I stumbled upon a post in this forum ...
why not mineral spirits instead of tack cloth?
http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthread.php?155430-why-not-mineral-spirits-instead-of-tack-cloth


...and I see that there are a number of other tack cloth references in this forum. I'm a foremost expert in tack cloth, with more than 35 years in tack cloth design, manufacturing, applications support, marketing, etc. I thought that I'd take a moment here clarify some of the comments in that thread, at least.

Generally, tack cloths are part of contamination control practices in fine finishing, which may also include sweeping or blow-off (recommended only in a positive pressure environment where dirty air is replaced with filtered, clean air), vaccuuming, solvent wiping and other methods, depending on the process. Tack cloth remains essential in many "Class A" painting/finishing processes such as automotive assembly paint process. But bear in mind that the requirements of the tack cloth design and quality will be stringent in these critical industrial finishing processes -- cheap, commodity types won't be acceptable. Its poor quality tack cloths, marketed by price-driven retailers, that often give the product a poor reputation.

"lint free cloth" = cloth made without fiber. and with some sort of finished/sealed edges. This general definition comes out of the cleanroom industry, and excludes wipes made of cotton or cotton blends, and most non-wovens. Cotton and other fibrous wipes (particularly when washed) are sometimes claimed as "lint free" in relative terms, but not according to any independently accepted standards. Lint free wipes are made usually with a continuous filament (mono-filament) polyester yarn, and the edges are finish woven or knitted, and/or sealed with heat, ultrasonics or laser.

"denatured alcohol..."; "mineral spirits ...can leave a residue... contaminating the substrate.." et al -- many comments here are accurate, in that various solvents can leave residues. Solvent wiping is typically applied to remove soils (grease, oils, fingerprints, etc.), and is less appropriate for solid contaminants (dry particles and fibers). Important is that "wetting" both the surface and particle/fiber contaminants with solvent or water will increase the bond between particles and surface. In other words, any wet wiping has limits in the capacity to remove solids (particles/fibers) and can leave much behind. This is one reason why "tack-off" wiping with a commercial quality tack cloth remains a preferred method in the finest finishing.

"tack cloth is for the final coats , not for the sealer and primer..." -- a commercial quality tack cloth, one that's chosen properly for a given application, can be optimal for use in all finishing stages where particle contamination may be of concern.

"You can make your own with bee's wax, cheese cloth, and turpentine..."; "Spraying a light coat of spray varnish on a piece of cheese cloth works well...";"Cheesecloth and linseed oil... it can spontaneously combust" -- you can't make a tack cloth with common materials of a quality that's comparable to commercial designs. Homemade tack cloth would rely on presence of solvents to remain "wet", and once the "varnish" (lacquer, etc.) becomes dry (i.e., "set up", cross-link, etc.), the cloth is not useful. The comment about the risk of spontaneous combustion is fair caution. Quite simply, there's no better option in tack cloth than buying a good quality product. But the problem often becomes one of which tack cloth is "quality" and where to buy it (often, the best bet is automotive paint & body supply stores)

"17" x 36" of tack cloth"; "wonder why twenty-seven different companies make tack rags and sell them in professional paint stores? " -- US standard size is 18x36 inches, +1/4 inch. So what does a 1 inch shortage imply to you (to this expert, it implies a number of things) ? Anyway, the typical major, international brands don't make their tack cloths. Those and most advertised brands are made by just a handful of manufacturers, all of them relatively small businesses. Some of these manufacturers have been around for generations, and some are relatively new and may not fully understand the state of the industry art. The many company/brand names listed in association with tack cloth are mostly private branders, buying from the relatively few actual producers.

"I dislike using tack cloth, even though I get a heck of a deal on it." -- A common problem is that retailers don't know good from bad tack cloth, and will typically focus on price. I can say from experience that the typical mass merchandiser doesn't make much effort to understand the design and quality issues in tack cloth, let alone actually test them. They're usually focused on cost competition, having the supplier jump through their vendor qualification hoops, etc.

"microfiber glass cleaning cloths..." -- like all wipes, microfiber cloths also vary in quality, such as linting capacity, tear resistance, etc. They don't perform in the same way as tack cloths, and they haven't largely replaced tack cloths in major industrial "Class A" finishing processes.

This is just meant to offer some comments that are, hopefully, relevant here and helpful. Its not intended to be comprehensive, and further comment here is welcomed. I also invite questions at info@JLyman.com.