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By Jessica Ting • December 5, 2019

Your Guide to Buying Cleaning Rags, Wipers, and Shop Towels

Picture a dirty workspace with grease clinging to tabletops and chairs. The windows are covered with fingerprints and there is a suspicious spill in one of the corners of the room. In this scenario, you will likely rely heavily on your cleaning rags, wipers, and shop towels to aid in cleaning these surfaces. 

Oftentimes, people use the words “cleaning rags”, “wipers”, and “shop towels” interchangeably, but they are quite different. Below is a quick summary of each of the three types of cleaning cloths:

  • Cleaning Rags are typically recycled from used clothing or mill ends, which are the end pieces of yarn or fabric rolls. Rags are typically the most inexpensive option.
  • Wipers are intended for one-time use, and you often decide which type of wipers to purchase based on the specific task you are looking to accomplish.
  • Shop towels are often provided on a recurring basis by a rental supply company that will clean and return the towels for reuse.

Selecting the incorrect rag, wiper, or towel can generate waste, and may even damage a cleaning surface and result in other issues. We’ve put together a handy guide to help you determine which product will suit you and your team best:

Identify the Work Environment

If you are working in a large production facility, choosing a large box of rags or towels may be the right choice, since they will be cost-effective, be easy for the cleaning crew to find, and have enough supply to get the crew through the entire workweek.

For cleaning crews working in more cramped spaces or for those who work out of trucks, you may want to select wipers that come in rolls or pop-up boxes to minimize the amount of space they take up.

Regardless of which option you choose, putting the product in a place that’s easily accessible to your team will help increase their efficiency.

Understand Which Tasks Your Crew is Responsible For.

The types of products you purchase should be heavily influenced by the tasks that you plan to use them for. For example, the materials you use to clean up grease in a car repair facility should be very different from the materials you use to wipe down the windows.

We have compiled a list of common tasks and our corresponding product selection tips:

  • Cleaning spills, oil, and grease from non-rough surfaces: We recommend finding either rags or wipers that have cellulose in their composition and have high absorbency.
  • Wiping down glass windows: You can’t go wrong picking wipers or rags, as long as they are absorbent. You should avoid shop towels, because they may scratch the glass exterior and leave unsightly streaks.
  • Scrubbing stains, dirt, and adhesives from non-porous surfaces: Select rags, wipers or towels that are made with strong, robust fabric that won’t easily shred. Cheap hand towels and paper towels will likely be ineffective and frustrating to use.
  • Sanitizing surfaces (e.g. in a hospital or restaurant): The key to getting rid of dangerous bacteria is to look for rags and wipers that have superior wet strength since you will want to use it to apply cleaning chemicals to the surfaces that need to be sanitized. For sanitizing, we don’t recommend laundered towels, since they might carry small traces of contaminants.

By pairing the task to the proper rag, wiper, or towel, you can increase the efficiency and efficacy of your cleaning crew. From wiping away grease and dirt to removing fingerprints and streaks on windows, proper cleaning cloths are key to a well-maintained and sanitary facility.

At ACTION Unlimited Resources, we have spent years researching and understanding the best types of cleaning and facility maintenance products and are always excited to share our knowledge with others. If you want to learn more about selecting the best rags, wipers, and towels, our team is always ready to chat!