For shop rags, we mostly use old T-shirts that have been washed and washed and are almost falling apart. But when I have a finishing operation where I want almost zero chance of lint or threads coming loose, I break into our stash of Huck towels.
I was turned on to Huck towels by Ty Black, who used to work in my shop. His then-wife worked at a local hospital and there were always surplus Huck towels around. One common use for them is to clean surgical instruments after they have been sterilized.
Huck towels are 16” x 22”, cotton, very absorbent and a tiny tiny bit rough in texture, which makes them ideal for buffing off wax, especially when it has flashed. We use them to buff out the wax finish on our lump hammers. And when I buff out black wax on furniture, I really like the Huck towels.
Note that their threads remain intact until you cut them, then they fray and you will get stray threads everywhere.
Advisory: I am not a rag expert. Bob Flexner spent an evening telling me all about the world of rags, which has a long history. So if you are one of those people, I’m sure we’ll hear from you in the comments.
Prices vary greatly. When I buy them in bulk, I usually pay about 50 cents per. Our last bag of 50 lasted about 10 years. We washed and rewashed them until they just about disappeared.
— Christopher Schwarz
16 thoughts on “Huck Towels, When You Want to Treat Yourself”
They’re great. They can absorb a tremendous amount of blood. After a few washes they get nice and soft; they can be a little stiff at first.
I have friends who work in surgery. They have given me these (unused) towels after a surgery where for whatever reason they are considered unclean and unsuitable for further use even though they have not been touched. They are great for wax and also cleaning blades off after sharpening. Funny that they are called Huck towels. I am a former water policeman, and the expression for cleaning the bottom of the inside of the boat was to “Huck out the bilge” Never a pleasant task. Eeewww.
Bob Flexner is on my short list of people I’d like to spend a week listening to. The stuff he knows.
Bob Flexner waxing rhapsodic on the history of rags would make a pretty awesome addition to the LAP video library.
i learned about huck towels when i was tinkering with window cleaning as a business. i’m still using the first box i bought. excellent for lint free window detailing as well as furniture buffing.
Nice, but WypAlls are more practical. I reuse L40 weight for everything from cleaning up spilled coffee to padding shellac and Bees Wax, they are the ultimate tearfree, soft, lint-free French Polish wad. Rinse in clean water and dry until they are disgusting and then pitch. They pretty much eliminated both rags and blue paper towels from my shop.
We use these every day.
Just what I need. Where can I order the Huck Towels online? Thanks!
They are widely available online. You’ll find the best pricing (if that’s important to you) from individual sellers on Amazon and eBay.
Amazon and eBay are sometimes mind boggling with many descriptions. Quality would be my first choice and a reasonable price a close second. Please send me a suggested link. Many thanks!
The seller I use (MHF) is out of them right now. This is another reputable seller on Amazon….
Medline MDT2168208H Sterile Disposable Surgical Towels, 27″ Length, Blue (Pack of 8)
Learn more: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OMFNYP2/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_I7EeFbSKYT7H8
I really appreciate the link! I also have some Black Wax on the way! Cheers, Daniel
Ok , but where do you huck them? i usually huck mine into an orange bucket(aka the garage laundry basket)
Would you say that these towels have Woobie potential, too?
Bye-the-bye, after eight months of continous use, I have concluded that the Klässbols linen dish cloth, of which I gave you one when we met in London last year, are not ideal Woobie material. It is easy to load with, and great at holding and applying the right amount of oil, but even after extensive use, it keeps on shedding lint, and there are several holes already worn in the middle of the cloth. So, usable, but not great.
Concurrent trials in the kitchen, though, has proven it to be top notch for its original purpose, i.e. as a dish cloth, so if you’ve still got it, and haven’t turned it into a shop rag, I’d suggest putting it to work in the kitchen rather than in the workshop.
The Great Magnet: Adam Savage just sang the praises of these also: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roXwRxFTfCI
my wife is ob/gyn. we get them because after washing hands for surgery, they use these towels to dry and then dispose. we try and recycle them but supply exceeds demand. the towels are my preferred kitchen and shop towel.
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