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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Removing Solvents, Oil and Grease

By Dr. Laundry April 29, 2010

Q. We need to wash the rags we use in our metal shop that are oily from a WD-40 and kerosene mix. Can you suggest an additive or soap that will break down the oil so that the rags are clean and the drain doesn’t become clogged with the oil runoff?

A. That is a pretty potent mixture you’re trying to cleanup. Since it is so highly concentrated with solvent, grease and oil, trying to wash them in a regular wash setting that is mostly water probably would yield not-so-good results. Even using industrial detergents wouldn’t be enough to do a good cleaning job. Not only do you have to worry about the drain problems, but drying these solvent laden items could risk creating a fire/explosion.

What you need is a more solvent-like environment that can melt that mixture off the cloths and keep it suspended in solution to prevent re-deposition back onto the cloths. So I would recommend a professional service which will clean them (kind-of like a drycleaner) and return them clean for you.
Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful.