Are you ready to turn rags to riches? Well maybe not riches exactly, but today the rag industry is a thriving business sector.

The dictionary tells us that a rag is:

  • A worthless piece of cloth, especially one that is torn or worn.
  • Something of very low value or in very poor condition.
  • Piece of old cloth, especially one torn from a larger piece, used typically for cleaning things.
We like the last definition.

Rags have always been given a bad rap, even in children’s nursery rhymes (“The beggars are coming to town; some in rags and some in tags”) and popular stories (ragamuffin – ragged often disreputable person; especially a poorly clothed often dirty child). Like Rodney Dangerfield rags “got no respect”.

But things have changed and fiber technology has been highly responsible for the change.

The Market of Turning Rags to Riches

Wool and cotton have largely been replaced by synthetic fibers such as nylon, polyester, rayon, and acrylic. They do not shrink, are more stain resistant, and may be wrinkle free. More importantly, they don’t wear out. This means that clothing today is discarded because of fashion changes, boredom, or change of fit (dieting or growing kids) rather than wear. As a result “rags” are not necessarily worthless, torn or worn. The market for old cloths is saturated, charity shops are overloaded and developing countries all have their share of Dodger T-shirts and Yankee baseball caps!

Think About It

Changes in materials have allowed rags for cleaning to come into their own and with the wide range of fabrics available there is a suitable choice for every need. Companies like A&A Wiping Cloth specialize in recycling materials from numerous sources (clothing, hospitality, medical, bedding, blankets, etc.) into products that have revolutionized the cleaning industry and put to good use discarded clothing and linens.

Maybe we should now define a rag as a reusable cloth for cleaning and wiping: a valuable product in its own right, not a discard.