After a pee -- toilet paper, or re-usable cloth wipes? The cloth wipes have a few names: pee cloths, wee wipes, peedanas – to list just a few. The concept is simple: a re-usable cloth to dry off after urinating, or less formally, having a pee. This eco-friendly idea has been back for a few years, but has its time finally arrived?
We’ve all seen (haven’t we?) exhortations to avoid buying this or that brand of toilet paper because it’s made with old-growth trees, or is wiping out the boreal forest as we wipe our butts. It’s true that we do collectively use an appalling amount of toilet paper which is made from an appalling number of trees, destroying wildlife habitat and flushing our best carbon storage devices down the toilet.
If we can reduce the demand for toilet paper, we’ll be doing our whole biosphere, including a lot of endangered wildlife, a favour.
Let’s be clear; we’re not advocating the use of re-usable cloth wipes for cleaning up after bowel movements. That seems unnecessarily yucky, unless you’re really keen on regularly washing and sterilizing poopy-diaper-like things. Maybe a sort of bidet attachment for the toilet could help with reducing the need for TP after a poop. Such things do exist, and there may be more effective ones than we’ve seen so far.
Most of us pee several times a day, and each time – there goes another wad of toilet paper down the drain. Or maybe just one square in the case of males who do more than just give it a shake and let their underwear do the rest.
Some people may feel a bit squeamish about the pee-rag idea – but why? Yes, normal urine contains some bacteria – but so does every other part of the human body; bacteria are present on skin, in the gut, in the placenta, and even the brain. Most of them are simply part of the body’s normal biome and perform necessary functions for us. Normal, healthy urine does NOT contain the rich and harmful concentrations of bacteria, including e-coli, that feces contain.
Washing pee-cloths is not so different from washing our underpants, which also rub against our bottoms and their various bacterial populations. Those who “go commando” just transfer those same bacteria to whatever they do wear over their nether parts.
Let’s look at the benefits of using cloth pee-wipes instead of toilet paper:
1. If everybody – or even quite a few of us -- used a re-usable, washable cloth to dry off after a pee, the reduction in toilet paper demand would really add up.
2. Reduction in toilet paper use means reduction in demand for over-harvesting our forests. Our forests are best left standing as carbon sinks in these days of catastrophic climate change.
3. Less toilet paper means less stuff for sewage treatment plants to deal with.
4. The cloth wipes can be made from any absorbent, non-irritating old cloth – worn-out T-shirts, worn-out flannel sheets, old socks, whatever – preferably only natural fibres. Synthetics tend to stink.
5. The cloth wipes can be laundered along with other items, and re-used for years! Good value!
6. Pee wipes are a much better option for hiking and any other activity that takes us out in the woods where we sometimes need to duck behind a bush for a pee – toilet paper left in the woods can take a long time to break down and disappear. (If one must use toilet paper out there, please be civilized and bury it. It will break down much faster if covered with soil, and it won’t be gross and offensive if buried.)
7. When we’re hiking (etc.), we can just hang our pee cloths on the outside of our packs, or attach them to our belts or a belt loop with a lanyard, to dry and air out. Just be careful to know the difference between the bandana you wipe your nose with, and . . .
8. In the home, we can keep a basket of clean pee cloths handy by the toilet, and a mesh hamper to toss them in after use. The mesh allows them to dry out better in the hamper. Launder before odour develops!
There – another option, another small change in personal habits, that could have a positive cumulative effect on our world. If you’re not yet convinced about the need for positive effects, read the article at this link.
Just don’t EVER flush the cloth wipes! Never, never, never.