There I was yesterday morning, sipping my coffee and racking my brain over my latest concern: What if I can’t restock my toilet paper by the time it runs out?
We didn’t panic buy. Oh, we felt the urge. But we didn’t give in…much. Fortunately, we regularly keep one month’s stock of toilet paper on hand at all times. But I had run out of tissues a week ago, I contracted the flu (not sure which one because they won’t test me), and I was exercising control over my newly discovered budgeting skills and so had decided to wait to buy new tissues. I did buy two jugs of ammonia, something I never buy in a moment of panic. I bought a small jug of lemon scent and regular.
Now, I’m watching my toilet paper dwindle. Tissues? I had been carrying around a roll of toilet paper everywhere, but if everyone in the house gets sick, we can’t afford to use up the butt paper as face paper. It was when I watched my husband reach for a paper napkin then draw back sharply saying, “No,” that I shrieked, “What are we doing!?” I jumped up and pulled out the 2 dozen cloth napkins I have had in stock for eight years. We mostly use them for fancy dinners like Thanksgiving and Christmas. And now, every day for every meal…and that is when my epiphany hit.
Rewind a month ago.
I had decided to stop buying the wasteful and expense Clorox cleaning wipes. When I re-budgeted for my expenses, I realized how much I was spending on wipes and decided to turn back the clock to 1985 when we used a mop bucket, diluted bleach in hot water, and a cleaning rag. Around this time, I had bought a 50 pack of microfiber rags at AutoZone for $21.00.
Coming out of my flashback, I turned to the unopened pack of microfiber rags behind me, took them up, and slammed them happily down on the table. Handkerchiefs! They’re as soft as Puffs lotion facial tissues and are WASHABLE.
I thought about a rag filled with COVID-19 infested bogies and battled back the gag reflex. I was onto something and I couldn’t afford a weak stomach at the moment.
Paper towels? I looked at the collection of unused paint rags we had bought for remodeling the media room in January. There! I opened the bag and proceeded to hang them off the empty paper towel rack.
“What about toilet paper?” My husband asked.
I then remembered a line I had read in Outlander by Diana Gabaldon last year, “We used rags in the winter time. It was actually quite comfortable.”
I quoted Claire’s line back to my husband then added, “Target sells bundles of washcloths, 6 for $3.00.”
At this, I remembered my mother. She was obsessed with cloth diapers. I remember her changing my baby brother’s diapers. She would dump the contents into the toilet, flush, then slosh the diaper into the freshly filled toilet bowl until all that remained was a highly…contaminated…cloth diaper. She’d wring out the water, flush again, and throw the cloth into the diaper pail for washing that evening. Being squeamish is a luxury we can no longer afford. We could do this!
But the bigger issue I was soon wrestling with was how to clean…I mean CLEAN these handkerchiefs, cleaning rags, and apparently, soon to be, butt rags?
My washing machine has no hot water hook up. I wouldn’t trust the hot water from our water heater anyway. It wasn’t to boiling point. No. 17th century cleaning rags required 17th century cleaning methods.
“They would boil the clothes.”
I consulted the internet and, within fifteen minutes, I was boiling my first bogie rag. It was easier than boiling pasta. I didn’t have to watch and worry about missing the point of al dente. With some working knowledge of chemistry and how viruses and bacteria live and die, I was well on my way to a disinfected life style!
I boil my rags now at the end of every day. As we sit down to eat dinner, I start up the water boiling. By then end of dinner, we throw our napkins and bogie rags into the water. The rags are clean just as the table is cleared and dishes washed. And my napkins have NEVER been so clean!
Here is how it’s done.
- Bring your water to a boil.
- Add Oxy Clean or your usual laundry soap. IMPORTANT: DO NOT BOIL BLEACH.
- Add the rags.
- Hard boil the rags for 10 minutes (Hard boil any butt rags for 15 minutes).
- Use a spoon you don’t care about to push down the clothes.
- Turn off the heat and then transfer the rags to a clean bucket to cool. Rinse by hand in cold water. Throw in the dryer with a dryer sheet or hang to dry. Done!
Here is my one disclaimer:
DISCLAIMER: SERIOUSLY! DON’T BOIL BLEACH! Bleach evaporates quickly and you will be breathing in the evaporated bleach. DO NOT BOIL BLEACH. I MEAN IT! IT IS DANGEROUS AND COULD KILL YOU!
One thing I quickly learned about all this was that there is a lot of psychological hesitation that had nothing to do with the science. I had to learn to separate the psychology of feeling squeamish from the science. So I looked to my husband and asked, “Is this psychological or is it science?”
For those who don’t know, my husband has a master’s degree in organic chemistry. He taught pre-med students as a grad student, and was an EMT in Boston for three years. He has made ibuprofen, worked on cancer research, and has been in the labs creating vaccinations for people. So, I bombarded him with my questions.
Q: Can I boil my butt rags with my facial rags?
A: Yes. This is psychological. Dead is dead. Neither Hep C nor Coronavirus can survive boiling temperatures. Dead is dead. Just be sure the rags stay in the water for an additional 15 minutes if they are boiled with butt rags. However…I can’t do it. I was facial rags first, then butt rags second. Chemical rags get boiled first and separately.
Q: Can I boil my “paper towel” rags used with ammonia alongside my facial rags?
A: No. This is Science. If you use a rag to clean up a chemical be sure you boil them separate and change out the water before you boil the facial rags. The cleaning chemicals can contaminate the water and transfer onto the rags you use on your face and genitals.
Q: Can I use my standard pasta pot?
A: Yes. This is psychological. Dead is dead. You can boil your butt rags, wash the pot, then cook pasta and serve an hour later. However…again…I can’t. If you want to go get a pot just for this, do it.
Q: After the rags are boiled do I have to throw them in the washing machine?
A: No. This is psychological. Nothing cleans better than boiling. A washing machine is most likely contaminated. You can, but you don’t need to. As soon as they come out of the boiling water and have cooled down, they are ready to use.
Some fun facts I learned along the way that went a long way to help me out:
- Bogies are water soluble. They come right off and dissolve in the water as it boils.
- You will see how little your washing machine ACTUALLY cleans and it may make you squeamish to ever use it again.
- You may have an overwhelming urge to boil EVERYTHING in the house. Resist.
- If you have a 12-year-old girl, you may have a hard time keeping her away from the boiling water and taking over.
- Some people online said boiling the clothes stinks. The only smell I have encountered in my kitchen is the smell of laundry detergent however the stench may be because they were boiling the built up oils out of pillow cases.
- Boiling works REALLY well on stained pillow cases. Try it!
- The water WILL turn brown, black, or gray. This is NORMAL and will not harm or dye your clothes. The water changes color because fabric fibers and soap have dyes in them that are UV sensitive. Boiling soap and fabric fibers changes the molecular composition of the soaps and dyes, which changes the color. The water color will NOT dye your fabric.
- Some dyes will bleed. Add ¼ cup of salt to lessen the amount of bleeding.
- I have black cotton napkins and blue microfiber bogie rags. The black dye bled, turning the water black. When I pulled the blue rags out of the water, they were streaked with black water. After they cooled and I rinsed them with cold water, the black stained water came right off and did NOT dye the rags.
- If you have a 15-year-old son, you may have a hard time keeping him away from the black water while he tries to convince you to let him try dyeing every white shirt and sock in his possession.