I've never liked the idea of disposable anything, and until recently, I found the idea of "wipes"--wipes for any purpose--to be, frankly, stupid. My line of thinking was that you put a plethora of chemicals on your skin, and then you just throw away the pad. I thought the concept was wasteful and harmful to the environment and our bodies.
Now that I am getting older and dealing with some health issues, however, I have come to appreciate the idea of having something on hand to give my hygiene regimen a boost. Today, I decided to make my own wipes. At home, I can clean myself up just fine. I wanted the wipes for days when I am out and about, when I don't have easy access to extra water, for instance. When I travel, if it's just quick and overnight, I'll use them for that, as well. For longer trips, I'll opt for other methods, in order to keep things simple.
Most sites recommend using a roll of paper towels cut in half, but if you've been reading Sage Alley for any length of time or you know me personally, then you know that I just have to add my own eco edge to it and go with reusable. For reusable wipes, you want fabric that is not stiff, but soft. You don't want anything too thick. Most people use flannel (recycled from old shirts, pjs, sheets, etc.) I chose towels, because: 1) We have a huge surplus of towels in a range of colors and patterns, and we are giving away a lot of them, 2) I like something thick and absorbent--I like a good barrier between my hand and any messes (believe it or not, as much as I talk about recycling, scavenging, animals, and the like, I'm squeamish and don't like to get my hands gooey-dirty,) and 3) they will last a long, long time. Terry cloth is very tough. The downside to terry cloth is that it soaks up a lot of the liquid I'm using for my wipes. (More on my "road test" later.) What you want to look for is soft, absorbent, and all-natural fibers, like cotton. If you are someone who is squeamish about reusing things, then by all means, go with the paper towel method.
My own wipes are a variation on this recipe. Scroll down to the Baby Wipes recipe. That's the one I modified. To clean the wipes, I use the same method I use to wash my reusable menstrual pads. (I recommend always rinsing pads or wipes before cleaning them, putting some sort of non-chlorine bleach in your soaking bucket--I use hydrogen peroxide if I'm out of my favorite bleach alternative- and I recommend washing them in hot water. If your washing machine has a "sanitize" cycle like mine does, use that.) I also transport them the same way, except that, instead of one zipper-type plastic bag, I will have two: One for the unused ones, and one in which to bring used ones home and wash them. (Unused pads are dry. Wipes, however, are never dry.) I have a waterproof zipper pouch I use for this. It keeps everything discreet.
My wipes are the terry, cut into roughly 4" x 4" squares (again--I like good hand coverage. You may not need them to be that size. It's a matter of comfort.) Since my partner is not on board with any of my reusable hygiene ideas, I wanted to make absolutely sure to use colors and patterns that could not possibly be mistaken for any other type of rag we use (we use rags for just about everything now.) I will even be washing them separately from any of the other laundry, just like I do for the pet rags/beds/etc. (I realize brown is an ironic choice, and I did not do that to be funny, but there it is!) If you find that you have other household or family members who are on board with this, make sure everyone stores their personal wipes separately, and make sure that everyone has their own signature colors. In our house, any rag that is brightly colored or that has flowers on it is one of mine.
For storage, I keep the dry wipes--my little squares of cloth--put away until I know I'm going somewhere. The day before, I'll soak 2-3 of them, so that they will be ready to pack up in the morning. The reason I'm choosing to do this is to avoid mold. There is no need for me to have wipes soaking all the time, if I'm just going to be at home. This will help the liquid to last longer, and it will keep everything clean.
I did a first run today, and here are some things I have learned: 1. I used too much soap. I did not monitor how much I was putting into the mixture, and I ended up with a product that left too much residue on my skin. As my liquid runs out, I will water it down. 2. I won't be using peppermint oil next time. While my mixture left me feeling clean, it was also a little uncomfortable. I will either try lavender instead or just skip the second oil and stick with the tea tree only. 3. I may need to leave out the rubbing alcohol. I used very little, but it may have contributed to my irritation. The reason I changed up the recipe to which I linked is I wanted to use only what I had on hand here at home and to avoid spending any money on this. I was successful in that sense--I just need to tweak my recipe. 4. Terry cloth absorbs a whole lot of liquid. When I pulled out my wipe, I wrung it out a lot, but I still ended up with a little too much. There's not much I can do about that. Since I have already cut up my squares, I'll just stick with using them. I just need to work on wringing them out better, but hopefully this information will help you to decide whether or not you want to use terry cloth (we all have different needs and different preferences.)
Whether you use reusable wipes or not, making your own liquid will take you a long way toward cutting household costs and waste and toward taking better control of your home environment and your health. Industry has so many people believing that we need chemicals in everything in order to be clean and healthy, but the truth is, we only need the right chemicals, nutrients, etc. If you can't pronounce it or if it smells like nothing you would find in nature, then it's pretty likely you don't need it. That is the truth.
***CAVEATS: I urge caution if you are sensitive: Do a spot test for the tea tree and peppermint oils. Dab a tiny, tiny bit on your inner arm, right near your elbow. If either or both burn or tingle, do not use them. Do not use rubbing alcohol if you are sensitive, either. If you are someone who is super-sensitive, stick with the Xovain recipe for adult "baby" wipes. I know my own body, so I am OK with experimenting with my own variation, but I am not comfortable posting my recipe. Finally, if you have serious health issues, I don't recommend doing this without talking to your doctor. While I advocate for minimizing chemicals in the home environment, I would never recommend doing anything that would harm anyone's health!