3/13/20 – When I wrote this post nearly 7 years ago, I couldn’t have anticipated a reason such as “world wide pandemic causes toilet paper shortage” as a reason for why anyone might want to use cloth wipes. I’ve been really grateful the past couple weeks that our family does still use them and therefore, a toilet paper supply isn’t all that crucial to us. I hope this information might be helpful to you if you are facing a toilet paper shortage of your own. Don’t have any flannel or a sewing machine on hand? Cut up old T-shirts or thin kitchen towels. You don’t need all that many if you wash them every day. ❤ Find more information in another of my blog posts about using cloth wipes.
Several weeks ago, I started seeing a particular post of mine coming up in my page views. It’s just a random sewing post from about 18 months ago so I was a little mystified as to why it was so suddenly popular. I finally figured out that it had gone viral on Pinterest, starting from my friend Gayleen’s pin. (Thanks Gayleen!) Now, it’s almost always my most-viewed post of the week. Because so many people are interested in this, here are some instructions for how to make these cloth wipes, along with how to use them and why you might want to, even if you don’t use cloth diapers (or don’t even have a baby).
1. How to Make Cloth Wipes
The basic idea is very easy: take a couple pieces of flannel, lay them wrong sides together, zigzag stitch around them, done.
By now, however, I’ve made hundreds of wipes and so I’ve learned a few tricks to making them. So this is more of a “tips to make this even easier” post, rather than a true tutorial.
Material: I use 100% cotton flannel, which I usually buy on Black Friday from Joann Fabrics, when it’s super cheap. I make tons of baby blankets (like these, these, and these) so I just use the scraps from making those. You can also use terry cloth for one side if you want them to be more substantial.
Size: Because I use scraps, I make wipes of widely varying sizes and shapes. However, I’ve found that my ideal size wipe is around 4″ by 5″. I prefer to make my wipes smaller and use more of them. I find that I waste less of the wipe surface that way.
Cutting out the wipes: I iron out one piece of fabric, place the other piece on top, and then iron that one directly onto it.
Then I use scissors to roughly cut the two pieces to the same shape, before using my rotary cutter to cut out the actual wipes for sewing.
Eventually, you’ll end up with a nice pile of wipes, waiting to be sewn. For fun, I like to alternate my wipes so I can see both sides while sewing but that’s definitely not necessary!These wipes are on the small side (because the scraps were).
Sewing the wipes: Set your stitch settings to a zigzag stitch that is a fairly normal stitch length and a fairly wide stitch width. Here are the settings on my machine.
Use a scrap of fabric to figure out where your needle goes when doing a zigzag stitch. On my machine, my needle goes to the left from the red line on my pressure foot. So I line up the edge of my wipe just to the right of the red line. Your goal is to sew as close to the edge as possible while still catching in both fabric layers. Flannel tends to ravel fairly easily, which is why you want to be close to the edge.
I always start sewing in the middle of a side. This makes starting/stopping easier than on a corner. There’s no need to back stitch when you start sewing. Just make sure to go backwards over your starting stitches when you finish to secure your stitching.
Don’t bother to trim your threads until you have your whole pile finished. It’s much faster than picking up and putting down your scissors many times.
That’s it! Repeat 200 times (or however many wipes you want to make)!
2. How To Use Cloth Wipes
Here’s our cloth wipe set-up for diapering:
There’s no need to get them wet until you’re ready to use them. We just use plain water and haven’t felt the need to use any sort of solution. If you find that you’d like a little more cleaning power, there are many simple recipes on the web (like this one) and you certainly don’t have to buy a pre-made solution. After we use them, we throw them in that basket. Periodically I empty that basket into our cloth diaper pail in the bathroom.
Washing the wipes: When we’re using cloth diapers, I wash them right along with the diapers. When we aren’t using cloth diapers, I put them in the washing machine first, give them a rinse, and then wash them along with our towels or other laundry. Ellie’s laundry “assignment” is stacking them up after drying and she usually gets quite offended if I do the job without asking her permission first!
3. Why You Might Want to Use Cloth Wipes (even if you don’t use cloth diapers or don’t even have a baby)
- They’re cheap (essentially free if you make them out of scraps).
- They’re eco-friendly because you’ll use them many times before pitching them.
- They’re very kind to babies’ bottoms. When Ellie had a really terrible diaper rash, even our “free of everything bad” wipes hurt her bottom. Soft flannel and water was the only thing that we could use without her crying.
- If you have an older child, they can participate in the diaper changing by getting the wipes wet and by practicing diapering on their own doll or stuffed animal without waste.
- They’re not just for babies! We keep a stack in the bathroom for Ellie and me to use (which is the topic of an upcoming blog post).
Have fun making and using cloth wipes!