Inexpensive tack cloths (tack rags) are available from most suppliers of paints and finishes. They are sticky rags meant for picking up dust, often sanding dust, from a surface just before applying a coat of finish. Here are some tips for using them.
- Limit their use to solvent finishes. They can cause fish-eye and bonding problems with water-based finishes because they leave an oily residue on the surface. Instead of a tack cloth, use a slightly water-dampened cloth to remove the dust when working with water-based finishes.
- Before using a tack cloth on sanded wood, remove the majority of the sanding dust with a vacuum, or blow it off with compressed or turbine air if you have adequate exhaust to remove the dust from the air (so it doesn’t settle back on your work).
- A tack cloth is most effective between coats of finish because there is less dust to remove (so the cloth doesn’t become overloaded too quickly).
- No matter whether you use a tack cloth, vacuum, or compressed or turbine air to remove the dust, wipe over the surface to be finished with the palm of your hand just before beginning to apply the finish. This will remove the last of any remaining dust that might have settled, and it will warn you if there is still excessive dust that should be removed with one of the other means.