How can I reduce my use of disposable bathroom supplies?

oh-no-toilet-paperFollowing on from last week’s “Reduce This” post about cutting back on toiletries, I’d really love to hear how other people are reducing their use of related bathroom consumables, such as toilet paper, cotton wool and the like.

A number of bloggers and other people around the old worldwide web have been taking part in Crunchy Chicken’s Cloth Wipe Challenge 2009 over the last couple of weeks – giving up toilet paper for a month (and hopefully beyond). I think it’s a great idea and intend to give it a go as soon as we get a bit more settled here in our new home – I’ll probably start with just wee wipes and perhaps build it up from there. Will be interesting to see how much less paper we use as a result.

Has anyone else tried that? There are lots of great suggestions on Crunchy Chicken’s blog for sourcing cloths (it’s super easy to make them out of soft old tshirts) and containers to keep them in before washing – anyone got anything to add?

Aside from moving onto cloth wipes, what else can be done to reduce the amount of toilet paper used? Any good tricks for ensuring that kids don’t get paper-happy and only use what they need?

Another thing that is much discussed elsewhere is the use of mooncups/divacups and/or reusable sanitary towels instead of disposable towels and tampons – anyone had experience of those? Or other alternatives?

I tried to cut back the amount of cotton wool I use for skincare by making washable pads a similar size to the cotton wool pads I already use. I read somewhere (but unfortunately can’t find the article now) that babies’ nappies/diapers are perfect for such a function because they’re soft and absorbent but I’ve had problems getting them clean – I was washing them in little net bags to stop the two-dozen tiny pads disappearing throughout the laundry load and the oily make-up and cleansing goop just would not shift. I’d rather not resort to bleaching them but will try some different cleaning methods over the next few batches (I suspect vinegar will feature prominently). Anyone done anything similar?

What about other similar bathroom items? What have you done to cutback/reduce waste?

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10 Responses to “How can I reduce my use of disposable bathroom supplies?”


  1. Alice says:

    I’ve used a mooncup for the last couple of years and I love it! Can’t remember what my reservations were now before I bought it, I think I worried about keeping it clean, but that’s just not a problem.

    Where you can’t rinse it out you just tip it out and stick it back in, then mop up a little with bog roll. I still keep a tampon in my pocket when I’m about to start or when I’m at festivals just in case, but I hardly ever have to use them.

    Re: make-up removal pads – thought about cutting down on the amount of make-up you use? Or maybe going for less oily stuff (just think what it does to your skin anyway!)

    I use bits cut out of a new dishcloth I bought, and there was still plenty left to use as an actual dishcloth too.

    In many parts of the world people don’t use toilet paper at all, they just wash with a small jug of water. I’d like to try that, but I just don’t quite understand exactly how it’s done, given where I’d need to wash and the direction that gravity works in… can anyone enlighten me???

  2. Astroflammante says:

    I’ve been using reusable make-up pads for about a year now, and for me they work great. I made them out of an old cotton bedsheet, the worn but not tattered bit between the shredded middle and the still good outer edges. Six layers of cotton, about the size of a business card, and a simple zigzag around the edges. I do regret using up some old polyester thread on them, because I’m starting to get a bit worried about bacteria and would like to be able to boil them.

    But I don’t use anything oily on my face, so that’s probably why. On that note, anybody got any tips for a homemade, less “chemicaly” make-up remover? All I’ve been able to find are oil-based, and those makes my eyes swell up. So I’m stuck with the commercial stuff.

    Other things… I use knitted wash cloths, for washing my face and body. If you’re like me, and think more about practicality than colour matching, they can be made on the cheap by buying the yarn from thrift stores. If you worry about germs just make sure it’s cotton or linen, and then boil the cloths before you start using them.

    Also, a cloth hankie rolled up to a point can often be used instead of a q-tip.

    • Astroflammante says:

      “I don’t use anything oily on my face, so that’s probably why” should continue “the wipes aren’t getting build-up on them”.

      Proof-reading is always a good thing…

  3. louisa says:

    I don’t wear that much make up at all – can’t be bothered with it, just maybe a little mascara and sometimes eye liner about once a week – so I think the oily residue is coming mostly from my cleanser/moisturiser. Think I need a homemade make-up remover/cleanser recipes like Astroflammante :)

    Astroflammante: good point about not using polyester thread – I was careful to pick boilable fabrics but didn’t take account of that.

    • Astroflammante says:

      Yeah, I felt so good for using up the thread I wouldn’t be using for anything else (what’s a Goth gonna do with light blue thread?) but then I realised the problem. Maybe I could try and dry them in the sun, sunlight is supposedly anti-bacterial. The mascara stains I’ll just have to live with I guess.

      And one other thing I thought of, for those who use make-up: invest in good quality tools. I’ve had the same eyeliner brush for three years now, and it’s still good. It’s actually an artist’s brush, for watercolours I think.

      Also, I use a toothbrush which is a two-piece thing. I keep the handle and replace just the brush part. It’s a Swedish brand (Skona) but I’m sure there are similar things in the UK?

  4. Mander says:

    I’ve been using a Diva cup for about 10 years now. It’s great. It can be a little messy and it takes a bit of practice to use it at first, but generally I have found it to be more leak-proof than any tampon or pad ever was.

    It’s particularly useful in situations where you don’t want to carry a lot of supplies with you or have limited trash disposal facilities, like long-distance or back country hiking. Probably less of a concern in the UK, but back home in the US I would sometimes spend entire summers hiking in remote locations where it can be a real drag to carry around a box of tampons, not to mention a baggie full of used ones until you get to an appropriate place to dispose of them!

  5. Jay says:

    Removing makeup without using any disposable pads is easy. Follow the lead of the kabuki artists and use oil! I’ve been using Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil for years and it removes makeup with just water. Rub the oil into your skin and then wet the tip of your fingers and then gently rub into the oil on your skin to emulsify. Wash off. It’s that simple. Check it out:

    Also, re: cloth toilet paper? Ugh. Follow the lead of most Asian countries and use bidets, people.

    Re: the pail of water technique. It’s quite simple. Just get a small water dipper and a pail of water. Sit on your haunches or raise your buttocks. Place your left hand over the area you want to wash by putting it directly behind your lower back. Using your right hand to steadily splash water onto the area, use your left hand to catch some of the water and then gently rub the area. You can use gentle soap if you want, but make sure to wash your left hand thoroughly afterwards. Takes some practice, but your bum will feel really clean.
    BTW, this is the reason some cultures refuse to eat with their left hand. Thought you might find this bit of trivia interesting.

  6. Clare says:

    I use a face flannel to wash my face, rinse it off after each use and hang it up to dry. All our flannels go in a hot wash at the end of the week. I don’t wear much make-up though.

    I’d really like to find a greener toothbrush, but all the ones I’ve seen are so expensive that I’m afraid of getting stuck with one I don’t like: any recommendations? I had a wood and bristle one once from India, which I loved.

    TMI paragraph! I try to set my schedule so I can just hop straight in the shower after a poo (not always possible, but it’s definitely the cleanest way as far as I’m concerned). I used the bucket and jug method travelling in Asia, and it’s much easier over a squat toilet. I think you tend to get less messy when using a squat toilet.

  7. Lyssa says:

    I use a mooncup… it’s one of the best things I’ve ever bought but keep forgetting to get some cloth sanitary towels cos there are times when the moon cup just isn’t suitable (mainly after a birth or misscarriage.)

    I used cloth nappies on my girls so always had cloth wipes around and often used them myself. In my Albania we have one of those things that look like a toilet but is for washing your bum then a towel to dry after. Not only does it mean we get through less toilet paper but the water used was taken from our own well too!

    Can’t help with make up… I use a cloth pad in Albania in the summer hols but the rest of the year I just don’t wear makeup at all… I’m pretty enough with out, pmsl (or so I keep telling myself, )

    My Friend uses the Guardian paper to wipe his bum, he he!

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