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.
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What Is Terry Cloth?
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.
Microfiber Cloth: The Modern Marvel
Microfiber cloth is a synthetic cleaning material composed of incredibly fine and densely packed fibers. These fibers, usually a blend of polyester and polyamide, are thinner than a human hair strand, making them highly effective at capturing dirt, dust, and liquids.
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Advantages of Microfiber
Microfiber cloths are renowned for their exceptional absorbent qualities. The tiny fibers create capillary-like channels that draw in moisture and trap it within the cloth's structure. This ability makes them perfect for drying your car after a wash or quickly absorbing spills and stains during interior cleaning.
One of the most significant advantages of microfiber is its lint-free nature. When used for cleaning, it leaves no lint or residue behind, ensuring a streak-free and spotless finish on your car's surface. This quality is particularly desirable when working on glass and mirrors.
Microfiber cloths are built to last. They can endure numerous uses and washing cycles without losing their effectiveness. This durability means you can rely on them for long-term car care, reducing the need for frequent replacements.
Due to their reusability and longevity, microfiber cloths are often considered an eco-friendly choice. By reducing waste and the consumption of disposable cleaning materials, they contribute to a more sustainable car detailing routine.
Best Practices for Using Microfiber Cloths
To make the most of microfiber cloths in car detailing, consider the following tips:
- Use different colored microfiber cloths for various cleaning tasks to prevent cross-contamination.
- Wash microfiber cloths separately from other laundry to avoid lint from cotton or other materials.
- Avoid using fabric softeners, as they can diminish the cloth's absorbency.
- Store microfiber cloths in a clean and dry place to prevent mold or mildew growth.
Terry Cloth: The Classic Comfort
Terry cloth is a fabric known for its looped and soft texture. It's composed of cotton fibers, often woven in a way that creates tiny loops on both sides of the fabric. This unique structure gives terry cloth its characteristic plushness.
Advantages of Terry Cloth
Terry cloth is highly versatile and can be used for various cleaning tasks in car care. It's equally suitable for gentle wiping and more abrasive scrubbing, making it an all-around workhorse.
Softness and Comfort
One of terry cloth's standout features is its softness and comfort. When you need a cloth that won't scratch or damage delicate car surfaces like paint or glass, terry cloth is an excellent choice. It provides a gentle touch for your vehicle.
Terry cloth is renowned for its absorbent properties. Those looped fibers are adept at soaking up moisture, making it a great option for tasks like drying your car after a wash or wiping down wet surfaces.
Terry cloth boasts a classic appeal that's often associated with traditional car care. Many car enthusiasts appreciate the familiarity and comfort of using terry cloth for their detailing routines.
Best Practices for Using Terry Cloth
To maximize the benefits of terry cloth in car detailing, keep these tips in mind:
- Wash terry cloth towels before their first use to remove any loose fibers.
- Avoid using fabric softeners, as they can reduce the cloth's absorbency.
- Use separate terry cloth towels for different car care tasks to prevent cross-contamination.
- Regularly inspect your terry cloth towels for signs of wear and tear, and replace them when necessary.
Which One Is Better for Your Car?
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.
How Much Can it Do?
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.
How Long Will It Last?
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.
What Variety Do They Offer?
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.
What Drawbacks Do They Have?
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.
How To Properly Dry Your Car
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 Finest of Fabrics
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.
Comparison and Decision-Making
Choosing between microfiber and terry cloth ultimately depends on your specific car care needs. To help you decide, let's compare the two materials based on essential factors:
Absorbency: Microfiber excels in quickly soaking up liquids, making it ideal for drying tasks and interior spill cleanup.
Softness: Terry cloth is gentle on delicate car surfaces, preventing potential scratches.
Linting: Microfiber is lint-free, ensuring a pristine finish on glass and mirrors.
Durability: Both materials are durable, but microfiber may have a slight edge in long-term use.
Versatility: Terry cloth is versatile, while microfiber is best suited for specific tasks.
In the great debate of microfiber cloth vs. terry cloth for your car, there's no one-size-fits-all answer. Both materials have their strengths and are well-suited for various car care tasks. Consider your specific needs, such as drying, gentle wiping, or spill cleanup, when making your choice. Many car enthusiasts opt for a combination of both microfiber and terry cloth to cover all bases. Whichever cloth you choose, remember that proper care and maintenance will ensure they serve you well for years to come.
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