Thursday, August 5, 2010

Step Six: Wash It

Part of the Going Lightly One-Step-at-a-Time Series.

I have returned from a week of family and friends visiting; a week that included a rash of ear infections shared by my family and my brother's family, one broken toe (my husband's - AND he got a double ear infection!), and a trip to Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 100 degree F temps.

You can see here that Hogsmeade maintains its frosty rooflines despite the soaring temperature!

So, we're back to taking one step at a time.  I suspect that as our first day of  home school - Aug. 16 this year (we take off 3 weeks in Dec. and finish at the end of May, hence the early date)- approaches, my posts will become spaced out farther, but I hope to see this series through to the end of my list! :)

So, today is Step Six: Wash It

I don't think I've bought paper towels in over a decade and maybe I've bought napkins once in that time - for something like a neighborhood block party or something like that.  Save yourself some money.  Save trees and the oxygen and diverse habitats they provide (no, tree farms do not provide the same diversity of habitat, by the way).  Save the energy needed to create all that paper that is used ONCE for a tiny moment in time.  Just use cloth.

Really, it is so easy.  My children's old cloth diapers are STILL in use as rags in our home as well as cut up, old T-shirts, old towels, and old washcloths.  We have a bin under our kitchen sink that is filled with rags that we use probably every day.  With 3 cats (and before we lost our poor Lucy dog), we have messes to clean up regularly.  Spilled water, glass to clean, dusting - all of it - is handled by our bin of rags.  And the dirty ones? They go in a bucket on top of the freezer in the laundry room to be washed on "rags and towels day"... which is Tuesday in our house if you'd like to know. :)

The dirty rag bucket resides on the freezer and its neighbor is our dirty napkin and dishcloth bucket.  We only need to use one napkin per day per person, unless, of course, we have a very messy meal!  At then end of our meals, we usually hang our napkin over the back of our chair until the next meal. 

Cloth napkins can be made, of course, or found for very little at thrift stores.  They make nice gifts for housewarming.  You can also make silverware holders with them that you can roll up and keep in your car for dining out, eating lunch at work and/or picnics so that you don't need to use disposables.  Here are some tutorials:

Pretty Homemade Napkins (you could use napkins already made)

Roll-Up Placemat/Lunch Kit

Another Darling Lunch Kit

To me, using cloth napkins and rags is so second-nature now.  We keep a basket of our collection of napkins on a shelf near our table.  There are plenty of napkins for company and I get new ones to add only every couple of years as the old ones wear out.

As I said, we have a special day that we do our rags and towels.  I know that some people don't like to think about cloth napkins, etc. because they think that it will add so much to their laundry.  We do one load of laundry every day, Monday through Thursday and the system works quite well for our family.  Monday is whites, Tuesday is rags and towels (two small loads), Wednesday is darks and delicates (two small loads), and Thursday is colors.

We generally line dry everything other than the rags and towels.  We have so many little rags that that chore was a huge one and fluffy towels seem to be desired by my family - though I don't really care if they are line dried or not, despite their stiffness.

The reason we have a bunch of little rags is also because we use cloth feminine care products as well.  Also, another reason these aren't hanging on the line! ;)  The disposable products were never even mentioned to my daughter and were just not considered an option.  She was given her own, special set that a friend made for us when she first began her cycle and that's all she's ever used.  These are washed with our rags.  I've had mine for years and can't remember the last time I bought disposables. There are many, many homemade products like this online.  It's easy and affordable to support a mama in her home-based business in this way.

Another thing that goes into my little rag bin I have in my bathroom (just a little covered trash can) is handkerchiefs.  I don't actually have nice handkerchiefs, but I have a stack of them in a drawer in my vanity that are essentially cut up cotton pajama bottoms!  Ha ha!  It IS just for my nose after all! I began doing this when my girls were babies.  If they got a cold with a perpetually runny nose, I found it much gentler to use a cotton diaper for their noses rather than tissues.  I realized I could do the same thing for myself and it works just fine.

You know, I know people get "grossed out" over this stuff, but it really is a "gross out of priveledge" and habit if you ask me.  Our ancestors did just fine washing and reusing materials for nose wiping - and other wiping for that matter.  Other cultures, for that matter, consider our use of dry toilet paper, for example, as opposed to a wash with a bidet or other spray, as quite crude and ineffective.  And, for heaven's sake, we use cloth to diaper our babies' bottoms and they are the messiest of all!  You don't even need to look at your dirty laundry; just dump your bin into your washer when it's ready. 

So, I hope I've convinced you to try reusable materials for some of your daily messes.  It's really quite easy, waaaaaay more comfortable than paper and as with so many other green habits, it will save you money too.


Karen said...

great post, nicole, i love it! i am just learning how to sew so i will give the cloth napkin link a look. i like the idea of hanging them over the back of a chair. i do use cloth napkins but i like the idea of a bucket of rags for pet messes, as i have three cats myself and currently rather than use paper towels, i wait for whatever mess it is to dry and then sweep it up with broom and dustpan. ick!

Karen said...

oh, and i use natura care pads from whole foods for my ... time ... but i do have two cloth pads i bought from ambrosia designs on esty that i use, as well. they are so comfy!

Anonymous said...

I like cloth napkins, but I never use them more than one time before they are washed. Since they come in contact with your mouth and get food on them, I think of them the same way as a used fork or spoon. I would not want to wipe my mouth on something that may have old food on it from the prior meal. But this is only three cloth napkins per day so it is still reducing paper.

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