Saving Money by Using Cloth
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Saving Money by Using Cloth

Cloth. Such a simple word. Only five letters. But, oh, what a money saver!

Think about all the paper products you use during the day. How many of them do you throw away once they’ve been used?

Now think about how many of those products could be converted to cloth, washed and reused.

Here’s my list:

paper towels

napkins

paper plates

baby wipes

baby diapers

baby bibs

baby changing mats

toilet paper

feminine napkins

Making the Switch

Out of this list, several things we already have converted easily to products we do not use and then throw away. For example, we use cloth bibs and baby changing mats that are washable. Paper plates are easily substituted by real plates that can then be washed and reused. Napkins aren’t a giant leap to convert from paper to cloth to wash and reuse, but that still leaves a few things on the list.

Feminine napkins, toilet paper, paper towels, baby wipes and baby diapers are still left. I will now explain how our family has reduced the use of these products greatly or completely gotten rid of them in our home.

Baby Diapers – we went to cloth. It’s cheaper and just as easy to use on the baby. It rids the baby’s skin from coming into contact with chemicals. We like it. It’s not too bad to do an extra load of laundry every now and then for the benefits we receive and wow does it save us some money!

Baby Wipes – we converted over to cloth. We can make our own solution and soak our little wipes in there and wash them with the baby diapers. Since the solution we make doesn’t have any chemicals in it, we can use that same wet washcloth for wiping all kinds of baby parts when neeeded! No need to purchase wipes over and over anymore – we’re saving money!

Feminine napkins – we went to cloth. These can wash right in with the baby diapers on wash day. But even if you’re not washing baby diapers, place the cloth napkins in a basin with cold water and let them sit until wash day. It’s so nice to have the feel of cloth in such a delicate area than the feel of paper. Yuck! Wish I’d made the switch sooner. Super easy and since you buy (or make) enough to get through one cycle of your period and no more, you’re saving money!

Toilet paper – we, again, went mostly to cloth. Just keep a little tub (we just use the tubs we were sent home with from the hospital) by the toilet. Granted, we only use the cloth wipes for patting wet bottoms, not dirty ones, but it’s amazing how much toilet paper it saves to clean up with a cloth wipe – wet or dry – than to use a string of paper toilet tissue. The wipes get washed on wash day and are then ready for use again. My family hasn’t converted completely to cloth because we still prefer old fashioned TP for the BIG messes. But we are saving money with every cloth choice we make – large or small!

Finally, the paper towelpractice using hand towels instead. Always have a hand towel handy for drying hands. Have a hand towel handy for drying off the counter, sinkΒ  and stove tops. Having these two hand towels ready and keeping them separate for their special missions has saved us tons of paper towels. For floor messes, we have less than beautiful rags that are kept in the kitchen and they are perfect for a messy cabinet or floor spill. We are just careful to keep our wet laundry separate from our dry laundry to prevent molding. And guess what? We’re saving money!!

Small choices, a little bit of planning and we can all be more responsible with the money which we’ve been blessed.

How do you use cloth to save money in your home?

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66 Comments

  1. We use mostly cloth as well. The problem is that my mom lives with us and refuses to implement some of the changes. I thought she was moving out, but, apparently she’s not. It’s frustrating. She lives in my house but has no respect for the choices I make for my family.

    paper towels – I don’t use them EXCEPT for draining grease from fried foods. I haven’t found a good substitute for this.

    napkins – cloth

    paper plates – I don’t buy them, but we do have some leftovers from years past.

    toilet paper – I really want to implement this but my mom insists on washing and refuses to consider this option

    feminine napkins – diva cup and cloth pads

    I love that we’ve made the changes we have. I really would love to implement more but will have to wait until my mother moves.

    1. @monique, draining grease…we use a cookie rack with a cookie sheet underneath. It works great! Or consider brown paper bags (recycling!). But I find the cookie rack to work perfectly.

      1. @Susie B., I was going to ask the same thing. I’ve switched almost everything except draining bacon. I’ve used the rack method as well but have found that it still leaves a substantial amount of grease on the bacon and the bacon gets cold while it’s airing there. I’d love to hear if anyone else has a better solution.

      2. @Susie B., in our family, we fight over who gets the plate that the bacon was on. My girls and I love to eat our eggs and toast covered in the bacon grease! YUM!

  2. interesting; never realized how many we used- paper towels that is…
    have plenty of kitchen towels – drawers full… will use from now on…
    ALSO: always use paper towels for cleaning windows… and in car washes..inside and car windows…. used to use old newspapers…no streaking…. BUT..now recycle them..
    will definitely switch to cloth..and try to cut down on p.t.’s… paul @ ncc

  3. SSome great tips thanks. I also use cloth cotton balls. Just use and throw in the wash – make up comes off no problems. I wash and reuse zip lock bags. I have little cloth bags that I take to the super market to put my veggies in or better yet grown your own. Great to find bulk bin stores where you can bring your own containers to fill – not always cheaper but it means reduced rubbish in the house.

  4. We are a cloth household but I must admit we have yet to switch to cloth in the bathroom. I never thought of just using cloth for wet bottoms. As a mostly female house, it would definately save some paper.

    You mentioned that you wet pail cloth pads. I just rinse them with cold water and put them into a wet bag until wash day. Don’t have a problem with staining or anything. Just another option.

  5. For greasy foods, I use newspaper and ONE paper towel. So the papertowel touches the food, not the newspaper. But the newspaper helps to absorb the grease. This is pretty much the only time we use paper towels. One roll lasts a very long time in our household. And I keep the roll put away, not out on the counter. It is so funny to see guests come and ask for paper towels. I gently remind them we do not use them, to please use hand towel or cloth napkin instead.

    1. @Sara, The strangest responses that I get are when guests find out that we don’t have plastic (or Saran) wrap. They are often just baffled– then how on earth do you wrap things up? (Glass jars with lids, tupperware, or cloth covers for bowls, etc.)

  6. This is very interesting to me. Our family does use a lot of paper towels and I have wanted to make the switch but have a hard time imagining life without paper towels for quick spills or a quick hand wipe if working with messy things in the kitchen (instead of rinsing my hands each time). I do have a towel in the kitchen to dry my hands on. At least I’ve got one thing down. πŸ™‚

    Cloth in the bathroom… now that I don’t think I could ever make the switch to. I used to do cloth diapers so I’m not totally opposed to this kind of thing but I just couldn’t imagine training the family or myself to do this.

    1. @Elisabeth, I think that for making the paper towel switch, it really helps to have a small stash of rags or old kitchen towels that you don’t mind using for yucky stuff. I often try to scoop up bigger messes first with a rag, dump in the garbage and rinse the rag off (then put it straight into the laundry room), then go back and wipe a second time with a clean rag. Once you get used to it, you hardly notice that you’re doing anything different. I do find that I wash more towels than some people I know, but it’s also easy to toss some towels or cloths in with other loads and it doesn’t really increase my overall laundry very much.

  7. I have been making cloth napkins out of a sheet I bought at a thrift store.
    I use cloth panty liners but have yet to make cloth pads that will handle my monthly. I bought a bulk of pads at Costco a while back and won’t run out until fall so I have some time to develop a good system.
    We still use paper towels in the kitchen some but it is just a matter of my taking the time to make lint free hand towels.
    In the bathroom we don’t use any toilet paper at all since we bought the blue bidet system from http://www.mercola.com (except my 15 year old daughter, ugh, she refuses to convert), It only cost about $40 or $50 to buy the kit that converts the toilet to a bidet. I made bum cloths that we use for the drying of the nethers. It leaves us with a much cleaner feeling and we saved the cost of the bidet in tp savings in about 4 months.
    I own a ton of Correll dishes that are great for on the go instead of paper plates.
    I think that covers everything.

    1. @Mary Korte, We got the Mercola bidet system as well and we’ve been using it for a couple of weeks now and we’re thrilled with it! I honestly cannot understand how we managed to live without it for so many years, we feel so clean and refreshed after using it.
      For drying we each have a dedicated cotton terry towel that we wash on wash day along with my kids’ cloth diapers.

  8. We rarely use paper towels now that we have food recycling so most food mess gets swept up into hands or a dirty dish and scraped into the food bin. I’m experimenting with using old baby Muslin cloths for draining greasy foods since it works for straining my homemade yogurt. We have also started to keep facecloths in the kitchen for face/hand wiping after meals as we were using soo many wipes. Still squeamish about washable wipes for bottoms though.

  9. Something is missing from the list! Tissues!!! We love using hankies and this saves you more than money: it saves your nose AND saves your laundry! How many times have I washe a tissue in my pocket and ended up with tissue shreds all over the place!? Well, not anymore!
    We also do:
    Cloth diapers
    Cloth wipes
    Cloth napkins
    Towels (I keep just a roll of paper towel around for cleaning really yucky stuff like Raid spray on the window sill!)
    Diva cup
    Real plates
    Nursing pads!
    Wet bags (instead of plastic)
    Cloth grocery bags (in the process of creating cloth produce bags too)

    Here’s another idea that I just had:
    Use cloth napkins for an easy clean up lunch or dinner that is just sandwiches or quesadillas! No dishes? Yes please πŸ™‚ you could even have a tablecloth reserved for this purpose… Or just clean the table good an eat off of it! What’s the difference between that and a clean plate!?

  10. I cannot convince my family to do the cloth wipes in the bathroom for “real” messes, though they said they would try it for “just wet.” Now I have to actually make more wipes and get a system going for that, because I HATE how much toilet paper we go through! Pretty much everything else is cloth — I keep a drawer full of towels (dish and microfiber) and washcloths in my kitchen (my parents are like “HOW do you not use paper towels?” but I don’t miss them). Cloth diapers and wipes — sometimes if I’ve had to use a disposable wipe my kids actually got immediate red bottoms. πŸ™ I do carry a natural brand in my diaper bag though, but it takes maybe 6 months to go through a very small pack. I’m okay with that. I switched to cloth pads, though I’m practically always pregnant or postpartum so I haven’t used them much. I think toilet paper is the ONLY paper I buy on a regular basis and I either buy industrial 1-ply or recycled. We spend only $5 every coupld months on this. I sewed all our diapers and made most of our other cloth stuff so that’s even more savings. (Diapers to make — $2 or $3 each.)

  11. When I suggested utilizing cloth instead of paper products my oldest daughter said she would draw the line a toilet paper! :o) After watching “Frontier House” and seeing each person’s “rag” nail in the outhouse, I guess I can understand! Smiles! I still plan to utilize cloth napkins…we use tissue, napkins, papertowels, toilet paper and femine products. Not too bad but it could save a bit to use cloth.

  12. Great post! In the past 10 years, and little by little, we have made all the same changes to cloth except the toilet paper. Never thought of using it just for wet bottoms but will definitely implement it until I can get Dr. Mercola’s bidet ordered. My husband wasn’t on board about the bidet until he began saving the tp rolls for planting seeds in then his eyes were opened to just how much tp we go through in a month–a lot to spend on something that is just thrown away. I see one of the commenter has tried Dr. M’s bidet and seems to be please. I’m hoping to get ours soon.

    I quit using paper pads for my cycle about 10 years ago when I began reading about the chemicals that are used to make them and how it could affect fertility. I didn’t like the idea of having chemicals in such a delicate area. When I started seeing barely used napkins in the garbage can from the children throwing them away I stopped buying paper towels and went to cloth. I also use old cloth towels to drain greasy foods on. My family thought I was crazy but now my mom and sister are excited to receive homemade cloth napkins for birthdays and Christmas. Thanks for the post.

  13. Funny, just before I sat down to read this I washed our bathroom sink and mirror (with vingegar/water spray) with an holey washed husband sock! I was about to throw away his old socks and I figured they could really come in handy for cleaning. I think I’ll need to cut them open so they lay a little flatter but I assume they should work just fine. I think I still have to use paper towels or clorox-type wipes to clean the toilet though. That just grosses me out. Toss and go, thank you very much. Same with TP. I will gladly cut expenses somewhere else! We lived in Mexico and had to throw all our paper in the can, NOT the potty and if you were not on top of it constantly it did stink (esp in hotter temps – ewwww). I will so not go there again, even if it IS just pee wipes, though I suppose if you get a closed can that would help. And forget the cloth pads- diva cup or the keeper! Totally the way to go, not to mention I have way shorter periods than I used to AND usually am less crampy too. πŸ™‚ Some things money can’t buy.

  14. We made the switch years ago and it’s great. My parents don’t love it but they don’t live here.
    I love my MoonCup (uk) and wish I had gotten long before I did. I’ve had mine about 4 years and it’s great.

    We no longer have diapers and baby stuff but I realized that the few wipes I kept were great for the kids now that they are older. So, I made some more. Simple mini washcloths made from fabric scraps (they like velour and knit/tshirt fabrics). The face wipes are about 4×4 or somewhere around that and are perfect for a quick face wiping.

  15. I had to stop using the dribble pads because i got really allergic to them and was sore and swollen. I haven’t perfected the pads that I made, yet, but I feel a lot nicer. I just wish I could get them a bit less bulky. And could trust them not to leak!

  16. Great post, I’m inspired to make some changes! I’ll start with the napkins and paper towels first.

  17. Paper towels are reserved for raw meat juices. That is it. To drain grease, I put meat in mesh strainer and allow it to drip into a cast iron pan. Grease hardens and can be thrown away.

    Microfiber cloths are my favorite for cleaning (including floors) and dusting. We wash them with the rest of the towels.

    We use dish towels as a placemat. Neater eaters can get 3+ meals out of one before laundering. Messy eaters–1+ meal. Sometimes.

    I didn’t see HANDKERCHIEFS mentioned! I bought some soft flannel (baby days long over, no more receiving blankets around) and hemmed them into 15″ squares. Then I hid the kleenex box. The cost of the material was less than 2-3 boxes, so in one cold being passed around the family, the flannel more than paid for itself. Plus a cloth handkerchief doesn’t get all shredded in my purse (or in the dryer for that matter.)

    We also keep the towels, cleaning rags, handkerchiefs, etc. separate from the rest of the clothes because they are washed in HOT water. Everything else gets done in cold.

  18. I’ve been following Keeper of the Home off and on for about a year. I had to comment on this one, because the timing was right on. My family just made the switch to cloth for everything except the toilet paper in the last six months. My husband drew the line in the sand for that one. Since we have no other disposable paper products in the house, I didn’t put up a fight. We have the drawer of hand towels for the big messes so everyone knows where to find them. Then the kitchen and bathroom each have a small drawer for the room specific towels that we try to keep a little cleaner.

    We too use handkerchief’s instead of kleenex. My 1 year old actually prefers the cloth handkerchief to the paper kleenex for his little nose. The only difference that I’ve noticed is that I no longer get frantic when I forget to purchase more _______ (paper towels, napkins, sanitary pads, etc).

    1. @Sara, We’re the same, Sara. The only disposable that we use is toilet paper, and occasionally paper napkins when we have larger groups of people over (but for just a family over or a smaller gathering, we use cloth). I definitely enjoy using cloth so much more than paper, and it really hasn’t been difficult at all. But don’t feel alone in not being able to do the TP as well. My husband also puts his foot down there, and I’m fine with that. πŸ™‚

  19. I am now going to prove to the world how weird I am…I squirt my *aHEM* self after a BM to get most of the “stuff” off, then wipe with a cloth wipe. B/c I use it for number twos, I keep my cloth “toilet paper” in a vinegar/water solution until wash day.

    No, I haven’t got DH to get on that bandwagon yet. πŸ˜‰

  20. We also started using what I call “single-use handkerchiefs” or “washable tissues.” I cut up old T-shirts or other jersey material, since it wouldn’t require hemming. Then I just store them in empty tissue boxes. My daughter and I use them almost exclusively, except when we run out during a bad cold. Her cloth wipes also work in a pinch.

  21. I love my swiffer, but hate buying and throwing away the cleaning pads, so I found crochet ones on etsy and they are awesome! So know I just dry or wet mop and throw them in the wash.

    1. @Chris, I used to just use a Swiffer with dish clothes that I washed, rather than buying the cleaning pads. I also just bought a new mop (I think it’s buy Vileda?) and it comes with a washable mop head (a thick cloth with velcro to attach it), similar to the style of a Swiffer WetJet. I make my own cleaning solution to go in the refillable container, then just toss the dirty cloth in the wash. It’s a great mop!

  22. Ok, so this is interesting. What type of fabric are the reusable TP and kleenex and baby wipes made of? I may be squeemish, but t shirt material seems like it wouldn’t absorb moistness very well? Help. Thanks.

    1. @RG, We use flannel. It’s a pretty tight weave and seems to absorb just fine. πŸ™‚ Any other thoughts for fabric out there?

    2. @RG, I made my own cloth diaper wipes personal cloth out of two layers of flannel, edges serged together. I purchased inexpensive flannel (ala $2/yd). Flannel receiving blankets also work great–these are easy to find at yard sales. Mine have lasted two years and are still going strong.

    3. @RG, I have some details on fabric choices in my handkerchief article. Both cotton flannel and cotton knit are nicely absorbent. Poly-cotton blends are not as good. For baby wipes, we bought some that are flannel on one side and terry on the other; not only do they hold a lot of water, but the terry side is great for scrubbing while the flannel is soft. We still use those wipes for nosebleeds!

  23. I am two weeks post partum and wish I had cloth pads on hand! I use cloth diapers for our baby boy (apple cheeks), but didn’t think about cloth pads for myself. Definitely a worthwhile project when we get a sewing machine, or if I can borrow my moms for a bit… She’d think I were crazy if I told her I wanted to make my own pads though πŸ˜‰

    Great info πŸ™‚

  24. We rarely use paper towels. I bought a bunch of microfibre cloths and they work great – no streaking on windows, and they’re very absorbent for cleaning up the many, many messes that my toddler and preschooler make in a day. I had switched to cloth diapers but had to switch back when I returned to work as I just couldn’t keep up with the laundry. When I scaled back at work I tried to use the cloth on my daughter, but she got very upset and demanded a disposable! I haven’t tried since but maybe it’s time to give it another go. I switched to a Diva Cup + washable cloth menstrual pads, and that’s working pretty well. There’s a bit of a learning curve to the Cup, but my ladyparts like the cloth better. This post is a good reminder to try the cloth wipes again, and I would also be game to try the cloth TP (though I think my husband would be too squeamish). I think the biggest paper ‘waste’ at our house is from my kids’ colouring, but I’m not about to deny them that!

  25. We use cloth napkins, dish rags and cloth towels. No little ones yet but clother diapers and wipes are already in the planning. I might have to make me some toilet papers for me only. I would have to hide them as the hubby would call me really crazy.

  26. We’ve switched over to cloth in our house a little over a year ago. It’s just my husband and I so it really wasn’t that difficult. I know a lot of people have stated that they use cloth toilet paper but only for #1. As a person who uses them for everything, #1 and #2. We haven’t bought toilet paper in over a year. It’s not that big of a deal or as bad you might think. Get a plastic tub w/ a lid, throw them in there until time to wash and then wash them in hot water. About once a month, usually during a wash cycle, I spray the tub with vinegar and let it dry.

    My husbands WAS NOT excited about switching to cloth wipes. I didn’t ease him in, I told him what I wanted to do, let him ponder over it and then made the switch. He’s actually really hates using “real” toilet paper now. Just take the plunge guy, you can do it!

  27. Wow, some really great ideas! I do all of what you posted except for the TP – I can’t bring myself to do that…yet. Like others I also use cloth nursing pads (if you know of any breastfeeding moms, you should totally recommend this to them or buy some for a shower gift. I don’t know how much disposable nursing pads cost but it can’t be cheap!). For those of you still holding on to paper napkins or paper towels, you can at least compost them when you’re done πŸ™‚

  28. Wow, a lot of great suggestions as the other ladies already posted! Never heard of cloth TP or cotton balls.
    I was surprised you didn’t mention the good old handkerchief instead of tissues.

    I thought my sister in law was crazy but years ago, she started using wet wash cloths at the table instead of napkins. Just one or two for the whole family of 7.

    As far as grease, I use a metal strainer/colander over a glass or ceramic bowl , (just not plastic) when I cook most meats. After the grease hardens in the bowl, I scrape it out and throw it away. My dad uses left over jars with lids and recycles the bacon grease for his famous biscuits.

    I was wondering with all the soaking and washing these cloths is anyone making their own laundry soap? I found a recipe a few months ago, but haven’t tried it yet.

    Thanks!
    Cindy

  29. When we needed to trim our budget a couple of years ago, napkins and paper towels were one of the first things to go. We still buy some diapers (for child care only), but use mainly cloth. I’m working up my courage for the feminine napkins–it’s on my to-do list for the summer. That will just leave TP, and I’m not sure I can convince the family on that one–I do love your comprimise of using them just for wet usage.

  30. I’d like to hear more about the where and the how on the feminine napkins. Do the keep the world from seeing red? Are you keep captive at home are are you just as active if using store brought?

        1. @Carmen, I just keep a small ziploc bag in my purse and bring my purse along with me. But then, that’s what I normally do when I need to change a pad, regardless of what kind it is. When I get home, the pads just go straight in the wash or the dirty pail.

    1. Here is lots of detail on reusable feminine gear. I work outside the home and prefer to use my cup during the day, but when I have used cloth pads and needed to change in a public restroom, I brought along a zippered nylon bag (supposed to be a make-up bag). I have pads with wings that snap; you can fold the pad into a cute packet and snap the wings around to hold it closed, so even if the used ones are resting against the clean ones, they are pretty well contained, especially those that have a waterproof outer layer (which I highly recommend if you have heavy flow).

  31. We use cloth for almost everything, but not in the bathroom. I don’t think I could get my husband, and thus my children, to go for that. We have always used cloth napkins, etc. I do usually have one roll of paper towels on hand that I use to grease my bread pans. I do have a couple of cloth napkins set aside for this purpose as well, but I confess I like the paper towels for that.

  32. So I just went to the Divacup website and because of this post am considering using one, but I would REALLY like to hear some opions. What are the good and BAD features…is it messy to take out and clean up(for instance in a public place)?

    1. @Monica,
      the Diva cup is FANTASTIC!!!! The first time I used it I was at a conference for 3 days, and not having to carry around a purse full of pads was fabulous! When I’m out, a quick wipe with tp is all it takes to clean it out, and then a wash with soap and water every day or two… no bad features, really… I trimmed the bottom piece with a scissor because it stuck out uncomfortably, but since then I don’t even notice it’s there! Haven’t bought pads or tampons in over 3 years- one of my best purchases ever!!!

      1. @Toniette, What about clotting? Sorry that sounds like a weird question, but I am curious! Also, have you replaced it every year like they `suggest`?

        1. @Monica, I have far fewer clots using a cup than I did using tampons. When there is a clot, it is just there in the cup and pours out along with everything else.

          I have had the same Diva Cup for 5 years. Previously I used the same Keeper (natural rubber) for almost 7 years. No problems. I think they have to tell you to replace it annually because of FDA requirements or something.

  33. For cutting down on toilet paper, having a bidet is the answer. Of course, In the USA, it is not a common bathroom feature. However, I have always wanted one and when we moved into our house about 20 years ago and had to remodel the bathroom, I asked for one! I love it!

  34. There are a myriad of wonderful ideas here and I just wanted to add a few…
    solution to the grease problem –
    1)cloth baby diapers or other CLEAN rags (look for a sale on t-shirts!)designated for that purpose. Wash and dry as usual, who cares if they are stained with bacon grease if bacon grease is all that will ever touch them! Voila
    2)use one of those plastic bag storage things (the kind that are opened on each end that you “load” used bags into the top hole and pull them out of the bottom hole to use)- fill those with rags to be used as you would paper towels.

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