Best way to clean oily rags?
June 6, 2007 10:17 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way to clean oily rags?

After working on the car or bike or similar activity I end up with oily or otherwise dirty rags. I'm hesitant to just throw them in the washing machine. What's the best way to clean and reuse them? They don't need to be clean enough to wipe down the kitchen counter or anything; just clean enough that I can use them again for car or bike work without smearing old oil onto everything.

And yes, I am aware that I can just use paper towels or those disposable blue shop "shop towels". But it seems like a waste, and more expensive over the long term.
posted by jclovebrew to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
Washing them in the sink or a bucket with lots of simple green should get the majority of the oil out (certainly enough to use them again for a similar purpose) then just air dry them (not the dryer you could start a fire).
posted by estronaut at 10:44 AM on June 6, 2007

If they aren't too gunky (that's what paper towels are for), spray them with Simple Green and throw them in the clothes washer. SG recommends it and it always works for me. Cars, motorcycle, bikes, etc cleaning towels. Reality is that they aren't going to be dangerous if all you've used them for is cleaning (not, say, filtering gas!).
Just be careful of what goes in with the towels, not to get stained. A towels and jeans load.
posted by artdrectr at 10:59 AM on June 6, 2007

Follow-up question: Isn't it a concern sending oil and whatnot down into the sewer if the rags are washed with Simple Green or similar? Or is the amount of oil in this case "negligible"?
posted by jclovebrew at 11:11 AM on June 6, 2007

Washing machine waste water is "grey water", which means it has food particles, oils, human skin and hair, detergents, and so forth in it. On one hand, dumping this stuff in the sewer IS a concern, but the amount of oil washed out is almost nothing compared to the staggeringly large amounts of grey water we produce every day.
posted by muddgirl at 11:22 AM on June 6, 2007

Seconding the Simple Green recommendation (I spray the dirty area with full strength SG, and add normal detergent to the load). It may not get the stain out, but it will clean it. If that makes sense.

Also, when I clean the bike cloths, I usually do them in one load with other rags, so as not to "contaminate" clothes.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 12:24 PM on June 6, 2007

I put mine in a bag and haul them to the coin op laundry and run them thru the machine there and then I run an empty cycle on hot after them. The big coin op dryers are way better at drying all my rags too and they dont smell like chain wax like when i did them in the dryer at home - maybe the industrial machines are better for this I suppose?
posted by clanger at 2:48 PM on June 6, 2007

« Older Why did my nearsightedness mysteriously disappear...   |   Blueberries for Sal Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.