View Full Version : How do you wash your detail/shop rags/towels? At home? Any risk?

02-08-2010, 09:58 AM
I have a huge box of towels/rags/buffer bonnets that I haven't washed in years. Some have car detail stuff on them and others have car fuilds on them. I was thinking of splitting into 3 groups:

1. car detail/lighly soiled

2. unk/med. soiled

3. petroleum products/heavily soiled.

Then washing the first 2 groups at home and taking the 3rd to a laundromat. Will the stuff get flushed out in my home washer or is there risk of contaminating my washer and getting my normal clothes etc. dirty? If not, then I'll just wash all 3 groups at home. If there is risk, even w/ the car detail rags, then I'll take all 3 to the laundromat.



02-08-2010, 10:09 AM
Yes, you run the risk of sleeping on the couch for messing up the washing machine!

This has been discussed in great detail in previous threads.

02-08-2010, 10:27 AM
Links to previous threads? Didn't find anything. I own my house... not married, not concerned about what the GF thinks, but I'd rather not ruin my nice clothes with residual car wax or oil.

02-08-2010, 10:39 AM
Another bachelor here.............

I do this ALL the time using TIDE with bleach. I sometimes will soak really greasy rags first in bucket or tub with Simple Green Solution.

After using washing machine, I have seen ring around tub or agitator. I wash a load of dark colored jeans, shirts or whatever. Residual stains inside washer always go away.

Now let the married guys chime in with their wifes tales....................

02-08-2010, 10:40 AM
got a 5gallon bucket ? got bleach/soap ? got a paint stirrer u put in a drill...... u got urself a rag washer

02-08-2010, 10:41 AM
Good call on the pre-soak w/ simple-green on the really greasy stuff.

02-08-2010, 10:47 AM
I can buy a giant bag (like 4' tall) of blue shop rags for $10 and I keep a stock of blue towels from Sams. I don't wash, just toss.

02-08-2010, 10:52 AM
I wash my detail towels and bonnets in the washer with hot water and detergent.

Shop rags get tossed out. They mostly consist of old tshirts and the inexpensive reg rags you buy 100 at a time so no point in washing them.

02-08-2010, 10:56 AM
I wash detail rags and shop towels all the time in my washer and I am the wife. :) :thumbup: Then I follow those with a load of whites (socks and house cleaning rags) washed in hot water & bleach. Have never had a problem. I would probably take the heavily soiled/petroleum rags to the laundromat or presoak a couple of times as others have mentioned before putting them in the washer.

02-08-2010, 11:27 AM
Ditto on the Tide and bleach. I also put them on the longest cycle for the first time, and then run them through a secondary wash on a quick cycle. Really grimy ones get pre-soaked. What you do not want to do is wash the red rags unless you put something in after them to help clean the washer. For some reason, the dye in red rags constantly bleed out and they always smell like kerosene to me.

02-08-2010, 11:37 AM
Thanks... I'll probably end up chucking most of them, and I do need to go out and get some of the cheap "shop rags" in a box, but I have a bunch of good towels that can most likely be salvaged.

02-08-2010, 11:41 AM
If they are microfiber towels for detailing (do not wash with any other type of materials) The microfibers will pick up lint from other kinds of material and will impede its absorbing. Also do not use any kind of fabric softeners or dryer sheets.

02-08-2010, 12:37 PM
Be careful guys, mixing petroleum products and cleaners is not a safe thing. Oil and any oxidizers or caustics or acids can produce chemical reactions that are not always safe. Granted the water does dilute things but I would do this very carefully.


Dan in Pasadena
02-08-2010, 12:55 PM
I just did this recently with no ill effect. The towels were not oily, but they did have misc dirt on them and waxes/detailing products. I added 2 cups of the hardcore Castrol Purple degreaser to a full washing machine of straight hot water. Set it on double rinse and they came out pretty damn clean.

02-08-2010, 01:05 PM
Thanks... I probably won't try to wash the really oil rags... will just make a "rag" bin in the garage to store them for clean up of messes.

Dan in Pasadena
02-08-2010, 01:19 PM
Be CAREFUL with the oily rags. They sohuld really be kept in a fireproof container. Especially with things like linseed oil, they can spontaneously combust.

I didn't do truly oily stuff. I keep a stash of old T shirts, underwear for that so I can just throw them away. I have a stack of old bath towels and hand towels I use when I want to be able to keep the towels afterward.

Mr. D
02-08-2010, 01:24 PM
Throw them in with the wifes clothes when she's not looking :)

02-08-2010, 01:26 PM
I buy case paper towels, one of the best things ever invented and would be absolutely lost without them.

02-08-2010, 02:56 PM

02-08-2010, 03:14 PM
Thanks for that link... I'll stop being a packrat and seperate clean/detailing stuff from the dirty. Will chuck the really nasty stuff and get a box 'o rags and some of the blue paper towels for the garage.

02-08-2010, 08:05 PM
I toss the oil rags, they are just old socks and underwear, etc. T shirts go through a car washing to waxing to oil rag phases. First 2 phases I wash. Prewash in the laundry tub with Era and Dawn, then on to washer with Era, Dawn and Bleach.

02-08-2010, 08:42 PM
We keep a wringer/washer in the garage and wash stuff like this in the summer in it. No risk of getting the good washer messed up.

02-08-2010, 11:52 PM
I have alot of red shop rags, when I need to wash them, I soak them in purple degreaser, , then rinse, and put in the washer, with more super purple, and tide,, on hot !
2nd time thru is just with tide, , and usually washer is spotless,, if not ,,,, another time for the shop rags.
wife has never complained, and no clothes have unusual spot on them, LOL

02-09-2010, 01:11 AM
I can buy a giant bag (like 4' tall) of blue shop rags for $10 and I keep a stock of blue towels from Sams. I don't wash, just toss.

They're that cheap? That's good to know....I've got to find out what I'm paying for shop rags, but I think it might be more than $10 :shocking: Are you getting the rags at Sam's too?

02-09-2010, 05:11 AM
I don't wash em, just toss. I have an endless supply free. Just lucky.

02-09-2010, 12:09 PM
I can buy a giant bag (like 4' tall) of blue shop rags for $10 and I keep a stock of blue towels from Sams. I don't wash, just toss.

I'd have to say thats irresponsible. Please wash and reuse:) Too many people think this is a disposable world, thats what keeps the giants like Wal-Mart in bussiness and the quality of producs LOW. Oxyclean works AWSOME. Most of my red shop rags were new in the 70's and still get used today then washed and put in their drawer. They are white now from so many washings but you can't fake the "garage" smell they have.

02-09-2010, 02:21 PM
Mr. D, Is this what you did with your ex wife?

02-09-2010, 04:17 PM
Wrap all your rags in a dirty sheet.

Take them to your local laundrymat.
Spend the 2 bucks and save yourself the agrivation of messing up your washer.

(If they are real bad, I make an "out of order" sign and put it over the washer as I try to sneak away unnoticed).

02-10-2010, 12:19 PM
From my local paint shop I buy large bags of ripped up white cotton t-shirts to use as shop rags. I first use them to clean windhields, prep for painting, and other things that need to have a nice high quality clean rag. Then it gets thrown in the "lightly used pile". Then I use them for light duty wiping of things such as wiping hands while working, wiping tools off, wiping something that needs the last bit of cleaning, other medium duty cleaning. Then it goes in the "pretty dirty pile". Then I use it for really nasty things such as wiping thick greasy messes and spilled fluids and cleaning really greasy parts. THEN I throw it away. I don't wash any of my rags. They just get used three times (at least) for progressively messier and messier jobs.


02-10-2010, 01:44 PM
Go along with Dan from Pasadina

Oily rags cause fires... my Mom's house basement was destroyed by a contractor leaving a pile of rags and drop cloths which had oil and turpentine on them. Only took 3 1/2 hours after the piles were made for the fire to start.

02-10-2010, 02:30 PM
I just presoak them for a day or two in a 5 gallon bucket with some dish washing detergent stirring them up every so often to loosen the grease. Then wash them in hot water with some tide with bleach. I wash the really dirty ones first and then the cleaner ones second with hot water to get rid of any residue.

02-10-2010, 03:18 PM
yeah, I worry about fires too. Anytime I have any solvent on any rags they go in a garbage back that gets stored outdoors and then they are thrown away.

Charles (in GA)
02-10-2010, 05:16 PM
Previous thread on shop rags and washing them.


02-10-2010, 07:58 PM
I use a spare washer in my basement and I throw out the oil soaked rags.

02-10-2010, 08:31 PM
coin laundry?

02-10-2010, 11:14 PM
Gas-soaked rags make washing machines stink.

02-10-2010, 11:19 PM
I used to always just toss them in a bucket with oxy clean and dishsoap, stir, then soak for a few days. Rinse and dry.

Now I just buy more. Find a uniform company like cintas. They sell clean old rags $1/pound. I also picked up some nice big black rugs for my garage entrance for $5, also slightly used and worn.

02-11-2010, 03:32 AM
I'd have to say thats irresponsible. Please wash and reuse:) Too many people think this is a disposable world, thats what keeps the giants like Wal-Mart in bussiness and the quality of producs LOW. Oxyclean works AWSOME. .

I'm down with being environmentally cautious, not contributing to more waste, and maybe more importantly for me, not contributing to the greater long term "waste" of places like Wal-Mart, but I wonder what's the more likely culprit: using rags, 'til you have to throw out, or washing rags and flushing all that waste water into the sewage system (some of it, depending upon where you live, being flushed into the ocean -- perhaps the effects are negligible, I don't know).

And thinking "aloud" here:

And since, if they were destructive to a washer (and I've never seen that, but maybe it's possilbe), certainly not using a public washer, which affects all the people after you who have to wash their clothing (sometimes childrens' clothing), but instead, setting up a separate washer to wash your rags, and then having some really good filters that filter out the bad elements out of the water before putting it into a drain.

The last option, I'd consider for a shop, if it was feasible. I don't know if it is. I'm sure it's possible, I just don't know the cost.

02-12-2010, 12:09 AM
Good point. I guess were screwed or were screwed. I just really hate what places like Wallyworld have done to us, and for some reason throwing out rags out really bugs me. Our grandparents didn't just throw shit out why do we?

Well thats enough of that tree hugging, dirt worshipping, stink foot, hippy, liberal talk.

The laundrymatte I use to wash them is so scummy I probably help kill bugs in the washers and other creatures in customers clothes. Seriously 50 cent loads 24 hours a day. I go with a few beers late at night.

But on a side note I think I should start a "show us your shop rags" thread. Well, off to see what a search provides don't want reinvent the wheel.