How to make and use rags
of you are going to find this post ludicrously basic, but I suspect the
other half of you never learned the facts of life from your
mother. Paper towels seem to be the last bastion
of consumer society found in many homesteaders' households, but the
truth is that you already have a free alternative --- rags.
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to make rags
The first step in making
rags is wearing your clothes into the ground. After a certain
point, there's no purpose in mending a piece of clothing --- the fabric
has degraded so much that it will merely rip along your mended
seam. Or maybe your t-shirt now has half a dozen holes that seem
to get bigger every day. Put it in the rag bag.
a year or so, I get around to pulling out the rag bag and taking a
look. First, I sort my old clothes into three piles --- 100%
cotton, partially synthetic, and fully synthetic or bulky. The
last category doesn't have much use on our homestead, so we tend to
relegate it to winter pet bedding, but all of the others will be
used. We turn 100% cotton clothes into fodder for my bees'
smoker, and everything else becomes rags. Underwear and t-shirts
make the best smoker fodder and rags, and luckily they're the pieces of
clothing that wear out the quickest.
Making rags is
simple. Just cut through any turned-under edges, then
riiiiiiiip. (Rag production is also a great way to improve your
mood if you're down in the dumps --- so satisfying.) It's best to
tear off and discard underwear waistbands and t-shirt collars, but
otherwise there are no rules. Just be sure to end up with rags
roughly eight inches by eight inches.
How to use rags
Now, how do you use
rags? The first line of defense in our household is the wash
cloth. These storebought items (costing perhaps a quarter apiece
at the dollar store) will last years as long as you use them for gentle
cleaning like doing dishes and wiping down counters. I only pull
out rags when I'm going to be working in more goopy or disgusting
situations, like wiping oil off a machine or cleaning up fecal matter.
What do you do with a dirty
rag? If it's not too filthy, rinse it out in the sink, then drape
it over the side of the laundry basket to dry. Rags can then be
washed with your regular laundry. On the other hand, we reserve
the right to throw rags away if they're too awful --- that's why we use
them for the more disgusting tasks that would retire a wash cloth.
We tend to go through
rags at just about exactly the same rate we go through clothes.
You're probably discarding your clothing too soon and buying too much
of it if you're overrun with rags.
For those of you who
were raised using rags, I'm curious to hear what you'd add to my rag
tutorial. Any helpful tips for the uninitiated? Any uses
for those bulky blue jeans and fleece shirts?