Crafters, painters, woodworkers along with many handy do it yourself type homeowners find a tack cloth an invaluable tool when working on a project. Any handyman or woman wouldn’t  even think of beginning a job without their trusty tack cloth. Tack cloths are also commonly known as tack rags. The names are completely interchangeable. Tack cloths are readily available in home improvement and hardware stores at a reasonable price, but you may have a pile of rags hanging around along with the materials necessary to make your own tack cloth – so why not make your own.

What is a Tack-Cloth?

A tack cloth or rag is a thin piece of material that has been treated with a lightly sticky material. The fabric remains sticky or tacky. After a crafter or do it yourselfer uses sandpaper, an emery cloth or even a Dremel tool to smooth a surface, edge or remove a glossy finish, sanding dust is left on the surface. Before painting or otherwise refinishing the project, all dust must be removed. Wiping all surfaces down with a tack cloth pulls the dust off and holds it on the rag. A regular untreated rag or cloth will push the sanding dust off the surface or cause it to become airborne and settle back onto the surface. If you paint, stain or seal a surface with dust on, the dust causes the surface to feel and appear rough. Tack rags come in handy when refinishing furniture, repainting woodwork, patching a wall along with a variety of other projects.

Making a Tack Rag

Save pieces of material that are at least 4 by 4 inches for craft projects or approximately 12 by 12 for bigger jobs. You can also use any size in between. The size of the rags is not a hard and fast rule. Choose fabrics that have been well worn and free of lint. Heavyweight material such as denim or terrycloth is not appropriate. If you don’t have a bunch of extra rags lying around, buy inexpensive cheesecloth.

Wash the rags or cheesecloth in hot water and laundry detergent. Skip the fabric softener. Don’t worry of the rags have permanent stains – they can still be used.

Toss the rags in the dryer and dry them thoroughly. Do not use a dryer sheet.

Take the rags outdoors.

Lay a thick layer of newspaper on the ground. Extinguish all cigarettes, keep the ingredients away from pilot lights, outdoor fires or any other sparks or open flames.

Put on a pair of rubber gloves and chemical approved safety goggles.

Place a rubber or plastic bucket on top of the layer of newspaper.

Measure equal amounts of shellac and denatured alcohol and pour the two ingredients into the bucket.

Stir the contents with a wood stir stick to thoroughly blend the denatured alcohol and shellac.

Submerge the rags into the mixture in the bucket.

Pick up one rag at a time and wring out the excess shellac and denatured alcohol.

Hang the rags to dry. The rags will remain sticky or tacky when they are dry, but won’t drip or feel wet to the touch.

Tack Rag Tips

While tack cloths are inexpensive – using extra supplies you have hanging around your house is cheaper and a good way to recycle and reuse them.

Fold the tack rags and store them in a plastic bag to keep dust from settling on them and sticking to the surface.

Besides being very useful for craft or home improvement projects – use tack cloths to dust walls, ceilings, high shelves and tops of furniture to keep the dust from flying off and floating through the air and later settling on lower surfaces.

Dispose of the unused shellac and denatured alcohol properly.