15 commonly used disposable products that you can replace with eco-friendly permanent versions and stop buying.
Have you ever wondered how to make reusable versions of the disposables that normal, hygienic people usually use?
Have you found yourself searching the stores for reusable paper towel only to stomp home in frustration?
Here, my friends, is the ultimate list of how to find these amazing new products – reusable versions of every day disposable items.
Who knew that so much was made that didn’t need to be tossed after each use?
Reusable versions of products that are properly – hygienically – decently – disposable? This must be the work of those strange crunchy granola people, right?
When did they ever come up with these strange ideas?
You know what I’m talking about, right? Ewwww!!
Hang on, my friend, I’m going to rock your socks.
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Table of Contents
- Reusable Toilet Paper
- Reusable Diaper Wipes
- Reusable Paper Towel
- Reusable Dishes
- Reusable Napkins
- Reusable Diapers
- Reusable Sanitary Supplies
- Reusable Tissues
- Reusable Nursing Pads
- Reusable Lunch Bags
- Reusable Plastic Bags
- Reusable Coffee Pods
- Reusable Fabric Softener Sheets
- Reusable Baby Dishes and Cutlery
- Water Bottles
Reusable Toilet Paper
Yes, I’m going to go here. It’s probably best to get this one out of the way.
Reusable toilet paper does not exist, no matter how many people talk about it, and if you claim to use it, I don’t want to come to your house. You can’t actually reuse toilet paper.
Come on, wrap your head around washable toilet “paper”. The paper part is, by its very nature, disposable, and that’s a good thing. A very good thing. (In fact, it’s also burnable in the wood stove, and compostable in the compost pile out back.)
Do not, please, attempt to reuse your toilet paper.
There is an actual alternative that doesn’t involve paper at all – not even in the name. It’s generally called Family Cloth. That’s kind of an unfortunate name, since it brings to mind those nasty shop rag dispensers that are used by everyone. I’m surely not the only one who thinks those are disgusting?
The shop rag in that picture is white. I’ve never seen them white. Have you EVER seen shop rags that are white?
Anyway, family cloth does NOT mean one rag that gets passed around for everyone to use. That would be really disgusting.
It means pieces of absorbent, washable cotton cut in pieces ideally about 5″ square. Small, absorbent face cloths work well. Some families use them for #1, some use them for everything. Treat them just like cloth diapers – toss them in a diaper rinse solution until laundry day, rinse and wash. They can even be hand washed.
The really surprising thing about urine and feces is that they do come off – cloth or your hands – with soap and hot water. Shocking, isn’t it?
If you’re wondering, we have used Family Cloth. There was no strange odour, no extra illness and, in fact, a reduction in irritation. It’s actually a lot cleaner than toilet paper. Actually, it smelled better than the composting toilet that we used out at the cabin!
However, I will admit that even those who are absolutely Reusable devotees can sometimes shy away from this one. Hang on, though, there’s more than you ever thought possible!
Reusable Diaper Wipes
Reusable diaper wipes are just wash cloths. Emphasis on … cloth.
Just like Family Cloth, they are pieces of soft cotton cut in squares of a nice size to wash baby bottoms or …. anything else.
They don’t actually need to go in a special container and they can go right into the washing machine like everything else. If they get particularly poopy, rinse them out before putting them in the wash.
Ewwwww ….. poop!
You can get nice wash cloths made from organic cotton, and they’re not even terribly expensive. For the price of a box of wipes, get a dozen wash cloths and use them until your child is washing her own bottom.
Reusable Paper Towel
Reusable paper towel is an interesting item. At one time, it was called dish cloths, dish towels, dish rags or simply rags, depending on the use. I suppose we could say that paper towel is amazing because it replaced so many different things, but the fact is that all of those different things are all kind of …. the same thing.
And, believe it or not, there are millions of people still using them every day. Millions of people who haven’t figured out how wonderful and liberating it is to just toss your garbage to … well, to …. to wherever garbage goes …..
The originals are all just rags and cloths made of various materials, generally rough -textured so that they can scrub. And they can be used for almost anything, even those nasty oil spills that can’t be washed out. For those, you use the older ones.
Yes, when dish rags and rags become so ratty and nasty after so much use that you wonder what you can do with them, they can go into a separate marked box and become disposable. (If they’re cotton, and they should be, they are compostable!)
That’s the cool thing about the non-disposable towels – they have a lifespan and can go from bath towel to wash cloth to cleaning rag to disgusting-mess rag.
Paper towels have a lifespan of “wipe and toss”. That is, after all, what they were made for.
You can even purchase nice cotton “reusable towels”! Amazing!
Reusable dishes are, everywhere else in the world, simply called dishes. Plates, cups, bowls and cutlery. They last a very long time – I’m still using dishes that my parents bought me when I left home in 1991.
Why? Well, unfortunately I suffer from what the French call a “surfeit des choices” – too many choices. I stand in front of a dish display and just lose my cool. The Mister stops me after a while and says I can’t have them all and since I can’t decide on one, I live and go back home to my old set.
It’s a serious problem, so stop laughing at me. I want a dish closet like some women want a shoe closet.
I’m kind of in love with this eco-friendly porcelain set from Bambeco at the moment and wondering if I should take the leap.
You can even get reusable versions of styrofoam and paper coffee cups. They’re made of glass, plastic or metal. Insane, isn’t it?
I don’t leave the house without my metal Thermos brand travel mug full of coffee (which I make at home and take with me). If you have a travel mug and you don’t find that it keeps your coffee/tea/hot chocolate hot, then you need to try this one. Of all the dozens and dozens of travel mugs that I’ve used over the years, I’ve always had a complaint (or six) about them – until this one.
I can leave my coffee in the car and go to church – three hours later (yea, we socialize after), I can come back to hot coffee. There are no spots for water to get inside. It’s dishwasher-safe. Sixteen ounces is a lot of coffee. It stays cool to the touch. The lid is easy to drink from. In short, Thermos came out with the perfect travel mug.
Reusable napkins are again, a piece of soft cloth. These don’t even need to be washed after each use. Again, you’ll want something cotton and absorbent.
Reusable diapers are ridiculously easy and the only mystery is created by diaper companies (including, to be honest, some cloth diaper makers!). Wrap soft flannel around the wet/poopy areas and wash them out when they are soiled. Yes, there’s the shocker – it’s another piece of cloth.
Okay, maybe there’s more to it than that (although my mother says I was diapered in my father’s undershirt more than once as a baby, when they were away from home and ran out of clean diapers). You can buy such an incredible variety of cloth diapers. Personally, I like flat diapers or pre-folds, since they can be easily washed and dried.
I have used the all-in-one type and ended up giving them away – they MUST be dried in a clothes dryer and your power bill skyrockets.
Reusable Sanitary Supplies
Oh, yes, I’m going there. There really are options to tampons and disposable sanitary pads. Not only are there menstrual cups but there are all sorts of options in cloth sanitary pads.
And you thought I couldn’t get any more disgusting. Did you know that there are reusable versions of those tissues we use to blow our noses? Whoever came up with this crazy idea of blowing noses on …. cloth?
I swear, there must be an entire subculture of strange people who want to hang on to their snot (okay, okay, they claim in comes out in the wash, but do washing machines actually clean anything? That’s why we toss out our underwear after each use, amirite?)
Anyway, there’s an amazing variety of these reusable “tissues”. Handkerchiefs, they call them. They come in every variation from organic cotton to these utterly gorgeous organic bamboo handkerchiefs to flannel (okay, I bet that would feel nice when you’re sick!).
You can even get linen handkerchiefs. Linen is an amazing fabric that lasts for an incredibly long time becomes softer with use.
Reusable Nursing Pads
Those little cotton pads that get full of milk and stick to you? (I always hated them) Well, not only did our grandmothers not use them, but they had a much better version. Cotton. Reusable. Washable. Head back to my friend Danielle to find out how to make your own nursing pads.
Actually, at this point, I really should point out that Danielle has written a book on making and using reusable cloth products.
Diapers, wipes, everything.
She’s kind of awesome like that, and I’ve been waiting anxiously for her to put out this book. The Complete Guide to Using, Laundering and Sewing Reusable Cloth Products.
(Seriously – what ARE you waiting for?)
Reusable Lunch Bags
Actually, all things “lunch” come in permanent versions.
Years ago, our fathers would take metal lunch cans to work. They were sturdy, lasted forever, and could be sterilized with boiling water. Nifty, no?
Furoshiki ECOcrossbag – sturdy, washable and they work for men or women. You can fill them with lifetime lunch containers – no more thin plastic containers that crack and need to be tossed. If you don’t need a full lunch bag, there are adorable snack bags, too. Let’s call them Reusable Plastic Baggies.
ECO Lunch Box offers free shipping on orders over $50 using this link.
Reusable Plastic Bags
Okay, so they’re not always plastic, but they’re usable, and washable, and they’re far better than any thin plastic shopping bag out there.
If you’re still using plastic shopping bags … why? Jessica at 104 Homestead has a post listing several lifetime shopping bags that you can make with even the most basic sewing skills. One of them is a fabulous way to upcycle all those thin plastic shopping bags you’ve been collecting.
Reusable Coffee Pods
Hey, if you’re a fan of those single cup coffee makers to minimize waste, do you realize that you are not minimizing waste, at all? Those plastic pods are pure garbage. I’ve noticed that some of them are becoming more recyclable – but they still come in bags that are still pure garbage. There are options.
Crazy, I know.
The Javajig does use paper filters, but they’re quite biodegradeable. If you already have a single cup coffee maker, this is one way to get rid of the wasteful pods and save yourself a ton of money. Toss the filter and coffee grounds in your compost.
I have a Hario cloth coffee filter that my father gave me and I absolutely love it. It’s supposed to come with a special pot, but to be honest, I just make mine in my coffee mug. If you don’t want to guess at how full your mug is, though, it’s probably best to get the filter and pot.
You need a kettle, too, to boil the water. Here’s the stainless steel kettle I use. I dislike electric kettles. No reason. I just don’t like them!
DIY: If you make coffee in a full sized coffee maker, you can make your own filters. They’re washable and infinitely reusable.
Reusable Fabric Softener Sheets
Fabric softener sheets, before some bright guy figured out to make it create garbage, was a bit of vinegar in the wash water. No worries about buying the unscented variety, either. Another option is the Downy ball, filled with either fabric softener or vinegar. I always loved filling that for Mom when I was a child. Or – try wool dryer balls!
DIY: Make your own wool dryer balls. (With the price of wool yarn, it may well be cheaper to buy them)
Reusable Baby Dishes and Cutlery
I’ve seen disposable baby dishes, spoons, cups, etc, but I’ve never bought them. Please don’t. See above. Yes, they make real versions of all of these.
See this green set? It’s adorable! I have always loved finding cute bowls and cutlery for my children.
Looking for stuff that travels? Oh, yea, that exists, too. Check out the feeding spoon with its own carrying case.
However, I’ll let you in on a secret – jam jars and half-pint jars make fabulous break-resistant cups for little hands. It’s what we use with little ones at our place.
Honestly, I love that there is such a selection of these. Ecovessel sells insulated water bottles and even insulated sippy cups.
Next thing you know, they’re going to come out with reusable clothing and shoes!
Seriously, though, sometime in the last fifty years, we got the message that disposables are the norm and standard by which to compare. In fact, it’s the opposite – disposables are the replacement for many very good, money-saving, long-lasting items that were once in every home.