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Old 02-14-10, 02:06 PM   #1
rumrunn6
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Shop Towels; Rags and Paper Towels

what do you use and how do you manage them?

I mostly use paper towels but they add up. I started using old towels and washcloths so now i have to plan a special wash just for them. I left one outside by accident and it it looks cleaner but it's frozen like a rock. Paper towels are great for the chain, and small thin towels and cloths are good for the rear free wheels. seems like either are OK for the main tubes finish and polishing.
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Old 02-14-10, 03:15 PM   #2
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mostly rags made from worn-out clothing, washcloths, etc.
they are used until they are very funky and then thrown away.
I would consider washing bike shop rags if they aren't impregnated with lube, WD40, nasty crud, etc.
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Old 02-14-10, 03:57 PM   #3
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Paper towels on 'roids: http://www.thetoolwarehouse.net/p-28...ark-75190.aspx

For jobs requiring a clean towel, I'll pull a new one out. I save the lightly used ones and reuse them on a job where I'm cleaning something really nasty. Once they are throughly saturated with grease/dirt, they get tossed.
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Old 02-14-10, 03:57 PM   #4
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We don't use disposable towels. It's wasteful and there's no good way to clean them. Our shop is on a commerical rag service. We dirty them they take them away every so often clean then and bring it back.
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Old 02-14-10, 03:58 PM   #5
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+1 I use old towels (and sometimes new ones as a it takes some time for a single person to make a towel old). a big shopping bag full of 'clean' rags and one for dirty. when the dirty bag is full they go int eh washer for two cycles, one to clean the rags one to clean the washer. Oh I use the same rags on my bikes, auto and firearms, not that I do alot on the auto other than top off the fluids when I get tired of the light being on *giggle*

paper towels are OK but as you said expensive.
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Old 02-14-10, 03:59 PM   #6
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mostly rags made from worn-out clothing, washcloths, etc.
they are used until they are very funky and then thrown away.
I would consider washing bike shop rags if they aren't impregnated with lube, WD40, nasty crud, etc.
wait... those are pretty much the only things that stick on the bike...

I use the disposable blue shop towels from the automotive sections at stores.
I go through about 2~3 pieces of the blue paper shop towels for one tune up. For some finer parts I go after it with a worn out toothbrush
1 for the chain, 1 for the rims, 1 for the frame and other small bits.
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Old 02-14-10, 04:27 PM   #7
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http://www.samsclub.com/shopping/nav...=5&item=206199

13 cents each. Use them until they're black and wash 'em or toss 'em. They have a flat weave and don't get caught on cog teeth or other protruding objects.

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Old 02-14-10, 06:53 PM   #8
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Being a packrat, I have too many old clothes. I just take an old piece of clothing and cut it up into small pieces and use it till its funk-impregnated. Then it gets tossed. I consider it recycling.
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Old 02-14-10, 07:22 PM   #9
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Costco has a 60 pack of terry towels that work great on bikes. Just the right thickness to 'floss' cassettes and they do chains with a minimal amount of solvent. bk
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Old 02-14-10, 09:02 PM   #10
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In terms of rags, I use whatever comes my way. Recently, a bunch of our napkins have been fraying, so I've recycled them for use in the shop. When they get too ratty, I'll just go to the thrift store and pick up some cotton t-shirts.
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Old 02-14-10, 09:05 PM   #11
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When I ran a rental shop within a large resort, rags were so plentiful we never considered a budget line for them. Just go down to housekeeping/laundry and grab some.
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Old 02-14-10, 09:13 PM   #12
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We don't use disposable towels. It's wasteful and there's no good way to clean them. Our shop is on a commerical rag service. We dirty them they take them away every so often clean then and bring it back.
This is like the debate between using disposable diapers and washing and reusing cloth ones. The environmental costs of both are nearly identical. You don't discard the reusable ones and they don't contribute to landfill but transporting them to and from the shop and cleaning them has a significant environmental cost also.
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Old 02-14-10, 09:17 PM   #13
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This is like the debate between using disposable diapers and washing and reusing cloth ones. The environmental costs of both are nearly identical. You don't discard the reusable ones and they don't contribute to landfill but transporting them to and from the shop and cleaning them has a significant environmental cost also.
I don't agree with that.

There is a lot of garbage that is going to go to the landfill if every shop did *not* use a rag service. We are obviously not their only client, I highly doubt the enivronmental cost of having rags picked up and cleaned even comes close to having tons of garbage from used towels/rags. Othwerise things like metal/paper recycling is useless as well right?
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Old 02-14-10, 09:42 PM   #14
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I operate a mobile bicycle repair business. About once a year I go to the IKEA and buy a couple dozen of their cheapo cotton dish towels, bar keeper rags. I use them till they are really dirty then toss them. At 42 cents a piece, its a no-brainer.

Last edited by bikemedic; 02-14-10 at 09:42 PM. Reason: mis spelled word
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Old 02-14-10, 09:56 PM   #15
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My daughter-in-law works at a hospital and last year was able to take home a large quantity of the blue cloths they use to wrap the surgical instruments in after being sterilized. These work great in my "shop" and I just toss a bunch in the washer when dirty.
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Old 02-14-10, 10:06 PM   #16
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I've got 3 kids, so there are plenty of old clothes, and we used cloth diapers. Usually I just toss them, but sometimes I'll take the nicer ones to work and wash them in a washer we do coveralls in. I also use some HD paper shop towels for certain jobs.
At work they buy large boxes of cut up cotton sheets etc, most appear to be from hospitals. Every auto or machine shop I worked in had a rag service. Dump them in the can and they are picked up and laundered on a schedule.
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Old 02-14-10, 10:28 PM   #17
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I usually use t-shirt material. 10 lbs box is fairly cheap at Home Depot. Only go through a box a year or so. Get 'em dirty and toss them. Throw them away after the solvents have evaporated.

I figure oily dirty rags as follows: dirt is the ground, cotton grew on the ground, and oil came out of the ground so sending them to the landfill puts them near their original state.

I thought of using shop towels, but that would require storing oily rags for later washing. Doable but not worth the hassle of storage or the spouses washer.
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Old 02-14-10, 10:38 PM   #18
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I am like the above post, Costco sells a bundle of terry cloth towels cheap.

They are good all around for bikes and cars.

I use soiled ones over and over for the main crud, then break out a clean one to do the final cleaning.

Once they're black, they get tossed. Nothing like ruining good clothes by having grease in the washing machine.

I also save old tee shirts and such when they're available, but Costco terry cloth towels is my main stay.
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Old 02-14-10, 11:21 PM   #19
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A neighbor helped me building my bike shop, and I'm teaching him to fix bikes. He said I could damage my washing machine by washing my grimy rags. Any truth to this? Is there a good way of doing it?
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Old 02-14-10, 11:38 PM   #20
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If you use a good grease cutter you are probably safe. Murphy's Oil Soap is good at breaking grease down in laundry. When I have done it, it is a 2 load deal. The first to clean the rags, the second run empty with detergent to clean the washer.

If you have a polypropylene/polyethylene tub or agitator in the washer the grease might discolor it.

A regular diet of oily rags is probably bad for the rubber components in the washer and would cause swelling of rubber seals and breakdown of rubber hoses. An occasional load is probably safe.
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Old 02-15-10, 02:30 AM   #21
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I have a bunch of rags comprised of old hand towels, dish towels, bandanas, polishing cloths, etc. I use one until one side is too dirty to use any more, then it goes in a small garbage can with like dirty rags. I drape them over the handle of my bench vise between uses. When I'm getting low on towels I wash the dirty ones in my washing machine like any other clothes (but seperately), using cold water and detergent designed for such, and using the normal cycle. This has worked plenty well enough. When they are done washing I drape them over a water PVC pipe in my basement to dry.

I've mostly gotten away from using paper towels for working on stuff. I used to keep a roll on the workbench, but not anymore.

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Old 02-15-10, 08:56 AM   #22
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i work at a paint store, so i just grab a 5lb bag-o-rags when i need them. toss them when they have lived a full life, re-up when necessary.
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Old 02-15-10, 09:33 AM   #23
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A neighbor helped me building my bike shop, and I'm teaching him to fix bikes. He said I could damage my washing machine by washing my grimy rags. Any truth to this? Is there a good way of doing it?
I never wash grimy shop rags at home. I go to the laundromat.
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Old 02-15-10, 09:52 AM   #24
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Big Bag O' Red Rags from a discount auto place. Its what many auto and bike shops use. Bag lasts me close to 2 years and its less than $10.
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Old 02-15-10, 10:45 AM   #25
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I go to the man church -- Harbor Freight -- and buy a 100 or so shop rags. Use 'em and pitch 'em -- there is no way my wife would let me throw them in the wash.

I also use paper towels and a huge pile of rags I've cut from old T-shirts, towels, etc.

But everything goes in the garbage once it gets too soiled with oil. Ain't it a crime!
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