a tack cloth being used to clean a surface by a hand covered in a rubber glove

Tack Cloth

Originally contributed by • last updated 3/10/2021

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When it comes to getting things meticulously clean, it’s really all about removing every trace of dust and dirt possible. Whether you’re applying a finishing coat to your latest woodworking project or you’re fine dusting before an open house, tack cloths are a great way to make your surfaces look like new again. Just be sure to use ones that are not going to leave wax or chemical residues behind as they can leave you with an even bigger mess to clean up.

Definition

The term tack cloth, which is also sometimes called a tack rag, typically refers to a specialized sheet of soft material that’s designed to fine-clean surfaces and objects by collecting and trapping small dust particles. These sheets are treated with a mixture of chemical additives, resins, and solvents that work together to create a tacky texture. They can be used in a wide variety of applications, like for detailing automobile interiors or fine cleaning throughout the home. However, they are most commonly used in woodworking projects to remove the final bits of dust from surfaces and objects before applying paints or finishes. Tack cloths are available from a variety of manufacturers and can differ greatly depending on the chemical mixtures and types of clothes used to make them.

What Is A Tack Cloth Made From?

Store bought tack cloths are typically coated in a mixture of resins, solvents, and additives, which gives them their tacky nature. There are also numerous ways to create your own DIY versions for those who prefer to be more creative. However, it's probably best to stick to store-bought as they are generally inexpensive to purchase and typically provide better results:

  • There are many traditional recipes for making tack cloths, available both online and in old woodworking books. Most of them require a clean cloth and a mixture of varnishes and solvents to make the cloth sticky. For a “greener” approach, some recipes are as simple as using a clean damp cloth that’s been soaked in water.
  • There are some claims that tack cloths can be made from impregnating cheese cloth with beeswax. Although DIY beeswax versions may be an effective way to remove fine dust particles, they also run the risk of leaving wax behind on your freshly finished surfaces. Try this method with care.