Reduce the Disposables In Your Home |

Reduce the Disposables In Your Home

admin September 7, 2012

Image by noego

This month we’re going to be talking a bit about organizing your home!

Now, this is not my strongest area.  If you could see how I keep my clothes, you would understand….  But in some areas I think I’m doing a decent job, so I’ll be sharing about those (and some of my contributors will be sharing about other areas).  One area that I’m passionate about is reducing disposables in your home!

What Disposables?

In the average modern home, people use regularly:

  • Paper/plastic cups
  • Paper/plastic plates
  • Paper/plastic “silverware”
  • Plastic sandwich bags
  • Paper towels
  • Paper napkins
  • Plastic water bottles
  • Cleaning wipes
  • Baby wipes
  • Disposable diapers
  • Toilet paper
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • etc.

The average family throws away a large garbage can or two every week!  This is a huge environmental problem, not to mention what it does to your wallet!  These products are convenient, but they aren’t cheap.

For more on the kitchen disposables, Jill at Modern Alternative Kitchen is writing about that today.  I want to talk about some things outside the kitchen.

Cleaning Supplies

Growing up, we used paper towels to clean up any mess, anywhere.  We used them to wipe up spills, clean out bathtubs, wipe bathroom counters, clean mirrors.  We bought them in 12-packs every month or so.

I haven’t bought a pack of paper towels in almost 4 years.

Rather than using paper towels, try using regular wash cloths and microfiber towels.  For bathroom work, try sponges.

Wash Cloths

I keep a stack of 8 – 12 washcloths in my kitchen drawer, as well as in the linen cabinets upstairs.  I use them for washing kids’ hands and faces, wiping down counters, small messes, etc.  Basically anything that is not very dirty.  I also have been known to borrow some of them to change a baby’s diaper, if all my usual wipes are dirty or have mysteriously gone missing.  Washcloths can be reused in many cases — for example, wiping down hands and faces for a whole day, sometimes two.  Or for wiping counters for a day or two.  These totally replace “cleaning wipes” too.  I have found that the thicker, stronger washcloths are much more effective than tiny wipes.  Then they are tossed in my kitchen basket to be washed.

Microfiber Towels

These are cheap — I can buy a 25 pack for $10.  These are used for bigger messes.  I scrub dirty spots on the floor with these, I use them to scrub the stove when stuff has burned on, and I clean the counters with them when there’s a sticky stuck-on mess.  I run them under hot water, wring them out, and they’ll clean just about anything that way.  They’re safe for kids too.  One cloth, rinsed a few times, can basically clean the whole kitchen.  I also use the cleaner ones to cover bowls of soaking dough, and I tend to grab those once the dough is done soaking to wipe off counters.  They can also be used to clean mirrors and windows.  They can even be used as diaper inserts.  They hold up well and last for years.


I buy small packs of sponges and keep one in each bathroom.  It is used only for wiping down counters and the outside of the toilet.  I can typically keep the sponge in the bathroom for several months, especially since I usually just use it for the counters.  If it gets into anything too dirty I can toss it and get a new one, but I don’t have to replace them very often, and they’ll do a whole bathroom (as opposed to needing a big handful of paper towels for the same job).  I do use (different!) sponges for cleaning dishes, too.

The Bathroom

This is a hard area in which to make progress.  I first brought the idea of “family cloth” (reusable cloth wipes to replace toilet paper) to my husband three years ago.  He said no way.  I still haven’t made the switch, though I talk about it now and then.  I still have several ideas for you, though.

Cloth Diapers and Wipes

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of cloth diapering.  I just wrote a guest post on the basics over at Creative Christian Mama earlier this week!  Cloth diapers save a ton of money and of course significantly reduce the amount of disposables used in the “bathroom” setting.  I have about 5 dozen pocket diapers in rotation right now (my 3-year-old wears them only while sleeping, and my 1-year-old of course wears them full-time) plus 4 dozen wipes…somewhere.  The wipes are handy for faces and hands as well as bottoms.  We wash them 2 – 3 times per week, so it is not a significant amount of extra work.  Plus, we use soap nuts to wash our clothes, which are safe and even beneficial to the environment.  The used soap nuts can be composted.  I recommend sewing your own if you have the skills, because this saves even more money, and you can tailor the diapers to your babies!

Feminine Hygiene

Three years ago when my second baby was born, I switched to cloth pads and haven’t looked back.  The normal store-bought ones are filled with dioxin and other bleaches, which are absorbed by your body during use.  This can increase cramping and pain.  Even then “healthy” ones, while a step up, aren’t perfect (not to mention expensive and still produce a lot of trash!).  Choosing a menstrual cup or unbleached cotton cloth pads is way better.  They can be washed very simply with cloth diapers or even with the rest of the laundry (really) and are not a big deal.  I only wash once a month, when I’m done using them.  Of course…I’m pregnant or postpartum so frequently that I honestly don’t use them very much anyway. 🙂

Family Cloth

This one makes a lot of people say ewww, gross.  My husband said “I don’t want wipes with poop on them sitting in my bathroom.”  As if we’d just leave them sitting on the floor or something.  (They’d go into a zippered wet bag until wash day.)  But here’s a compromise I think many can get behind: use cloth wipes just for pee, and use the toilet paper for poop.  This still will be a significant savings on toilet paper, since most bathroom trips are just pee anyway.  And they won’t be gross.  Other ideas are making sure to use as little toilet paper as you can for the job — start off with just a few squares, and get more if needed.  Often times you won’t need more.  Lots of people, especially little kids, like to grab handfuls, and that’s wasteful.  Keeping the toilet paper put up or putting a special “lock” on it to prevent the little ones from taking too much (or worse, unrolling all of it and throwing it in the toilet for “fun…”) helps too.

With a few small steps, you can significantly reduce the disposables in your home!  You’ll have less to buy, less to store (how many of you have had some paper towels in the pantry, and the toddler found them?), less to “deal with” in general.  The Earth, and your wallet, will thank you. 🙂

What disposables have you replaced?  What do you hope to replace in the future?

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  1. I started using cloth wipes a few years ago – for pee only! – and my husband was not exactly on board. But, since he’s not using them, I figured he had no vote. 🙂 Well, just a couple of months ago, he asked me if I had more cloth to cut up for wipes for the kids’ bathroom (they use it in my bathroom, but use tp in their own). He was on board with it!!!! Go for it – it’s worth it!


  2. I hate those swiffer things you have to replace the cleaning sponge all the time. Seriously expensive and wasteful. Use a mop, people. I use cloth diapers, wipes, dish towels, and use a scrub brush to wash dishes. I don’t think family wipes are a bad idea… for pee. It would save so much! What kind of cloth would you use? similar to the cloth baby wipes? Would they be wet or dry? I’m thinking my hubby wouldn’t care.. he’s not here often enough and doesn’t have to wipe when he pees (!) haha!


    • I like to use flannel and wet/dry depends on what you need! You could run warm water in the sink and use them that way. I usually use them most after having a baby and I have my peri bottle filled with warm water so they kind of are both, lol. They are start out dry…but the peri bottle makes them wet.


  3. A toilet attachment Bidet is another option.
    It sprays you clean and you just need to pat dry.

    What brand of cloth pads/liners do you buy? I’ve been thinking of switching but I’ve heard some brands are better then others.


  4. For the family cloth what cloths do you recommend? Just normal wash cloths seem too big for that. And also where would be a good place that you would recommend getting them from?


    • Baby washcloths would work, or scraps of terry cloth or flannel. Flannel would need to be sewn or otherwise have the edges finished. I sewed big 8×8 squares of two-sided flannel and I use them primarily after having a baby — soooo much softer.


  5. I am interested in learning more about cloth pads for feminine use. Can you recommend a product you use and where to find it, or a how-to on making your own?
    Thanks so much for your inspiration and dedication to sharing this info with others!


  6. We use family cloth. When my oldest was learning to use the toilet it seemed natural to give her the same cloth wipes we’d been using all along. Plus it was easier for her to clean herself. Over time,I started using them too. They just clean better! In between having someone in diapers, we use a small trash can lined with a little wet bag, wash them in a quick cycle then throw a load of towels in with them. The husband isn’t completely converted, but he does use them. Here we are 4 kids and 8 years after starting to use them, and we’re just barely having the family cloth fall apart. Sewing wipes is great practice for kids who want to learn how to sew 🙂


  7. I used to use cloth pads and have considered using family cloth (for urine only in my case), but hubby didn’t like either idea. HOWEVER, now that we have a little’un on the way and he’s agreed to cloth diaper (granted, we’re compromising and using a cholorine/chemical-free eco diaper service in the area at first), I think he’ll be more amenable to my starting up w/ cloth pads again as well as cloth for #1s, even if he forgoes the cloth and it’s just me doing it. Hey, if I clean the bath and I do the laundry, there’s not much to be said as long as things don’t get stinky! 😉 But we’ve been doing cloth in the kitchen for a long time and I love it. Way more fun to look at a patterned towel than a boring paper towel.


  8. Great article. I love and use cloth all the time. I wrote a post on this a while back:


  9. […] Reduce the Disposables in your Home : Modern Alternative Mama […]


  10. You should really really look into getting a bidet! We have one because my husband is in a wheelchair and can’t easily wipe himself. There are even ones that heat the water! Our friends have even started to like it, they think we are European. In our first year, we had a very tight budget, $20 after bills and I didn’t want to waste it on toilet paper so I cut up a teeshirt for family drying cloths. We lost a few but still have the majority f the first batch from 2 ripped up tees.


  11. I have a question what do you use in the kitchen when you cook bacon or fry something, even coconut oil can leave things really greasy? This is one thing I always reach for the paper towels for.

    I feel like we do good, we will have the baby in cloth diapers & wipes most of which I made or are secondhand ones from our 3 yr old, we use lots of wash cloths and old cut up towels for quick mess clean up or general cleaning, I use cloth mommy pads (homemade 100% cotton knitted ones are my favorite!) when not pregnant and trying to convince my preteen to do the same, she isn’t comfortable using them figure I’ll try again next month and so on. Bathroom cloths my hubby said no way to. Maybe someday…


    • I either put them on a towel, or just put them directly on a plate and don’t worry about “draining” them at all. Not much fat really drips off anyway so it haven’t been a big deal.


  12. What do you do for grease? That’s really the only reason I still use paper towels…for the once-in-awhile greasy kitchen jobs. They are super convenient for giving the iron skillet a quick wipe before frying some eggs in it again. I think I’m ok still using them once in awhile, since we have minimized disposables in many other ways.


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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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