There are many ways we can save resources all over the house, and this is particularly true in the case of the bathroom.
The first rule would be the obvious one: use only what you need. Now, what is it that you need? We have been made to believe through marketing that we need all sorts of stuff, just for personal grooming: toothpaste, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, combs, mouthwash, dental floss, cotton wool buds and cotton rounds, face cleanser, face scrub, face scrub, moisturiser, shaving cream, aftershave, shampoo, hair conditioner, hair gel or hairspray, body gel, all sorts of cosmetics, toilet paper, menstrual care products such as pads and tampons, first aid kit with all sorts of pills and creams. It may be that you read the list and thought ‘so many cosmetics, it’s ridiculous!’. And you may well have thought… toilet paper, tampons? Of course you need them!
Now, if you had asked me a couple of days ago I would’ve told you that all you need in the bathroom is a toothbrush, toothpaste, coconut oil, floss, castile soap, hairbrush, a menstrual cup (and / or cloth pads), and of course, toilet paper.
While I have been reading about family cloth (also known as cloth toilet paper) for quite some time, I have never used it, and perhaps never will. You have all sorts of wonderful sellers on etsy, and some of them even have poppers so you can detach them like toilet paper. How cool is that! Except for the fact that you have to wash them. Oh wait – you have to wash clothes and cloth pads too…
So, I’m going to start by explaining why I use what I use and keep on rambling after.
Menstrual cups and cloth pads: eco-friendly, comfortable (my Ladycup is unnoticeable, my Lunette not so much), cheaper, non toxic, not smelly, they last for ages – over 4 years for me so far – and somehow manage to change your view on menstruation – for the better. Plus you’re not paying taxes every month just because you have a period.
Castile soap – preferably – or any other solid soap bar: in addition to avoiding toxic chemicals, it lasts longer and is easier to find without plastic packaging. Even better if you can make your own with used olive oil, like it has traditionally been done in Spain. You can use it for your body, hair or for shaving.
No (sham)poo: you can use water only, castile soap, soapnuts, homemade recipes with natural products from the kitchen larder, or specialist ‘no poo’ treatments. Some people even go sebum-only (no water in touch with your hair), but I think that’s a bit too extreme for me. Either way, you would be surprised how your hair improves after a tough adaptation period when you’ve been using nasty chemicals on your hair.
Coconut oil: can be used for oil pulling, to brush your teeth, on your hair or skin as moisturiser, or as a chemical-free make-up remover. This means you could swap at least four products for this one, natural and safe product which is easy to find in reusable and recyclable glass containers.
If you feel inclined to shave, you have many options. Mine -Gillete Venus with an exchangable head and soap bar instead of shaving cream- is probably not the eco-friendliest one ever. I find the idea of these metal razors strangely appealing, although I’m guessing they’re probably hard to find. Perhaps the way forward is sugar waxing. Or just letting it grow…
Don’t worry, though, I do use toothpaste … more on that another day.
So on with my ramblings. Toilet paper usually comes packaged in plastic and we waste tons of it! Yet I’m not fully sold on the idea of family cloth. It would seem like a small leap from cloth pads, but I’m not convinced. Sharing it with other people (even if you wash it), and it seems to me that, unlike cloth pads, it would probably smell. I know some people use it for number 1s and not number 2s, but still… and then I’m assuming your visitors would have to be a very special kind of visitors to appreciate your ecofriendliness when using your toilet. In addition to this I really wondered whether it was really worth it due to the extra water required to wash them. So I did a quick Google search and from the figures given for the toilet paper industry – 27000 trees-worth of toilet paper used in one day, and 37 gallons of water used to make one roll it would appear that it is indeed environmentally friendly – and probably results in less chemical contact too – to use family cloth. I think water is a good compromise if you’re not sold on family cloth.