The 21st Century Rag*

While I did grow up well after the time where rag and bone men cruised neighborhoods for scraps of fabric and metal, it doesn’t mean we didn’t respect the humble rag. When I was a kid and an item of clothing became too worn or stained it became fodder for my mother’s rag bag, to be cut up and used on cleaning days. I continue the tradition to this day. The fact is, fabric cleans a lot of surfaces (notably glass) much more effectively than paper towels, and it’s a great opportunity for reuse. Armed with a rag bag and some sponges, what do you need paper towels for, anyway? I use them solely for draining the grease out of my fake bacon. (The grease is very, very real, though the bacon is not.)

It is not that surprising that a few scraps of fabric are almost valueless to most people, since clothes have become so crazily inexpensive in the last hundred years that even individuals who live well below the poverty line often have extensive wardrobes, mostly consisting of cheaply-made clothes from sweatshop labor. Today the average American buys 60 items of clothing per year. When I worked with homeless teens about ten years ago even they could afford to be selective about what donated clothing items they would accept. They’d tell me stories of dumpster diving and finding clothing items with the tags still on. Getting into all that, however, is a post for another day.

So, for today, I’m just asking you to consider starting a rag bag, if you don’t have one already. Wouldn’t it be great if you could stop buying paper towels (which can’t be recycled, FYI)? Oh, how superior you’d feel to all those suckers in places like Home Depot that actually buy rags.

Oh, how your mirror will shine. (And they’re great for dusting, too.)


*Could make a great song. Someone get on that!

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