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Detailing Essentials #5 | Quality Microfiber


This time we talk about microfiber towels. A tool often discussed but sometimes overlooked. Microfiber towels are the backbone of any detailing business or enthusiast’s garage. Let’s face it, almost every step in a detailing process includes some level of wiping with microfiber, it happens hundreds of times throughout a detail.

If there’s anything I have learned over the years, it’s that prioritizing quality microfiber towels can supercharge your efficiency and help you to produce a better detail.  Now, what do I mean by this? There’re just towels, right? Well, there are certain parts in a detail where quality microfiber really comes into play, and there are others, where lesser towels can be utilized. For example, soft paint can be severely marred from cheap microfiber towels. Simply wipe and all your long hours polishing could be ruined, I’ve been there, it’s not fun! On delicate surfaces, that’s where you make the investment in microfiber. On the flip side, having general purpose, lower-priced microfiber on hand, is going to be essential for wheels, jambs, engine bays, and all the extra dirty areas. Basically, my main point is this, cheap microfiber can really do some damage to automotive paint, and the last thing you want to do is create more work for yourself.

I also wanted to share with you a quick towel organizational tool, that has helped us at the shop, designate and assign our microfiber to different job tasks. This system uses four large bins to store the towels, each labeled according. It starts with brand new level 1 towels, these towels are the best and can be used on the paint right way. As the towels degrade from constant use, they move down through the levels until they reach the general purpose bin. The general purpose bin is for towels used only for the dirtiest parts of the car. Once these towels are completely spent and have lost there grabbing/pickup function, they are thrown away. Each level is washed separately as not to cross contaminate. It’s a simple system, but it can definitely help in finding just the right microfiber towel for the job.

Level 1 (Perfect) (Brand New)

Use: Paintwork / Glass

Level 2 (Minor Staining) (Still Paint Safe)

Use: Paintwork

Level 3 (Stains) (Still Effective) 

Use: Interior Surfaces / Exterior Trim

Level 4 (General Purpose/Shop) (Starting to lose Effectiveness)

Use: Jambs / Lowers / Wheel Wells / Tires / Engine / Exhaust Tips

James Melfi
Holliston, MA
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20 comments on Detailing Essentials #5 | Quality Microfiber

  1. Great simple way of organizing. I used to only use two levels: My mustang(my baby) and all others. But recently I have noticed my higher end towels starting to break down and need a new system. Since I need to buy more new ones, I am going to reorganize to your suggested levels. Thanks for the nudge!

  2. jason files says:

    I noticed you guys advertise your carpro 2face no lint towels as being a 70/30 quality blend. Carpro says they are 80/20 which is a poor quality blend that I found can scratch paint. I own these towels and they are very soft high quality towels. Apparently if you can’t go by blend to determine quality what can you go by? What Is the diffrence between these and typical 80/20 blend lower quality towels?

  3. Pedro Gonzalez says:

    Hi, any one here can be honest and tell me what are the best brand on microfiber for softness and water absorption please

    • rlmccarty2000 says:

      Brand name can be difficult because within every brand name they have different levels of quality or GSM or material composition. For example the Rag Co sells both Korean made and Chinese made towels. The also sell 80-20 and 70-30 towels. It’s best to forget brand names and buy based on place of manufacture and GSM. Never buy a large quantity of a towel unless you have used it before. Also different GSMs are used for different purposes. Low nap GSM towels are good for coating removal, while higher GSMs are good for final buffing and drying towels. It may be good advice to buy a companies sample pack so you can feel the towels and access the quality first hand.

      • james melfi says:

        Great advice- I’ve never got too hung up on towel manufactures and instead have always liked to buy small quantities and do my own testing. A lot goes into the performance of a towel and everyone’s needs may be different. Some detailers like long nap microfiber while others short. It really comes down to personal preference and comfortability with the towel itself. My advice- do some research, make an educated decision and test the towel out for yourself. There are just too many variables to say definitively that one towel is best,

    • Matt says:

      Gyeon silk dryer is the absolute best drying towel I have ever used.

  4. Larry Jack says:

    Barely related to this thread… but it is related. lol.

    I am anxiously waiting for spring. This year I want to try doing a good job of removing swirls myself but I am a bit intimidated. I don’t know which buffing pads to use and wish/hope there would be a specific colour of pad for each different application of product/action. Like blue for buffing. Yellow for swirl removal. Green for paint protection, etc.

    I’ve got an old Porter Cable that has barely been used, but don’t know if it is worth using. So many new cordless tools out their now… I suspect I need to start over.

    I have a 2008 DHG Bullitt and a Black 2017 F-150. They are in pretty good paint condition it takes forever to get them done half decently. I know I have to be careful when I wash/wax/and use detailing spray but they are never truly outstanding.

    Any hints on the entire process, including microfibre towels… I’m listening.

    Thanks in advance.

    Pork Chop

    • Ron Ayotte says:

      Unfortunately, the pad manufacturers do not have a uniform color code to identify the uses for their pads. Even with the same manufacturer, they can have different color codes. I would suggest picking a few manufacturers and order multiple cutting, polishing and finishing pads. I use Lake Country, Griots and Rupes pads. Get a pad cleaning brush and clean the pads after each pass. When they start to become saturated with product, swap them out. I find I get about two panels per pad before I have to swap them out.

      Your Porter Cable polisher will get the job done until you can afford to upgrade. I have a Griot’s G15 polisher, a Griot’s 3 inch polisher and have my old Porter Cable as a backup. I also have a Vaper rotary polisher that I use on occasion. Don’t skimp on microfibers, make sure you have plenty!

      There are plenty of tutorial videos that can be found on YouTube from the detailed Image links and others.

    • Reece @ DI says:

      Larry – As Ron listed, there is no uniform color coding across manufacturers, or even pad lines within the same manufacturer. If you have the Porter Cable on hand, the regular flat Lake Country foam pads are great (https://www.detailedimage.com/Lake-Country-M7/Buffer-Pads-C79/Foam-Pads-SC116/). The blue is great for liquid wax or sealant applications, black for all in ones or very light correction, white for light correction, and orange for heavier. I personally use mostly orange and white from this line, but find what works best for you and the paint you are working on at that time.

  5. Lambert says:

    are towels used to level ceramic coating kept and washed OR are they thrown away (due to the hardening of the ceramic product on the towel(s)) after use??

    • Reece @ DI says:

      Lambert – It really all comes down to the coating used and how fast the towel is cleaned. I personally have a bucket of water and some microfiber detergent sitting on the side. After using a towel, I toss it into this bucket until I am done with the detail. At the end, I will wash the towels and let them air dry. From there, I test them on a CD and if they scratch the CD, they will scratch your paint. If that is the case I either toss them or utilize them as rags for engine bay, tires, or carpets.

  6. Ron Ayotte says:

    I use a similar system as James uses at Auto Nuvo. As I buy new toweling, the others get downgraded. I have one stage below general purpose. I call it grunge, reserved for the dirtiest areas that need cleaning. Grunge towels get tossed after usage. I also wash my towels by category using P&S Rags to Riches microfiber detergent and dry on the low heat/delicate cycle.

  7. Soggy says:

    I have an assortment of high and low quality microfiber towels, and even the expensive high GSM ones (for example, Eagle Edgeless 500) lint like crazy after multiple washings. I launder them usually in Micro-Restore or occasionally in Rags-to-Riches. I have a front-loading washing machine, and I dry them on low till mostly dry and them hang to finish. Any suggestions on how to eliminate this problem without replacing them (with new towels that do the same thing?)

    • Rlmccarty2000 says:

      This may be dumb but are you checking the lint trap in the dryer? Ive been washing microfiber towels for many years and have no problem with lint. Yes, i have a front loader. Even cheap towels shouldn’t lint much. I buy CGs for about $1 when they are on sale, but i have a wide variety of microfibers from everyone.

      • Soggy says:

        Yes, very little lint comes off the towels onto the filter, and I clean the lint trap every load. I wonder if using hot water to wash could cause the problem? It certainly cleans them better!

        • Reece @ DI says:

          Soggy – You do not want to wash with hot water and that can cause issues for sure. Microfiber is an amazing cleaning tool due to the pockets within the fibers that help pull contamination from the surface and trap it for safe removal. Any heat in washing or drying will damage fibers, causing them to not work as well, lint, or even marr the surface they are used on. You want to wash with only cold water and when drying use very, very low heat or air dry if possible. Clean out the lint trap thoroughly and never use any dryer sheets. When washing you want to make sure you use a microfiber specific shampoo as well, anything with fabric softener can clog up the pours of the towel, damaging them as well.

  8. Wayne R Sharaf says:

    Hi James, thanks for your information.
    Would you at some time go into more detail regarding recommendations regarding GSM, and content of polyamide, and which you use for what, and what quality and brands you personally use? I’m sure there will be general interest.

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