Welcome to Green Boot Camp

Welcome to Green Boot Camp blog, a 52-week program to help you become a greener you in 2008. This is the companion blog to The Lean Green Family (formerly Suddenly Frugal).

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Week Eleven--Rag Time

When I was growing up with my frugal and green mother, we didn't own any fancy cleaning accouterments like sponges and mops. No, our go-to cleaning and dusting tools were always rags. I know my mom used them because:

* They were free. These were old t-shirts and towels we otherwise would have thrown out.

* They were reusable. You could just toss in the washing machine when done, and use again the next time you needed to clean.

* They were recyclable. My mom would shred the fabric and toss it in the compost pile when it was too threadbare to use anymore.

I've adopted my mother's rag-favoring habits and have a huge rag bin in my basement, where, like my mom before me did, I toss old towels and t-shirts that are too stained to donate to charity but perfectly acceptable to become cleaning tools. Truth is, I still have some long-ago, leftover cloth diapers in my rag bin. They are the best dusting tool ever!

As you get ready to plan for spring cleaning, I'd like you to spend this week thinking about how you, too, might begin to use rags.

Each time you do a load of laundry this week, take a real critical look at your husband's undershirts, your kids old field day t-shirts, and any hand towels or bath towels that are simply beyond their prime. Start putting them aside so that the next time you need to clean something, you can forgo the paper towels and use your sustainable cleaning rags instead.

I keep my rags under the basement stairs in an old milk crate that, I swear, went to college with me to hold my old record albums (yes, I'm that old). You could keep yours in a similar container or even an old laundry bag. Just make sure that you keep them convenient so using them doesn't become a big old hassle.

One more thing: Spring cleaning time or not, it's probably a good idea to go through your kids' dressers, your own dressers and your linen closets on a regular basis so you can clear out clothes you no longer like, wear or which your children have grown out of. Same thing with towels, especially the ones that look like a few I have--they once were a lovely shade of red but then someone accidentally poured bleach in the wash, and now they look like something out of the electric Kool-Aid acid test.

With perfectly good clothes that have fallen out of favor or become too small for your kids to wear, and linens that might not look perfect, divide them up into items that could become rags and items that you could donate.

Clothing charities are happy to have gently used clothing (especially if they're not stained). At the same time animal rescue organizations and shelters can always used clean (but used) towels and sheets to line cages and pens, or to use after surgery.

If you think about it, either way your using rags is good for the planet. Cleaning with rags allows you to avoid paper towels and other disposable items, and use something sustainable instead. And by donating old clothes and linens to worthy causes, you keep those items out of the waste stream and help others (poor people, homeless animals) in the process.


Rebecca said...

It's funny--I was just thinking about this today. I never use paper towels, yet have more rags than I know what to do with. I have cut up old t-shirts and towels and used them for everything from baby wipes to appliance-buffers. But what do you do with the rag bin once it's filled to capacity? I suppose I could think up some interesting craft projects . . . or start using them and tossing them rather than washing and reusing? How do I whittle down the rag pile?

Michael T said...

I'm such a big fan of rags. Thanks for supporting them! haha

I see that you mentioned throwing them in the compost pile when we're done with them. There's no compost pile at my Korean high-rise, but we do separate our food garbage from our other garbage. Would it be appropriate to throw old rag scraps in with the eggshells? Even if, as rumored, the food garbage goes to pig farms?

Thanks for any info you can pass on! Always a pleasure to visit the green boot camp (as much as 'pleasurable boot camp' sounds oxymoronic..).