Using fabric instead of disposable wipes for household cleaning can save a lot of money while reducing the amount of trash going to landfills. Since each Savage Sister has her own favorite tip on the subject, we’ll both contribute to today’s post.
Sheet Rags – by Jennifer
For everyday glass and mirror cleaning, I use sheet rags. My best friend’s mother, whom we call Mamma Belle, first introduced me to them many years ago. She takes old, worn-out 100% cotton sheets, cuts or rips them into squares approximately 2-feet in size, and uses the squares for windows, mirrors, TV screens, glass-encased photos, dishes, and any other surface requiring relatively lint-free cleaning. I even use them on my fire department self-contained-breathing-apparatus (SCBA) mask* because they work better than paper towels.
At first, I purchased sheets at garage sales, clearance sales, or second-hand stores to turn into rags, but I’ve been married long enough now to have my own supply of sad linens looking for a useful second life.
When I cut up the sheets, I sometimes use pinking shears to reduce the number of threads left behind on surfaces or in the washing machine, but hemming the edges works best.
Bath-Towel Dusters – by Diana
Nearly 30 years ago, I read about making dusting/cleaning rags from old towels in Don Aslett’s book, Is There Life After Housework? A revolutionary approach that will free you from the drudgery of housework**. My favorite set of towels had faded and grown ragged on the edges, so I chose them for the project even though it took courage to slice them up with scissors.
Don’s directions said to cut the towels into 18×18-inch flat squares, but my towels weren’t the right size to accommodate those dimensions without a lot of waste. So I cut 12-inch squares instead and then zigzagged all the raw edges to prevent them from fraying.
I folded each square over on itself to make a rectangle 6×12 inches and sewed the long side together, forming a tube. I now had a wonderfully thick, absorbent cloth to protect my hands while cleaning. To use, I fold the flattened tube in thirds, which gives me three fresh surfaces on each side. Then I turn the towel inside out and have six more fresh surfaces.
Most of my original bath-towel cleaning rags are still functional. Ever since I hid them under a cardboard sign exclaiming “For Dusting Only!!” none of them have been swiped by other family members and contaminated with varnish or automotive chemicals.
What do we do when sheet rags and terry dusters wear out? That’s when we allow family members to subject them to messy, goopy jobs that render them unwashable. We figure by the time those hard-working rags have worn themselves out as linens and then as cleaning cloths, they’ve earned the right to rest in peace somewhere, even a landfill.
When all your linens begin to, uh, bite the dust at the same time, carefully monitor which ones you want to keep for cleaning rags. If sheets aren’t 100% cotton but they’re still usable as linens, donate them to a thrift shop. If they’re too far gone to use as bedding, press them into service as drop cloths, garage dustcovers, or any task that doesn’t require absorbency. Monitor your stash of old towels in the same way. Old terrycloth can come in handy at car-wash fundraisers, as pet-carrier liners, or as kneeling pads while gardening. If you’ve come up with clever uses for old linens, write a comment and share it with the rest of us.
* In addition to all her other activities, Jennifer is a part-time firefighter/Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).
**The book is now out of print. See Don Aslett’s web site, www.aslett.com, for other ideas and resources.
© 2009, The Savage Sisters
Hi Diana and Jennifer,
I like the idea of using old sheets and towels, and I like your sensitive and humorous writing style. I would like to add that men’s cotton undershirts and children’s cotton diapers are quite absorbent and I use them for cleaning.
Thank you for these frugal suggestions that save the landfills as well as money.
When buying bath towels, i always make sure that i buy a cotton one. Cotton is much more durable than synthetic fibers. ;”,;.
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