DIY Dictionary: Tack Cloth

What’s a tack cloth? A tack cloth or tack rag is a lint-free material—often gauze-like—impregnated with a tacky substance used to remove dust and dirt…

What is Tack Cloth?

A tack cloth or tack rag is a lint-free material—often gauze-like—impregnated with a tacky substance used to remove dust and dirt from wood prior to finishing; a task essential to applying a smooth finish. Paper towels, cloth rags and vacuums may remove dust initially, but they also kick it into the air where it can land back on your project—putting you right back where you started. This where a tack cloth comes in.

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A tack cloth only costs about $1 and, if stored in a sealed plastic bag between uses, can be used multiple times before losing its “stickiness.” Some folks make their own tack cloth rags by soaking cheesecloth or old diapers in various concoctions of shellac, varnish, linseed oil and/or mineral spirits. Type “how to make tack cloth” into your search engine and you’ll find plenty of options and opinions. Many woodworkers and finishers maintain that microfiber cloths—available in the car-care section of many stores—are just as effective in removing and holding onto dust as tack cloths.