A zokin is a Japanese cleaning cloth made from scraps of old cloth stitched together. It can be very simple or some of the stitching can be quite decorative. This is a tremendously versatile cleaning tool that we can make for free!
I made some of these a few years back with ragged old dishcloths folded between a not-so-worn bit of cloth.
It was super easy and I'm planning to make some more this winter.
So I like this idea, mostly because I hate how quickly scrubbing sponges get so moldy and smelly, but to really make this product worth the effort I'll put into it, I think I'd try to modify two things:
Use some kind of coarse, durable thread, so the stitches provide an abrasive textured surface?
Rather than fold and stitch an already serviceable-sized towel like in the tutorial, I'd stack up many, too-small-to-use bits of fabric and sew the stack together, to make the thick pad.
Do these changes make sense, or am I missing the specific magic of the Zokin as described?
Stacking up old cloth makes sense as that's how it used to be made. What I did for mine was to stack up some old cloth then fold over a less-worn cloth on the outside. For the next ones, I want to try choosing similar coloured cloth and stacking it up so it shows the different layers.
I wonder if making the thread a big part of the scrubbing action would work or if it would fall apart sooner. It could go either way. I think it would be a neat experiment to make some with different threads to see what holds up best. So far, I've been using linen weaving yarn or embroidery thread.
One thing to note about a thick stack of cloth is that it can be really hard to clean thoroughly. I cloth diaper, and the thicker the diapers the more prone they are to getting ammonia buildup and causing rashes. It's just really hard to get thick cloth clean! My prefolds (which are like a big flat diaper, but already folded into shape and sewn that way) are more likely to get ammonia buildup than the thin "flat" diapers
Some tips to get thick layers of cloth clean (discovered the hard way!):
If the dirt on the cleaning cloth is oil or poop, use HOT water. It won't come out well with cold water
Use LOTS of water. The cloth should really be swirling aorund in the washer really well. So, if the amount you're putting in there would be considered a "small" load, wash it with the medium or medium-high amount of water
Have it churn a long time! My washer's default churning cycle is only 15 minutes. That was not enough to get all the poop and pee out of diapers. So, I prop the door open and keep restarting it so it has at least 45 minutes churning in the water
If dealing with poop or other biohazards, do an extra wash or rinse cycle on hot.
My normal diaper/nasty rag cleaning goes like this: (1) Wash HOT with medium or medium-high amount of water for 45 minutes. (2) Spin out the water (3) Restart the wash for another HOT wash of low-medium or medium, which my washing machine then completes with a cold rinse.
It's an annoyingly large amount of water, but at least I'm not wasting paper towels or plastic scrubbies!
Now to go look at the article, because I've got a lot of thread-bare, holey diapers I'd love to turn into cleaning rags!
For a sponge substitute try a loofah rather than thickly layered cloth. I cut mine up one side lengthwise, cut out the middle section so the main part can be unrolled, then cut it into whatever sizes I want. When it gets manky, it goes in the compost. The center bit is good when you need some extra scrubbing power.
I like the zokin idea for drier uses. I used to make something similar with thrifted flannel pillowcases for dishcloths, before I switched to loofahs. I think I'm too lazy to make them now, though :)