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There Is Still Place for the Humble Rag

June 28, 1987|BONNIE McCULLOUGH | McCullough, based in Colorado, is the author of five books on home management. and

At the risk of sounding trite, I am going to talk about things so ordinary no one writes about them--rags.

As a child, I can remember by grandmother's rag bag that hung in her kitchen for ready access. Grandmother, a Kansas farm wife transplanted in Colorado because of the drought, tore up old bedding and clothing in preparation for their secondary life. Grandpa used those rags to wipe grassy hands; Grandma used rags for every household chore. Those rags were recycled over and over through the wash, until they wore out.

In days gone by, people used rags more often than we do now, partly because disposable paper products are readily available. However, there is still a place for rags.

For a good rag, it needs to be made of the right material and cut to a convenient size. As I remember, Grandma only had two types of fabric: wool and cotton. In their second estate, wools became coat or quilt linings and cottons became rags. In my opinion modern day fabrics, such as nylon, acrylics and most polyesters do not make good rags.

Two Types of Rags

At my house, I have two types of rags. First those used for cleaning, appropriately called cleaning cloths. They come in handy for polishing the shower, scrubbing the kitchen floor, cleaning mirrors and windows, wiping up spills and dusting. They have to be absorbent. Terry cloth fabric makes good rags. Use old wash cloths and hand towels for cleaning. If you don't have enough of your own, look for them at rummage sales.

Cloth diapers make good rags, for the same reason they are good for a baby. Professional cleaning services often buy diapers for use in their business because they clean well and wash easily.

The right equipment, even a rag, makes the job easier and is as important as the cleaning solution used. If, while you are cleaning, you are using several products such as furniture polish and window spray, use two different colors of cloths. That way, you won't get furniture polish on the mirror by mistake.

I need to make this caution about sanitation. If a cloth has been used to clean the toilet, don't turn around and use it on the sink or you will be spreading germs and bacteria. Then consider what kind of wash load you put your rags in, don't put them in with facecloths.

For Messy Jobs

The second classification for rags are the disposable ones that are used once and then thrown out for messy jobs like polishing the car, changing oil, or painting. The cost for washing them would be more than replacing this kind of rag. Old sheets are great, as are polo shirts, given several snips to separate front from back. Take off buttons, rough seams, zippers and grommets to prevent marring the surface on which the rag is used. Flannel makes great wiping cloths, mechanics use red flannel squares in the shop.

I keep this supply of work rags in a bag, formerly used for diaper storage, and it looks very much like the one Grandmother had in her kitchen. When the rag supply gets low and I don't have enough to meet the demand, I buy sheets at a garage sale and tear them into 18-inch squares. At some thrift stores you can purchase sheets by the pound.

I am glad that we have good paper products, for example, tissues. But maybe we have gone too far with disposables. If you are interested in saving a little money, you might consider using rags to wipe up spills in the kitchen.

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