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What happened to the rag bag?

Updated: May 24

It occurred to me recently that although we always had a rag bag when I was growing up, I no longer have one. Then I remembered that when I had my first home, a derelict cottage that we renovated, the rag bag was still present – indeed it was an integral part of the restoration work. So, at what point did it stop being a thing?

Image of a rag bag and a tin of wax polish on a wooden table

When shirts came to the end of their life - not just out grown, but actually worn out - the process was always to cut off any buttons and put them in the button box (and where did that go?), cut off the bits that couldn’t be used for cloths (collar and cuffs were too stiff and scratchy), and then the rest was ripped up into small useable pieces. Likewise, old towels and sheets were also cut up and added to the rag bag.

The rag bag was then called upon for numerous household tasks. Rags were dusters, dish cloths, oil rags, polishing cloths; they mopped up spills, and wiped up paint drips; became basic wound dressings and even provided emergency sanitary protection. They were essential for all decorating tasks and bike maintenance!

It wasn't just our household. I asked a friend if she used to have a rag bag, and she confirmed that she did, but again, no longer had one.

So, when did the rag bag stop being a thing?

Was it because clothes stopped being made from natural fibres, or was it because alternatives became more affordable and readily available? Perhaps time and the pressures of life made us opt for a ready-made option.

Whatever the reasons for its decline, I propose that we resurrect the rag bag, stop clothing from going to landfill and reduce the number of disposable cloths that we have to buy and discard.

What about you? Do you still have a rag bag?

Wooden button box with buttons scattered around on a wooden table

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