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Shop rags

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  • Shop rags

    I've got a bunch of shop rags that need cleaning. These are the regular mechanics type red shop rags. I'd like to not just throw them out as they are still in very good shape, just dirty/greasy/oily.

    How are you guys cleaning your shop rags? I know better then to wash them in my wifes washing machine.

    I wonder if the commercial laundry outfits would do a bag for an individual, or if you need a commercial account with them?


  • #2
    Sneak them into a laundomat.
    To invent, you need a good imagination - and a pile of junk. Thomas A. Edison


    • #3
      I seperate my rags into 2 piles: one for the mearly dirty, the other for the "I need to wash these before I wash them" pile.

      I soak the truly filthy, oil greasy ones in gas for a little while, wringe them out, and then let them dry.

      Wash these rags first with lots of detergent, baking soda and hot water. You may have to wash 2 or 3 times. Dry them either outside or in the dryer. ( I recommend outside on the really stinky ones)

      Now wash the others.

      From this point on, try to keep the "cleaner" rags for the important jobs and the previously "dirty" rags for other dirty jobs.

      This is very important when doing paint and body work.


      • #4
        The facility I used to work at had commercial laundry service pick up, wash and return those type of rags on a weekly basis. they would be contaminated with printing inks and solvents.If you have a commercial laundry service in your area, why not ask? I would NOT wash them in your home washing machine. You may not like what happens to your good clothes after. I would NOT wash them in gasoline, even if done ouside, either. If they are THAT greasy and oily, you may want to consider tossing them. We one time had responded to a fire in a laundromat, apparently an employee of a local KFC restaurant washed thier kitchen towels and then put them in the dryer. They were not completely free from cooking oil, resulting in a fire.
        Paying Attention Is Not That Expensive.


        • #5
          I picked up an old Maytag wringer/washing machine at a yard sale and use it in the shop to do my rags and do as Jerry B does, by doing two batches. I wash the cleaner ones first and wring those out and then put the dirty ones in next I then change the water and rinse out the clean ones then the dirtier ones. I have an old electric dryer I use in the winter months when I can't hang them outside to dry. I should add that I buy the brown paper towels to use on jobs were paint, RTV, gasket cement, thick black grease and the like are wiped up and will ruin a good cotton rag.


          • #6
            We USED to wash our rags. In the bucket they went, lots of tide, stir up, wring out (sore arms), arggg! We almost washed them at the laundry mat once, but morality caught up with us. Now we just buy new rags. The trick to keeping the cost down, is not to take a new rag and wipe off nasty grease. They start off on clean jobs, and work their way down to the nasty ones. Paper towels see a lot more use now as well. We keep a roll of cheap ones, and a roll of the nice blue ones mounted on the wall. A little thoughtful effort has made our "system" cost effective enough, to where we have no real need to wash rags anymore!
            Location: North Central Texas


            • #7
              I take all of my rags, and aprons to the local laundrymat...I give them to the lady, and I go and pick them up the next day...

              Haven't had anyone complain yet..



              • #8
                i buy those blue paper shop towels at costco,i wouldn't use the red ones unless i had laundry service.i was helping a friend of mine rebuild the engine for his '61 cadillac,he went and bought a big bundle of cheapo red rags.i ran'em throught the washer/dryer 4-5 times and they were STILL shedding lint like mad.lint will **** up a perfectly good engine,Ettore Bugatti would not allow rags in his shop,everyone had to use brushes.


                • #9
                  I use the services of a uniform company mainly for the shop towels.
                  I think I use about 100 towels a week in addition to aprons and floormats.

                  I recently had my annual inspection by the Bureau of Sanitation. When they ask about disposing of my oils, I show them the invoice from the uniform company that shows the enviromental fee I pay. That takes care of my oily waste. It all goes out in the shop towels.



                  • #10
                    Just take them to the laundry mat. I always feel bad if some chick comes in with frilly things afterwards, but what can a man do right


                    • #11
                      I went to paper towels last year to eliminate this headache. Still use the occassional rag for the situation that warrants it, and I then soak them in a 5 gal bucket of water with OxyClean in it. Gets the things real clean. Rinse out in a bucket with 1/4 power Oxy clean afterwards, they are real clean by then. Clean enough to wash if needed again in the machine, but never have to do this. Sometimes a final rinse in clean water, then to the dryer. I am kind of lazy in hand washing, so they just soak and I walk by and give a little agitate. Takes about two days, but probably about one hour if I were to keep on it.

                      Paper towels are the best way. Just cheapo ones, but also some of those blue paper towels for the heavier jobs, or the white "Shop towels in a box" by Scotts.

                      Throw out. I also keep a paint can with a lid handy for the oily and flammable ones for safety - fire prevention.

                      I have tended to go away from rags for safety reasons as well. No matter how you try, metal chips get stuck in the fibers of some of them, and it never fails that the one with the chips stuck in them are the ones you grab to wipe your hands with (or the students do this), and little cuts abound. This, and the ever constant having to do the wash.

                      [This message has been edited by spope14 (edited 03-12-2004).]
                      CCBW, MAH


                      • #12
                        I used to do what Joel did. Everything in a bucket with simple green or other strong cleaner. Agitate for awhile then let sit a day. Get as much water out as you can, then take it to the local coin laundry. The simple green gets most of the nasties out so that the driers don't smell like, well. oily rags.
                        I wound buying,at a dollar a pound ,rejects from a towel manufacturer. So cheap we'd just throw them out when they got too dirty.


                        • #13
                          I don't buy rags, my old clothes and bath towels provide an adequete supply. I cut them up in smaller pieces than commercial rags and they go a long way. Undershirts make the softest and other garments provide other grades.

                          I don't wash then, I throw them away. I do as others have said above, start a rag on the clean jobs and let it gradually proceed to dirtier ones. When it is hopeless, in the trash it goes.

                          I also use two kinds of paper towel. The company buys cheap brown towels on rolls and I grab some. I made two dispensers from shelf board and plastic pipe with old hack saw blades for cutters. I can easily pull the length I want and tear there with one quick motion. I also get the household towels (Wal-Mart) for the jobs that the cheap ones won't do. Even the paper towels get used more than once. At the lathe one part equals one towel.

                          I also keep a roll of bath tissue in the shop for more delicate jobs. It's not as good as commercial wipers which I also stock but it serves in many places.

                          Another good idea is cotton swabs. I keep a supply of medical packaged, single swabs with wood stems. They are great for cleaning in small places and are quite inexpensive when purchased in 1000s. The wood stems are useful for many other things. They are easy to shape with a file for special uses.

                          Paul A.
                          Paul A.
                          SE Texas

                          Make it fit.
                          You can't win and there IS a penalty for trying!


                          • #14
                            Many years ago I washed a pair of coveralls that had soaked up a lot of engine oil. When I pulled them out of the dryer, I noticed several small burn marks that were not there before. Apparently the heat from the dryer was enough to vapourize what little oil was still left from laundrying..(and they had been thru 2 wash cycles with lots of detergent both times), and it flashed into flame enough to scorch the cloth but fortunately for me, not enough to catch the coveralls on fire. If that had happened, I would have lost my dryer..and my house. Needless to say..lesson learned.
                            Location: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada


                            • #15
                              I use my rags for the cleaner jobs like cleaning my tools. I noticed nobody has mentioned toilet paper, for those small oil spills and for cleaning those small jobs on the mill and lathe, I really like toilet paper. I like to use the heavy brown cutting oil, but it is a mess. The toilet paper being asorbant picks up the chips and oil and in the trash it goes. But buy the good stuff!