Swapping disposable toilet paper for washable wipes and a bum gun isn’t something that happened straight away. In fact, it took me years to implement them into my life after the idea was seeded.
Using washable wipes isn’t something new. Plenty of low waste peeps use them and I’m sure it’s common with people living frugally too.
After the ick factor was resolved in my mind, and I made my wipes and started using them, there was no turning back… it’s actually wayyyy better than using toilet paper, and I genuinely miss using my washable wipes if I’m away from home for any length of time.
Back when I was studying Health and Environment at university, I remember health issues with toilet paper being pointed out to me. Fake fragrances and formaldehyde are the two main health concerns that stuck in my mind – both of which I haven’t since researched, so don’t take my word for it. But both of which I don’t like the idea of being regularly wiped on my nether regions.
For this reason, in my early 20’s I switched to using fragrance-free, recycled toilet paper. It was the best solution I could come up with at the time. But I was also still very aware I was literally flushing trees down the toilet on a daily basis. And start timesing that by the western world population, that’s A LOT of trees getting flushed down the loo daily, on a continual basis.
So, I think via watching a YouTube video, I was introduced to the idea of using washable wipes to replace toilet paper. Gross, but it caught my attention and the thought didn’t leave my head.
My biggest obstacle was knowing how to make the wipes – as far as sewing the edges. Sewing is not a strong point of mine, which requires me having a mentor on hand.
Then I met a friend who I’d have fascinating conversations with. She’d previously lived abroad with cultures who don’t use toilet paper. She’d adopted the practice of using water in replacement of toilet paper by choice, feeling it produced a much cleaner result. Instantly I adopted the term Bum Gun (such fun!), which is a common method of using a water sprayer to clean yourself after doing your business.
Such conversations gave me the confidence to move forward and start eliminating toilet paper from my life. This was back in February of 2018.
My friend was also a sewing queen, with an overlocker, so one day we sat nattering away whilst I overlocked a stack of washable toilet wipes. I started using them instantly and have never looked back.
Intrigued with the bum gun idea, I splashed out and bought a top of the wazza one online, installed it, and continued to be perplexed by how to use it properly – I still have this issue to this day!!
Although I haven’t eliminated using toilet paper altogether, I have significantly cut down on the amount I use by using my washable wipes any time I urinate – I am yet to start using them for when I pass a bowel movement.
I made mine using secondhand flannelette material. I didn’t measure them up, but rather used an overlocker to cut the material into long strips, which I then cut into smaller pieces (also using the overlocker). I simply cut off the excess thread and have not had a problem with the edges unravelling.
Although I don’t think it’s essential to use an overlocker to create wipes, I do think it’s the easiest method as it cuts whilst sewing the edges. It’d be a pretty fiddly, time consuming job to do this with scissors and a normal sewing machine to edge each piece. The idea doesn’t float my boat! But it would be another option.
Additionally you could experiment with using different material types, some of which may be fine to simply cut with scissors and not need edging. I’m personally really happy with the feel and result of flannelette material.
To use, I keep 2 bags hanging off the toilet roll holder – 1 with clean wipes in and the other for dirty wipes. Each time I urinate I simply use 1 wipe instead of disposable toilet paper and pop it into the dirty wipe bag. I then add the dirty wipes to loads of washing throughout the week.
Occasionally I’ve used up my whole clean stash, leaving me with a full bag of dirty wipes. NEVER has there been a smell from the dirty wipe bag (not that I’ve stuck my nose in to check!).
There’s a couple of options for washing and drying:
- Throw them in the machine individually and then hang them out individually, or in small stacks (I normally hang 3 under 1 peg). This takes longer, but I really like to have flat, as opposed to scrunched up, pieces of wipe.
- Wash dirty wipes in a washing bag and then hang up the bag on the line and let the wipes dry within the bag. Although this is a much more convenient method that saves time, it produces scrunched up wipes, which really isn’t a problem as you can straighten them before using (I just personally don’t like it).
It simply comes down to trying different methods and seeing what works best for you.
When my friend introduced me to this concept, she was living in a rental and using a squirty top water bottle as a bum gun – refillable, moveable, cheap, point and shoot solution!
But I never liked my odds of getting the process right and wanted a solid water jet. I do believe the proper name for a bum gun is a bidet – use that term if you’re googling!
Whenever I buy something new, I like to buy quality. I found a bum gun on the net that was made with stainless steel, instead of plastic, which you can find in mother/baby stores as a nappy gun (or similar wording).
So, my bum gun arrived, I got Brett to plumb it in for me, and then I tried using it and I was seriously perplexed on how the hell to use it correctly! Take my word for it, you do not want to google how to use one… the results that come up do not relate to washing poo off your arsehole!!
Anyhoo, I go through patches of using my bum gun, but have never really got into the habit and need a bit of coaching from someone in the know. The model I have has a valve you have to turn to redirect the water so you can use it – this can be a problem if you forget to turn the valve off (= no water going to your toilet anymore). It’s also annoying turning around while you’re on the dunny to turn the valve on/off, and it uses cold water only, which is very off-putting in winter.
Apparently success is all about angle of your bum and squirting the water. Squirt from the front, with your back pushed to the toilet lid and bum angled forward. Seriously, who’d pay for yoga when you can just use a bum gun?!!
Now, please appreciate this is hard to describe and I hope it’s making sense, because trust me, I have no desire to make a demo video for you 😉
DISPOSABLE TOILET PAPER
Toilet paper is still a regular feature in our lives. For years I bought Planet Ark packs of recycled paper, but have since changed to Who Gives a Crap.
Although I liked the Planet Ark product the outside wrapping had a plastic coating which meant it couldn’t be composted.
Who Gives a Crap wraps each roll individually in paper wrapping, which is less than ideal and I think quite wasteful. But I save these up and use them to wrap cured soap and make Christmas BonBons. They’re also great for picking up dog poo when you’re walking in public places.
I’m open to swapping to a different brand should I find one that ticks my boxes, but for now, Who Gives a Crap it is as it’s sold at my local bulk food grocery store.
I live in a 2 person household, consisting of myself and partner Brett, so I don’t have to share my wipes with anyone (Brett hasn’t got on the disposable toilet paper free bandwagon).
If you have multiple people using the wipes in one household, and you don’t want to share wipes, you could use different material/pattern for each person to distinguish between wipes. You could also put clean wipes in different bags. Just a thought.
I use my wipes during my period and have never had a problem with staining. I use my own homemade laundry detergent for washing (homemade laundry soap + homemade washing soda – DIY blog coming soon).
Toilet paper is a modern-day human luxury that’s not so luxurious for the Earth. Around the world there are plenty of cultures who use traditional techniques to clean themselves after going to the toilet that don’t involve single-use, disposable products.
It may seem weird to westerners to not use disposable toilet paper, but there are plenty of cultures who think we’re the weird ones!
With time and behaviour change, I hope to eliminate using disposable toilet paper from my life altogether – both for my health and the environments.
Many people don’t find it strange or gross to use washable nappies for children (thank god!) and there really isn’t much difference when it comes to using washable wipes – only you’re dealing with less poo!
I shall update this post in the future with my evolved toileting ways and let you know how I progress forward, as well as the lessons learned.
If you too have low waste toileting habits, I’d love to hear from you! OR if you’re a proficient bum gun user, please share your tips! Any questions, comments or feedback – please use the comments section below so we can all learn together.
RESOURCES AND REFERENCES
This is where I bought my Bum Gun: http://www.handspray.com.au
Who Gives a Crap Toilet Paper: https://au.whogivesacrap.org/
Planet Ark Toilet Paper: http://naturale.com.au/
Homemade Laundry Soap: https://www.karlahooper.com/diy-solid-bar-soap/
My original social media post photo showing the bum gun I’d just received in the mail: Instagram