Everything you need to know about microfibre towels and car care

Exploring the miracle material that'll dry and buff your car effectively without damaging the paintwork.

A person buffing a car with a microfibre towel

by Ryan Gilmore |

Drying your car properly is just as important as the washing process. It doesn't matter how good the shampoo you use is, if you don't dry it properly you'll get water stains or risk scratching and marring paintwork.

RELATED: The best quick detailers for keeping your car clean between washes

Microfibre towels are ideal for a load of car cleaning jobs. From the usual drying of bodywork, microfibre towels can be used for buffing, detailing, removing excessive cleaning products, interior cleaning and streak-free glass cleaning. The reasons microfibres are such a good choice for car cleaning are:

- They're incredibly soft and offer a minimal chance of scratches occurring

- They're highly absorbent, some microfibres can absorb six times their weight in water, making them ideal for drying duties

- They feature a positive charge that will attract small bits of dirt and ensure they stick to the towel making them effective cleaners

- They're a cost effective and reusable way of cleaning, saving you cash.

With this in mind, we've put together the ultimate guide to microfibres and car cleaning, breaking down the different types and their uses. For our favourite microfibre cloths make sure to look here.

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Standard weave

Up close shot of long pile microfibre
©Photo: Ryan Gilmore/Parkers

All microfibres are made up of really small fibres (less than 10 microns in diameter), but the type you should be looking for are split microfibres woven in a loop. These have a soft, fleecy texture that's perfect for absorbing liquid and are designed to be reusable. Almost all car cleaning towels feature split microfibres so the main distinction you should know is GSM.

GSM: what does it mean?

Microfibre towels are rated in GSM (grams per square metre) which often translates directly into the density of the fibres, also known as the pile. There are three rough distinctions for microfibre piles, each with a designated use.

Short pile

These are the flattest of all microfibre towels and have a GSM of 200-400. They're not the most absorbent of towels and aren't designed for use on the bodywork. What short pile microfibre towels are good for includes drying glass for a streak-free finish, buffing bodywork with waxes and sealants, and removing excess cleaning products too.

Medium pile

These are the jack-of-all-traits microfibres, with a GSM of 400-700. The pile is short enough to happily add and remove waxes and sealants, but absorbent enough to properly dry a car. If you're in the market for your first proper microfibres, this is the best place to start.

Long pile

Anything with a GSM over 700 is a long pile microfibre. The fluffiest and thickest of all microfibres, these are incredibly soft and can be used on even the most delicate of surfaces. They're ideal for drying wet paintwork as they're super absorbent and have a natural weight that makes absorbing water really simple. That being said, they aren't very good for buffing or removing products because the pile is too long. The highest GSM we've seen was a 1400gsm Hydro Hoover but anything above 700GSM should be more than acceptable for bodywork.

Waffle-weave

Close-up of waffle-weave microfibre
©Photo: Ryan Gilmore/Parkers

Still using spilt microfibres, waffle-weave microfibre towels look like they've been knitted and are a clever development in microfibre design. It's absorbent which makes it great for drying bodywork, but it also has the properties of short pile microfibre towels that make it a good choice for glass and buffing.

What else you should look for when shopping for microfibre cloths

Edges

The edges of the towel need to be designed to not scratch your car's paint. What's the point of spending money on a really soft towel if the edges have seems reminiscent of a cheap pair of jeans?

There are three types of edge that you should look for; silk edged, edgeless or rolled. Each one is designed to not scratch your paintwork and is an indication of quality.

Size

Size is another important consideration. Long pile towels suit being larger as the surface area which drying quicker, even if these towels may struggle in smaller spaces. Smaller sizes are better for short-pile towels as their applications don't require a big size. Look for 40 x 40 cm for shorter piles and as big as you want for long pile towels.

How to dry your car properly with a microfibre towel

Believe it or not but the technique is an important part of using a microfibre towel. While it might be tempting to scrunch your towel up and rub it over your car, you won't be getting the most from your towel.

Instead, we recommend opening your towel opened up and draping it over your car so you maximise its surface area. After this opinion differs, with some advocating gently pulling on the towel to remove water while others say to pat the towel before removing it. It's a personal preference and both will be effective at drying your car.

Beyond microfibre towels

Because of its dirt-trapping qualities and minimal scratch risk, there are a whole host of other car cleaning products that use microfibre. We've collected a sample right here, along with our top choice of each.

Applicators

The soft texture of microfibre makes it ideal for adding products to your car without doing any damage. Microfibre applicators are easy to clean and won't do any damage to your paintwork as you apply waxes, sealants and even trim restorer.

Chemical Guys Premium Grade Microfiber Applicator

Chemical Guys Premium Grade Microfiber Applicator
Amazon

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This twin pack of microfibre applicators feature a foam centre covered in absorbent microfibre. They're ideal for adding wax, sealants and more to your car and can be machine washed.

Wash mitts

Hands down the best way to wash your car, wash mitts are the perfect replacement for the trusty sponge. Sponges trap grit against your bodywork which can cause nasty scratches which makes the soft, long microfibres of a wash mitt perfect as they pull grit away from your bodywork. They also allow car shampoo to lather up nicer, meaning you get more for your money.

26JPN Microfibre Wash Mitt

26JPN Microfibre Wash Mitt
Amazon

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A super effective choice for washing bodywork, the 26JPN features a smattering of chrome that absorbs water alongside the 700gsm microfibre that lathers shampoo perfectly and pulls dirt away from bodywork. The best feature however is the central split that allows for better hand control.

Sponges

A sponge wrapped in microfibre, that's exactly what a microfibre sponge is. And despite sounding promising for car washing, it suffers from the same issues as normal sponges. The microfibres simply won't be thick enough to move the dirt away from the bodywork, meaning there's still a fair risk of scratches occurring.

Streetwize Extra Tough Microfibre Car Wash Sponge

Streetwize Extra Tough Microfibre Car Wash Sponge
Amazon

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If you do insist on buying a microfibre sponge, this option is the best of a bad bunch. At least it features waffle-weave sides for scrubbing embedded dirt.

Polishing pads

The latest venture for microfibre has been into polishing pads. While wool and foam pads are still effective, the dense nature of microfibre polishing pads means they heat up quicker and produce more friction, meaning polishing becomes a quicker task. Best left to those with a lot of polishing experience.

Meguiar's DMF5 Detailer DA Microfibre Finishing Disc

Meguiar's DMF5 Detailer DA Microfibre Finishing Disc
Amazon

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A nice option for finishing, this microfibre twin-pack is machine washable and will polish your car beautifully.

How to clean microfibre

As you clean your car, the microfibres will inevitably become dirty either from water, cleaning products or muck. It's important to understand how to properly wash your microfibres once they are mucky because you can ruin how effective they are if you aren't careful.

ValetPRO Microfibre Reviver

ValetPRO Microfibre Reviver
Amazon

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If your microfibres are looking a little tired, or are very stained, this specialist detergent will help revive them and remove stains without being too harsh on the fibres.

READ NEXT:

How to properly wash your car

The best car shampoos in 2021

The best car wax for lasting protection

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