How to Make Reusable Toilet Paper
Did you ever think toilet paper would be a scarce commodity? If you’ve ever thought about scenarios where there could be supply shortages, I bet toilet paper didn’t enter your mind! Yet here we are. Although we do have toilet paper, I decided to make a stack of reusable toilet paper (also known as Family Cloth), to help reduce our toilet paper use, reduce the number of trips we have to make to the store, and help save the planet at the same time. If you’ve ever thought about doing the same (or even if you haven’t, but are intrigued), here is a reusable toilet paper sewing tutorial.
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*2022 update – we installed a bidet! The combination of a bidet + cloth wipes = perfection!
Reusable Toilet Paper is Gross
That’s probably what you’re thinking, right?! I mean, who would use such a thing? Isn’t it completely unsanitary?
I confess, I got over the ‘ick’ factor of reusables many, many years ago. 13 years ago to be exact, which was when I discovered cloth diapering.
I started learning about all the benefits of cloth (and all the downsides of disposables), and I jumped into cloth diapering with both feet.
And of course it made no sense to cloth diaper, but continue using disposable wipes (which are not only terrible for the environment, but are also filled with who knows what kind of nasty chemicals). So I used baby wash cloths as wipes, which got tossed in with my cloth diaper laundry after each use.
And you know what?
Those cloth wipes out performed the disposables by a factor of about a million.
When you’ve wiped a baby’s butt with a solid piece of cloth, vs. a flimsy, disposable plastic wipe (that you had to use 2 or 3 of to get the job done), you will realize that the real thing is ALWAYS better than the imitation.
Sort of like using real plates vs. flimsy paper plates. But I digress…
Switching to cloth diapers and wipes turned into this delightfully slippery slope.
One benefit I noticed, was that our garbage output reduced to almost zero (compared to the many bags of smelly disposable diapers we were tossing into a landfill each week).
I then started questioning some of the other disposable products I was using.
This was when I discovered cloth menstrual pads, and menstrual cups.
Again, the experience of using cloth and reusables against my skin was such a drastic improvement over the previous cancer-causing plastic and paper disposables I was using previously.
I felt like I was finally giving my body the love and caring it deserved. And the planet was benefitting, too!
This continued as I started replacing more and more disposables with reusables.
Instead of paper towels, cotton rags.
Instead of kleenex, I made little flannel squares that I could use once and toss in the wash.
Instead of paper napkins, I went to thrift stores and found a variety of cloth napkins.
Our garbage can was shrinking with each of these choices, and soon, we produced almost no garbage at all. What a lovely side effect of just being conscious of what we are using on our bodies and in our homes.
Cloth Toilet Paper is No Big Deal
So, you see, reusables are no big deal for us. This has been a journey we have been on for many, many years.
And although I used cloth wipes for my babies and toddlers, I continued purchasing and using toilet paper for the rest of us.
Fast forward to the Pandemic of 2020.
When we first learned what was happening, my husband and I went to the grocery store to stock up for a couple weeks. We were hoping to beat the madness that we figured was coming.
It seemed everyone else had the same idea, as the store was jam packed, and we laughed when we saw a sign in the fully stocked toilet paper aisle saying only 2 packages per person. We took our 2 packages, and went on our way to finish our shopping.
By the time we got to the checkout, people were eyeing us and pointing at our cart.
It turned out, that between the time we grabbed our 2 packs of TP, and got to the checkout, the toilet paper aisle had been completely cleared out.
Needless to say, things have escalated since then. Shopping has become much more strict of a process, with some people waiting hours in a lineup just to get into the store! Then we are being limited to 2 of any item, and have to follow arrows on the floor to maintain proper physical distancing. Certainly not a good time to browse, read labels, or price compare.
Staying Out of Stores
Our family has decided to stay out of stores as much as humanly possible.
We have always believed in living a preparedness lifestyle, and rarely let our cupboards get too low. I like to stock up on the things we use when they go on sale, buy meat and veggies in bulk from our local farmers, and can and preserve things when they’re in season.
So I wasn’t horribly panicked by the idea of staying out of stores, we just had to make a few tweaks and be a little more strategic.
The farmers who we were buying most of our food from, now deliver.
I get all my health care products and personal products in my monthly doTERRA order, which ships right to my door.
I make my own cleaning supplies, so no need to buy those.
We don’t buy disposable products, so no need to stock up on those.
So what else would we need to go to the grocery store for?
And do I really want to go out into that mayhem just for toilet paper?
Not to mention, the prices seem to be higher than usual…
…and how much money do we want to *literally* flush down the toilet?
How to Make Reusable Toilet Paper
I made the decision to make some reusable toilet paper.
Actually, first I made the decision to order a stack of washcloths from Amazon.
But after pricing them out, and thinking about how many we’d need, I realized it was silly to spend that kind of money, when I knew I had materials and a sewing machine, and could make a stack of my own in a few hours.
I should also point out, that we are only using them for pee at this point.
Since there are 2 girls in the house, we use the most toilet paper.
So the toilet paper will be used for the messy jobs, and the reusable ones will be for pee. This will actually cut our toilet paper usage at least in half, allowing us to make what we do have last longer.
So if you’ve read this far and you’re still with me, you may be curious about how to actually make it.
Reusable Toilet Paper Sewing Tutorial
Cotton fabric (preferably flannel, but even old towels or wash cloths will do – just no synthetics). I used old baby receiving blankets.
Supplies Needed: (I’ll link to my favourite versions in case you’re curious)
OPTIONAL: Cutting mat, quilting ruler & rotary cutter
Directions for Reusable Toilet Paper:
If you’re using old receiving blankets like me, start by folding them in half. Or whatever fabric your’e using, fold it into a manageable size, like this, making it nice and square and having the top edge line up.
Cutting Cloth Toilet Paper Squares
This job is certainly easier with a rotary cutter and mat, but if you don’t have these tools, simply follow along but use your scissors instead. When times are better, you may want to consider investing in some sewing tools like this, which will make your sewing tasks much easier and faster.
Lining up the bottom fold with one of the lines on the cutting mat, use your ruler and rotary cutter to trim off and even up the right edge, only taking off as much as necessary to even it up, so you’re not wasting fabric.
I decided to make my squares about 8″. That seemed like a good size, so I could fold them up into quarters to make them thicker when using.
So the next step is to count over 8 inches, and cut a long strip.
If you’re using scissors to do this, just mark the 8″ with a pencil or marker, and cut along the line.
Continue this process until you have cut as many strips as possible out of your receiving blanket or piece of fabric.
Then what you’ll end up with are these long, folded in half strips. As you can see, I got 3, 8″ strips out of my receiving blanket.
Next, you’ll want to open those strips up, so they’re not folded in half any more, and stack them on top of each other, like this:
Try to make sure all the edges are nicely lined up.
Now, you’re going to turn those strips into squares, by following the same process we did before.
Trim off the first edge to even it up.
Then measure over 8″ and cut into blocks.
Continue doing this until you have used up your whole stack of strips (stacking saves a LOT of time, which is why I love the rotary cutter, but with scissors you may have to do it in a single layer).
Repeat this process with as much fabric as you’re planning to use.
This one receiving blanket got me about 12 squares.
I had a few receiving blankets, so I ended up with about 60 squares in total.
To figure out how many you might need, calculate how many times a day you visit the washroom, and multiply it by how many people will be using them. Then multiply again by how many days you want to go in between washing.
2 girls each pee 5x/day
I’d like to only wash them about every 4 days
I’d need 40 wipes.
Reusable Toilet Paper with a Serger
Next, we’re going to head over to the serger.
If you don’t have a serger, don’t worry. I will follow with instructions for a regular sewing machine. But I LOVE my serger and it’s my preferred method for finishing fabric edges.
The reason you want to finish the edges of your fabric, is because if you don’t, they will unravel in the wash, tangle together, and make a big mess.
Finishing your edges also makes it look like more of a finished product.
I used a simple three-thread overlock stitch to finish off the edges of each square. (you can see what that looks like by looking at the bottom edge of this square in the photo).
I prefer rounded edges, because it’s easier and faster than having to stop and pivot at each corner. I just pulled the square around while serging it, to make the edge nicely rounded.
Continue doing this for your entire stack of squares like this.
Reusable Toilet Paper with a Sewing Machine
If you don’t have a serger, but you do have a regular sewing machine, you can simply use your sewing machine’s zig zag stitch. Almost every sewing machine will have a zig zag stitch.
Here is what the setting looks like on my machine. Yours may have dials instead of being digital, but will give you the same effect.
I chose a wide stitch WIDTH (meaning how wide that zig zag stitch is going to be), and a fairly small stitch LENGTH, meaning how close together those zig zags are. This isn’t crucial, but you may want to play with your stitch width and length a little, to see what you prefer.
Lift the presser foot, place your square under the presser foot, and lower the presser foot back down onto your fabric. Try to line it up so that your zig zag stitch will end up very close to the edge of your fabric.
Begin zig-zagging all around the edge of the fabric, if you notice it’s starting to catch or pucker, you may wish to adjust your stitch width and length. Since we are only using a single layer of cloth, it may be a bit finicky.
Unlike with the serger, with the sewing machine you will not get rounded corners (unless you choose to cut them into a rounded shape with your scissors first – which you totally can). But if not, when you reach the corner, stop your machine with the needle in the DOWN position (meaning sticking down into your fabric), lift up the presser foot, and pivot the cloth in the other direction. Put the presser foot back down and continue sewing.
Do this for each side until you have completed the square.
You’ll want to back stitch when you get to the end, to secure those final few stitches in place.
For comparison, here is how a serged edge looks, compared to a zig-zag edge. Both will work just fine, I just prefer my serger. It’s also faster, and trims at the same time.
Regardless of which method you choose, you should end up with a lovely stack of reusable toilet paper squares, like this:
Using and Washing Reusable Toilet Paper
Now for the nitty gritty: What do you DO with the wipes?
Well, as I said, we are currently only using them for #1, but would be prepared to use them for #2 should the need arise (hey, I think we have all learned now that anything could happen).
So basically… use them as you would toilet paper.
You could even pre-wet them if you want to use them more like a wet wipe.
Let me tell you – once you have used nice, soft flannel to wipe yourself with, you’ll wonder why the heck you were using paper all these years.
I made these large enough that they can be folded into quarters to make them thicker when using.
Some people prefer to sew two cloths together into one, to make them thicker.
But I prefer to just have them as a single layer, because they wash cleaner and dry faster. So folding works for me.
I keep a metal waste basket next to the toilet, that has a removable interior plastic bucket.
As the cloths get used, they are tossed into the bucket. (Be prepared: the first couple times, you’ll have to remind yourself not to drop them in the toilet. Ask me how I know).
Once you are down to your last few clean cloths is a good time to toss the load into your washing machine. You don’t even have to touch anything, I just pull the bucket out and dump it right into the washer.
If you wish, you can run a short rinse cycle first, before washing.
Then either toss them in the dryer, or if you want to be ultra-sustainable, hang them on a drying rack to dry (because they are so thin, they will dry in just a few hours).
Then stack them up neatly again and put them on the back of your toilet tank, or wherever you prefer to store them.
If you have a nice basket, you could keep them in that. I don’t seem to have one that’s the right size, so I just have them sitting on the tank.
Watch it on YouTube!
Are you more of a visual learner? I also recorded this as a YouTube video, so you can watch it as well. To make sure you don’t miss any of my future videos, make sure you jump over to my channel and subscribe!
Reusable Cloth Toilet Paper Sewing Tutorial
- Flannel fabric (receiving blankets, old sheets, etc)
- Scissors or Rotary Cutter
- Sewing Machine or Serger
- Cutting mat (optional - for use with rotary cutter)
- Quilting ruler
- Fold receiving blanket in half
- Trim off the hem
- Cut into 8" strips
- Repeat x how many receiving blankets you're using
- Unfold the strips and stack them on top of each other
- Trim off the hem and cut into 8" squares
- Finish edges with a serger or sewing machine zig zag stitch
- Stack on back of toilet and use as needed
- Place dirty cloths in a garbage can
- Wash as needed
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It has only taken 65 yrs or so to make a comeback??
Haha – right?! All the good things come back in style eventually. 🙂
Use a Bidet and you can get away from toilet paper all together. I haven’t had to buy toilet paper in 3 years and I love it!
I actually have a bidet but it’s still sitting in the box! I haven’t worked up the nerve to install it yet. But it’s definitely on my list!