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We know that drivers who are passionate about keeping their sweet ride as clean and put together as possible are always looking for the best products and information to use. We know our customers like to take things into their own hands, whether it’s washing their vehicles with high-end soap products, protecting their paint with advanced ceramic coats, or balancing their own tires instead of going to the shop. When it comes to washing the interior and exterior of your vehicle, you have a lot of options for soaps, sealants, and sprays.
But what kind of towels you use can have a big impact on how good your car is looking when you’re all done. The two primary materials you’ll see when looking at car towels are microfiber and terry cloth which are both high-quality fabrics that are designed to be as absorbent and gentle on your paint job as possible.
But which one is best for your car?
Terry cloth is a fabric made out of cotton on a specifically designed loom. It’s designed to be extremely absorbent by weaving together loops within the stitching and is typically used to make towels, robes, and sweatbands.
With its history going all the way back to the 1840s, terry cloth is a tried and true material when it comes to towels.
If you’ve ever washed your car or done detail work, you’re probably familiar with microfiber towels. They’re made from a synthetic type of fabric, unlike the natural cotton that’s used to make terry cloth.
Also extremely absorbent, microfiber has extremely small fibers that soak in and hold moisture inside, expanding the more that it picks up. It’s a reliable option when it comes to cleaning up spills and liquids. However, its micro-sized fibers are also great for picking up dust and other messes.
So terry cloth and microfiber are both great materials when it comes to making towels, but which one is going to be the best choice when you’re working specifically on your car?
To answer that, we’ll see how they stack up against each other.
Both materials are surprisingly versatile. From cleaning up wet messes and absorbing liquids to clearing dry messes with ease, microfiber and terry cloth both excel.
However, terry cloth definitely takes the win when it comes to absorbing liquids. Because of the loops in its material, terry cloth actually has a larger amount of actual fabric surface, allowing it to pick up and absorb way more than microfiber. This makes terry cloth a great option for drying things off.
However, because of microfibers… micro-sized fibers, they’re phenomenal at applying wax to the car's surface. With the complexity of the material, microfiber towels lead to an extremely smooth application whether you’re using car wash soap or a spray wax quick coat.
As far as fabrics go, terry cloth and microfiber are both notably rugged. Neither one will easily rip or tear due to the design of their stitching and the small size of their loops. Because of its synthetic properties, microfiber tends to handle difficult projects a little better than terry cloth.
The natural cotton of terry cloth doesn't quite keep up when it comes to being heavily worn down, so when it comes to frequent usage and lifetime, microfiber ends up taking the point.
Terry cloth has three different main versions: terry cloth, french terry, and terry velour. The cloth is what you probably imagine when you think of terry cloth; it’s what’s used to make towels and such.
French terry and terry velour are similar to terry cloth, but they have one side that has a significantly more decadent look and feel. You wouldn’t really use these to clean up your car. On the other hand, they make for great robes.
Terry cloth and microfiber can come in plenty of different colors, shapes, and sizes, but because of how microfiber is made, it’s much more malleable when it comes to textures.
There are multiple options when it comes to microfiber, such as general-purpose, waffle weave, and micro-chenille.
General-purpose is typically the square that you might have hanging out in your garage. It’s pretty good at cleaning most things but isn’t designed for anything specific. Waffle weave towels are great for applying polish to the exterior of your car. They’re often thinner than general purpose and dry quickly, meaning you’ll have fewer streaks when you’re done.
Micro-chenille is a bit more rugged than the others but still great for detailing your interior. This version of the fabric is often seen as a towel-mitt that you put on your hand and is awesome at picking up dirt or dust on your dash.
Of course, neither one of these are perfect fabrics; they have their own issues. Microfibers tend to stretch out over time and lose it’s absorbency levels, while terry cloth has the potential to shred easily.
Also, because terry cloth is made from natural cotton, it definitely has the potential to shrink in the wash. Microfiber has to be washed on cold because the heat could damage the synthetic fibers, but it won’t shrink on you. Either one should probably be washed on cold with a hang or tumble dry process.
Drying your car with either terry cloth or microfiber might seem obvious. But it’s actually more important to get it right than you might think.
Improperly drying your car or letting the sun handle it for you can leave watermarks, spots, and stains on your finish, which of course, we don’t want.
Get yourself a stool so you can comfortably reach every section of your car, and make long sweeping motions with the towel of your choice, starting from the roof. You want to think of it as wiping the water off instead of collecting the water with the towel. Of course, that is what you’re doing, but by brushing off most of the water, you extend how much one towel can do.
It’s important to keep a good collection of clean (emphasis on clean) towels at hand whenever you’re washing your car. After a few minutes, even your towel is going to get dirty and overly saturated, so it’s best to switch to a new towel whenever possible.
Try not to leave your car out in the sunlight after a wash; the direct sun will quickly dry the water but leave behind marks. If you accidentally drop one of your towels, don’t try to keep using it. It definitely picked up some dirt, and by continuing to use it, you’ll end up scratching the surface of your car.
The truth is, neither one of these fabrics is going to scratch your car or be a bad option if properly taken care of. As long as the towel is clean and dry when you begin to use it, it’ll get the job done.
If we had to pick one, we would go with microfiber towels. They tend to be a little smoother on the finish, dry faster, and come in a wider range of varieties to suit every possible need.
Terry cloth is still an excellent choice and has its place, but when it comes to polishing the outside coat, picking up every little crumb and speck of dust hanging out inside the car, or just generally drying it off, microfiber is the way to go.
There’s no doubt about it; microfiber towels are the secret to a perfectly clean car.