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As I'm getting into the habit of cleaning and maintaining my bike more often, I am burning through my stockpile of rags. Up until now I have been using worn-out clothes as rags. I am going to run out soon and I need to get some more.

My LBS (big chain store) just said they get a large, vacuum packed bag of rags delivered from head office every so often. They were kind enough to give me a bunch for free and they seem to be old bedsheets. Whilst I could go to a charity shop and buy some sheets, I'm not keen on cleaning my bike with something that someone might want to buy to wear.

What do you use as rags and where do you get them from?


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Just do the bike maintenance in your regular clothes - you will soon naturally generate a supply of rags. – mgb Mar 18 '11 at 18:14
A chain cleaner or brush used with degreaser works great on the chain and gear train, and really cuts down on the number of rags you need. You need a rag to clean up a bit at the end, and something to cover the floor (if you care about it). – Wayne Johnston Mar 19 '11 at 1:10
An old tooth brush is good for cleaning the chain and gears. – mgb Mar 21 '11 at 19:13
When do you decide that a rag is to be thrown away? – Vorac Jan 8 '14 at 14:52
Ask your charity shop for discarded clothing/bedding that's not fit for resale -- they often get donations that are not suitable to pass on to anyone and have to pay to have it hauled away -- I'm sure they'd be happy to have you take some. – Johnny Jan 8 '14 at 17:25
up vote 4 down vote accepted

For the dirty jobs, like cleaning the chain, I use throwaway paper from a roll: [dead link removed]

One of the bigger rolls tends to last for years.

For the not-so dirty jobs, the baseline is "not dirty enough to throw the rag away after", I use rags. That way, I get along with my personal used clothing as rags. I generally dont wash the rags.

When you go buy rags, you should take t-shirt rags made from cotton. There are rags from synthetics which just arent absorbant enough. I had a neighbour who worked at a sewing factory, and she brought the synthetics stuff as rags. A decent sized of those rags wouldnt take in a cup of water, and dissolve in some solvents. Not good.

For Cotton, look at stuff like this:

First link is broken. – Kevin Reid Dec 19 '12 at 17:51

The best shop rags I have ever used are blue medical operating room towels. They are much stronger than old clothes. They are intended to be thrown away, but I wash them and use 'em again.

blue cloths

However, I don't know where to get them. Maybe if you have an O.R. doctor or nurse in the family.

(I also use these to clean the kitchen, to wipe up spilled soup, to wash a car or bike, as hot pads, and as napkins. I put a damp one under the cutting board to make it stable.)

+1 for being considerate, washing and using them again. – Mladen Jablanović Dec 20 '12 at 9:41
They are Easy to find – Carey Gregory Dec 21 '12 at 1:46

In Australia we can buy bags of rags from most tool shops, and from op shops. The op shops get a lot of clothing donated that really is only good for rags so they pass that on to the rag people. If you buy direct from the op shop you often get a fairly wild variety of clothing, much of it not very absorbent. But it's cheaper and your money goes direct to charity. Our local is actually quite good about separating the usable rags from the other stuff, I suspect because there's a few of us who go in there looking for rags. But our big chain hardware shop sells big bags of rags very cheaply, cheaper than the op shop does.

Our shop in Sydney buys bags of rags from Smith's Rags. Most of the rags are pieces of t-shirts. – Crapulon Dec 20 '12 at 20:46

I cut a piece off a pair of old (holey) jeans. I could cut those jeans into 40 pieces, which would last about 40 weeks: so, not quite enough. I kept the rag though; I might try washing it (hand-washing it, separately), which could let it last longer.

Old jeans are a nearly unlimited resource if you have a used clothing or thrift store nearby! – DC_CARR Mar 21 '11 at 18:15

Using old clothes is an obvious answer. I wear clothes from a second-hand shop - they cost next to nothing and wear quickly.

Furthermore, it is beneficial to have two active rags at any time. The rough one is used to remove mud from the frame and drivetrain. The fine one is cleaner and used for cleaning the chain after lubing, the stanchions and any parts, near the discs of the rotors of disc brakes.

Yet another source of rags can be online delivery packaging paper - thick recycled paper, put inside the boxes to prevent the items from sliding around. It soaks grease well and furthermore provides outstanding grip on greasy surfaces (quick-link). However, using paper to soak oils renders it unrecyclable.


I use lots of paper towels, but I know Home Depot, Menards, Lowes etc all sell big bundles of terry cloth towels in their cleaning supplies sections.


I try to make my old T-shirts last as long as I can for cleaning the drive train and getting the larger clumps of dirt, but then use Pledge disposable wipes (available at most grocery stores in the US) to wipe down/clean the frame, seat, post, handlebars, cranks, fork, spokes. They work very well, cheap and easily available.


Muslin cloths, which are commonly used for babies, make the best rags. They don't leave any fluff, wash up well and are hardy and last a long time.

They can be expensive in some baby shops but can be found cheap in large packs in supermarkets and bulk stores.

Buy big bits on ebay and cut it up if you want muslin cheap - anything with "baby" on the packet costs quite a bit more. – Chris H Jan 13 '14 at 13:49

Dumpster Diving, maybe even at a thrift store


protected by Gary.Ray Jul 20 '14 at 22:57

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