Monday, June 13, 2011

From Riches to Rags

About a month ago, I cut up a bathrobe into rectangular-ish pieces, folded over the edges once, and hemmed each rectangle with a zig-zag stitch.  The bathrobe had originally belonged to my daughter; she'd given it to me when she went off to college partly as an inside joke and partly for sentimental reasons.  And for both reasons, I didn't quite want to get rid of the garment, even though it had a few holes.  So now I'm using that old bathrobe to wipe down my kitchen counters -- and I think my daughter would approve.  She'd think it especially funny that two of my kitchen dishrags have pockets.

Those wash rags I hemmed are my "nice" rags.  When clothes get so stained or torn that we don't want to wear or mend them, it is not particularly nice to pass them on to charities; I try to give only nice clothes away.   (These don't-give-away clothes might include t-shirts with a logo that few people would want to wear, like those celebrating a one-time event. )  If the yucky clothes are pants, I might save some of the fabric to use in patching other same-color pants in the future.  The truly unsalvageable clothes, though, are likely to go in my rag baskets.  

My mother kept a huge rag basket in one corner of the house.  It contained all sorts of tattered clothes, which we used to clean up messes around the house.  In my own quest to be able to clean my house quickly without throwing money in the trash can, I've modified her method.

One important change is to cut the rags into rectangular pieces of cloth.  If a rag looks like a ratty old t-shirt, when you send it through the laundry it might get back into your kid's clothing drawer.  (I think my dad regained several of his well-loved undershirts this way!)   But a rectangle can't be worn.  Cutting a shirt into a few pieces takes hardly more time than throwing it away would.

I also have gotten picky about the kinds of fabric I'll use for rags.  Synthetic fabrics don't soak up spills; they'll just frustrate you and waste your time.  So I toss those and try to save mostly cotton or cotton blends.  Many t-shirts work quite nicely, actually.  Old towels are great.

One of the most useful changes, though, is to have several small baskets of rags around the house.  I have one basket near the kitchen and one in each bathroom.  That way, when I need to clean something up, there's always a rag near by.  Most baskets are between the size of a shoebox and a milk crate, so they're not the huge caverns that my mom's basket was to us.

I use these rags for most things that other people use paper towels for -- this means I hardly ever buy paper towels.  If I clean up an ordinary mess, I just toss the rag down the laundry.  If I clean up a vile mess (like the kind my dog occasionally makes) I toss the rag in the trash.

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