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When i clean the house i have a rag for dusting, one for the floor. Sometimes one for the bikes outside. One for wiping down the toilet.

I try to keep track, by remembering the color and where i last put it so that i don't end up wiping the kitchen table with the cloth i used for the toilet a day ago.

The ones not used on the toilet or the floor go in the regular laundry, the others i wash in a bucket, with cleaning stuff and my gloves on.

To make the situation more complicated, we now have a cleaner. I fear she does not really have a system, when i come home i find a pile of wet rags somewhere.

Is there a system of just some tips and tricks to help us organize the storage and washing of cleaning rags effectively and efficiently? Requirements:

  • it should be easy to share (so both i and the cleaner adhere to the same system)
  • it should keep apart the very dirty (floor and toilet) from the just dirty rags
  • (wet) rags should not be allowed go mouldy
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    What makes you think that the toilet/floor rags shouldn't go in the laundry? My gut feeling would be that a good washing machine would actually be better at sanitizing them...? – Stephie Sep 8 '17 at 5:02
  • @Stephanie its usually only 2 or three at the time, not enough volume to warrant a wash for only the cleaning cloths. But if i stick them with the rest of the laundry, then 1) i have to rinse and dry them anyway waiting for weekend to come around when i have time for laundry and 2) i like to wash them at a much higher temperature then most of the laundry, so it may even be the next weekend or the next. – Ivana Sep 8 '17 at 12:06
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We use entirely different sets of colours for different purposes. Right now, the newest cloths are solid earth tones. These are for dishes, wiping counters, wiping tables. In the same (kitchen) cupboard, but a separate stack, we keep the striped cloths that we use for the floor. Upstairs, in each bathroom, we keep a small supply of the pastel cloths (some with holes in them or frayed edges) that we use for the toilet. And in the box with the pool supplies we keep the white ones we use to wipe the pool when brown sulphur stuff appears at the waterline.

We put all of these into the laundry, and when they come out we fold them and put them where they belong. You can't accidentally grab the wrong one, and if there's a damp cloth near the kitchen sink I know whether or not it was used on the floor, and don't accidentally reuse it for a counter.

Some time in the future all my cloths will be that much older. The bathroom ones will be so worn out that half of them have been thrown away. I will buy another dozen or so that, while they may not all be the same colour, are a collection or pattern that is not the same as any I own at the time, throw out the pastel ones, move the striped ones to bathroom duty, the earth tones to floor duty, and use the new ones for dishes and counters. We've been doing this for decades and it's simple, easy, and pretty foolproof - the worst that can happen is that someone will use a clean cloth from the kitchen cupboard for the wrong purpose. We don't leave floor cloths lying around when we have visitors, and visitors don't clean our floor or bathroom, so it works just fined

  • I like this answer because in addition to color-coding, which can be forgotten or ignored, it uses location, making it so much easier to use the right cloth. – Ivana Sep 8 '17 at 9:18
  • Do you wash the cloths separately and/or use a special cycle? – Ivana Sep 8 '17 at 9:19
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    We do not. I've raised two children in cloth diapers, and I know my machine gets things clean. I rinse a bathroom cloth well under the tap after using it, then put it in the regular laundry basket. If I use a bathroom cloth for something like vomit on the floor, I will rinse it extra thoroughly before I put it in the laundry. (However dog poo I cleaned with a paper towel that I could just throw out. You have to draw the line somewhere.) – Kate Gregory Sep 8 '17 at 11:45
  • @KateGregory same here - cloths go into the machine. That's what hot cycles are for. – Stephie Sep 8 '17 at 15:22
  • Adding to the answer: dirty rags should be rinsed in hot water and dried before stowed in the laundry basket, and whashed at least 60 degrees centigrade. That way numbers of harmful bacteria are decimated, and cannot grow back in a dry rag. The 60 degrees wash will kill the rest off. As per expert advice (in dutch): volkskrant.nl/wetenschap/… – Ivana Jan 21 at 10:00
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I'm a fan of labeling fabrics (other than clothes) with a black permanent marker. On each of your rags, you can add a big capital letter:

  • "D" for dusting
  • "F" for floor
  • "T" for toilet
  • "B" for bikes

I've found permanent marker fades after several washes, so I just write over the letters as needed.

To keep them from going moldy, I just recommend drying them thoroughly after each washing. You may need to have backup rags for the ones that take longer to dry, so you always have one that's available while another is still damp.

  • I like this answer because it provides an alternative to color-coding. Cleaning cloths usually come in packages of random colors making color-coding difficult to implement. – Ivana Sep 8 '17 at 8:36
  • The problem with this is that you can't see a letter like that at a glance, and it doesn't let you move cloths through cycles as they start to get worn out and ratty. It's more work than I'm willing to do, also. :-) – Kate Gregory Sep 8 '17 at 15:36
  • @KateGregory Good points. To address them, I would say: (1) Make the letter 1 inch high, and write it in each corner of the rag so it's easy to spot no matter how the rag is oriented. (2) If a rag gets old and you want to change what it's used for, scribble out the old letter and add the new letter in each corner. (3) It is a bit of work, and I've got no alternative to that! ;-) – BrettFromLA Sep 8 '17 at 16:13

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