Shop Rags, Wipes, and Towels to Clean Up Any Mess

The best products for cleaning up grease, grime, dirt, dust, paint, lubricants, and oils.

Caucasian man repairing motorcycle wiping hands
Getty ImagesMarc Romanelli

Grease, grime, dirt, dust, paint, lubricants, and oils—if you work with your hands, there's no avoiding them. Most of the time, cleaning this stuff off yourself and your tools means wiping with whatever is handy and cheap, like a piece of an old T-shirt or a paper towel. But over the course of a messy project like painting, you can run through your household supply of these pretty quickly. The solution is to buy a small supply of wipes and shop rags suited for various jobs.

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Shop Towels
Amazon
HMF amazon.com
$18.99

These are coarse, washable 14-inch x 14-inch square cotton towels with a hemmed edge. I keep one folded in a tool bag. They are ideal for automotive work where a coarse, durable wipe is useful for wiping heavy grease and grime off your hands or tools. They also work well when used with hand cleaner and offer medium absorbency.

New or Recycled T-Shirt Material
Amazon
Trimaco amazon.com
$13.19

Also called painter rags, these are unhemmed pieces  of cotton fabric in various sizes made from either new material or recycled from institutional users or from industrial fabric processors. They’re soft enough that you can use them for applying materials like wiping varnishes. It’s also helpful to keep a clean one in your pocket for wiping sweat off your face when painting outside in the summer. They’re more absorbent than a shop towel.

Huck Towels
Amazon
HMF amazon.com
$22.99

New, hemmed cotton towels that are nice and soft; the more you wash them, the softer they get. These are too expensive to use as disposable shop wipes; they work better for general household cleaning and are extremely absorbent. Their 16-inch x 24 inch size makes them large enough to use as a face wipe on hot summer days.

Terry Towels
Amazon
Buffalo Industries amazon.com
$9.34

Softer and more absorbent than the previously mentioned shop wipes are terry towels, made from all-cotton terry cloth. These work well for gentle wiping and applying wax to furniture. They also make great sweat mops. Although they certainly are washable, they’re not as durable as the other products.

Microfiber Wipes and Cloths
AmazonBasics amazon.com
$12.81

We have a big pile of these at home and although my wife uses them for house cleaning, I use them on the more delicate automotive surfaces, like paint, glass, and mirrors. If there’s a chance the cloth will pick up grime and need to be trashed afterward, I use a disposable cleaning cloth, like T-shirt material.

Shop Towels on the Roll
Amazon
Wypall amazon.com
$55.14

If you’re going to do a big project like restoring an old car, you might as well bite the bullet and invest in a roll of shop towels and the dispenser for it. They’ll repay that investment in reducing the nuisance factor. They are extremely absorbent and tough but not so tough that they are washable.

Waterless Cleaning Wipes
Amazon
Wypall amazon.com
$95.29
$68.49 (28% off)

If you have a big painting project ahead of you, an automotive or other restoration, it might make sense to invest in these. They are a hybrid cotton-synthetic wipe pre-moistened with cosmetic-grade skin cleaners and citrus solvent for cutting grease and dirt. They are an extremely effective and tough multipurpose cleaning wipe suitable for hands and tools.

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