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How to Clean My House Using Old Rags

Updated on January 30, 2014

Rags For Cleaning

Rags For Cleaning
Rags For Cleaning | Source

Re-cycling textiles

Each of us throws away about 30kg of textiles a year.
Most goes to landfill. 1/3 goes to
charity shops.

Glass bottles are more re-cycled than clothes, even though recycling clothes
saves more on CO2

Save Time and Money

The old cotton tee shirts you hate to part with, the badly stained tea towels that aren't worth repairing, cotton sheets and towels so faded you can see through them; all those old, natural fiber household items you've loved for so long - well, you can hold on to them for a few years more. Consumed, worn, soft and re-cycled, they make perfect rags for cleaning the whole house, inside out.

Here are some tips on how to clean house with old rags:

  • To save physical energy
  • To save and store them
  • Clean every single surface with them
  • To clean silver and wash rag cloths separately
  • Wash them - because they are cotton

By using old rags instead of regular wash cloths you really save on your own physical energy - as well as sparing the landfills some of the estimated 700,000 tons of fabric per year.

Pile of old cloth rags
Pile of old cloth rags | Source

Cleaning the Closet

After deciding to clean house, firstly, organize the rag cloths -

1. Make a pile of clean, old cotton and linen things (that might otherwise have gone to the thrift stores)

2. Rip or cut them into rectangular shapes of different sizes (for different uses).

3. Put them in a container. You could make an attractive sack for them from an old pillow case or an old tea shirt, or you could fit them in a basin.

3. Create some permanent storage space for the container so that you can lay your hands on the rag cloths any time. Choice places for them would be the unit under your kitchen sink, or in the cleaning closet. You could hang the sack up in a utility/hobby room.

Facts about Cotton Fabric

  • Absorbs up to 27 times its own weight in water
  • Easy to clean because it can be boiled and sterilized - or dry cleaned
  • Can be washed frequently since it absorbs moisture and picks up dirt
  • Withstands high water temperatures

Cleaning House Check List

The way to keep a house very clean for some time is to clean it really well from top to bottom, to 'spring clean' it - at least one time a year.

Vacuum cleaners, washing machines, dry cleaning companies and carpet shampooers help take care of shifting a lot of grime and dust, cleaning floors, drapes, beds and cushions.

There are however many surfaces, areas, corners and in-between-this-and-that which need to be cleaned with cloths, or dusted with cloths, or scrubbed, or shined, or polished with cloths. This is where your old rag cloths will come in useful. I'll explain how to use them further on down but here is a general list of places to be 'rag clothed clean':

  • windows
  • window frames
  • window sills
  • furniture
  • ornaments
  • shelves
  • light fixtures and fitting
  • pictures and frames
  • TV, CD players, speakers
  • table tops and all surfaces
  • bathroom cabinets, drawers
  • bathroom tiles
  • Kitchen tops
  • oven
  • trash cans
  • door frames
  • porch
  • book shelves
  • pelmets
  • blinds
  • louver doors

Cotton Facts

Cotton is measured in 'Bales' that are approximately 480 pound for A Bale.

The world produces approximately 25 million tonnes of cotton every year.

One Bale of cotton fiber produces 215 pairs of jeans.

One Bale of cotton fiber produces 313,600 one hundred dollar bills.

How to Use Old Rags

The clever thing about using old rags is this. You have very many of them. You are not working with just one or two and washing them out all the time.

Using this system of cleaning thoroughly is an exercise in time management.

You save movement and effort by not going backwards and forwards the kitchen sink (to change the basin of constantly dirtying water) each time you start a cleaning job.

You will not need to rinse. The outcome in cleanliness and hygiene in the end is the same.

You have several old rag cloths that will, with the right product, do everything you want and cut down on effort.

Here is how to clean, dust and wash all those OTHER surfaces in an example room - say the bedroom - with your full container of rag cloths and cleaning products.


  • Take two or three medium sized rag cloths to the windows - plus a window cleaning product.
  • Clean and shine the window panes with the cloths - and your product
  • Clean the frames
  • Presuming the window corners and sills are quite dirty (for example), finish using one of the cloths off on the sill, getting well into the corners
  • Make a pile of used cloths by the door. You will get back to them!

Closet surfaces, shelving units, bedside tables.

  • From the rag cloth container take a selection of rags and using the appropriate product (e.g. spray polish, glass cleaner, vinegar etc) thoroughly clean-by-wiping over your surfaces with the rag cloths.
  • Use a different rag cloth for each different type of surface and product (wood, glass, de-greasing etc).
  • As the old rags get dirty, one by one, add them to that pile by the door.

Pictures, framed photos, paintings, their frames, the on-and-off light switches, the bedside lamps, the light shades, the ornaments.

  • Use the old rags to clean and dust them all - and make them shine like new
  • As soon as the old rags look dirty, or when it's best to use a different product, use another old rag and toss the soiled one on the pile.

Your bedroom is sparkling clean. The dust from cleaning is not going into the air - because as you clean, your cotton cloths are absorbing the dirt, holding it in. You haven't had to change your washing water, because you have not needed any washing water.

As you finish a room, add the rags to the dirty laundry pile - to deal with later on - and move to the next room.

How to Clean Silver

You have some silver to clean up. This needs a different procedure but the rag cloths will be useful for this too.

  • Lay newspaper down on a flat surface so as not to dirty it and lay your silver on this.
  • If the silver-cleaning product doesn't come with its own cleaning material, use the oldest, smallest, rag cloth to spread on the product. (Wear rubber gloves because silver cleaner is very toxic - disposable gloves would be very good.)
  • Rub the product into the silver with a second very old rag cloth. Wait as per instructions on the silver cleaning product label.
  • Finally, shine up the silver with yet another old rag cloth.
  • Wash the silver in sudsy water and rinse and dry with a cleaner cloth.
  • When you have finished, thoroughly clean your sink unit.
  • Thoroughly wash the rubber gloves with detergent and rinse - or throw away in the trash.
  • Put the silver-cleaning dirtied rag cloths in a separate pile to add to a load of 'extremely dirty' items - or throw them in the trash.

Washing Rag Cloths

The rag cloths (except for the silver cleaning cloths) get washed at the end of the 'spring clean', together with a laundry load of whites - at 60°.

An economical suggestion: start the wash when it costs less (in Europe this is in the evening after 7 and over the weekend).

Dry the cloths outside anywhere they will dry.

Fold them when you fold your laundry, put them away in their container ready for next time you clean your home.

Top 10 Cotton Producing Countries in the World


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1. Largest producer of cotton in the world - 33 million Bales


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2. 27.0 million Bales p.a.

United States

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3. 18.0 million Bales p.a.


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4. 10.3 Bales p.a.


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5. 9.3 million Bales p.a.


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6. 4.6 million Bales p.a.


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7. 4.2 million Bales p.a.


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8. 2.8 million Bales p.a.


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9. 1.6 million Bales p.a.


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10. 1.4 million Bales

© 2012 Penelope Hart


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