Ok, so I know that I should hang up my oily finishing rags to dry or toss
them in a bucket of water. But then what? What do I do with a rag that I
tossed in a bucket of water? Throw it out after a time? If so, how long?
Can I let it dry and use it again? I figure it will be crusty.
I had a small fire a few months back, I'd been sanding down after sanding
sealer, emptied out the little dust collector smelt smoke after about 10
mins and found the dust had combusted. Real difficult to put out without
water or an extinguisher, now I always empty the sander bags outside well
away from the house.
Leave the rag hanging loose until completely dry. Dispose normally. Only a
damp/wet oily rag posses any danger of spontaneous compustion.
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For re-use rags I used to keep a 5 gallon bucket of water with
detergent. Toss in the rag, put on the lid, save until there's enough
for a trip to the laundry. The pre-soak and not-too-gentle handling gets
enough of the crud out so I don't ruin the washer. Since I don't do too
much oil finishing now I just make a small tub of detergent as needed,
wash in the tub and dry outside on a line.
Non-reuse rags go into a cleaned out metal paint can with tight lid.
When the project is complete or the can is 3/4 full of rags, I top off
with sand or kitty litter, mix well, and it goes to the city disposal
I manage to reuse most of mine. We still have our first washing machine,
an old wringer washer. A couple friends of mine went to a junk yard and
picked up ten dollar jun kers that work fine too. Anyway, pump's been
shot for years, so it's no problem when I leave a couple inches of
water/detergent in it. When there's enough for a small load, once a month
or a little more, I add water from the hose, a cup of detergent, and let 'er
churn away for an hour or so.
I have different "grades" of rags, so if there are a bunch of A rags in
there (and I have the gumption), I wassh again, this time using some
softener and clorox.
Drain the water out (be sure you have a place for the water to go) by
laying the hose down, and most every rag's usable again. About the only
ones I don't get back are the ones with glue dried into them - it just won't
Hang 'em up somewhere, on the walls, car fenders, bike, any shelf with
space for them, and next morning I have lots of rags back.
I USED to use those expensive yellow ship rags: no more. Any cloth
around here getting thrown out must go thru me! ;-} Sheets, cotton and
flannel, and sweat pants/shirts make the best rags I've found. Sweats have
two surfaces; a nice rough outer one for cleaning, and a soft inner one for
waxing, buffing, etc..
Only thing I don't take chances with is when there are large amounts of
grease or heavy motor oil on the rags: those sit air drying until dump day,
then go into an airtight plastic bag, labeled, and out for pickup. Garbage
man doesn 't mind long's they're in clear plastic.
Only problem I've ever had with fire was stupidly dumping a shop basket
full of sawdust into the burn-barrel once. Had short eyebrows for awhile
there but no real injury!
Harbor Freight has a metal can with a 'step on the lever to open the lid'
for oily rags that I just bought for $20. Mine go in there until until it's
full, then I make a quick trip to a laundry mat, use hot water and extra
detergent. Then I throw 'em in a dryer and take 'em home.
Usually only have to make one trip a month.
By-the-way--the $20 can was one of the best investments I've ever made for
Well, sorta. My wife would shoot me if I put shop rags in her new washing
machine. The local laundromat owner would do the same if he caught me loading
that mess in his machines, especially in the dryer. Detergent often does not
remove the smell or all the chemicals, so the stench left in the machinery is
not something that pleases many machinery owners.
"It is not strange... to mistake change for progress." Millard Fillmore
Crumple them up an leave them - if you want.
Once the oil is cured, then they lose their hazard.
Personally I often burn them - they make a useful firelighter. You can
just throw them in the trash after they've sat drying for a day.
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