's done right.
Urine is 100% sterile, so absolutely no worries there. Feces obviously isn't, but with proper care there is no more concern than the following common practices:
- Cloth diapers, used by hundreds of thousands families today and for centuries
- Using a washcloth in the shower to clean yourself
- Washing clothing after a child has had an accident
- Sneezing into or blowing your nose with a handkerchief
We don't think twice about those scenarios, because they are common and accepted. I mean we don't throw away washcloths after cleaning up a stinking baby in the tub, right? But we've been taught that toilet paper must be disposable? Why? Perhaps because such a highly disposable, frequently used product turns a mighty big profit, even for the so-called eco-friendly recycled toilet paper companies.
Benefits of Cloth Toilet Paper
There are so many reasons to ditch the recycled toilet paper for something truly reusable, such as the family cloth. Here is my list below:
- Affordable: As you'll see below the cloth for your own toilet paper can be gotten for cheap or even free, and washed with any load of laundry, so no extra water or detergent.
- Truly Eco-friendly: No more repeated manufacturing or shipping of a disposable product.
- Healthier: No bleach, BPA, BPS, or other funky processing chemicals coming in contact with your body.
- Softer: Truly the softest option for toilet paper, especially good when you're wiping a lot due to sickness.
- Gets you cleaner: It's true. You feel cleaner because you actually are when using cloth toilet paper.
- Keeps you cleaner: No fingers poking through because it doesn't tear like recycled toilet paper.
- Saves time and energy: It's nearly effortless to care for and is done with your normal laundry, so no late night trips to the store when you've run out
The best way to be convinced though? Try it yourself!
Give it a test run by following the information below and see how you feel about this truly recycled toilet paper. I did, and over 5 years later I haven't given it up.
How To Start with Cloth Toilet Paper
These are my personal tips based on my own experience with cloth toilet paper. Give them a try and make any adjustments that you prefer.
For trial runners:
If you're just starting out, ease your way into it by just using cloth toilet paper for urine and keeping a roll of non-recycled toilet paper for poop. Urine is sterile and there will be no odor.
If you're not sure how you'll like it, try it out with strips of fabric cut from an old jersey t-shirt (which won't fray) or with washcloths. This will give you a good idea before you invest in anything else.
When you're ready to commit:
Purchase a yard (or more depending on how many are in your household and will be using cloth) of a cotton flannel. Patterned fabrics might also be a good idea to hide any stains (don't get white!). Cotton flannel is by far the best choice: easy to clean, soft and absorbant. Avoid fleece; it may seem softer but it's not very absorbant and won't leave you feeling very fresh.
Cut the strips into 4×4 or 6×6 inch squares. If you have pinking shears, use them to decrease fraying or if you sew or have a serger, stitch around the edges to prevent fraying. But in my experience, flannel only frays enough to prevent unraveling and so it's not usually necessary, unless you'd like a nicer look or want to avoid any fuzzies in your wash the first couple of washes.
Next you'll need storage:
Clean family wipes can be stacked near the toilet or placed inside a basket or box. But you'll need a place for dirty wipes, perhaps a wet bag with a liner, a small hamper or waste reciprocal with a lid that can double as a “hamper” or a cloth diaper bin.
Choose your system: There are a few different systems, depending on preference:
- A wet/wet system: Using moistened cloths from a warming baby wipe holder to wipe and then placing them in a container of water and vinegar to soak and “disinfect” them before. Lots of extra work, unless you prefer it.
- A wet/dry system: Using warmed moistened cloths, but placing the used cloths in a hamper or “wet bag” until washing. This can cause some stink from the wet cloths waiting to be washed unless you're washing them frequently.
- A dry/wet system: Using dry cloths and placing them used in a container of water and vinegar. We've found the wet part of this system to be unnecessary. The water/vinegar solution can get awfully gross in just a couple days; much more so than a dry system.
- A dry/dry system: This is our preference. Dry cloth toilet paper works perfectly and we've not seen a need for soaking before washing. We have no odor and no problem washing the cloth toilet paper.
- A bidet system: This is another alternative to using cloth alone. Using a bidet on your toilet or creating a bidet from a plastic bottle to clean yourself and then dry with a cloth. This can lead to extra stink from the moister cloths so be sure you wash them frequently.
Now onto washing your cloth toilet paper…
As I've mentioned above, we've found pretreating or presoaking to be unnecessary and may actually lead to the need for extra washing if they soak too long or get too stinky. (Seriously, this is the last thing you want to forget for too long.)
Cloth wipes can be washed in any load of laundry that doesn't include cloth napkins, dishcloths, towels etc. Be wary washing them with jeans as you'll likely find a few in your pockets when you go out and then get to explain it to curious friends. I like to add them to a load that isn't 100% full so that they have extra room for the wash to agitate (which is what actually does the majority of cleaning).
No extra or special detergent is necessary (although you should be using all-natural, dye- and fragrance-free detergent anyway to prevent irritation) and I wouldn't recommend bleach for anything in the world. You can wash them in cold water to save energy, or switch to warm or hot if you're concerned or have been especially sick lately.
You can dry them in the dryer, or by line drying them in the sun, which does have the added benefit of using the sun to sterilize them. Avoid using any fabric softener and use a cup of white vinegar in your rinse cycle instead, which acts as a natural fabric softener without leaving any residues behind that may cause irritation or infection.
After trying it out it's hard to imagine going back. Even if you only use them for urine, you'll be glad you made the switch.
Oh, and one last thing…
Reader's Questions (and our answers)
What is the cost of washing and drying the cloth toilet paper – you know, water, soap, electricity, propane etc. – compared to buying a 9 pack of toilet papter?
Practically non-existent. 🙂 We add our cloth toilet paper to a regular load of laundry. No extras are really necessary, unless maybe we've been sick and want to wash with hot water or do a pre-soak, or if we use a wet system and let them soak in about a penny's worth of water first. Then it's really negligible compared to never buying toilet paper again.
Is there really no smell?
Usually not. I mean if you leave it sitting for awhile there can be. If you've been sick, maybe. But in the 5+ years of doing a dry cloth system we have had no issues with smell whatsoever. But maybe that comes down to what you eat, too! HA!
How can I make cloth toilet paper? Is there a tutorial?
You can get fancy by Googling a tutorial, or even buy them from someone on Etsy. But the easiest is to find a piece of flannel (NOT fleece!), cut them into the size you want (experiment with different sizes), and let the edges fray. It actually looks nicer than it seems, even intentional.
Keep a roll of non-recycled toilet paper hanging around for your house guests. No need to freak out the neighbors. Yet.