Oil-Soaked Rags

Article - May 30, 2007

This week’s question comes from Craig. He writes:

“I’m aware of the potential dangers that exist with oily rags used for staining and cleaning with mineral spirits so I’m always careful to dry them out completely before I dispose of them. My question is this: Can you ever reuse these rags for anything or do you always just use them once and throw them away? I’m doing 3 coats of danish oil on a 6 shelf bookcase and I’m going through rags like crazy it seems like such a waste to use them once and toss them. Any advice?”

Hey Craig. Once an oil-soaked rag is dry and hard, its pretty much useless. The dried finish prevents the rag from absorbing anything and you can’t really redissolve the dried finish. But here’s an idea for you: instead of throwing the rags away between projects, try putting them in a ziplock bag between uses. The reason the rags catch fire is because they oxidize and react with the oxygen in the air. So if you put some extra mineral spirits on the rag and place it in a sealed bag, then squeeze out all the air and seal it up, you should be able to reuse the rag numerous times. I always put mine on the concrete floor just in case (you cant be too safe).


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