When it comes to wiping a surface – whether it’s a counter or machine part – there’s a perception that using a rag multiple times is less wasteful than using a disposable wipe.

But rags and shop towels made of cloth material (and recycled clothing) can often complicate, not improve, manufacturing processes, according to the Kimberly-Clark Professional* report “Industrial Wipers: How They Impact Product Quality, Productivity, Worker Health & the Environment.”

Because rags and towels sometimes leave behind lint, dirt and debris, using them can compromise a manufacturing process and those contaminants can potentially get into the product being manufactured, resulting in rework.

“If anything, rags and laundered shop towels increase defects,” said Ankur Gupta, category manager, WypAll* Wipers, at Kimberly-Clark Professional*.

For instance, rags that have been used to wipe down industrial equipment contain debris like metal shavings and pins.

“For goodness sake, asking people ‘Why do you use a rag?’ is like asking ‘Why would you use a used piece of underwear?’ when you’re doing your work,” Gupta said.

A 2011 study conducted by Gradient, an environmental and risk science consulting firm, and co-sponsored by Kimberly-Clark Professional* found that a worker using up to 12 laundered shop towels a day may be exposed to high levels of antimony, beryllium, cadmium, cobalt, copper, lead and molybdenum.

Here are some other reasons why rags and laundered shop towels are not as dependable as industrial wipers:



  • Inconsistent in size, shape and material
  • Contain pins, buttons and metal shavings in many cases, which can lead to scratches and other imperfections on surfaces
  • Occupy more storage space in industrial warehouses than disposable wipes


    Laundered Shop Towels

  • Can retain lead, a toxic heavy metal, which can cause serious health issues to the worker like elevated blood lead levels and hypertension
  • Not engineered for specific applications
  • Contribute to landfill waste


Disposable Wipers Are More Efficient Than You Think

Disposable wipes like WypAll* Wipers are absorbent, making it quick to clean a piece of equipment and can reduce machine stoppages.  

“When choosers use the right tools, they will ultimately see that they can impact quality, delivery and costs in a much bigger way than they could have imagined,” Gupta said. “Now that’s efficiency.”

Our Road to Zero Waste

Efficient Workplace Program

Purdue University diverts Waste

Kleenex® and Cottonelle® Solutions...

Please wait...