DIY Projects

How to Turn Old T-Shirts into Dust Rags

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I didn't know what to do with all the tees from high school and college that were stained, had holes, and generally weren't good enough to donate, but now I do! I've turned all of those old, holey tees into dust rags, and the secret to getting crisp edges every time works like a dream! #oldtees #oldtshirtuses #ideasforoldtshirts #diydustrags #homemadedustrags

Would you believe I have never bought a dust rag in my entire life?

I think it’s because I grew up watching my mom cut old t-shirts into dust rags, and so I continued the tradition when I got married. It just seemed like the normal {and inexpensive} thing to do!

However, even with all the benefits of making my own dust rags, I was constantly frustrated with how ragged the edges turned out after cutting my tees – no matter how careful I was about doing it. Granted, no one else is really going to see these rags, but I wanted them to fold nicely in my storage closet and look just as good as my bathroom towels. Perfectionist, maybe?

I thought about using my sewing machine to get that “hemmed” look, but that seemed like too much effort for some simple dust rags that were just going to be used to clean up messes all the time.

Then I realized that getting a clean edge was more simple than I originally thought – just use a cutting mat and rotary cutter to make sure the sides are nice and crisp. And because knit doesn’t fray or unravel, it’s actually the perfect solution!

Supplies Needed:

The Project:

Step 1: Smooth out the t-shirt facedown onto a flat surface.

How to Turn Old T-Shirts into Dust Rags | Creative Savings

Step 2: Use fabric scissors to cut just below the sleeves. You could actually use any kind of scissors you want, but I find that fabric scissors don’t pull on the t-shirt as much as regular ones and make it much easier to cut.

How to Turn Old T-Shirts into Dust Rags | Creative Savings

Step 3: Remove top of t-shirt and set aside. Then flatten the bottom portion and trim 3 of the edges with rotary cutter. Some people like to cut off the bottom hem, but I just leave it for sake of simplicity.

How to Turn Old T-Shirts into Dust Rags | Creative Savings

Step 4: After all cuts are made, you should have two rags now instead of one. Fold nicely and set aside. If the top of your t-shirt has markings on the back, just throw it away, but if not, you can still squeeze one more rag out of it in the next couple of steps!

How to Turn Old T-Shirts into Dust Rags | Creative Savings

Step 5: Bring the t-shirt top back over to the cutting mat and cut a rectangle between the sleeves and just below the neck.

How to Turn Old T-Shirts into Dust Rags | Creative Savings

Step 6: Fold in half and trim all the ragged edges, then fold nicely on top of your other rags. Depending on the type of t-shirt you could have 2 large rags and 1-2 small rags from just one piece of clothing!

How to Turn Old T-Shirts into Dust Rags | Creative Savings

Call me silly, but this t-shirt stack makes me smile every time I look at it….no more ragged edges peeking out from the sides! Isn’t it pretty?

How to Turn Old T-Shirts into Dust Rags | Creative Savings

Total Cost: FREE

Supplies list $0.00 | All items used were from my stash

These dust rags are not only great to use on wood furniture {because they are just so soft and won’t leave scratches}, they are also wonderful to clean up paint and oil spills, wipe up leaks, or use as protectants on glass during a big move. Plus.you get to declutter your wardrobe of holey tees!

Although I haven’t crunched the numbers specifically, I know repurposing our old t-shirts has saved us a bunch of money without buying those temptingly super soft microfiber cloths from the store. We also don’t have to rely as much on disposable paper towel rolls.

And because we always have so many rags on hand, I don’t ever feel guilty if I have to throw one out every once in a while just because I don’t want to send it through my washer. There has to be a limit to saving money every once in a while, and I am not going to touch a rag that’s been through who-knows-what just to save a few pennies.

I’m cheap….but I guess I’m not that cheap!

Have you ever cut your t-shirts into rags?

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36 Comments

  1. and those cut off strips could be used for stuffing in handmade toys…

    1. Hi and thank you for your advice about cutting old t-shirts into rags. I do that too, but actually go beyond t-shirts and I cut up old sheets, or any other soft material that I can use from old stuff. I like your idea about making them nice and neat, though. I haven’t done that, but I think I will. They will fit better in my already crowded linen closet and cabinet above the washer and dryer. Thanks again!

    2. Every Sunday morning, before church, I line up our eyeglasses and spray with eyeglass spray and wipe with small pieces of cut up t-shirts. Perfect! The store told me to never use paper on eyeglasses, it scratches them.
      A use for the sleeves of t-shirts being cut up for dustrags which I have done forever

  2. Thank you SO MUCH for this. I cut old t-shirts all the time and mine have never folded nicely. I only store mine in the utility room because I don’t like the way they stack. I dion’t want to put them anywhere someone might see them. It will now be nice to have them handy in the kitchen and bathrooms for cleaning.

  3. Hi! I actually use white rugs (made from white t-shirts) instead of paper napkins in the kitchen. They’ve saved us a ton of money over the years, they are softer and more efficient as well. And whites are pretty easy to stay white with the help of the sun and look nicer inside their basket on the kitchen table!
    Blue and black ones are for dusting and various jobs and colored ones are to be used in the bathroom. Those colored ones I usually don’t even bother to wash (i find it a bit gross, to wash them with our clothes), I just throw them out because there are always so many of them around.

    1. I love that you color coordinate rags for each purpose…makes it so easy! I also agree with you about putting icky ones through the wash. Sometimes they can just be too gross!

  4. I do this too, but my edges still curl up in the wash. Yours are cut much more neatly than mine, though! Mine are tossed in a basket in the kitchen, and I buy a lot less paper towels now. If you do cut off the bottom hem, or have little scraps (strips), another use for them is for ties to use around gift wrap rolls, or any small items you’d like to keep bundled.

    1. Mine curl up just a bit too, but I still think it looks better than the ragged edges I had before! And I love your idea of using the scraps to tie things together. 🙂

  5. If you sew, the cut off strips can also be collected and used to create a rag rug! I am currently trying to figure out how to re-purpose my paper towel rack (one of the mount under the overhead cabinet kinds) to hold a box for rags. maybe that will stop my mom from bringing over her own paper towels when she babysits. LOL!

  6. I just cleaned out our closet. Lots of donations and I was happy to see your blog and keep the old T Shirts to use as rags. I decided to no longer buy paper towels to clean as a result.
    I have some soft cotton button downs I set aside and wondering what ideas are out there to repurpose these?
    Collette

    1. I would love to get to the “no paper towels” point, but for now, every baby step counts! As for the cotton button downs, I know there are a TON of tutorials on Pinterest explaining how to turn them into women’s clothing, such as shirts and skirts. It’s definitely worth a look!

  7. love t rags, flannel pj’s rags are great too. I use a pinked edge blade in my rotory cutter and the flannel does not fray.

  8. with 5 kids I’m always looking for a way to save money. I love this and was already going through my kids’ rooms this week to toss out (bag up) all the old stuff and toss anything that was torn up.

  9. We always use our old t-shirts as rags when there is nothing else we can do with them. We tend to wear them out until they are too stained or holey to be resized for another wearer. Some smaller pieces are used as patches on stuffed toys or on jeans or jogging pants. Plus the remnants can be turned into yarn for knitting or crochet rag mats. My grandmother would use them in her hooked mats. There is so many uses for the leftover t-shirts pieces…

    Note: For the repurposing of the towel rack, I saw somewhere on the net that you can add tacks to your rags so that they can be rolled and used as the “usual” paper towels.

  10. When I got married in 1969 my husbands very old grandma gave us some old flannelettet sheets to cut up for dusters but we still use them as dust covers when decorating a room! They give me a good memory each time they are used. They wash like a dream.

    1. Flannel sheets would be perfect! I just stashed some old ones away for paint drop cloths, but I think I’m going to have to use your idea. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Depending on the size of the fan blade and the size of the arm hole on the t-shirt, I cut the t-shirt arm off from the armpit up to the collar, and use that to dust my fan blades. Just place the blade through the hole and it dusts under and over at once, and keeps most of the dust from falling down!

  12. Within the last month I finally took the plunge into the DIY world. It has been great! Make my own laundry soap, dish soap, etc. I got tired of going to the store for paper products.
    I had a lot of old clothes (t-shirts, jammies, etc.). Did some research on what to do with them. Some I made into toilet paper (smallish size rectangles). Others I turned into nose tissues (round). Still others I turned into cleaning rags (medium size). My old jammies (Scotty dogs pattern) I turned into napkins for meal times. Then my recent DIY I turned an extra t-shirt (white, x large, no stains, just washed) into two dish towels for drying dishes. (missed the old white dish towels from my youth).
    I do wash them separately from my clothes via the DIY bucket system. I do a LOT more washing (bucket system) because of what I use the old t-shirts for but at least now I don’t worry about running out of paper products, i.e. toilet paper, paper towels, Kleenex, etc.
    Just me and two pets.

  13. Oh! I forgot to mention what I do with the hem of old t-shirts. First I fold it in half. Then tie anywhere between 2-5 knots & turn it into a tug of war toy for my dog. On one end there is a loop so I can hold on while playing with the pup. He loves them!

    1. That’s a great toy! I bet the ropes like that at the pet store cost $5 to $10!

  14. I just found your site after a search for diy tshirt repurposing……ended up cleaning up 3 big bags i had set for getting rid of….got 2 separate bags out of it..Ones in the kitchen closet for use and the other is now in the upstairs linen closet on my special usage shelf .. its found a home amongst homemade dishcloths and dining napkins…..lol..thanks saved me a trip in the car keep up the good work

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