How to Save on Paper Towels, Part 2
Where to get cleaning rags and how to use them
This post about cleaning rags is part 2 of How To Save Money On Paper Towels.
The average person usually has plenty of rags to use for cleaning rags or cleaning towels from their own clothing and linens- things that can no longer be used or worn. If you need more, ask friends or family members to save you some. If you still don’t have enough, check out garage sales or thrift stores.
When using clothing to make cleaning rags, be sure to cut off all buttons, zippers and other accessories because these will scratch while they are cleaning.
Never use any material like polyester, nylon or other man made materials for cleaning rags. I do use these for other things, but not for rags. Anything that is 100% cotton works well. Also, very heavy fabric like jean material will not work for rags. It isn’t as absorbent and it’s not flexible enough.
Here are some examples of what to use to make cleaning rags and how to use them:
Towels, washrags, or anything terry cloth
All of these items make great cleaning rags. The only bad thing about them is that you can’t easily cut them down to a smaller size because they fray and fuzz really badly when you do.
- These are good for soaking up spills. If someone spills a glass of water or splatters water all over the walls, if you need to dry the dog or if you have something like a clean trash can that you want to dry quickly, go for a rag towel.
- If I need to give something a good scrubbing I grab a rag wash cloth, particularly to scrub something like my patio table and chairs.
- I keep a rag hand towel or washrag by my ironing board to wipe off the bottom of my iron or wipe up the water that sometimes spills when I am filling it.
- I use cleaning rags to wash down the kids’ toys and the dog and cat bowl (not the same rag for the toys and cat bowl, of course!).
- This type of rag is great to put under the dog’s water bowl if he is messy.
- Use old towels for the kids to stand on when they come in from the pool or sprinkler dripping wet to reduce the mess.
- Terry cloth works great for drying your car.
T-shirts, undies and socks
These are my wimpy cleaning rags. That doesn’t mean I don’t like them– they just aren’t good for heavy duty cleaning jobs. These are usually my throw away cleaning rags because I get so many more of them than other ones and, by the time they make it to the rag bag, they are getting pretty thin.
- I use old t-shirts for really nasty jobs like washing out my trash can, washing the bathroom floor, animal accidents and car grease clean-ups.
- If I have to run a rag along my clothesline to quickly clean it or wipe out a plastic laundry basket, I’ll use this type of rag.
- If I run out of flannel cleaning rags and I’m in a pinch, I will use a t-shirt for something like my Swiffer. I double or triple them and mist with water or spray with floor polish.
- Socks are especially good for dusting rags. You can just slip them over your hand if you want. I don’t usually do this because I use all sides of my sock. I use the front and back and then turn it inside out and use the front and back again. Using it this way, I only need one sock for a normal weekly dusting for the whole house.
Flannel shirts and pajamas
Anything flannel is nice because flannel is a little thicker than t-shirts but not as thick as terry cloth so flannel is a great thickness for a cleaning rag. Flannel works well for a lot of things. The only drawback is that if you use it to scrub a rough surface, it will leave lint behind.
- I mostly use flannel with my Swiffer for hardwood floors. I mist it with a little water or, if I have it, floor polish. Don’t use regular furniture polish because it will make the floor too slick. If you don’t have polish just save and use a little water.
- Flannel is also good when you need to polish things like brass or silver.
- If it is a large flannel sheet, see “sheets” below for other ideas.
Old cloth diapers and flour sack tea towels
These are my all time favorites. I can hardly wait for my flour sack towels to wear out so I can use them for cleaning towels and I will beg borrow and steal for old cloth diapers (not pre-folded ones but regular ones). The more expensive the diaper, the better they seem to work a cleaning rags. Diapers last forever. I was just using the last of the ones I had from my own kids when my grandkids came along and I got to replenish my supply.
These cleaning towels do what all the other rags do put together, but I don’t use them for my dirty jobs because they are harder for me to find. I wash and re-wash them and I can bleach them as often as I need to in order to reuse them.
- I use the diapers in my bathroom for drying the faucets and shower walls after I clean them. Then I dampen it slightly and wipe down my mirror. I never buy window cleaner to use in my bathroom.
- There is nothing like cloth diapers for cleaning mirrors, glass on hanging pictures, or windows. When I use them on something like the outside of a dirty window, I clean the window with soapy water and a washrag first. Then I dry and polish it with a diaper.
- Cloth diaper rags also work nicely for shining and drying the car windows after you wash it.
- They are great for any place you want a shine, like on stainless steel appliances, and they don’t leave any lint.
- Keep an old flour sack towel by your ironing board for a pressing cloth.
- I have trouble with regular washrags because they’re too harsh on my faceand I don’t like to wash with just my hands. Instead, I take well used flour sack towels, cut them into squares and hem. Then I have a super soft cloth to use for my face.
Years ago, people didn’t buy washrags or dishrags. They would just cut and hem a piece of old clothing or something to use; hence the name washrag and dishrag. They would be shocked to know that we now pay for cloths to wash our dishes and faces.
Sheets are not very good for cleaning rags. They are too slick and don’t absorb very well, except for flannel sheets. Sheets make great rags for so many things other than cleaning that I felt I should include them.
- For you quilters, cut the wide top hem off of a top sheet and use it for a sleeve on the back of your quilt when you want to hang it on a rod.
- Sometimes sheets just wear in the middle. You can often sew a couple of pillow cases from the sides and save any “scrapes” for some of the other things I list here.
- Cut down a large sheet to use for crib or bassinet sheet.
- I tear my very worn and ugly sheets in 1-2 inch wide strips to use like rope or string. I just cut to about 1/4 inch through the hem of the sheet at one to two inch intervals and then tear. You don’t need to measure or be exact. This is just a general guideline. One may be three inches and another might be an inch and a half. It really doesn’t matter. You just need strips. I don’t know what I would do without my sheet strips.
Here are some things I do with my strips:
- Tie bundles of limbs together for the trash man.
- Tie my water hose together to store for the winter.
- I had a fold up table whose legs kept falling, so I tied those up.
- I roll and tie bundles of batting.
- I use them for sleeping bags when their ties get broken.
- I roll and tie my down comforter to put away for the winter.
- When moving, I tie rods and curtain rods together.
- After I roll a large area rug to store, I’ll tie it with sheet strips.
- Tails for kites
- Tying up all kinds of things in the garden.
If I am going to need more strength, like when I am holding a large bundle of limbs or a large rug together, I will use double the amount.
- Use an old sheet for a painting drop cloth. Sometimes I double them to be extra careful so the paint doesn’t leak through.
- If they are 100% cotton and in pretty good shape, but I can’t use them as sheets anymore, I will use them to back my quilts (no, not my heirloom quilts but the everyday ones).
- When making a slipcover, instead of buying muslin to use for a pattern, use an old sheet. If you are sewing expensive material for an outfit, you might want to do a trial run out of a sheet first.
- Keep an old sheet rolled up in the trunk of your car to spread on a picnic table or on the ground for a picnic.
- If the sheet isn’t worn, but it’s just not the right color anymore, dye it the color you want. You can do this with towels too.
How to cut up cleaning rags
When cutting a rag, you want to consider what you are going to use it for. For example, if I am going to use a rag as a dust rag I will cut it big enough so I can fold it in fourths and still have a 5-6 inch square (about). This way I can keep refolding as I dust which give me 8 sides to clean with instead of just 2. This is a good professional cleaner’s tip on using any of your cleaning rags. Fold in fourths and keep refolding as you clean.
Cutting rags is great watching TV work and you can get the kids to do it too.
Here are some examples of how to do cut up rags to make cleaning rags:
- I cut off the sleeves.If it is a long sleeve, I’ll cut each sleeve in half. For dusting, I’d leave them as-is. If you are going to use them for small jobs, you might want to cut them in half again.
- When using a sleeve, be sure to use each side and turn inside out. Use each side like you do when cleaning with a sock rag.
- Next I cut the sides and shoulder seams open and then cut the neck band off.
- Last, I cut them into the size of squares or rectangles I want. This isn’t rocket science. I just eyeball it. It’s only a rag. If you ruin it you can toss it, so relax.
Don’t cut towels. Terry cloth frays very badly so it is best to just leave these and use wash rags for small jobs and the towels for big ones.
Note from Tawra: I keep a stack of old towels in my car and in my emergency shelter. Then if we are in an accident or tornado, someone gets hurt and there is a lot of blood we can clean it up easier.
Cloth diapers and tea towels
Even though you can cut these, I usually don’t. They’re better as cleaning towels. For example when I am washing windows, I use a corner to dry or shine and then move to another dry corner or the middle. By moving from one dry spot on the rag to the next, I can get a whole job done with one cleaning towel.
- Like the T shirts, I cut the sleeves first, long sleeves in half.
- Then cut side and shoulder seams.
- Cut off buttons to save.
- Cut the front band and collar off. Often the collar is big enough to save and use for a small wipe up job.
- Cut into squares or rectangles.
If I am going to use these cleaning rags for something like my Swiffer, I will measure and cut one for a pattern and use it as a guideline to cut more. Even these don’t have to be perfect. It is just to give you a general idea.
Relax, you’re just working with rags. If I have a drawer full of cleaning rags that are too big for the job at hand, I grab a pair of scissors and cut one down to the size I need. It is not big deal and it doesn’t have to be perfect.
Don’t feel guilty about throwing away cleaning rags. I do it all the time and I do it guilt free. :) No wonder so many people are so stressed and uptight all the time. We can’t even throw out a paper cup or use a piece of aluminum without being badgered or made to feel guilty. Rags are one thing you can throw out guilt free because, if you are like me, you have used it well in the form of clothing or linens and re-used it as a rag until it’s pretty much worn out. Not only that, since I bought most of the things I wear used, my things have really been used by the time they hit the trash.
For even more tip to save money on organizing, cleaning and laundry, take a look at our How To Organize And Clean Your Home e-books.
Photo By: stevendepolo
Thank you for the fantastic ideas! I’ve been “intending” to transition into no paper towels for a while, but have never done it because I thought it would be too time-consuming to “make” napkins, etc. But now I am fired up to get to that no-paper-towels utopia! I love the great tips on this site, and I love how your tips inspire me to think outside the box in other areas, too!
Lots of great ideas, Jill.
don’t know if these ideas count as rags but.
knee highs are great for tying things that go to the road for recycling. They stretch nicely for cardboard that has to be flattened.
If you have bags of clothes for storing or donating put a label on the bag and tie the top with knee highs.
For camping equipment they hold plastic tent pegs and then they can be slipped into the tent and they are where they should be when you need them.
Keep onions in them and tie off each onion so when you need one onion it is easy to get. You can also see ones that have gone bad instead of sorting through the entire bin when you suspect a mouldy one.
This is one my grandmother taught me. She would keep old cotton panties in a drawer and when she had a bad cold with a runny nose she said these were softer than any hankie. She did advise me to only use them if she was home and no visitors were expected. But she was right about being easier on the nose.
I’d like add one more use to old rags right before you toss in the trash. Since I use groceries bags as trash bags, so sometimes they leak. I like to line the bottom of the trash bags with unusable rags or used napkins so that they soak up the liquid from the trash above them.
What a great article on tearing strips into 1/2 inch strips. I have a sheet that needs to go. Im thinking I might roll the rags into a ball.
Thanks for the great new uses!!!
When I was really hard up and my sheets got thin in the middle then I would cut the sheet in tow and sew the outside of the sheets together so that the thin part of the sheet was now on the outside.
I just wanted to let you know you can buy terry towels at Family Dollar store in the auto dept. they are just right for dish towels they are 14X17 and they are finished on all sides,100% cotton and are $3.00 for 7. I use them until stained up then use for rags for cleaning, they are all I use for dishtowels.
Love this article and wanted to share how I have cut down drastically on the amount of paper towels I use! I purchased a bundle of “microfiber” cleaning cloths from Walmart several years ago, I believe it was about $7 for 12 of them. They came in several different colors, so I use the green ones for dusting or cleaning windows, the blue ones for cleaning in the kitchen and the orange ones for cleaning the bathroom sinks/counters and tubs. They wash and dry well and are holding up wonderfully! The only complaint I have is that sometimes they come out of the dryer stuck to other clothes, or seem to be a magnet for little strings and hairs in the dryer. Otherwise, I love them! Paper towels are used only for quick spills, cleaning up cat puke or occasionally cleaning gross stuff in the kitchen or bathroom. I can now get away with purchasing a twin pack of paper towels every 6 months or so, instead of the giant 15 roll packs I used to buy! And when I do buy them, I like to get the “select-a-size” ones, so you can use just a small towel instead of the big sheet. My husband uses “recycled” rags from old clothes outside and in the garage. He likes and uses a lot of old socks for some reason…
Just a couple of the ways we are trying to be both more frugal and more environmental.
Thanks for the great tips/reminders.
I live where we can have an early frost. I use old sheets to cover plants to keep them from freezing. This prolongs my fruit/veggies harvests. I have everbearing raspberries that will produce through Oct most years and I don’t want to lose them:)
I recently discovered another use for old cloth table napkins. Having our 9 month old grandson living with us, when feeding him I use an old napkin to wipe him off as we go. Otherwise, I’d use half a roll of paper towels at each feeding! LOL So don’t throw out those old stained napkins, use them on the babies! Then just toss them in the wash and re-use them.
This is an outstanding newsletter. I am a user of rags but got a lot more ideas today. Thanks.
I have enjoyed the article on rags, however I am afraid I am not familiar with ‘flour sack tea towels’. Is there a way for you to explain them or describe them?
Thanks for all the tips.
Lisa, years ago people bought their flour and sugar in bulk. In order to get more women to buy their brand they started making the flours sacks out of really pretty material with different patterns and colors. The women loved it so much they would instruct their husbands to pick as many bags that as they could which would match especially to make a dress from.
They made underwear, linens, aprons, dresses, quilts everything out of this usually cotton fabric. Sometimes the sacks were white with the name of the company printed on them so those they would bleach and bleach to get the name out and use it as white fabric. If the name didn’t come out of it would be used for underwear.
Now a day when people refer to flour sack tea towels they are usually talking about those extra large white and thinner towels. You might be more familiar with them as the towels which usually are seen with embroidery on them like ” seven days of the week, wash on Monday, iron Tuesday” etc. although they can have animals, fruit or anything like that sewn on them.
I bought some bath sheets 18 years ago and loved them. My bathroom has changed colors over the years so when it does or the towels start looking faded I just take a morning and a bottle of Rit Dye and I have new towels!
You can also use those strips to knit or crochet a bathmat or kitchen mat.
Just a thought, Check with your local jantioral supply store sometimes they will run a sale and you get what I call “really nice rags” for little or nothing and they will last forever! I still love my “diaper rags” the best but I have also found that the “Jantioral rags” are good also and will last a long time ( I still have some from 4 years ago)
Thanks for the tip Susan. Janitor supply places are good for many things. I had forgot about them because I have been to one for awhile. You can sometimes get different cleaning products for much less then if you by it by the little spray bottle at a regular place. They have all sorts of things besides cleaning stuff too like things to make your house smell good etc
I remember those flour sacks – I went to the school in the 1950’s – had to wear dresses/skirts to school. My mother bought flour sacks from a local farmer and
made my school clothes from them!
I accumulate a lot of rags – never buy them – dishcloths, dishtowels and pillowcases are forever wearing thin; bathtowels and washcloths eventually
do; if I get stains on clothes and can’t get the stains out, they become rags.
Hope this is helful.
Juanita, we are from the same “era” :) I never buy rags either. Actually the real definition of a rag is “a waste piece of cloth” but we now have a whole generation who has only thought of a rag as something to clean with whether you buy if in the form of paper towels or a microfiber rag. I’m not saying that is wrong it is just different from we “older” (boy I hated to use that word) ones remember.
For the quilters out there: Old sheets may be cut into squares to use as a
foundation for making string quilts. This is a method that our mothers and grandmothers used. Scraps are cut into strips and sown to the sheet foundation starting in the middle, sewing to one side and then reversing the process on the other side. The blocks are then squared up into the same size and sewn together to make the quilt top.
Betty in Mississippi
Love your Blog. I just wanted to add if you need extra rags, visit one of your local hotels and ask for the ones that they discard. Once a guest uses a good towel to clean up spilled makeup or shine their shoes, if the laundry person can’t remove the stain they are dicarded to the side and they always have extras to share.
thanks for the great ideas for sheets. I also have collected old medical towels from our local hospital. Yes, they have gone thru the laundry but, they are stained or worn. Also, some of our daysurgery offices give any medical towels they don’t use in a procedure to the patient. Med towels are great because they don’t leave lint like some towels. I usually cut them in half and hem them because they are to long for cleaning with.
I never knew about medical towels Mary. It’s the no lint part that I like about rags when cleaning my windows mirrors etc. Diapers (better brands) and bar towels leave no lint which is the same reason I like them.
This article brings back memories! Both my Grandmas and my Mom had a rag sack or drawer. I have a couple of drawers full of old towels and and washclothes that I use to clean etc. I even save old shower curtains that no longer will hang because the holes are torn out to use when we paint. The paint doesn’t soak through and then I can take it outside and spray it off and hang over the line to dry to use the next time!
I can remember my Grandma B using old sheets etc to make heirloom crocheted rugs. You just have to choose to set aside a place for the “rag” sack or drawer. Thanks for the great newsletter and the helpful hints!
I love your ideas! I don’t like to waste money on paper towels either.
We have a pool and when we have friends/family swimming with us I take sheets that I have cut in half and lay them on the floor from the back door to the bathroom. When the evening is over I can pick them up and throw them in the wash, no mess in the floor.
I also use old sheets to cover my car seats when taking the pets to the vet.
I use old flannel shirts to make hankies out of. This fall I cut a lot of them in squares and hemmed them, when the cold and flu season came I was ready!
I also cut out a lot of napkins and hemmed them. I love using cloth napkins!
I love all the ideas for rags, but the only thing I use on glass windows,mirrors etc is newspaper. When I was in school the nuns did not buy paper towels, but used newspaper to dry & clean windows. No lint! I mostly use the want ads, not the color circulars. Also, newspaper in a jar or cooler will take away smells.
Pat using newspaper in a jar or cooler for smells is a new one on me. I have never hear of that but it makes sense. Glad to know about it.
Thanks for the awesome ideas! I have tshirts that I was going to give away. Now I can use them for rags. :o)
when and if you purchase rags from a mechanics heaven. Pick up a spray bottle of their engine degreaser.
It works on kitchen grease better than the usual kitchen cleaners. I use it to clean the stove hoods and and my appliances.
One can lasts me about 6 months to a year.
The rags are usually terry and very absorbent since the mechanics just carry one around in their pockets and they don’t want to be rinsing them out so they hold a lot of messes.
If you google the word bleachery and your location, (or try the newer term “textile finishing”) you may be as lucky as I am and have one nearby. End run and scraps of material are sold by the pound in their outlet store. I make my own pillow cases, sheets,table cloths, napkins, aprons, handkerchiefs, drying towels and cleaning rags. I also crochet strips of material into squares for hot pads, and washcloths.
Great ideas! You can also use old sheets as a backing on curtain panels to add more weight to it and block out the cold (even better if you put a layer of batting between the curtain and sheet). My favorite rags are old washcloths. The nubbiness really scrubs out the grime.
I use rags, but I also use paper towels (select a size) to dry my hands, at the kitchen sink. I then take the moist paper towel and fold it in three and put it in a basket under the sink. I use those paper towels to wipe up spills on the floors then throw them away.
I do use polyester. My DH and I had some polo shirt with the waffle/honeycomb texture. I cut them into squares to use as dishrags. I did hem them, but I had thought about just using my pinking shears. They actually are excellent washing dishes.
I am sewing together the top of a mattress pad and a sheet that had a hole in the middle. Seems like mattress pad sides always wear out too quickly, and I had a fitted sheet that had worn a hole in the middle, so I thought why not make one good item out of two not so good. Plus, I won’t have to buy a new mattress pad.
Yva great tip. To me the best way to save on money is to learn to use or make do with what you have. I practice it to this day. Before I buy anything I think can I find something I already have which I can use or make instead and before I toss anything I think there has to be some other way to use this.
I even once found a dead computer key board and thought there has to be something I could do with it. I ended up giving it to my 2 year old grandson for a present. He loved it because he thought it was just like dad’s real thing and played on it all the time. Dad liked it because it kept him off of his real computer.
I have cut up old pillow cases (old sheets work too) into strips for rag curls. Wash your hair and then take pieces of it and roll onto the rag strip and tie it up and sleep on it. The rag curls always looked good on my girls and I.
jill that is a great idea for kids .. they love to push buttons and hear the clicky sounds of things (i know i do at my age, maybe that is why i love to type) …
A toy that my youngest son just loved was an old rotary dial phone. It was heavy ugly but he loved spinning the dial. He would sit and talk to people all day long and never realize that nobody was talking back.
If you can find things that you used when young they do have great value in entertaining children.
My father found some old tredle bases from old sewing machines. He brought a couple home and put a cut out of a counter where the sink goes and we used them as desks. Looked good and as we were thinking we were treddling and exercising our legs. It seemed to make homework go more quickly.
Attach an old CB radio to some piece of furniture in a childs room and they become 18 wheeler drivers talking to another trucker about the bears and traffic.
I can attest to the use of black & white newspaper to dry windows. My mother told me the newsprint made the glass shine, and shine it did! She also used Dreft in the wash water for the windows. I have no idea if you can still get Dreft.
per your usage of socks, I found a kids terry cloth scrub mitten (its a blue monster with horns and things) in a dollar bin somewhere, I use him to dust the world, then just toss him in the washer with the work uniforms (USN) when I’m done. =]
This will sound gross but a friend who lost a lot of weight held a garage sale to sell her old clothing. Included were at least a dozen size 13 cotton undies. I bought the entire pile of them for $0.50, took them home, sanitized them well with boiling water, then soaked in bleach and laundered. I cut out the crotches (just too gross!), but cut the remaining parts into two and have 24 new cotton rags. I don’t now much about fabrics but the type cotton in t-shirts is not as good as the type in this underwear. I think it is Pima cotton.
Also, I am chronically ill and pay another friend to deep clean my house sometimes. The idea of using rags was totally foreign to her – it’s like she’d never heard of such a thing. At first she wanted me me to buy Select Size paper towels – she told me they are cheap because they can be halved — like you can’t tear off half a paper towel anyway? I don’t know about other places, but they are ridiculously expensive where I live. I do agree that if you are going to use paper towels, the cheapest type are not always the most economical but neither does “cool gimmick” equal “good deal.”
There is a lot involved in the type of material used in clothing – some is thicker, closer weave, made with different materials etc. That is why I use different rags for different jobs. I never realized either until I wrote this article how many people had never used or didn’t know about rags. I grew up with them and assumed everyone knew about them. See I need to practice what I preach. Never assume anything.
I have used underwear (washed in hot water and bleach) for rags. This was common in my house growing up. Dad would use rags made from underwear for cleaning up messes in the garage and then tossing. Also, Mom would use soft pieces of cotton underwear for dusting.
My new husband, however, thinks this is gross. Lol. He will use t-shirts, socks…but refuses to use underwear as rags.
That’s too funny Angie. You are right people will wear that same underwear all day but won’t use them for rags. Plus once things are washed well they are clean. I would rather use underwear for rags then the towels at a motel. Who knows who has used them and how they were used before and how well they were washed. Too funny.
I was just reading this with some amusement! I’d totally forgotten that when I was a child my mother used to use old pairs of knickers to dust and clean with! I hardly ever buy kitchen roll, perhaps one or two rolls a year, if that. I do tend to use old tea towels and smaller towels that have got “holey” for cleaning up, and for drying the dogs and their feet when they coming in after it’s been raining. I had a friend once who said she just couldn’t LIVE without kitchen roll…the kitchen item I can’t live without is cling film, and I can’t think of anything I could substitute it with. Any ideas? :)
I love learning your “English” :) words. You just gave me a new on today. I take it kitchen roll is the same as our paper towels. I do know what a nappy is, the bonnet of a car, a jumper, biscuit and a few others. Is a peg a clothespin I think? :):) You are educating me today Mari.
I’m not sure on the cling film (plastic or Saran wrap here). Before we had it we used aluminum foil most of the time or wax paper. Then for awhile here were making these different size plastic covers which looked like a shower cap but I don’t know if they still make them. I use my old ones in place of cling film. Also sometimes I use a plastic grocery bag if I am need to cover something in a bowl. It really isn’t touching the food so I figure it shouldn’t hurt it too much. I am still alive to talk about it so I guess there must not have been to many germs on the bags. :)
Don’t know it this helps or not.
I do love my cling film too though and use it all of the time.
HAHA!! My English words LOL :) Yes I think kitchen roll must be what you call paper towels. I think sometimes we call it kitchen towels as well LOL. A peg, or a clothes peg, is what we use to peg washing out in the line :) I do have to think sometimes if I’m writing on here that people may not know what the heck I am talking about LOL!!
I use cling film all the time, to cover things I’ve cooked too much of, and then I put the food in the fridge for later. I did buy some of those kind of plastic circles – not sure what they’re called so I’ll try and describe them! They are 3 different sizes, depending on what bowl or container you are going to use them on. There is a plastic circle round the outside, to keep the shape, and the clear plastic (or whatever material it is) forms the inside (they are flat). You fill the bowl with food, then you place this circle over the top and it’s supposed to make a vacuum and stick itself to the top, making the food inside airtight. I tried it with half eaten tins of dog food but I was scared the tin might rip the plastic so I’ve gone back to cling film LOL!
Talking of plastic grocery bags, that’s one difference I notice between England and the USA – we bring home our shopping in those bags, the ones with handles, and you seem to bring yours home in brown paper bags, with no handles, so you have to carry them from the bottom, if you know what I mean!! :)
I have the round circles you are talking about too. I couldn’t get them to work for me. No the circles I am talking about are made with light plastic and have elastic around them that you stretch to fit and are just like a shower cap you find in some hotels.
We use mostly the plastic with handles now. We are so weird. For years and years we used brown paper sacks then they came out with the plastic handle ones because we shouldn’t be killing the trees so we got use to those. Now they have decided we should use the brown ones again or canvas reusables. I wish they would make up their minds. I use plastic mostly (they give us a choice now at the store) because I use them for my trash bags and so many other things. Sometimes I get the paper bags because they keep my ice cream from melting.
I also cut the paper bags apart and use them for different things so when I start to run out of them I will use them. Hope that makes sense.
kay fitzgerald .. yes u can still get dreft .. we have it here in florida in our local walmart store and the supermarket i shop at ..
we cant get ivory snow anymore but we do get dreft ..
We found a pressure washer repair place that sells rags – they’re thin white wash clothes you might find at the cheaper motels. They were $15 for a bag of 300! I use and rewash. When they get too bad, just throw them away. I buy a bag every other year or so. It has really cut down on our use of paper towels!
I got the rags, but I need a great way to store them. I am keeping them in a plastic wash basin right now but I am sure others have great ways to store the rags that don’t take up so much room. Any ideas?
After my last child was born the midwife offered me the blue towels that were in the delivery kit – they have to throw them out since they’re no longer sterile but they’ve made wonderful floor rags!
I store my rags in an old kitty litter bucket. the lid snaps on and it keeps the rags dustfree. I grew up using old towels, wash cloths, socks, t-shirts etc. My husband even asks for the old stained t-shirts for work rags.
I recently found a new use for some old microfiber underwear. I cut it into squares and made new/spare polishing cloths for my many pairs of specs. The cloths that they come with seem to be made from a similar fabric so I figured that they should work well and I have several off the shelf pairs which don’t have cloths. Hubby baulked at using one though bless him.
Thanks for all the useful tips, I’m really enjoying your site.
Use child or adult panty hose and cut 1/4″ or 1/2″ rounds and use to tie up tomatos,roses,blackberry vines,everything.
They stretch, and if you need then longer-just loop them together. I have a bag of them in the utility room,car,kitchen. Can’t live w/ out them.
I cut up an old fleeze blanket for my dust rags. Reuse,rewash,very useful.
Although this requires a purchase, and isn’t technically a rag, I like the “hotel quality” plain white washcloths that come in a bundle of I think 24 at Sam’s Club. I cannot remember the price, but it’s extremely reasonable.
Firstly, they are cotton. Additionally, they are rougher than the washcloths you would traditionally buy from a department store or a bed/bath store.
I use them on my face as well – because they’re white, you can see that all your makeup is removed.
And because they’re white, when using them for cleaning, you can tell what kind & how much grime you’re picking up.
They also make (when brand new) excellent picnic or cookout napkins!
They wash up well and they wear like iron; I think the last 24 pack I bought was over 2 years ago and they’re still going strong!
My grandmother used old sheets as dry cloths when washing windows and now I use the same ones. These sheets are really old and seemed thicker and tighter weave than sheets sold now. I am using the same dishtowels from my grandmother’s stash, too. She got these in boxes of laundry soap. They, too, are getting thin but I do have a stash still unused that I’m saving. When my old dish towels get holes, they go into my rag bag. One day, I’ll have to get into that stash of ‘new’ dish towels from the 1940’s.
I seem to use a lot of dish towels, so when they get worn or stained bad, I mark a big “X” with a perm marker to know that it is a rag. Makes washing and sorting easier. Also, I cut off the waist band & crotch of old underwear. They are not wasted either!! I use the elastic bands for tying & the crotches to pick up cat fur balls or other nasty stuff the pets leave on the floor,then just throw away. I love paper towel, but I must watch my use or I will go crazy with it. Its just to high priced to pay for something your going to throw away.
Pamela, I bought a bundle of the cheap washcloths also from Sam’s. Wal-Mart also has them, just in a 12 pack. I love them! I use them everyday with my daycare kids to wash them before and after meals and after messes. Some are frayed on the edges, but I still have them after about 10 years!
I make t-shirt quilts from my son’s and husband’s “good”, but outgrown or slightly worn shirts. I use their old “hole-in-the-jean” jeans for binding each t-shirt square together, and use an old sheet for the backing. These quilts hold great memories, but aren’t too expensive to use on picnics or to watch fireworks.
I also use old panty hose as garden ties.
I use about 1 roll of paper towel every 2 years! & use rags for pretty much everything. If i am mopping up something v messy (like spilled paint or oil) i will throw it. Everything else… then the rags are in 3 categories… 1)food/kitchen related 2)bathroom or floor related 3) very personal ‘feminine hygiene’. (more about that later!) In categories 1 & 2, i simply hang the rinsed out damp rags up at the back of the car-port to dry until I have sufficient for a load of washing, then put them through the machine. Then I am sure they are clean for re-use & I have economised by doing only 1 load of washing per category:-)
more on ‘category 3 rags’
Yes, you read correctly! I sew little rectangles of flannel, (filled with towelling for heavy flow days) for the ‘time of the month’. This has saved me an absolute FORTUNE in tampons and pads over the years. Only when I am away from home for more than a day somewhere that I do’t have access to a sink (rare) do i use bought pads/tampons. I bought a packet of pads about 3 years ago, ‘on special’ and that same packet is still in the bathroom cupboard! I also keep a spare ‘personal rag’ in the glove compartment, so I am not caught short any time. I rinse, then soak the used rags in a lidded-metal bowl (so the bowl does not absorb anything & it is all kept tidy looking!) of cold water (to minimise staining) with a little detergent (to get the breaking down of stains starting right away), and change the water daily, until I have finished my monthly. Then I put them through the wash machine twice to make extra sure of cleanliness, hang to dry, and put away for use again next month! This is what my grandma used to do when she was younger:-)
How do you keep them in place, especially at night when you sleep?
Sorry – i forgot to mention that! a press-stud / hook&eye / button that does up on the outside, attached to thin ‘wings’. Snug fitting panties also help.Another tip, I always wear black panties during this time, to save on stain removal:-)
Tip for dog’s water bowl: we use a 34 oz coffee plastic container (Maxwell House or Folgers) It is deep enough & no more water on floor.
I am always on the look out for cheap tshirts for hubby to wear to work…usually spend 25 cents to $1 max on them.
He wears them until they are too stained up or I am tired of looking at them, lol, then I cut them up into rags to use.
You can get a lot of squares out of a mens XL shirt.
So handy to use and I don’t feel guilty about it like I do when I use paper towels. Plus we always have tons of socks that lose their mates to use also.
Now I have even more ideas of how to be even thriftier!
I live in the city and if I walk down the alleys behing apartment buildings I often see lots of clothes being thrown out beside the dumpsters, many towels, t-shirts etc. I carry a plastic bag and large tongs. I scoop them up and once I get a good bunch of them, I take them to the local laundry-Mat because I don’t want them in my washing machine until they have been washed one time. I wash/dry a big load of them and take them home for cleaning rags. Beats the cost of Paper Towels any day.
great idea! But i would make sure you but them on a BOIL wash at the laundromat, just in case there are any nasty germs in them before you brought them home!
Terry towels that unravel are very easy to hem. I have a serger and it just takes a minute or so to run a hem around the rag. Color of the thread doesn’t really matter, no one outside of the family will ever see them. I love them for rags. I am sure you could also hem them on a regular sewing maching, would take alittle more time and effort but would be well worth it. Doesn’t have to be perfect.
Love this site. So many good tips and ideas.
Love your site! I used my kid’s old diapers for years for rags, this brought back memories. My kids are grown, and now most of my rags are from old towels (dont use towels so much, kids are gone!) that i use my pinking shears to cut into sizes that work well for my household. They do have some bits the first time you wash them, but the pinking does stop the unraveling. Some regular dish cloth size, some tea towel, a few I leave intact for big messes.
my 18 yr old daughters just left school..have donated her uniform to charity shop, but not her Black nylon school Tights..there are 20 pairs of Thick Black [90 denier] opaque Tights…any good tips i could cut them up for..? ps..they make damn good dusting rags as they attract dust.
Especially when my boys were younger, they wore out their gym socks beyond repair. I hated tossing them…. then one day I realized that I could cut them in half length-wise through the worn sole. I cut off the toe area so the end is straight across. I LOVE these for cleaning. They are so soft- smooth on one side and terry on the other. I am sad that the style now is for lower-cut socks, so I have fewer of these to use.
Did we come from the same family?? My Grandma did not waste a thing, used and re-used cloth of any kind, made rag rugs, etc. I have rarely bought paper towels — only use them for them for bacon :D and for very yucky things.
We may be related :) because I do hate throwing out any fabric. My grandma wove rag rugs for a living so my mom and I learned from her to use it all. I try to cut the buttons,zippers, trims and lace off of most things. Even the things like the buckles on overalls I save. I’m not a hoarder because I limit how many of any thing I save but I do use as much of those things as I can.
I Ave a parrot and have friends who save worn out sheets which I cut down and line bottom of cage with. Shake out and wash then reuse or throw out. Way cheaper than the stuff you buy in pet store and healthier than newspaper.
I think the best thing to do is to sit down and think a little, take your pen and paper and calculate. Before you start loosing time trying to save money think about how to make extra money. I buy all my cleaning supply from the dollar store, it takes very little time, is not expensive and i am done with it. It takes time to do all that at home, lots of time, i know, we use to do it at home years and years ago in my country (i am from Eastern Europe). What i am trying to say is that if you can use your time for some extra work and make some extra money this is a better use of your time. I work in the beauty industry and i have lots of work, but there are lots of ways to make a little extra money. Just my opinion!
Hairdresser here! I just wanted to say that you can get a ton of rags from your local hairdresser! We use towels for everything, and they get washed a lot, and eventually are unfit for client use. When this happens most salons keep them for rags, but more than that go in the trash. Also thanks for the great blog!
I have always used 100% cotton percale sheets for rags to clean windows and mirrors because they are lint free. If they are cotton/polyester blend, they don’t work well. Those I use for drop cloths.
I repurpose most every thing, but I am having a problem that my husband wants seperate rags for “clean” jobs (kitchen counters) and “dirty” jobs. When I was these random colored, random fabric, repurposed cloths, how can I keep up with which one for which job? Do you have any ideas for marking or identifying them? My husband wants me to buy 4 different categories of towels (dish, kitchen, bathroom cleaning, and dirty rags) but I am kind of a tight wad. We have a lot of outgoing clothes (that are beyond usable after being handed down through 5 boys), I just can’t bear to part with that kind of money for cleaning rags.
I would use the out going clothes. First of all in a case like this where you seen to have plenty of “clothes” for rags I would not ever wash them at all and just toss the way you do paper towels so it shouldn’t matter what you use it for because you don’t tear off a paper towel think should I use this for a clean or dirty job. Now if your husband still wants them for different categories then what I do is take colored thread (usually embroidery thread but you can use other thread) and sew an x on a corner of the rag. I use red for bathroom, blue for kitchen etc. If you don’t sew at all then use a permanent marker in different colors to make an x.
Another thing too is I don’t store all my rags in one place. I have a stack in the bathroom with the cleaner under the sink, I have a stack for cleaning in a special drawer in the kitchen and in another drawer I put the dishrags and dish towels. Dirty job rags have a special place in the kitchen, utility room or garage. Also you could maybe compromise. For example buy dish rags in a special color and use them always for dishes and wiping down counters, then use your “clothes” rags for the bathroom and dirty rags which can be tossed. Hope that helps a little.