Rag Towels

Rag towels are an essential cleaning supply for many industries and homes.

Rag Towels

Often made from recycled textiles, these versatile cloths can tackle tough messes across a variety of surfaces.

Read on to learn more about the many uses and benefits of rag towels.

What Are Rag Towels?

Rag towels are cleaning cloths cut from recycled fabric, often from discarded clothing, linens, or industrial textile waste. They provide an economical and eco-friendly alternative to paper towels for wiping up spills, grease, dirt, and more.

Rag towels come in a range of materials like cotton, polyester blends, terry cloth, flannel, and microfiber. Thicker weaves like terry cloth excel at absorbing liquids, while smoother materials like cotton t-shirts work well for polishing and lint removal.

Compared to paper towels, rag towels are reusable and generate less waste. They are also more heavy-duty for scrubbing tough dirt and grease. Rag towels can be laundered and reused until they wear out.

Major Industries Using Rag Towels

Major Industries Using Rag Towels

Construction: On messy construction sites, workers rely on rag towels to wipe up spills, remove excess paint and adhesive, and clean their tools and equipment. The durable, absorbent cloth works well for heavy-duty cleaning. Workers may use a separate color rag for each material or work area to prevent cross-contamination.

Manufacturing: Factory floors and machinery often need quick cleaning during operation. Thick, absorbent rag towels efficiently soak up grease, oil, solvents, and lubricants without falling apart. Using rag towels helps minimize machine downtime.

Automotive: Mechanics use rag towels to wipe grime off parts, soak up spilled fluids, apply buffing compounds, and more. The reusable towels are perfect for the frequent heavy-duty cleaning required in garages and body shops.

Janitorial/Cleaning: Whether for offices, schools, hospitals, or other facilities, janitorial staff need rag towels for sanitizing, dusting, window washing, and spills. The economical cloth works for general cleaning and scrubbing tough dirt.

Food Service: Kitchens and restaurants rely on rag towels for wiping counters, appliances, and spills. Bartenders use them for drying glassware. The absorbent, lint-free cloth helps keep food prep areas clean and hygienic.

Rag Towel Materials and Types


Cotton is a popular rag towel material since it’s soft, absorbent, and durable. Recycled t-shirts or diapers work well for general wiping and polishing. White cotton rags are useful for delicate surfaces where lint must be avoided.

Terry Cloth

The thick, absorbent pile of terry cloth makes it ideal for soaking up spills and liquids. Terry rag towels work well for automotive cleaning and heavy-duty jobs. They’re also very economical.


Microfiber rag towels are extremely effective for cleaning glass, mirrors, and other shiny surfaces without scratching or streaking. The lint-free material also cleans using just water.

Shop Towels

These heavyweight cotton towels are designed for frequent industrial use. Grease-absorbing shop rag towels are commonly used in auto garages. Lint-free white shop towels work great for electronics and aerospace applications.

Bar Mops

These small, rectangular terry cloth rags are popular with bartenders and servers for wiping spills and glassware. Bar mop rag towels are very absorbent and quick-drying.

Surgical Towels

Extremely absorbent and lint-free, surgical rag towels work well for critical cleaning in labs, paint rooms, and precise manufacturing. The tightly woven material won’t shed particles.

Rag Towel Uses

Rag Towel Uses

Rag towels have many cleaning uses:

  • Wipe up food and drink spills in kitchens and restaurants
  • Remove grease, fluid spills, and grime from machinery and vehicles
  • Apply and buff out car wax and polishes
  • Dust furniture and appliances
  • Scrub sticky adhesives and soap scum off surfaces
  • Wash windows and mirrors without streaking
  • Clean hands, tools, and equipment
  • Soak up messes from art and DIY projects
  • Shine glassware and countertops
  • Absorb liquid spills on bar and restaurant floors

Benefits of Rag Towels

Reusable – Unlike paper towels, rag towels can be laundered and reused multiple times, reducing waste and cost.

Absorbent – Terry cloth and cotton easily soak up liquid spills and messes.

Durable – Thick cotton holds up to heavy-duty scrubbing and industrial use.

Lint-free – Tightly woven fabrics like surgical towels don’t shed lint or particles.

Chemical-resistant – Cotton rag towels withstand solvents, degreasers, and other harsh cleaners.

Economical – Recycled fabric makes rag towels very affordable.

Eco-friendly – Recycling textile waste into rag towels keeps it out of landfills.

Versatile – Available in various materials for use across many cleaning applications.

Maintaining and Laundering Rag Towels

  • Separate heavily soiled rag towels from lightly used ones when laundering. Wash grease rags separately.
  • Use hot water, bleach, and laundry detergent to fully sanitize rag towels after cleaning restrooms, kitchens, etc.
  • Add white vinegar or baking soda to remove odors and help brighten dingy white rags.
  • Use a milder detergent and wash in cold or warm water for rags used on delicate surfaces like glass or electronics.
  • Replace thinning or worn-out rag towels with holes and weak seams. Retire overly dirty and stained rags.
  • Let rag towels air dry or use the highest heat drying setting to kill any remaining bacteria. Avoid musty odors.
  • Store cleaned rag towels in sealed bins to prevent recontamination and odors from absorbing back into the cloth.


How are rag towels made?

Most rag towels are made by recycling discarded clothing, hotel linens, hospital sheets, and textile industry scraps. The used fabric is sorted, cut into squares, and packaged.

Are rag towels washable and reusable?

Yes, the beauty of rag towels is that they can be washed and reused over and over, unlike paper towels. Proper laundering sanitize rags between uses.

What are rag towels used for?

Rag towels are a multipurpose cleaning cloth used for wiping up spills, grease, grime, dust, streaks, and more. They have many applications in homes, garages, restaurants, factories, hospitals, schools, offices, etc.

Are microfiber towels better than cotton rags?

Microfiber is great for glass and mirrors since it avoids scratches and streaks. But cotton rag towels may be better for rougher cleaning thanks to their durability. It depends on your specific use.

Why choose rag towels instead of paper towels?

Rag towels are more heavy-duty than paper towels and can be reused rather than creating waste. They provide cost savings in the long run despite higher upfront costs. They’re better for the environment too.

How should you launder greasy, oily rag towels?

Use hot water, heavy-duty detergent, and bleach to fully clean greasy rag towels. Wash them separately from lightly soiled items. Multiple rinse cycles help remove all oil and odors. Air dry thoroughly.

When should you retire old rag towels?

Retire rag towels that have holes, fraying seams, excessive staining, or are too thin and worn. Odorous rags that smell musty even after washing should also be discarded. Avoid using compromised rags that could shred.


Whether at home or work, rag towels are the ideal eco-friendly, heavy-duty cleaning cloth. These economically recycled fabrics replace wasteful paper towels with reusable versatility.

Durable cotton, super-absorbent terry cloth, lint-free surgical towels, and streak-free microfiber all provide specialty cleaning abilities. Soak up spills, scrub stuck-on gunk, or polish delicate surfaces with confidence using the multi-purpose rag towel!

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