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

Tack Cloth

Originally contributed by Jeff Butler • last updated 2/18/2021

Whether you’re applying a finishing coat to your latest woodworking project or you’re meticulously dusting before an open house, tack cloths are a great way to get rid of those last bits of fine dust particles.

Definition

The term tack cloth (sometimes called a tack rag) typically refers to a specialized cloth sheet that has been treated with a mixture of chemical additives, resins, and solvents, designed to fine-clean surfaces by collecting and trapping small dust particles. Tack cloths can be used in a variety of applications, like for detailing automobiles or fine cleaning throughout the home. However, tack cloths are most commonly used to remove dust when preparing surfaces before applying paint or finishes, especially with woodworking projects. 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.

How To Make A Tack Cloth

DIY tack cloths are easy enough to make and there are many instructions available if you choose to make your own. However, store-bought tack cloths are generally inexpensive to purchase and typically provide better results:

  • There are many 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 create a tacky cloth. For a more environmentally friendly 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 tack cloths may be an effective way to remove fine dust particles, they also run the risk of leaving wax behind on your freshly finished surfaces.
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