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stupid newbie question: used rags?

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Forum topic by DragonLady posted 1336 days ago 7284 views 0 times favorited 28 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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DragonLady

298 posts in 1641 days


1336 days ago

I’ve never worked with oil-based stuff before. Is it possible to wash and reuse rags that have had mineral spirits, polyurethane, or paste wax on them? Or do I just toss them?

-- A woman's work is never done-but power tools help!


28 replies so far

View Howie's profile

Howie

2656 posts in 1557 days


#1 posted 1336 days ago

Toss. Not worth the trouble.

-- Life is good.

View ajosephg's profile

ajosephg

1850 posts in 2195 days


#2 posted 1336 days ago

Make sure you put them in a suitable container to prevent spontaneous combustion or dry them safely before putting them in the trash.

-- Joe

View JJohnston's profile

JJohnston

1577 posts in 1925 days


#3 posted 1336 days ago

The mineral spirits will evaporate, so those can be wrung out, hung up, and reused. The wax will dry out, so those can probably be “snapped” or beaten to get most of it out, then reused. Poly will cure, so those should be tossed.

-- "Sorry I'm late. Somebody tampered with my brakes." "You should have been early, then."

View lew's profile

lew

10003 posts in 2389 days


#4 posted 1336 days ago

I tried washing my rags that had mineral spirits on them. Let’s just say Mimi was not in favor of me using her washing machine again.

Looking on the bright side, it did get me out of doing the laundry.

Lew

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View hObOmOnk's profile

hObOmOnk

1381 posts in 2761 days


#5 posted 1336 days ago

Used rags aplenty: I put out a request to my temple for used tee shirts and cotton bed spreads.
Now I have more than a year’s supply for my professional studio.

-- 温故知新

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1472 posts in 2759 days


#6 posted 1336 days ago

I just want to reiterate Joe’s warning to “dry them safely”: Lay them out somewhere so that the volatile spirits can completely evaporate before you put them in a bag to throw them out. Wet (with mineral spirits and other petroleum distillates) rags in an enclosed space can spontaneously combust and ruin your day.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California, http://www.flutterby.net/User:DanLyke

View AaronK's profile

AaronK

1397 posts in 2098 days


#7 posted 1336 days ago

you guys have had rags with just mineral spirits on them spontaneously ignite? that seems odd. ignition comes about by the oxidation process that hardens/cures stuff like polyurethane. non-curing things like solvents and waxes shouldnt get warm in the least bit. if they are, something else must be going on.

i reuse rags that have been used for waxing. they’re good for either more wax, or just general cleanup in the shop.

View Scott's profile

Scott

97 posts in 1606 days


#8 posted 1336 days ago

This is timely; I just took an old metal popcorn tin that my wife dug out with the Holiday decorations and painted it red to use for soiled rags and towels.

View Chris Pond's profile

Chris Pond

63 posts in 1681 days


#9 posted 1336 days ago

Polyurethane rags can’t be reused they just get hard. How ever all other rags can be used even one with “dry” stained can be used, for thing like checking the oil in the car…

By the way I always hang my rags and my rags that are done I through outside.

-- Chris, Summerland BC

View dfdye's profile

dfdye

372 posts in 1671 days


#10 posted 1336 days ago

I use paste wax on tools as rust prevention and to make them slick for the next use. I keep a rag for wiping/buffing them off beside the tin of wax, and I rarely change it out. I have never had a problem, but I would never think of trying to clean it!

As others have said, if you have a curing oil like BLO or tung oil, then you really need to ensure they are spread out to dry, but for solvents, there isn’t nearly the danger. Still, good practice dictates that you should probably lay all of your rags out flat to dry just to be on the safe side.

The one thing that KILLS me is seeing people drape the oil-soaked rags on the edge of their trash can full of saw dust! If a rag does decide to catch on fire, you want it NOWHERE NEAR a bunch of highly combustible material! I know the risk is low as long as the rags are flat, but it scares me nonetheless!

-- David from Indiana --

View PhineasWhipsnake's profile

PhineasWhipsnake

77 posts in 1681 days


#11 posted 1336 days ago

I don’t think mineral spirits are a problem with washing, but boiled linseed oil will surely combust if wadded up & left in a pile. I wouldn’t try to reuse polyurethane or other film-type finishes.

-- Gene T

View ajosephg's profile

ajosephg

1850 posts in 2195 days


#12 posted 1336 days ago

AAronk

I have personally observed rags soaked with toluene (aka toluol) catch on fire at a company I worked at. The rags were used to clean up a paint spill. SOP was to put them in a sealed container, butleft on a table top for no longer than several minutes and vioila – smoke followed by flames! I haven’t seen mineral spirits soaked rags ignite, but I’m confident that if the conditions are right, they would.

You could argue that “pure solvents” won’t ignite, but in the real world rags that get soaked with solvents are not pure anymore, and whatever they were used to clean up could initiate the chemical reaction leading to a fire.

So rather than debate and figure out the chemical reactions involved, it’s just good practice to follow a protocol that won’t lead to a disaster.

-- Joe

View Don's profile

Don

506 posts in 1706 days


#13 posted 1336 days ago

I just seel them in a metal paint can filled with water. I won’t take even the small risk of hanging them up to dry. I’ve seen people do that only to have them fall on the floor into a pile that goes unoticed. I also use the rags in a box from Home Depot that are cheap, more absorbant, and have less lint than cotton T-Shirts

-- Don - I wood work if I could. Redmond WA.

View AaronK's profile

AaronK

1397 posts in 2098 days


#14 posted 1336 days ago

thats exactly the point: the solvent was mixed with paint, which has in it an additive to accelerate drying/curing. the solvent was just more food for the flames, so its not surprising that this solvent-rich mixture ignited faster than just a poly-soaked rag.

so: I’ll maintain that a rag soaked with solvents is fine to bunch up and throw out. but if that rag or solvents have seen the slightest bit of curing resin, then they should be dealt with carefully. I’m not just trying to make a point for the hell of it – just like other types of safety (like table saw kickback) it’s important to understand why the problems arise and to know how to take the right precautions… not just be over cautious all the time.

View Don's profile

Don

506 posts in 1706 days


#15 posted 1336 days ago

To be clear, the paint cans I use never had paint in them. I buy empty paint cans that are intended for mixing paints. The only thing that goes into them is the oily rags and water.

-- Don - I wood work if I could. Redmond WA.

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