[TheThinkTank] What do you do with your dirty rags?

Michael Kirk michael.john.kirk at gmail.com
Fri Oct 9 14:14:44 PDT 2015

Bicicocina in Los Angeles has been using Ameripride for our rag service for years. It’s pretty convenient, but at about $35/wk (about $2000/year) I’d say it’s more cash than it’s worth. The problem is the minimum orders. We could easily do with once a month service, but they require us to have once a week service. And frustratingly we were previously told they had a $50/wk minimum and thus got some rugs, hand towels, and hand soap delivered. Though more than half the time they “forget” the hand soap. Somehow in our threatening to fire them, the lowered our minimum to something like $35/wk and we no longer get the rugs.

We approached one of our neighboring auto-shops to see if we could piggy-back on their rag order but they thought it was a dumb idea and that we should just buy our own.

In response to this thread, I just looked into Cintas and they also have a $35/wk minimum, and require at least weekly service. I’m not sure how many rags that would be.

My current preference would be to keep a small number of rags, use them till their super dirty, then toss them. One idea for a rag source was to go to a goodwill outlet and buy old t-shirt and towels by the pound. Of course letting your clients know that you are a place that will accept their old cloth donations could get you part of the way there. This would probably be the most economical solution, but it does require some institutional energy to stay on top of rag inventory, and make sure people are being mindful about using new clean rags and throwing out old ones.


> On Oct 9, 2015, at 12:16 PM, Tom Martin <thomas.martin6 at pcc.edu> wrote:
> Our volume of repairs and fleet bikes does not make it necessary for a rag service (which is very important- see previous threads on fires). 
> We use blue shop towels and put them in our non recyclable landfill bound waste. 
> I am not aware of a method to reclaim or separate the grime, metal and oils from disposable shop towels ( the cotton reinforced paper ones). 
> Towel or rag services do this I am assuming. What do they do with the waste water? Do they treat the water? Glean the metal shavings that may be suspended in the grime? Separate the oil from the dirt? Interesting things to ponder but I wonder if it is something that is scalable down to a small shop or household level. 
> Tom Martin
> ASPCC bike program coordinator 
> Cascade
> Sent on the go. Please excuse brevity and typos. 
> On Oct 9, 2015, at 12:10 PM, dontito at videotron.ca <mailto:dontito at videotron.ca> wrote:
>> We’re looking into the disposal problem for oily and greasy rags generated in bike shops.
>> 1.     I’d like to get an idea of the amount of this waste generated in different shops as a function of shop activity. 
>> 2.    Where do your dirty rags go?
>> 3.    Some shops use commercial services that supply clean rags and collect and clean them after they’ve been used.   If you’re familiar with this kind of service do you know the cost? Do you know what sort of cleaning treatment they use and what happens to that effluent?
>> 4.    Anybody found creative ways to detoxify this shop waste?
>> Thanks!
>> Donnie
>> SantroVélo, Montréal
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