Saturday, February 24Not Your Ordinary English-Tagalog Dictionary

What is Rag in Tagalog? History, Designs, and Sizes

A rag in Tagalog is called “basahan,” which consists of pieces of cloth known as “retaso” and is utilized as a cleaning tool. The term “basahan” is derived from “basa” (wet), indicating its purpose of cleaning or drying surfaces. Rags are different from rag rugs, which are also woven from recycled cloth. Yet, a rag rug in Filipino is also “basahan.”

rag in Tagalog
Round rags in the Philippines

The origin of cleaning rags is believed to date back to the Stone Age, the era when fabric first appeared. This practical necessity arose due to the absence of specialized cleaning materials. Throughout history, various cultures have adopted the practice of utilizing old fabrics to clean objects and surfaces.

The term “rag” originated in the 1400s as a verb denoting the act of tearing fabric to create a rag. These fabrics were primarily old clothing that were no longer usable, as people became more resourceful in finding affordable cleaning tools. As societies progressed, the use of cleaning rags became more organized.

During the Industrial Revolution, textile production experienced a significant surge, resulting in surplus cloth. Leftover textiles from the industry became readily available, leading to the widespread use of rags for cleaning in households. Cleaning rags were proven to be economical, and be used again after thorough washing and drying.

A cleaning cloth in Tagalog is also referred to as “basahan.” However, in terms of material used and efficiency, they are better than cleaning rags. Many rag makers tend to use fabrics that are not suitable for cleaning, which can potentially damage surfaces. Despite their drawbacks, rags remain a popular and affordable cleaning option. 

Rag making is a huge business industry in the Philippines owing to the sewing skills prevalent among Filipino women. Aside from that, the country’s Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) provide training and equipment to women as part of their livelihood projects to help the poor.

The most common type of cleaning rags in the Philippines is round with a diameter ranging from 5 to 8 inches. They can be white or colored, depending on what you need. You can buy round rags in retail and they are often sold in the streets to jeepney drivers. Cleaning rags are also sold wholesale and resellers earn some commission.

Use basahan in a sentence.


Paki abot sa akin ang basahan at lilinisin ko ang mesa.


Please give me the rag and I will clean the table.


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