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27 November 2009

Cleaning cloths and covers

It was cricket day yesterday. The day that signifies the beginning of summer for me, when I watch the first day of a five day cricket match, doze on and off in my chair, knit, and generally laze about. Back in the 1980s, when my children were in primary school, and I was working full time and studying for a degree, it was also the time when study was finished for the year, preparations for Christmas and the summer holidays were just about to start and I had that one day off, alone, to relax.

New cleaning cloths.

I've changed in many ways since then and now I can't just sit doing nothing, so in addition to my knitting, yesterday I also made notes for a magazine article I'm writing and cut up rags. I like to keep that rag bag full and yesterday I added some good sized flannel cloths that once used to be a winter nightie. Waste not, want not. I never buy cleaning cloths, they all come from our old clothes, sheets and towels now. I cut them into the sizes I need, some I hem and some I don't, and I leave them to wait their time in my rag bag which hangs in the laundry.

The ragbag hangs in the laundry.

There are other speciality cloths here in addition to the cleaning rags. I also have a number of cotton cloths used for straining yoghurt and making cheese. These cloths are soft cotton and they generally fray around the edges, so I always hem them. I don't want fragments of cotton in our food. These cloths are also used to cover food, either sitting on the kitchen bench or in the fridge. If you don't want to use plastic wrap in the fridge, a moist cotton cloth will serve you well if the item is only in the fridge for a couple of days. If you would like to make yourself some of these cloths, buy some soft muslin, lawn or handkerchief linen, cut it to the size you need and hem the edges. Make sure you wash the cloth before using it on your food. These cloths and covers don't have to be ironed but they must always be clean.

Straining cloths and jug covers.

Other handy items to have in your cupboard are a few crocheted or cotton cloth jug covers. I have one large and one small crocheted cover and a couple of cotton cloth covers. The crochet covers are fine for covering a jug of milk or cold water when it's sitting on a table for a while. The cotton covers are needed when I'm fermenting and making things like ginger beer, sourdough and vinegar. They keep the bugs out, especially those annoying vinegar flies that many people call fruit flies, but they allow air and natural yeasts into the food you're making.

An old doiley with weights attached now serves an a jar cover.

To make a crocheted cover, there are plenty of crochet patterns online, but you could also do as I did for my small cover - I looked through my old doilies to find something suitable and just attached weights with embroidery cotton. The weights you use can be buttons, beads or shells with a hole drilled in the top.

This is a deep drawer in my kitchen where I keep my tea towels, cloths and covers.

Many of these cloths were commonplace in our grandmas' homes but they died an unnatural death in modern times. You won't find them in a shop, these are something you make yourself. But it's simple sewing, even for those who have never sewn before. They're the ideal beginners project.

Once you've made these simple covers, rags and straining cloths, you might like to ramp up your move towards self reliance and make other household linens like cloth napkins, tea towels, aprons, shopping totes and table cloths. All are easy newbie projects, all will help you create a more simple home and all will help you in your daily homemaking.

Thank you for your visits this week. We're fast moving towards the holiday season and all the extra work and busy times that holds. Don't forget to take care of yourself when you have that extra work. Take time out, take things slowly and enjoy what you do. I'll see you again next week, my friends.


  1. Oh what a lovely deep drawer! I have a few of those but can't afford one for my towels and cloths yet- they are needed for stock pots and pans.
    What do you use for your straining cloths? Is it just any old plain cotton? Can it be used instead of cheese cloth?
    I never thought of using old doilies like that- good idea. I really don't like buying plastic wrap, not to mention aluminum foil. Lovely post today. Hope you have wonderful week.
    The Girl in the Pink Dress

  2. I love our rag bag - don't know what I did without it. We use our rags for dusting a general cleaning - then they just get thrown in the wash with the sheets to use again. A damp rag to dust stops me from sneezing my head off.

  3. lots of great ideas again Rhonda - thank you ! Love the blue of your laundry walls !
    Enjoy your weekend,

  4. Hello,
    I loved the idea of bags for laundry, I'm sorry that in Portugal do not use cloth bags for shopping and laundry.
    Good weekend.

  5. Good evening Rhonda, I know what you mean about knitting when you watch the cricket. I am looking forward to seeing some play over the weekend.

  6. I use cloth cleaning cloths, but I can't figure out the best way to handle the dirty ones. Any suggestions of where to put them (especially the wet ones) between the time I use them and the time they are laundered?

  7. Pink Dress,

    I use squares from old oxford cloth shirts for straining or making bags for spices to be cooked in relish pots. I think unbleached muslin would work also.

  8. Oooh! this image of knitting and cricket is making me very envious, here in the UK I am looking out of the office window to the last remains of a very dark November Dull Dull day. Still I have a vibrant scarf on the needles for when I get home and a great chicken casserole in the slow cooker.

  9. My fav cleaning/polishing rags come from about to be discarded sweatshirts..perfect for so many chores-silver & furniture polishing
    My fav dish towels are the white flours sack towels from discount or $$ stores..when they are beyond using in the kitchen I move them to the laundry room for other uses
    and my laundry room always has several no longer used white sheets that are readily available for drop cloths when doing painting projects and perfect for throwing over plants outside when frost or cold threatens!
    Luv the doily jar topper!

  10. HI Rhonda Jean, wonderful post - again and again. I have a stack of lovely fine woven dish towel from Gram. They are great and still are holding up well. I have several that only get used to rise the bread it. Another specifically designated to wring out spinach to get all the water out before it goes in a quiche. And they still work great to dry dishes in the kitchen. We are shifting around a few rooms in the house and it is giving me the opportunity to go through linens and get others out to use. Beautiful large crocheted table clothes gram made. Other doilies that I crocheted. Beautifully embroidered hand towels (gram again). They are so fun to use and it is nice to switch them around so they all get seen and used around the house. I am long past the "save" mode - save it for what? A special occasion, I am using them everyday and it is worth it.Thank you again for all that you share. Emily in So. TX

  11. I just love the idea of a rag bag.

  12. Thankyou so much on the idea to use a damp cloth over things instead of plastic wrap. I try to put a saucer or other plate over things instead of using any plastic. I believe I saw you did this too. Years ago they sold the glass refrigerator containers with a glass lid. I noticed recently that Pyrex has brought these back. I saw them at Walmart. I do have a question. What do you use to get a lot of grease out of the sillet? I don't want to use paper towels. Do you use your worst rags then throw them out? I wash and reuse all my rags but you wouldn't want to wash one so full of grease. Any ideas are very welcome. Thankyou. Jody

  13. i made all our cleaning cloths from old nappies (terry and flannelette) chopped up and hemmed - it was the most exciting sewing project i had done in a long time - an almost never ending supply of dusters AND no more nappies to wash!

    Rhonda Jean - do you use a damp cloth to cover bread when it is rising, or do you use cling wrap? i have found the top goes 'crusty' if i cover with a teatowel - maybe it should be damp?

    someone in the comments asked what to do woth the dirty cleaning cloths - i have a bucket in the laundrt tub which collects water when i wash my hands - i dump the dirty cloths in there to soak until i do a load of washing.


  14. I too would love to know how you handle grease and the washing of your rags. We use all cloth napkins, rags, towels, etc. Have been for almost 2 years now and my rags have a smell that I just cannot get out of some of them. :( I wash every other day doing a rag load. In between washes I rinse and hang or put them in a bucket by the washer. We tend to go through a lot of rags daily with cleaning and 4 little ones that spill and drip a lot. lol

    BTW, I always love seeing your rags. It reminds me of the linen drawer at my Grandma's. Full of all these just beautiful rags and towels. Sadly hers sit there unused mostly since she uses paper now, she did let me snag a wonderful embroidered towel last time I was there. :)

  15. I am with Annon. Jody on the question about grease in the skillets. Love to hear what others do? Emily

  16. Like you Melissa, I always use a damp rag to dust and then a dry one to finish off.

    It can be cheesecloth, pink. Just look at the weave. For dairy products you usually need a tight weave.

    Jody, I have one of those vintage Pyrex cheese containers. It keeps a block of cheese perfectly. Good to hear they're making a comeback. To remove grease from a skillet you could use an old rag or newspaper, both can be thrown out or put in the compost or worm farm when the job is done. Newspaper ink is non-toxic, generally made from soy, and wiping out a skillet with it, then washing the skillet, should give you a good result.
    When I make butter and have the grease from the butter in a cloth, I wash it straight away in the kitchen sink, using hot water and homemade soap. It comes up very well.

    Jessica, the wet ones I hang over the side of the dirty laundry bin; the really dirty ones I throw into a bucket of water, wash by hand, rinse out then hang them over the side of the laundry bin.

    Alison, about once a month I put all my rags in to soak in oxygen bleach. It's a peroxide bleach, not chloride bleach. I fill my bucket with hot water from the tap, add the recommended amount of oxygen bleach powder, and place all the rags I've used during the month, clean and dirty, into the bucket. When the water is cold, I put the rags in the washing machine along with other things I'm washing. This keeps them free from smells and it sanitizes them.

    Paula I don't cover bread as it's rising now, except in winter if I put it outside in the sun. Then I cover it with a moist cloth.

  17. Well thankyou, I have just organised two baskets of cloths. One rags for cleaning and one with old linens for covering and straining food. Yay! What a good girl I am :)

  18. Rhonda -- I don't know how you do it. Even the pictures of your laundry room and your drawers are calming. I started reading you because I'm trying to get good at many of the things you do, but I keep coming back because you're also the antidote to chaos and disorder.

  19. Hi Rhonda,

    I found your blog, yesterday, I think. I'm interested in all the things you write about and will have a great time reading.

    I live in Western Australia and live much as you describe here. I'm glad I found your blog. Thanks for writing.


  20. Thanks for sharing your great ideas! Do you know where to get the pattern for the star shaped doily pictured above? I LOVE that one!!

    You are my list to read each day!


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