FOR THE RECORD: I do not use cloths in lieu of toilet paper.
But, I'm not against it.
I'm putting this post up now because it's one of the extreme frugality tips that gets people worked up.
Check out this post where the tip to use cloths instead of constantly buying toilet paper to throw away, reuse small cloths.
The comment by James Coffey is pretty intense. He seems to think that we'll die of poo poisoning if we use washable cloths rather than toilet paper. Cloth diapers used for babies is OK because apparently, their poo doesn't stink. Well, it's not as toxic anyway. He states that he's a scientist. According to his contributor profile, he's an anthropologist. So am I. Thus our opinions are equal. Except mine isn't based on "ICK! POOP!" but instead uses logic.
OK, here's my point. Using cloth in place of toilet paper won't kill you.
1) Cloth diapers are an option for adults with continence (bladder and/or bowel) problems. If adult poo were as alarming toxic as J.C. believes, who would offer this service? (I do like J.C.'s comment that adult guts are crammed with rotting meat and that makes it more toxic than baby poo. Uh...try a little metamucil, or a salad, or a bran muffin, or an apple.)
2) Toilet paper is a recent invention. I'm not sure of the exact date, but not before paper production became automated. I can't imagine that in colonial America people were using the few scraps of paper they might have (mostly bible pages) for potty purposes. For that matter, people haven't always had cloth either and you are welcome to use leaves. Do remember "leaves of three, let it be" unless you want poison ivy of the nether regions.
3) There are pioneer and other records of folks using rags in the outhouse. Some washed them for re-use and some chucked them if they had enough extra cloth lying around. Other options were catalogs, corn cobs (hopefully before they dried into raspy round files).
4) Poop is pretty easy to wash out of stuff. Easier than blood.
5) If poop was that toxic, wouldn't many a wife have died from husband-undies-exposure? Many men, and a few women, stripe their undies from poor wipery or something and do not throw out their undies every time. Many of them are still alive.
6) Soap does amazing things. As does heat. You can adequately wash poo out of things (see adult cloth diapers above).
7) You can't die from cooties. You might think that using cloth is gross. That is just cooties. Cooties do not kill. If you find you have a cooties infestation, contact a 6 year old girl for a cootie shot or to have your home cootie sprayed. I think cooties (anthropological term: Ritual Impurity) are the main reason folks are resistant to this.
I know folks who will not use a cloth hanky because they fear the germs. I do use cloth and just wash them. When I have a nasty cold and need something more substantial than a small hanky, I use old dish towels or defunct t-shirts.
I know people who are creeped out by my cloth napkins (granted, some of them are pretty stained from wiping out frying pans when I don't have a dish rag handy) and think that those must be paper and disposed of. I recently brought dish towels to a community cooking event and was shortly quite popular. One person seemed grossed out when I used the old towel to clean squash and vegie scrapings from a counter, but when it was time to dry the dishes they came around. I had to round up the towels a few times before I left. When no one brings dish towels (which appears to be most of the time) they use PAPER TOWELS! to dry dishes. Can you imagine the waste?
Anyway, one part of frugality for me is not buying stuff that will simply be thrown, or flushed, away. I've managed that with most paper and plastic products. I DO still buy toilet paper and recognize that it is largely due to cooties. It is not a scientific logical reasoned action, it is cooties. The Eww-Factor is still there. I buy 100% recycled paper toilet paper wrapped in recycled paper and I recycle the wrap and the tubes. I hear that Sheryl Crow limits the number of toilet paper squares she uses so this concern with pooper paper isn't just mine. I wonder what Ed Begley Jr. does. I'll have to send him an email.
There is a modified version of toilet cloths. Using them only for number 1. This is more palatable to most folks and is often used as a starter place. Another option is the one used in much of the middle east, India, and other areas. Having a spigot or jug of water and a small pitcher near the terlet. This way one can clean the affected area with running water. Sort of a manual bidet. This works best with a squat toilet and I think we all know how I feel about squat toilets. I'm fine with their existence, but don't care to use them myself. Sort of like bread machines.
OK, there are my thoughts on cloth vs. TP. I think cloth is more noble, but I am weak and use TP.