I know. Once upon a time I was grossed out too. Hear me out, okay?
This started as a thought nearly six years ago. Not my thought, but my best friend came up with it. She had her first child and was doing cloth diapering and wipes. One day, after many times wiping her kid’s butt she thought, “If I can wipe his butt…why can’t I wipe mine?”
And so her journey began. I was like, “Uh. NO.” We talked about it more and over time it became less outrageous. I was more exposed to it so it became more normal? It just seemed less preposterous the more we discussed it. I removed all other paper products years ago and this started to seem like the last step. I watched my friend and she had happily done without for a year.
I sat down and did some math and did some thinks. I realized I spent about $50 a year on toilet paper. That didn’t seem like all that much, but then I realized if we continued the pattern and on it went, it was $1,000’s over time!
What also came into play for me was the fact that I have an ancient septic system. It’s from the 1940’s, was modified in the 1960’s and untouched other than pumped out every time the house sold since then. It’s the law in our county that we must pump as part of the sale of a home. I’m so incredibly grateful that this ancient thing is still working. It’s the only major thing that has not been done to my home. Other than windows, well, I didn’t do windows, but my windows aren’t terrible, and they aren’t super old. My roof was new when I bought it, and I redid the plumbing and electrical and more, but the septic is still old. If that breaks down? We’re talking tens of thousands of dollars.
I clearly do not have that kind of money. And even if I eventually do 20 years from now, do I want to get rid of all my hard earned savings on that? HELL NO.
I did some research on how to keep a septic tank healthy. I follow all the steps. I’m already a no bleach household because of my moderate asthma. I only use biodegradable cleaning products. My dad also worked for the sewer department for years and told me to never flush anything labeled flushable, and to never put any powdered detergent of any kind in my wash machine or dishwasher. He’d seen too many giant balls of detergent in drain lines.
After reading, I realized that a properly functioning septic system would honestly never need to be pumped if there was no toilet paper going into it. If the bacteria was kept healthy without bleach and other damaging chemicals, it would break down the matter and it would drain out no problem.
People have a really big misunderstanding about toilet paper and septic tanks. They seem to believe that septic system safe means that the toilet paper breaks down in the tank. Heck, I thought that too! But septic system safe actually means that it does not break down in the tank. If it did, it would clog your drain field lines and other pipes.
I came to the conclusion that getting rid of toilet paper was a good idea. It would save me a moderate amount every year (and remember, we are operating on a “thousands of papercuts” model of saving money. Every little bit adds up), and I could pump my septic less often ($500 or so every 5-7 yearsish) so that was savings and then lastly, it could save me tens of thousands of dollars if I could avoid a tank failure. A bonus: environmentally sound. People ask if doing the laundry uses more water and isn’t that wasteful? But if you look into it: making toilet paper uses a tremendous amount of water. This is far less of a waste and more environmentally sound.
I do keep toilet paper around for guests and go through a few rolls a year. These I buy off a friend who buys giant packs at Costco and sells me a few rolls at cost.
Here is what my set up looks like: Yes. I folded that toilet paper just for you.
Here is what is involved:
The Doctor Who wet bag is larger. My best friend made it for me, cause she is quite the stitcher. I bought the fabric for it. She put two loops with snaps on it to go on either side of the toilet paper roll. The two smaller bags were a gift from her, when she made herself ones she liked better. She was so excited that I was joining her in going TP free! I asked her to sew webbing loops with snaps on those, so they would easily attach to the toilet paper holder as well.
Again, I do not fold things. I avoid it like plague. So clean wipes go in the large bag in front fresh from the dryer, unfolded. As they are used, they go in the side bag. Once it is full, I remove it to be washed, and slide the other small bag up to keep going. The bags hold about 16/17 wipes. I feel like 24 is a good total number of wipes to have because it’s enough to get you through the day while the wash is going. I find I wash every third day or so when things are normal, more often when it’s that time of the month as I simply go through more.
It’s more complicated if you have more people in your home – I get that. But it also means you can save more! Many people pick up wipes of different colors for different family members. Mine are just white Grovia cotton wipes. I really like them. They are thick, absorbent. Sometimes I wet them. I find now that I hate using toilet paper in public rest rooms. Like, there’s nothing to it!
Most common question: Doesn’t it smell? Nope. Not at all. Do they discolor? Not really. After a few washes any discoloring usually fades. If you have a physical issue that leads to discoloration that does not vanish after a few washes, there are steps you can take to further clean them. Just google cleaning cloth baby wipes and a plethora of ideas will appear.
A few family members were like, “WHAT IS THAT?” at first, but everyone is used to it now. They just think I’m crazy hardcore. I’ve got frugal street cred, yo. I wash them by themselves in my biodegradable laundry soap on low. If I think about it and time it right, I try to do it at night, and leave the lid open on the washer, so they soak overnight and the soap has time to really work. Dry them like normal in the dryer. I wash the bag the same way, in with everything else. I would advocate for zippers instead of draw strings. I have to wax my draw strings (run a candle over them) periodically to keep them pulling smoothly and that is avoided with zippers.
I’ve been toilet paper free for over three years and loving life. I’ve saved around $150 in toilet paper thus far, in addition to all the possible savings discussed above. I know it seems awful odd, but give it some thought. If you have really bare boned your budget and there is no low hanging fruit, what other fruit is there to remove? You gotta reach up higher guys!
I know this is not feasible for everyone. For some people, this would be a crazy burden and not worth it. It’s a judgement call. For just me, it’s easy and saves money and I’m physically able to do laundry on my own. Take what you can, leave what you can’t. I ask you, how can you stretch your thinking today?