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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So I've accumulated a nice bucket full of nasty grease filled rags from cleaning my drive train. Typically, I just toss them when they have no more usable area on them. Most of them are old bath towels, socks with holes in them, etc. I've been afraid of washing them, fearing that the grease residue would get stuck to the side of the washer or dryer, and ruin the next few loads of laundry. Anyone have any experience with washing these things? Or should I just go to "X" big box hardware store and get one of those massive boxes of disposable blue shop towels?
 

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I wouldn't try to wash them in a home washer.....no way to know what the residue might do to your other clothes. I buy "Painter's Rags" from Lowe's or HD that are basically scraps from t-shirt manufacturing and come in 10# boxes. I use those until too dirty, then throw away. They are cotton and more durable than the paper shop towels. I also cut up old t-shirts of my own to refill the box.
 

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yep, it just ain't worth it. I get shop rags from the auto parts store (not too hard to find ones that have less lint) and toss them when they're nasty.

We had a cleaning service that used to take care of dirty rags and towels in the LBS, but even then we only had them cleaned maybe three or four times before they just weren't worth keeping.
 

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Dispose of your rags, definately not worth trying to get the grease out or doing something to your washing machine.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the advice... I had a sneaky feeling that I would trash my washer if I put them in there... I'll check out the options in my area for cheap disposable rags.
 

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Yep! I made the mistake of throwing old rags in the washer. It took about six runs of washer empty, big load, hot water setting, and lots of bleach and detergent to clean that sucker out.
 

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Another view

batman1425 said:
So I've accumulated a nice bucket full of nasty grease filled rags from cleaning my drive train. Typically, I just toss them when they have no more usable area on them. Most of them are old bath towels, socks with holes in them, etc. I've been afraid of washing them, fearing that the grease residue would get stuck to the side of the washer or dryer, and ruin the next few loads of laundry. Anyone have any experience with washing these things? Or should I just go to "X" big box hardware store and get one of those massive boxes of disposable blue shop towels?
I wash my bike rags in the washing machine all the time. The way to do this is to pre-treat the dirty rags. I fill my washtub (you could do this with a big bucket) with water and then add several cups of detergent. Adding some Dawn dishwasher liquid gives added grease cutting power. I throw all the rags in there and let them soak for a few days, giving an occasional stir. If things are so greasy that you get no soap bubbles when you stir, add more detergent. Then you drain off the water and throw things into the washing machine, again with lots of detergent. You may get a dirt ring in the washer, but that doesn't contaminate your regular clothes.

I've been doing this for a couple of decades with good success.
 

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I use old T-shirts, and throw them out. Sooner or later, I guess I might run out of T-shirts I want to get rid of, but haven't yet.
 

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batman1425 said:
So I've accumulated a nice bucket full of nasty grease filled rags...
Not a good idea to have a bucket or pile of greasy rags laying around. There are bacteria that feed on the organic compounds commonly used in grease. The process can generate enough heat to spontaneously catch fire. If you need to store them for cleaning, use a metal bucket with a metal lid.
 

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Take 'em to the laundromat.
 

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testpilot said:
Not a good idea to have a bucket or pile of greasy rags laying around. There are bacteria that feed on the organic compounds commonly used in grease. The process can generate enough heat to spontaneously catch fire. If you need to store them for cleaning, use a metal bucket with a metal lid.
Yes, spontaneous combustion can occur but it's not from bacteria. It's an oxidation process and it's chemical, not biological. Also, putting them in a metal bucket, even with a fairly tight fitting lid, is a recipe for disaster. If you want to store them in a container make it a glass container with a lid that seals out air. The best way is to lay each rag flat and individually until the volatile compounds have evaporated.
 

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True warning

A local cafe in my area caught fire in exactly this way.

Nobody was hurt but they are permanently out of business.


testpilot said:
Not a good idea to have a bucket or pile of greasy rags laying around. There are bacteria that feed on the organic compounds commonly used in grease. The process can generate enough heat to spontaneously catch fire. If you need to store them for cleaning, use a metal bucket with a metal lid.
 

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Argentius said:
A local cafe in my area caught fire in exactly this way.

Nobody was hurt but they are permanently out of business.
Really? I have done this for years with no issues.
 

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Yeah... crazy stuff.

THE NEWS TRIBUNE Published: 06/01/1012:05 am ...

The department dispatched a unit to Tusarra Coffee House and Drive Thru at 917 North Second St. at 11:20 p.m. Firefighters reported seeing heavy smoke when they arrived.

Davis said the fire was accidental and was caused when oil-soaked rags used to refinish furniture spontaneously combusted in a back room...

Read more: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2010/...unday-fire-damages-tusarra.html#ixzz0zdSIP9yk

DIRT BOY said:
Really? I have done this for years with no issues.
 

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Spontaneous combustion is serious. Dirty, greasy, solvent filled rags thown into a bucket or a pile is a recipe to burn your house down. SOP for these rags is to throw them in a metal container with a tight fitting lid and empty that container every day. If you don't have a metal bucket, lay them out flat so they can dry...never leave them in any kind of a crumpled up pile. It's not a matter of will they catch fire...it's a matter of when will they catch fire.

A safe guard for when you dispose of the rags...wet them completely with water, put the wet rags in a plastic bag, evacuate the air, tie it all in a knot then throw away...outside of the house/shop. When someone says "I've thrown them in a pile for years without a problem" they are lucky, pure and simple.
 

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FatTireFred said:
and f over the next poor schlub that uses the machine? what a pal...
Well, I've done 'em at home for years with no ill effects. Laundromat washers are more robust than home washers so I doubt it would be a problem there either. He obviously doesn't want to do them at home so I gave him an alternative.
 

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The problem with rags catching fire is EXACTLY what is quoted in the article. The oils and oil based varnishes used in furniture finishing cure by oxidation and generate heat in the process. These are things like linseed oil, tung oil, Danish oil, etc. If one crumples up rags with this kind of oil in them, the heat is contained, builds up and can cause the rags to catch fire. This does NOT happen with the kinds of greases and oils used in lubing chains,etc but can happen with the oils used in frame rust treatment oils (many have linseed oil or similar materials that thicken quickly in air). For the rags, I keep a 5 gal plastic bucket with Dawn, Tide and Clorox in water and toss the rags in to pre-soak until I have enough to make a load for the washer. I wash them hot with lots of soap and run an extra rinse cycle which cleans the washer.
 

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I've been ripping old towels into smaller squares but the ripping leaves threads and open ends etc where envariably one of the strands ends up stuck in the chain, dr, cassette. Whats a good scissor that will easily cut towels without leaving the "chards"?
 

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Mel Erickson said:
Well, I've done 'em at home for years with no ill effects. Laundromat washers are more robust than home washers so I doubt it would be a problem there either. He obviously doesn't want to do them at home so I gave him an alternative.


1- your rags obviously aren't that greasy/oily compared to others (see posts)
2- do you wonder why he didn't want to do 'em at home in his own machine?
 
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