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  1. #1
    mr. happyfunbear tenjuna's Avatar
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    This is an odd question, but...

    I am totally new to being a garage mechanic and working on engines and such. therefore I have never had a need for all the various tools and chemicals and such that go with rebuilding, cleaning, and all that for a pwc.

    my father died last year in a freak house fire apparently caused by rags used in and around various chemicals and left in a pile on the floor.

    now, I have a growing collection of rags and chemicals, and it occurred to me at this weird hour of the morning that perhaps I should be concerned.

    this may be a totally dumb question, and I am sorry but I have to ask: how do I clean the rags? do I clean them?

    I look around and see stuff like wd-40, silicone and lithium sprays, gasket remover and sealer, pentrating oil, fogging oil, degreaser, paint spraycan, sta-bil, probaly some other stuff. over on the other end of the garage I have gas and propane.

    I am sure these rags have bits of a bunch of this stuff on them by now...soooo, now what? I would rather look ignorant and ask a dumb question than have my family unsafe.



  2. #2
    2001 virage tx bossdog67's Avatar
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    you can wash them , or throw them out . but keeping in a well ventalated place is one thing that you should always do . this keeps fumes from building up , and will help prevent a fire .

    if you have a large pile and want to clean them for reuse , i suggest going to a coin operated washing station , so as to prevent chemicals from cross contaminating your machine and your family's clothing !!

    personally i would just toss them if they are to bad !!

  3. #3
    mr. happyfunbear tenjuna's Avatar
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    thanks for the reply.

    while I agree I don't really want to wash them in my own machine, I would feel awkward about passing the "cross-contanimation" on to someone else's family...is there something I could add to the laundry to "neutralize" that kind of thing, or should I just stop being a cheap ass and throw them away?

  4. #4
    Coonhunter Muckafoonee's Avatar
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    HOT Water as hot as u can get it and lots of Tide We used to clean the dirty shop floor with Tide
    Wash them at a Laundromat We always ran a empty load after the rags with Dawn detergent and Tide to get rid of the Grease and clean the washer
    It usually takes two washes to get rags clean (loose meaning of clean)

  5. #5
    785 Pro Mick's Avatar
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    Buy those rolls of heavy duty papertowls and use them for cleaning up anything with chemicals. Use shop towels for anything else. This way you don't store anything contaminated with chemicals nor have to worry about them ruining your washing machine. You will also save $$ by not using paper for everything.

    Just my 2 cents

    Not sure of where you live, but if there is a Cintas or other uniform company. CHeck out the trash. They throw out towels with any type of holes. I have filled my truck bed with garbage bags full lof rags. This way it don't cost you a thing.
    Talking about a cheap a$$, I dumpster dive for rags.

  6. #6
    2001 virage tx bossdog67's Avatar
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    personally i would wash once , then throw out . or start using a heavy grade shop towel . kind of like a paper towel , but with fiber woven in . totally disposable .

    whats a bunch of rags worth at wallmart or a auto store ....?? now whats the detergent and water worth on your home bills ??? kind of an even trade !!

  7. #7
    This is how I run a jetski shop in the desert nmpeter's Avatar
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    you must be kidding

    first off, welcome to the wonderful world of wrenches

    I'd kick you ass if I noticed you were dumping a load of greasy shop rags into a washer at the laundrymat I was using. You need to TOSS those. You RUIN a washer/dryer with that stuff for anybody else

    You can buy BUNDLES of nice shop rags at Sam's club for twelve bucks..that's right///$12. Use em and toss them. I went the paper towel shop towel route for a while ( and I still keep a roll or two around for cleaning some things), but my loving wife surprised me with the bundles of rags and I use those for everything now

    You need a steel can with a steel lid to store used shop rags, count on a hefty fine if you have fire inspectors visit your shop.

    A metal trash can with a foot pedal runs about $30, use that for your rags. Rags soaked with gas should go outside and into the trash once they dryout.

    place safe, play smart, have a good first aid kit in the shop and remember to always pull wrenches...never push them..that will save you a couple of wounds needing er trips or duct tape bandaging



    I have a couple of "grades" of rags, one for light wiping, one with gasket/metal bits onthem and others for greasy crap. All the rags end up int eh greasy crap container, and then tripple bagged and out with the trash

  8. #8
    Click avatar for tech links/info, donation request K447's Avatar
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    Arrow Fire safety

    Very sad to hear about your loss.

    Fire risk is something many home mechanics don't give enough thought to.

    Fire extinguishers are a good thing to have on hand. Make sure you have the correct type and size, and that you locate them where they can actually be reached when something is actually on fire. You may need several in different places to ensure you can always reach one without going near the fire area.

    If you actually need to use a fire extinguisher, that means your fire prevention practices failed. A fire extinguisher is your last line of defense, not the first.

    Not only can used shop rags rags self combust under certain conditions, but different chemicals can sometimes aggravate the fire risk if they come in contact with each other.

    You can buy fire rated trash cans, or you can use a metal garbage can that has a lid that seals reasonably well.

    Place the metal trash can well away from flammable liquids and cleaners. Don't put the garbage can right under the shelf where all the chemicals and oils are stored.

    Choose a location where if the trash can did get really hot, or even have flames coming out the top (like when you open it to put something else inside), it would not be able to ignite or damage anything else.

    Storage of flammable liquids is another area where many of us fall short. Just lining them up on an open shelf in the garage or basement is not a good thing, for multiple reasons.

    Sometimes containers get knocked to the ground, or tip over. A metal storage cabinet will contain the mess, and reduce the chances of the fire spreading, if something was to ignite.

    A storage cabinet will also reduce the chances of containers being accidentally damaged or punctured. We all have knocked stuff off a shelf at one time or another. Less risk if the stuff that can burn is inside a cabinet.

    Between cutting up old clothes for rags, buying new rags cheaply, and reasonable use of shop grade paper towels, I rarely clean rags in the laundry. When I do launder rags, it is mostly rags with cleaner and dirt residue, rather than engine oils and grease.

    Oil and grease rags generally go into the trash. A sealed metal bin reduces the fire risk. Ventilation increases fire risk. Without oxygen, a fire cannot sustain itself for very long.

    Gasoline soaked rags are the highest risk, of course. First thing is to minimize the need for soaking up gasoline with rags or paper towels. Don't use gasoline as a solvent or cleaner, and plan ahead to minimize gasoline spillage and leaks when working.

    Gasoline used as a solvent or cleaner is a high fire risk, so don't do it. The fumes are heavier than air, and spread across the floor while you are working. A spark or flame from an appliance (water heater, air compressor, electric motor) can unexpectedly ignite those fumes, and change your life for the worse.

    I have an extended family member who was badly burned as a youth, while cleaning his dirt bike with gasoline. The fumes were ignited by a natural gas water heater nearby (which did not have a flame arrestor screen around the gas burner), and the resulting fire instantly engulfed him.

    With gasoline, it is the fumes that burn or explode, not the liquid. Contain and limit the fumes.

  9. #9
    Just snoozin' on the couch M447's Avatar
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    I think you've asked an important question, not a dumb one. We all tend to slack off in this department and this is a good reminder.

    I tend to practice "If in doubt, throw it out".

    If they cause you concern, get rid of them. As others have said, they're cheap/free to replace. Personally, I won't wash oily icky rags. Not worth it.

    If they are damp with chemical, I hang them OUTSIDE in the backyard to dry. Then I toss them in a covered trash can.

  10. #10
    mr. happyfunbear tenjuna's Avatar
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    awesome replies guys, many thanks...some good ideas in there, so I think I will have to make some changes in the garage.

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