Which is the Best Cleaning Rag to Use?

Like death and taxes, spills are inevitable! The question is, will any old wipe, cloth or rag do?

In industrial environments, traditional rags have long been the standard, particularly in Australia. Rags are scrap reclaimed textile materials, either 100% cotton fleece or recycled T-Shirts made from a blend of cotton and polyester. Typically available as either white T-Shirt only (for use with solvents and thinners) or mixed coloured T-Shirt, and packaged in compressed 5kg, 10kg or 20kg bags, and referred to as “Bags of Rags”. Because these cloths are from recycled clothing materials, they are environmentally friendly, however it is important to make sure that they have been screened or metal detected to ensure that any harmful metal objects, such a needles, pins, zippers, buttons etc, have been removed prior to packaging. This unfortunately is not a standard industry practice, given the high cost of acquiring and installing quality high micron metal detectors.

Wipers, on the other hand, are not as cheap as rags, but have certain advantages in so far as they are more consistent in shape, size and absorbency. The absorbency element or material component can be engineered to be as high or as low as required, depending on the price point looking to be achieved, and of course the intended usage and tasks demanded of it. Furthermore, antibacterial agents can be added to the manufacturing process to extend the life of the wipers through inhibiting the growth of bacteria.

From a corporate point of view, the challenge is finding a cost effective wiping solution without compromising hygiene and safety. However this will vary depending on the task, so “any old wipe, cloth or rag” will not always suffice. For high volume, low risk tasks, a lower cost workshop rag is ideal, and typically preferred, whereas with more delicate tasks, especially those that are sensitive to lint, there is a definite shift in preference towards an engineered wiper.

In foodservice, hospitality and healthcare environments, including aged care and childcare cleaning, hygiene plays a much bigger part in the decision on choosing an appropriate wipe, cloth or rag. Rags are generally washed as part of the recycling process, but given the potential hazards, are not typically found in these more sterile focused environments. For surface preparation and cleaning, wipers are considered a better choice, particularly those treated with antibacterical agents. To further prevent any unnecessary spread of germs, surface cleaning wipes favoured in these industries are also colour coded, with each colour allocated to a particular area or task.

And, as a final precaution, whilst many of the engineered spunlace and needlepunch wipes can be washed and reused, the trend is towards one-off disposable wipes, ensuring any germs picked up in a task are disposed of when that wipe is thrown away after each single use.

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