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Shop Rags - Don't Laugh

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Shop Rags - Don't Laugh

Old 01-12-08, 07:20 AM
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mike_khad1
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Shop Rags - Don't Laugh

My garage is my bicycle repair shop where I service 8 bikes. How do you clean your greasy shop rags? I tried our washer/dryer and found I left a grease ring around the inside of the washing machine tub. Should I shift to paper towel or some other type of disposable rag? I don't see me buying a separate dedicated washer/dryer for rags.
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Old 01-12-08, 07:33 AM
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You could go to the laundromat. But that wouldn't be very nice to the next person using that washer.

I've got friends at the motorcycle shop and they let me trade in my dirty ones for clean every once in a while. I don't have that many.

Disposable are best for really messy jobs, that way your good rags don't get quite so dirty so quicky.

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Old 01-12-08, 07:53 AM
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I used to have a shop and we had a standard service pick up and drop off rags. They clean them and return them whenever we were out (or almost out), crediting us for the rags still clean. In the mid 90s it cost about $18 per pickup/dropoff and we had 100 or 150 rags (about one and a half 5 gal buckets of rags if they were all dirty).

We had a few customers that I felt okay loaning out rags to. We were liable for replacing rags but that was rarely enforced if ever. The few trusted customers would take say 5 at a time, then swap them every now and then (every month or so). I considered it a favor and they in return bought stuff from me.

However I no longer have a shop and I've been using various dead tshirts and stuff as rags and now I'm in the same boat as you. For car cleaning rags (mainly wax or polish stuff) I wash a separate load but nothing weird happens to the washer.

I don't want to risk it with the really greasy rags. Somehow an extra set of kitchen towels ended up my bike chain cleaning rags so they are both durable (i.e. not a torn up tshirt that I'd just as soon toss) and they are very black with grease.

What I am going to do, maybe today even, is use a 5 gal bucket (I seem to like those things), soak the rags in some hot soapy solution (maybe with some degreaser mixed in - Simple Green or the like), maybe use a potato masher type thing to move things around and get the major grease off of it all. After a couple cycles of this I expect the rages to be relatively clean. If necessary I'll then do a normal wash (on "heavy" soil level) with warm or hot water.

btw I use two 5 gal buckets to wash my bike (as well as Simple Green). So I have "dirtiable" buckets at hand for this.

I used to pre-rinse really muddy clothes since when I was in high school (and riding), our washer wasn't that good and I'd find sand in the washing machine after long days riding around in muddy conditions. Pre-rinsing helped keep sand out of my other clothes. Now it may not be as necessary but the theory applies for the greasy rags.

hope this helps,
cdr
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Old 01-12-08, 08:40 AM
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I use discarded T-shirts, towels, etc from my wife's rag-bag and discard them when they are too dirty to use. I do tear them up into smaller pieces so I get a lot of rags out of a T-shirt.

If you don't have a source for discards, you can buy boxes of disposable shop rags relatively cheap at home centers.

I would NEVER put the dirty rags in our home washing machine as I would never hear the end of it from the management.
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Old 01-12-08, 08:48 AM
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^^^same here, use discarded fabric.
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Old 01-12-08, 08:49 AM
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Use a rag service. They pickup/dropoff and clean. Better than trying to cleaning it yourself and/or throwing it out (kinda of wasteful).
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Old 01-12-08, 08:52 AM
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Use hot water and more detergent. Automatic dishwasher detergent would probably work better, but dissolve it first before adding the shop rags. I've tried it when I've run out of Tide and it will eat holes in your clothes if not dissolved.
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Old 01-12-08, 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by operator View Post
Use a rag service. They pickup/dropoff and clean. Better than trying to cleaning it yourself and/or throwing it out (kinda of wasteful).
I don't know about wasteful if you look beyond your immediate shop area. Washing and drying the rags isn't exactly a zero energy, zero pollution operation either.
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Old 01-12-08, 09:04 AM
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Get a plastic 5 gal bucket and a new plumbers helper/plunger...add warm water and some Dawn liguid. 'Plunge' the rags for a a few seconds to remove most of the grease, rinse and then finish up in the washing machine. I us the blue Scott paper towles mostly for the greasy stuff, but still use the the white terry towels for eveything else.
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Old 01-12-08, 09:06 AM
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I use paper towels whenever it makes sense but sometimes a real shop rag works so much better. Still, using the paper towels minimizes the number of shop rags that I need (at least at home) so I just throw away the gross ones.
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Old 01-12-08, 09:12 AM
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Some thrift stores sell bags of shredded old clothes for use as rags. Like $2 for a large garbage bag full. Then personally I try to reuse dirty ones on even dirtier jobs.
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Old 01-12-08, 09:18 AM
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Like RG said, I also use paper towels whenever they will do an adequate job but somethings require cloth.

What I do is gradually downgrade my cloth rags using new ones for relatively clean jobs and progressively using them for messier and messier jobs until they are relegated to wiping off the chain prior to lubing it. By the time I discard them, they are REALLY dirty.
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Old 01-12-08, 10:49 AM
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Even if you're just using your old home rags till they're too dirty to use again, then throwing them out, this is still less wasteful than going with something disposable or paper towels. You're re-using something, rather than encouraging production of something new. I don't know if washing all these dirty rags will be inherently better from an ecological standpoint, unless, maybe, you're dumping the greasy water into a sandy backyard area. Otherwise, all those organic solvents/greases are just going down the drain, to eventually end up in some local water source, and that's really not better. A rag service, you're getting them cleaned, but you're also paying someone to drive a truck around and burn fuel and spew carbon monoxide. That's not necessarily worth it for some old rags, either.

I think you're just running into the plain fact of the inherently non-eco-friendly nature of working on bikes or cars or motorcycles or anything else mechanical.

Personally, I'd just use your home rags as long as possible, then scrounge around for some 'new' old T-shirts/rags: that represents the least [edit] added [/edit]consumption of energy or resources for the task. YMMV :shrug:
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Old 01-12-08, 11:06 AM
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My kids seem to loose cotton ocks all the time. I have a large supply of "lonely socks" that work great. I was thinking about washing them.... but I don't. I toss 'em.
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Old 01-12-08, 11:14 AM
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Salvation Army. $0.99 tshirts. I'll cut them up to a variety of sizes. One shirt will yield about a half dozen rags. When they get too soiled I'll wash in my slop bucket, let dry and reuse then throw them out.
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Old 01-12-08, 11:20 AM
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Not a commercial enterprise, so I simply toss out very dirty rags. I recycle old clothes, socks, kitchen rags, and use paper towels when required.
There seems to be always a never ending supply of T shirts for rag duty.
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Old 01-12-08, 11:47 AM
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I just wipe the ring out of the washing machine.

I use lots of detergent, some lanolin based cleaner, and some simple green in hot water. Still leaves a ring to be wiped out, but the rags are clean so they don't screw up the dryer.

I also don't do it when the wife is around.
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Old 01-12-08, 02:14 PM
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Those commercial towel services have special processes to minimize the oils/solvents released into wastewater. So they may be a superior alternative to home washing or disposal. I buy red towels from an auto parts store and toss the used ones into the pile at a friendly local bike shop or auto repair garage.

As per my post here, please give Simple Green a pass altogether.
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Old 01-12-08, 02:46 PM
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Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
I use discarded T-shirts, towels, etc from my wife's rag-bag and discard them when they are too dirty to use. I do tear them up into smaller pieces so I get a lot of rags out of a T-shirt. (
+1, I use old T-shirts, under shirts etc. as rags. I also keep some of my two son's discarded T-shirts to wear when I'm working on bikes so I don't grease up my good T's. I too have several rags in use at the same time starting with a very dirty rag, working up to an almost clean rag used for final polishing. I don't know about others, but I find cleaning and greasing hubs to be the dirtiest job, followed by bottom brackets.
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Old 01-12-08, 05:09 PM
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I wipe the ring out of the washer drum when I'm done. Wash in very hot water and run them through twice. Be generous with bleach, too. bk
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Old 01-12-08, 05:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Pig_Chaser View Post
Some thrift stores sell bags of shredded old clothes for use as rags. Like $2 for a large garbage bag full. Then personally I try to reuse dirty ones on even dirtier jobs.
My local Thrift store does that. Clothing that don't sell or are damaged get put in a machine that rips them apart making them unusable except as shop rags.
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Old 01-12-08, 05:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Pig_Chaser View Post
Some thrift stores sell bags of shredded old clothes for use as rags. Like $2 for a large garbage bag full. Then personally I try to reuse dirty ones on even dirtier jobs.
Yes, you can buy a big sack of pretty good towels here for $5.
I would imagine rags would be available too. I use the clean ones up to a point, then they get used for soaking up the really messy jobs before being binned.
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Old 01-12-08, 06:10 PM
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Big Bag o' Red Rags at an auto supply are cheap. I bought a bag I don't know how long ago, but well over a year ago, and I still have over half of them and I use them to wrench on the car also. Use em, throw them out when they are dirty.
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Old 01-12-08, 06:16 PM
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yes, use auto shop rags. they are really cheap & don't leave lint all over your components. It just isn't healthy to wash those things in the same machine as clothing, not worth washing at all.
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Old 01-12-08, 06:45 PM
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I do like one of the other posters suggested and use a 5-gal pail with a few glugs of "Greased Lightening" as a pre-wash. Then I just wash in the washing machine with more GL and detergent -- works fine and no problems with residue in the machine.
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