Not Just Any Old Rag

Go into any little store in Mexico and you’ll see a wall of cleaning products. Soaps that come in bars, or powder, or liquid—for dishes, laundry, walls, floors, bathrooms, and anything else you might think of.  I haven’t stopped to count, but there have to be at least half a dozen brands of bleach. And don’t forget the Pinol which makes our house smell so very fresh and clean.

Brooms and mops bob their heads out of a plastic garbage can. Long-handled dust pans are stacked nearby. Two more shelves hold scrubbing brushes and cleaning cloths which remind me.

“We need new rags for cleaning,” I say as I survey the colorful wall in the little corner store. “Which ones should I buy?”

“Best to let Doña X get them. She knows what she likes.”

Good advice. Doña X is our maid/caretaker/mom/grandma—the most important friend we have in Mexico. She’s also the one who keeps our property immaculate; no easy task in our little tropical town with all the sand, dust, and grit in the dry season, and the sand, water, and mud in the rainy season.

Doña X knows exactly what she wants when I ask her to buy new cloths. “The best ones can be bought in the market in Tepic,” she says.

She holds up one that she brought from her house. It’s worn so thin that we can see right through it, but there are no holes and no tattered edges. “See,” she says as she soaks it in the pail of water and wrings it out, “it’s soft and almost, but not quite, dry. Perfect for cleaning.”

“Will this do?” I ask, handing over 100 pesos.

Sí. Sí.” She pockets the money and tells me not to worry. She has it under control.

A month later, still no new cleaning rags. “Um,” I hesitate, “Doña X, do we have the new cloths yet?”

She nods. “My friend in La Peñita is cutting them and sewing the edges.”

Ah, I get it. She had someone buy a piece off a bolt of cloth and bring it here for her. “How much do I owe your friend for her work?”

She thinks for a moment. “Maybe 60 pesos.”

Three weeks later, Doña X arrives with a stack of neatly folded cloths. “Twenty-one,” she says proudly. Enough to last for three or four years.”

We find a spot for them on the laundry room shelves and I put a note on top that reads,

 For Doña X Only!!!!

Don’t want the guys using them for painting or checking the engine oil. I, however, sneak a couple into my suitcase. When I get back to Canada, I discover that Doña X is right. They are perfect cleaning cloths.

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4 comments on “Not Just Any Old Rag

  1. Wow, finally I can admit I also have favorite cleaning cloths but they are a moving target as new and better ones are always being marketed. However, I needed to take steps to not let them ‘walk away’. My three daughters, well one in particular, has a habit of admiring my newest cleaning rags and then asking if she can take it home! How do you say no about a cleaning rag? So I now I give them all gifts of bamboo rags or whatever is exotic or trendy for any occasion or simply because I found something new. No sense in making a fuss over cleaning rags.

  2. I can remember reading in a magazine, lo these many years past, that an acceptable ‘extra’ gift for newly weds was a bag of cleaning rags! Not a bad idea, really.

    • Not at all. I remember the “rag bag” on the farm when I was a kid. All sorts of odds and ends went into it and Mom said old long johns of Dad’s made the best rags.

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