What if you run low on toilet paper? A reminder about “family cloth”

So… we aren’t doing this and haven’t done this, but the other week we were down to 8 rolls of TP and the grocery store was out and we were fairly sure everything was about to get shut down for 2 weeks (oh, how naive we were!).  While DH drove to Walgreens, where he was eventually successful, I looked up family cloth on the internet.  Just in case.

So… what is family cloth?  It’s using cloth for pee instead of using toilet paper.  There’s a lot of discussion about it on the internet, most of it negative (“rich white people wanting to feel poor” “not actually that environmentally friendly”).  Here’s a buzzfeed article.

We did use cloth wipes for pee diapers for DC2 because poor DC2 was allergic to *everything* (this is also part of why DC2 responded really well to elimination communication).  And it was fine!

So for insurance purposes I ordered a bunch of cloth wipes from amazon. I got two kinds– some soft organic baby wipes and some super cheap white terry cloth baby washclothes.  My hope is that these remain unopened and we can donate them to refugee families once this pandemic dies down.  But if not, here’s my plan:

Put a bucket and some other container (plastic bag?) in the master bathroom.  Before TP runs out at home, get DH on board with family cloth for pee.  Talk to the kids about not using huge amounts of TP (I think they’re fine on this already?  I don’t keep track, but I haven’t noticed them running out unreasonably quickly, though who knows).  Put clean cloths in the plastic bag.  Used cloths go in the bucket.  When cloths run down, wash them in bleach.  Repeat.  (If it is a true emergency, we will cut down some old t-shirt rags into additional cloths.)  Reserve paper TP for poo.

Probably we should just get a bidet attachment for the toilet, but my sensitive American rear is still squicked out by that idea.  (Update:  bidet attachments have been sold out on amazon!)

Do you have back-up plans for shortages?

35 Responses to “What if you run low on toilet paper? A reminder about “family cloth””

  1. Leah Says:

    Several of my friends bought bidets. Another said that when he ran out of TP and money in college, he’d shower every time he pooped.

    I’ve told many people about family cloth recently! We have a few dozen cloth wipes (used for pee diapers, like you all). We also have 24 rolls of TP. And I live in a dorm, so pretty sure I can find more. We will buy more TP in a month when stores are hopefully better stocked.

    I will say, my husband has never appreciated my low key hoarding as much as he does now!

  2. Katherine Says:

    We have 3-4 weeks of toilet paper left. I think we will be able to buy a small package from our local grocery store when we get low – we usually buy TP at costco and who knows when they will have it back in stock, but the local grocery seems to have been doing a decent job of rationing high-demand products.

    We have a toddler in cloth diapers (and are expecting a newborn any day who will also be in cloth) so we have many dozen flannel wipes that we use for both pee and poop diapers. My husband and I did have a conversation about how if we run out of TP and can’t get more we will start using the cloth wipes for grown-up toileting, too and just do laundry as often as necessary – although by that point we’d be doing newborn diaper laundry every other day anyway, so it wouldn’t even likely make a difference in our laundry frequency.

    My MIL (in another state) has been unable to find yeast at a reasonable price, either in person or on the internet (apparently she found a 2-pound package of active dry yeast for $80 plus shipping on ebay, and decided she didn’t need it that badly. We were able to buy it at our local grocery here for the usual price, so we may end up putting some in the mail for her.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Spam was overzealous today– I had to dig three people out!

      DH has a levain (fancy word for a kind of starter) in the fridge right now so we won’t have a problem if yeast runs out! It’s a good thing to have around. We lucked into grocery store all-purpose flour today.

  3. rose Says:

    ImagiKnit info@imagiknit.com Knit and crochet store in San Francisco. It is big. It has quality inventory. They have a newletter and are still shipping mail order requests. IF you do these crafts it is possible online resource. People who work there are wonderful. I have no connection to them other than being occasionally in their store over past 10 years. They are fabulous people and it would be nice if they can stay in business……….

  4. rose Says:

    YES. There are clean sensible alternatives to purchased TP that do not involve leaves or kitty litter……..
    Thank you for the humor in this as well as the solid reality.
    Had forgotten to add knit/yarn/crochet store link when you asked about on-line sources…. so response above is out of place.

  5. FF Says:

    I was running low a few weeks ago and stocked up just before the frenzy, so I won’t need to buy more for a month or so. A few days ago, I went to the supermarket during their elderly/vulnerable hour (6-7 am; I have asthma) and noticed that there were a few small packages of store-brand tp available then. Current conventional wisdom in my area is that the time to shop for scarce items is right when the store opens, when the shelves have just been restocked, and that Walmart has been getting the most stock in (haven’t been there myself). My hope is that the people who bought 18 months worth of tp a few weeks ago will calm down now, and non-hoarders will be able to buy what they need as needed.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That’s always been my hope too. I’ve been surprised at what is easily available (fresh fruits and veggies) and what continues to be out of stock week after week (anything shelf-stable, a basic ingredient like oats or flour, and anything frozen)… but we did have more luck on this week’s grocery delivery than last week’s, so maybe it’s starting to lighten up. (Though the personal shopper choice to substitute “cultured butter” with “vegan butter” was not a great one. I like last week’s Cynthia better than this week’s James — her choices made a lot more sense.)

      • FF Says:

        In my area, in addition to paper goods and cleansers, pasta, sauce, potatoes, and onions are the things I’ve noticed selling out. But other fresh fruits and vegetables seem to be available here also. Some stores in my area have stopped or greatly delayed delivery/pickup services because they’ve been too overwhelmed with the demand.

        Not only have people in my area been stocking up on frozen food, they’ve been stocking up on freezers, and when those sold out, buying second refrigerators with freezers. And guns (to defend their tp and frozen food stock?).

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        That sure is a depressing last paragraph you’ve got there.

        We’ve been pleasantly surprised with onion availability. We haven’t tried potatoes. But definitely pasta and sauce have been crapshoots (we did get WW spaghetti in this past shipment though, lucky! No canned crushed tomatoes though.) Also nobody on earth actually likes reduced fat triscuits, so those seem to be available even when all other crackers are gone.

  6. rs Says:

    Try non electric bidet, costs $20-$30 per toilet and much cleaner after use. It will reduce the toilet paper waste by 10 fold.

  7. J. F. Scientist Says:

    I sew as a hobby and have about four storage bins of fabric. My backup TP plan is to make cloth wipes out of the fabric and scrap stash! But i bought some extra (like one big package extra! Not hoarder amounts!) a couple weeks ago so we’re okay for a while.

    I do NOT understand the TP buying frenzy. Also the local stores are selling out of really random stuff like lunchmeat (??) and cheese (????). And milk. Which doesn’t really keep.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      So far we’ve been getting milk, though not the kind we ordered. Today we got subbed that weird DHA stuff I always try to avoid. We’ve been lucky with cheese, though I think they have been subbing (I’ve said “any mild sliced cheese ok”). Sounds like a lot of people in your area make sandwiches!

      It seems like there’s a rhythm to these outages– first it’s like a snowstorm in the South (TP, milk, bottled water, bread etc. disappear) , then perishables start coming back, then hopefully shelf-stable things. We’re a couple of weeks ahead of DH’s family in a rural non-college town in the midwest. They just started getting grocery shortages last week and apparently everything cost 2x as much and they were still out of almost everything on the shelves. Thankfully my in-laws keep a well-stocked pantry and have an extra freezer full of food on top of their regular large fridge.

  8. middle_class Says:

    The family cloth idea squicks me out more than bidet. I never knew it could be attached to a regular toilet. Will definitely look into it when they are back in stock.

    I learn something new almost every day from your blog!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I got less squicked out after having to use them for DC2 diaper changes. Nothing like having an incredibly rashy baby to make one rethink all one’s excrement related preconceptions. But still have not pulled that trigger.

      Bidet technology is astonishing… but I’m still not there yet.

  9. Katherine Says:

    Our local grocery store has been doing a pretty good job of rationing essential items, so I think we will be able to buy a small package of TP when we run out in 3-4 weeks. However, we have a toddler (and any day now also a newborn) in cloth diapers, so my husband and I did have a conversation about starting to use the cloth wipes for adult toileting if we need to. We have plenty of cloth wipes (we use them for both pee and poop diapers).

    If we weren’t already doing diaper laundry, I think we’d be squicked out by the family cloth idea. I don’t think we would want to wash them with our clothes – we’d probably put them in a whites load with bleach, and might end up doing lots of extra loads of laundry. We don’t routinely use bleach in our diaper laundry, but we do run them through an express cycle and then a heavy duty cycle, both on hot water.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yeah, the diaper laundry didn’t seem as bad as I’d thought. If we were still doing cloth diapers stuff it would be so easy just to throw in cloth tp with those loads, maybe add some bleach.

  10. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    We were due for our usual stock up again two weeks before things started getting frenzied so I asked PiC to just pick up a second giant pack at that time. I have always been a low-key hoarder (fistbump, Leah!). I think we can actually get it now in store, we just can’t get it delivered. This is both unfortunate for the single parent families I have been trying to help out by ordering things, and for us to keep avoiding going out and about people. Not that we’re not having to consider what’s more/less ethical between delivery and reducing the number of shopping runs we make, I just think that probably delivery is safer for everyone in the supply chain and helps keep people employed.

    Angela at Tread Lightly has been telling us about Family Cloth for a bit so I am sort of kind of used to the idea but not there yet.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I agree about delivery for those who can handle it. I’m worried about people who can’t easily afford a $10 delivery fee. Or who have to use WIC (what do you do when they’re out of that product? Surely you can substitute?).

    • Leah Says:

      I like saying low-key hoarder because I think it sounds a little bit better than prepper. I know being a hoarder isn’t great, but calling myself a prepper brings to mind those guys with a bunker of booze and guns in the mountains. How would one get to the mountains in a zombie apocalypse? Hmmm.

      We always stock up on TP, kleenex, soap in general (dish and hand), and canned goods for items we make frequently like chili. I mostly just stock up on things that are really annoying to run out of.

      I was really gratified when I called Walgreens and asked for an early refill of my daily med. And got it! Extra gratified because my doctor called in another script for me, and that is apparently out of stock even though it’s a heartburn medicine. I don’t need it right now, but I will need it in a few months. (side note: I suppose now is the time to say that I am pregnant, but it is NOT a pandemic baby. And I know my heartburn will escalate to needing meds eventually, so my doctor put in a prescription early so I don’t take Zantac now that we know the issues.)

  11. Cloud Says:

    FYI you can still find some plastic squeeze bottles on Amazon which will function like a bidet. Anyone who had a baby vaginally might remember these as perineum bottles…. The fancy ones aren’t shipping til late April or early May, but the more basic ones are still only a week or so for delivery. I thought I still had mine but alas I do not so I bought some plastic squeeze bottles in case we need them. I also have a large supply of old t-shirts that can be turned into cloth wipes if needed. Like you, I am hoping it doesn’t come to alternative methods! We have a decent stock of toilet paper and a colleague in the bay area (which is probably a week or two ahead of San Diego in the shopping panic/lockdown thing) said her stores are much better stocked now and she can once again buy toilet paper at Costco – they are just strictly limiting the amount and have set up a special aisle for collecting it so as not to get crowds.

    Honestly, the shopping panic thing is what I am finding most stressful about this entire situation. I am not thrilled about working from home and simultaneously homeschooling for the next however long, but the stress about getting basic food and other supplies while also limiting my shopping time is really wearing on me. I am currently arranging to buy some eggs, butter, and flour from a friend who runs a bakery so that I can keep making bread for my kids. I’ll pay and also provide some avocados (from our backyard tree) in return. We’re going to do a porch pick up/drop off so no contact. It is surreal. I hope my colleague is correct that we’ll return to something closer to normal in a couple weeks once people settle in a bit.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That’s a good reminder! I had completely forgotten. My body remembers that feeling when I think about bidets…

      That’s awesome about the bakery friend. So far we’ve been getting eggs ok. Yesterday’s excitement was getting flour… but also the personal shopper substituted fancy vegan margarine for butter. DH intends to use it in pie dough.

      We did a driveway exchange with a friend yesterday—a bunch of toddler toys and videos magically turned into homemade red bean paste.

  12. monsterzero Says:

    Last October, right before the power outages, we got a week-long Boil Water order from our local water company. Luckily that was over just in time for the outages, because our stove is electric so we would have had no way to boil water.

    I…may have overreacted and gone full prepper with the TP back then, but I’m glad for it now. There’s not a lot of options to buy stuff around here.

    Our one local little store went out of business last year because they lost a lot of stock when their fridges kept shutting off. Someone else bought it and reopened last month, just in time for a pandemic! I think there might be a curse on that store.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We went 3-5 day prepper a few years ago when we were having all those hurricanes. Didn’t stock up on TP though… We do have a bunch of fancy emergency kit things in case there’s an emergency on top of the pandemic.

      Man, that poor little store. One of my friends bought a generator because they were having blizzard-related emergencies and she’s been grateful for it now.

  13. rose Says:

    IF you see price gouging at stores take photo, identify date and store and location and send to your elected representatives at state and federal level AND any local NextDoor type media and your closest newspaper.
    Make it public. So they get full credit for their …… you choose the word.


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