DIY Shop Rags
Every shop needs shop rags. The old gas station rag has been a staple of the garage industry for years. Harbor Freight, Costco and every auto part store sells them. I usually get the 50 pack. Over the years they have got so cheap and thin I started a quest of finding a quality shop rag. Well they are expensive and you need to get them in huge quantity. When I talk about a shop rag I don't mean those BS micro-fiber rags that are good for washing your car, they are worthless.
What to do, well while looking around online I found the cotton wash cloth. They are around the same size and come in many quality levels. Good ones are about $1 each and cheap ones about half that if you are looking around. On Ebay I found some low cost high quality ones 5 dozen for about $25 shipped. That and the ones that I had collected over the years will make a nice test. Here's my problem, I wanted ORANGE shop rags. So now off to the store for some Orange RIT dye, Sunshine Orange to be exact. You can find the dye for a couple of bucks at the local fabric shops, and better to get it there then online unless you get a 10 pack as shipping will eat up some $$.
Let the process begin!
Two Types of Towels
The towel on the left is a flat non-fluffy towel typically used to dry your hands. This towel has no cotton nubs (fluff). It's good for situations where you do not wany any lint. The towel on the right is the traditional tericloth wash cloth.
Sunshine Orange Dye
I wanted ORANGE towels. So the color I found that looked bright orange in the RIT product line was Sunshine Orange. Other companies make orange dye as well, just fine a color you like. I ended up using about 5 packages of dye. I think one more might have been ever better as it gets absorbed fast by the thicker wash cloths.
The Equipment to Needed to Dye Rags
If you have ever done Tie-dye you know how to do this. If not, you will need 1 bucket for dying, and one to move the completed rags to once they are done. I used a large stainless cooking spoon to stir things up. You will also need how water and salt (I used Epsom Salts as I had it). Follow the direction on the Dye package to mix things up.
The Dyeing Process
I followed the direction pretty much that was printed on the RIT Dye box. You will need a frickin' magnifying glass to read them as they are printed with a micro font. I started with 1 pack with about 4 gallons of hot tap water and the salt. After doing one load and moving to a second (each about 1/2 bucket of rags) the water was getting clear orange and after 10 minutes or so the rags were only light orange. So I slowly added a second pack of Dye. That fixed the problem. It seems that the rags really suck the dye out of the water leave clearer water so you must add more dye if you do a lot of rags like I did. I would say each load of about 1/2 bucket of racks needs its own box of dye. I let each batch soak with some stirring for about 10 minutes then transferred them to the holding tank (the white bucket).
Washing the Shop Rags
After they were all dyed orange, they were rinsed a couple of times in the buckets to get rid of the bulk of the color. They I ran them through the washing machine on a couple rince cycles. Then into the dryer. Again, follow the directions on your brand of Dye as it will have tips on making the colors stay put. Make sure you have no color residue left in your washing machine your your wife will likely 'Die' you.
Orange Hand Towels Comparison
Here is the before and after of the shop towels. They came out bright ORANGE, very nice in person. The contrast of the white against the orange really shows off the orange!
Orange Wash Cloth Comparison
The wash cloths really soaked up the color. These are going to be sad to use on the greasy project I often do, but they are a thousand times better then the crappy see thru shop rags you get at the store.
DIY Shop Rag Conclusion
A bag of 50 shop rags is pretty cheap, but cheap don't cut it sometimes. Both of these rags are better then any shop rag I have ever used. Each has a different use, the hand towels are good for finer cleaning where lint may be a problem, and the wash cloths are for the big mess were you really need some absorption. I likely could have found something already made in a different color but what fun would that be. As far as expense goes finding a good cheap rag to start with is a good way to go then only a few bucks for the Dye and salt.
Now need another batch in Blue for Gulf Racing Orange and Blue shop rags. Yes, their is method to my madness...