Microfibre Towels for Car Detailing – The Complete Guide
If I had to choose one thing that has revolutionised detailing in the last ten/fifteen years, I think I would have to say the introduction of microfibre towels has changed the industry significantly. We now have a much better understanding of the damage that can be caused using sponges, chamois and brushes on our paint.
The world of microfibres is a big umbrella encompassing a wide range of products. Microfibre is now used in pretty much every stage of detailing, from contact washing, drying, polishing, waxing and general cleaning duties. We will have a look at the differences between different detailing towels, and their unique applications.
What is Microfibre?
Microfibre is a synthetic material that is very thin, even thinner than silk. A typical microfibre thickness would be 1 x 10-5 metres (100 times smaller than a millimetre).
The largest component of most microfibres tends to be polyester, with a significant proportion also being polyamide. The fineness of polyester microfibre gives it excellent absorption capabilities. They are soft enough that they are far less likely to scratch paint surfaces than more traditional materials, thus making them ideal for car detailing.
Microfibres are categorised in terms of their GSM, or grams per square metre, which is basically how densely packed the fibres are. GSM can range from 150 GSM up to 1400 GSM in the car detailing scenario. We will look at different cloths in different categories and discuss their uses.
General Purpose Microfibre Towels
General purpose cloths are typically in the range of 150 – 300 GSM. Usually less expensive, these cloths still offer excellent cleaning ability and are great for interior jobs. They can also be used for dirtier jobs such as engine bay detailing, but these cloths should be kept separate to avoid cross-contamination.
Cloths in this category can be used as throwaway towels for the levelling of ceramic coatings, as they are more cost-effective than using premium buffing towels.
General purpose microfibre cloths can often be bought in bulk for significant savings. I have been using these cloths from Exel for over two years and they are just as soft and effective after at least 50 washes as they were when new.
I use these cloths exclusively for interior use, not that they would cause any damage to paint when used properly, I just prefer to have different ones for different jobs. On a side note, these towels can also be used around the home.
Overview of General Purpose Towels
- 150 – 300 GSM
- Less expensive than plusher cloths
- Ideal for interiors, engines and wheels
- Tend to last a long time as long as cleaned after each use
Best General Purpose Microfibre Towels
Microfibre Buffing Towels
Moving into more specialised towels, buffing towels are generally denser than general-purpose towels. They are much softer to the touch and have a plush feel.
Typical density for these cloths is between 350 – 600 GSM, but this can vary by manufacturer. These towels are useful for removing polish residue, as well as buffing wax and sealant hazing away. The softness and increased density allow for more effective residue removal, while further reducing the changed of introducing any micro-marring to the paint.
These towels are usually more expensive than general-purpose, but good quality cloths are well worth the money. They make removal of polishing oils much easier than using a low-pile cloth. I find these Korean Microfibres to make light work of any paintwork jobs.
Overview of Buffing Towels
- 350 – 600 GSM
- Mid range in terms of price
- Used for buffing waxes, sealants, polish and glazes
- Longer fibres to pick up residue from the paint
Best Microfibre Buffing Towels
Microfibre Drying Towels
What has become an essential piece of detailing equipment, a good drying towel allows for the safe removal of water, preventing water spotting on the surface. In order to absorb as much water as possible, drying towels are the densest of microfibre media, with good towels boasting a density of 1400 GSM.
Purchasing a larger towel, for example, 50 cm x 80 cm, will allow you to dry at least one car. For more on drying cars safely, check out this helpful article.
Drying Towels Overview
- Usually around 1400 GSM
- Much heavier and larger in size than other cloths
- Generally, more expensive
- Designed to be super absorbent
Best Microfibre Drying Towel
Microfibre Wash Mitts
Chinelle microfibre wash mitts are an extremely affordable way to safely wash your car. In testing, it proved to be a safer and more effective cleaner than every other wash media tested (PRO Detailing Magazine, 2019).
The long noodle fibres allow dirt to be removed from the surface of the paint and pulled into the fibres, meaning they will not be scored across the paintwork. They should still be rinsed frequently when washing the car.
Chinelle wash pads are also available, they do the exact same thing except they do not fit over your hand. Which you use is an entirely personal preference, but I use a mitt as I’m less likely to drop it!
Wash Mitt Overview
- Chinelle the most common type
- Affordable, safe and reliable
- Allow dirt to be lifted and stored away from cars paint
Best Microfibre Wash Mitt
Check out my best microfibre wash mitt picks here.
Microfibre Glass Cloths
For better glass cleaning results, a waffle weave glass cloth can be used. These are woven tighter than standard microfibres.
While many complain that their glass cleaner leaves streaks, often it is the cloth used that is the culprit. Dedicated glass cloths provide a streak-free finish.
Glass Cloths Overview
- Designed to leave glass streak-free
- Super absorbent
- Often referred to as waffle weave
Best Microfibre Glass Cloths
Is a yellow sponge safe to use on a car?
No, these are not a suitable way to clean your car. Dirt sits on the surface of the sponge and is rubbed around the surface of the paint, causing swirling and marring. A better option is to use a wool or microfibre wash mitt.
What can I use to dry my car?
To dry a car, you should use a dedicated microfibre drying towel. These hold large amounts of water and safely glide across the paint. You should avoid using chamois leather, as any dirt picked up will be rubbed into the paint.
Is it safe to use a brush on car paint?
No, absolutely not. A brush will cause significant scratching after even one use and should be avoided. Using a microfibre wash mitt may take longer, but it will be significantly more effective, while being much safer for your paintwork.