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Greasy / Dirty Rags

June 21, 2021, 12:36 p.m.
Posts: 96
Joined: Feb. 13, 2018

I’m tired of throwing away so much single use shop towel maintaining my bikes. I’d like to switch to some kind of reusable cloth / rags to do stuff like wipe down chains, service my hubs and fork, etc. Problem is I can’t use my home washing machine to clean the rags once greasy / dirty and, once greasy / dirty, they aren’t much help to me clearing up my parts. Anyone have any creative solutions?

June 21, 2021, 12:46 p.m.
Posts: 1611
Joined: Nov. 23, 2002

Put them in a 25L bucket filled with water and a cleaner/degreaser and let them soak overnight to get rid of most of the grease/oil. Pour that down the drain and then wash in the machine if you want.

From an enviro perspective though, it's probably worse washing rags and sending the dirty water out to the ocean than using shop towels and putting in garbage/landfill. I used to always wash out paint roller sleeves/brushes, but now when a job is done they all get tossed and start with new on the next job. During the job rollers/brushes get stored in plastic bags for reuse.

June 21, 2021, 12:47 p.m.
Posts: 1441
Joined: Feb. 17, 2009

We have a hand powered washing machine at home to take camping because of young kids and poop. Maybe a solution

June 21, 2021, 1:47 p.m.
Posts: 289
Joined: Feb. 24, 2017

Washing the rags is worse. Best thing to do it go to a paint store and buy a bag of rags which are old tshirts etc.

At least that way u aren't using rags just for disposal.

When done throw away.

June 21, 2021, 1:55 p.m.
Posts: 1991
Joined: April 25, 2003

I use clothes that are unwearable (mostly socks and t’s) cut into rag size and toss ‘em when they’re too dirty to use. I haven’t run out or washed a rag in years on this system.

 Last edited by: tashi on June 21, 2021, 1:55 p.m., edited 1 time in total.
June 21, 2021, 2:02 p.m.
Posts: 393
Joined: Feb. 24, 2017

Posted by: tashi

I use clothes that are unwearable (mostly socks and t’s) cut into rag size and toss ‘em when they’re too dirty to use. I haven’t run out or washed a rag in years on this system.

Same here. Old sheets are great as rags. T shirts seem to absorb better though. I have lots.

July 5, 2021, 9:09 a.m.
Posts: 1183
Joined: June 20, 2010

Same program.

When I run out of rags its generally time to buy a couple of new shirts anyway.

July 5, 2021, 9:37 a.m.
Posts: 15075
Joined: Nov. 20, 2002

some things  I can use paper towel for and some things need rags so I have both on hand

be very careful when you stain cedar and wipe down the surface with Rags,

I've seen the spent Rags spontaneously combust just lying there on a gravel drive way

VERY dangerous with linseed oil cuz the curing process produces heat

but you wana be careful of any oily rag

 Last edited by: XXX_er on July 5, 2021, 9:45 a.m., edited 2 times in total.
July 7, 2021, 5:35 p.m.
Posts: 1611
Joined: Nov. 23, 2002


On a job I worked on a bunch of years back the flooring contractor (picked by the home owners) almost burned the place down we were reno'ing by doing that. They left a bunch of oily rags in a heap and they combusted spontaneously. Crazily we lost some money on the whole deal even though we didn't pick or hire the flooring crew. Somehow the owners figured we shared some of the responsibility and we got left to deal with the clean-up. Black soot was all over the place. Ended up having to repaint.

That's part of the reason I tell people to write up a contract when you're getting work done, even if it's something small like just putting in new baseboards or painting. At a minimum Include the scope of the job and/or responsibilities of the contractor, expected costs (materials/labour), estimated timeframe, copy of liability insurance, and something about how to resolve unsatisfactory work. The written contract itself may not be worth much, but it at least gives the homeowner some sense that the people coming into their home are trustworthy.

Spontaneous Combustion would be a great name for a band.

Edit: There is one! Although there doesn't seem to be too much combustion going on in their music.

 Last edited by: syncro on July 7, 2021, 5:37 p.m., edited 2 times in total.
July 9, 2021, 3:45 p.m.
Posts: 1289
Joined: March 18, 2017

Last summer my dad was doing some touchup exterior painting and had a rag combust on him.

I bring my rags, soaker, fluids to work to dispose of correctly.

July 10, 2021, 8:04 a.m.
Posts: 15075
Joined: Nov. 20, 2002

hey if you wana get a chain VERY clean put it in a pickle jar, pour in Naptha AKA white gas to cover & leave overnight,

hang to dry it will be WAY clean and very dry when the naptha very quickly evaps.

I discovered this while looking to clean the protective coating off a new chain before going to wax

 Last edited by: XXX_er on July 10, 2021, 12:12 p.m., edited 1 time in total.

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