Make Your Own Tack Cloth!
Take any cotton cloth and cut it into small pieces. Dip them into warm water to completely clean them and then dry them. Dip the dried pieces in turpentine so that they saturate. After they dry completely, roll them into a ball and then pour varnish on the ball. Make sure that the cloth gets an even yellow color. Now, wait for it to dampen and then you can try it.
Tack cloth is just a sticky cloth used for many different purposes. It is especially used to clean minute dust particles accumulating on wood prior to sanding and painting. It is also used to clean wood between a coating of stain or sealant. The cloth will help clean the small dirt and debris without affecting the previous coat.
Tack cloth is produced by treating any cloth with varnish, lacquer, or beeswax. Some types can be water-based or solvent-based. Some treatments can be harmful to the atmosphere or can react with some paints, hence tack cloths require specific storage space too. Owing to these disadvantages, some people make it at home or use different substitutes. Here are some easily available substitutes that you can use.
Best Alternatives to a Tack Cloth
Microfiber cloth is a great alternative because its great absorption ability of holding enough water (8 times its weight). It is soft, which is why it won't scratch off the paint or coating. But, make sure that the previous particles have been removed from it. It is reusable, which makes it long-lasting. Besides, it won't leave any residue on the surface and your hand.
This cloth is actually treated with chemicals so that it has a negative energy that can attract particles to it. It is available in washable or disposable forms. It should be used when it is completely dry to avoid any moisture from destroying the surface. The best part about this cloth is that even after washing, it retains its ability to attract dirt particles.
As a replacement for tack cloth, use a lint-free cotton cloth with furniture polish sprayed on it. The polish helps clean all the dirt particles and will leave no residue on the wood. Another advantage is that you can reuse the cloth by washing it (as long as it is clean!) There are many brands of polish, but make sure that you do not buy a silicone-based spray because it may hamper the finish.
Naphtha and mineral spirits can both be used with a linen-free cotton cloth as an alternative to a tack cloth. Naphtha is a flammable liquid that has been used for cleaning for many years. Mineral spirits is a mild solvent, which is similar to turpentine. A major drawback is that both cleaning agents can leave an oily residue. The solution to this is to use very little amount of cleaning agent or make sure you keep cleaning the dust off the cloth so that it doesn't ruin the surface that has to be cleaned.