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How To Determine YOUR Microfiber Needs


How many Microfiber towels per car per detailing session?

With regards to determining your microfiber needs, let’s first mention the importance and functions of microfiber. Microfiber is your friend, and has the final say on whether your car will receive the gift of swirls or not. Clean MF is paramount to minimizing risks of inducing swirls. Clean MF is also paramount to achieving streak-free results. If you are spending time and energy on making your car look the best, do not oversee the importance of having many MF towels ready for use. Especially on wax removal, quick detailing, and glass cleaning, the only trick to getting perfect results is using a very clean towel.

Do not overlook one of your largest tool expenses: Microfiber. All the polishes in the world will not make a difference if you cannot apply and remove it correctly. You will need a lot of towels. If when you purchase a Porter Cable you consider buying extra pads “just in case”, you should do the same with Microfiber. I call it a tool because you will be able to use the same towel over and over again, as long as you care for it correctly and store it correctly. So plan on making a larger purchase up front, and refill as towels become beyond use or degraded.

With this said, let’s look at how many towels you can use for various items around the vehicle, broken up into types of towels, making it easier to figure out the correct mix to order.

Washing your wheels: If you use a MF towel to clean your wheels, up to one All-Purpose Towel per wheel. Using MF to clean wheels is one of the safest methods, but can stain and contaminate them, rendering the towels useless for other purposes. It is best to keep these towels separated at all times from your other prized MF.

Washing your car: 1 or 2 Sheepskin Wash Mitts: one for upper portions of the vehicle, one for lower, dirtiest portions. Always wash from cleanest area to dirtiest. Using one mitt specifically for the dirtiest areas will assure both mitts stay cleaner over time, and will reduce the risk of swirling significantly.  When drying your car, you’ll want to invest in 2 or 3 waffle weave drying towels.  These are super absorbent and minimize adding swirls and imperfections due to the waffle like texture.

Cleaning your door jambs: Estimate 1 or 2 All Purpose Towels per door opening. If this is the first time you clean the jambs, expect some staining from grease. These towels should not be used for exterior paint anymore. They will be OK to use for other purposes after a proper wash.

Cleaning the Interior Plastic Surfaces: 3 All-Purpose Towels for the interior cleaner, 3 more for the interior protectant. There are products that do both steps in one application, and can slightly reduce your MF requirements.

Cleaning your Leather Seats: 3 All-Purpose Towels per seat. Final buffing with a clean towel will assure the leather conditioners don’t feel gummy to the touch.

Machine Polishing: 1 Ultra Plush Two-Sided Towel per panel per polishing step. So if you do a two step polish on a coupe, you will want to have about 18 towels ready.

Quick Detail or final wipe: 2 to 4 reTHICKulous Towels per car. Use a “one wet, one dry” technique for final wiping to achieve a streak free finish.

Wax Removal: 4 reTHICKulous Towels per car. Fold the towel in quarters and use a quarter for a few wipes, then change sides, exposing fresh towel as much as possible for a streak free shine. This picture of DJ Mayo shows proper technique:

DJ Mayo's perfect microfiber technique

Cleaning Glass: 2 Glass Polishing Towels per side, more if you have dirty or large windows. It is always good to have extra glass towels, and a few stored in the vehicle at all times for quick clean ups of smears and fingermarks.

So lets add it all up 😉

All purpose MF Towels: need 10 to 20
Plush 2-Sided Polish Removal Towels: at least 18
reTHICKulous Towels: 6 to 8
Glass Towels: 4 to 8
Waffle Weave Drying Towels: 2 to 3

That should be enough to maximize your results. Remember that this is a big investment, and as such, should be cared for religiously. Give your towels the best treatment possible. Treat them also as a collection. You can add and subtract from the collection, but you should always have a base, enough to work on your car. Microfiber is our largest non-consumable material expense, costing in total more than power tools.

We hope this helps!

Marc Harris and Jacob Bunyan
Auto Lavish
Rochester, MI

2 comments on How To Determine YOUR Microfiber Needs

  1. Kyle Simpson says:

    Wow….18 towels for a 2-step? That’s about triple what I normally use! What is the need for a new towel for each panel?

  2. Marc Harris says:

    Please take into consideration everyone has different methods, and results will vary. But I will attempt to explain our reasoning behind the numbers.

    The basic reasons for using microfiber is, first, it reduces the risk of scratching your paint (and scratches can be very small, like marring, or large and visible like swirls), and it does a great job at cleaning. However, towels still need to be cared for properly or they might as well be cotton or flannel (hence lower in price). Part of the care is to not overuse them. Everything you put into them you will have to take out when you wash them. My personal washing machine is nothing special (yet), so I try to keep the towels less caked up. It makes them require less cleaning and thus improves their longevity and performance. I have damaged many a towel by simply getting them too dirty! After a few washes the towel still looks like junk, and I end up throwing them to the Lower Echelons Of Microfiber Society (LEOMS). There goes my $10 towel! It is al about maximizing the value of my initial investment in towels.

    Also, it depends on the “2-step”. Something like PowerGloss is going to leave a heavier residue than 106FA, and how hard it is to remove from the body panel will depend on factors such as relative humidity, ambient temperature, halogens used or not, etc. What pad are you using, how hard are the defects to remove, how many passes on what machine? Do you use a lot of product or a little? I personally use less product than my partner, just difference in style. We find that heavy defect removal (since it is a 2-step) takes 2 towels per panel: one for the compound, and one for the refining polishing. After wiping the residue off an aggressively polished panel, the towel is pretty full of residue from the clear and the polish, and hard to totally wipe the panel properly clean, even with an IsoPropyl Alcohol (IPA) mist or use of a quick detailer. The same happens during the second step, the refining polish. Here is where we must be certain we have eliminated any marring from the compound stage. Especially with compounds like Menzerna, which have more oils that stay on the surface after polishing, it takes a very clean towel to wipe clean and inspection ready. If the panel is not clean, I cannot be sure it is defect free. Sometimes it takes a dedicated towel to do the IPA wipe-down for inspection of the panel, adding a few more over the course of an entire vehicle. You probably could get another panel clean if you were in a pinch, and we have had to do it. But that is the reasoning behind the recommendation, especially if you are just starting your microfiber collection and, hence, do not have a secondary option of using another microfiber towel in your basket.

    I remember going over and over a section of one of my cars (back in the day) with 106FA and 85RD, trying to correct my “buffer trails”. After giving up for the day with lots of trails still present, I came back the next day with a new towel and did a prep-wipe prior to starting polish. It was clear, all of a sudden. The towel I used the day before had been too soiled to properly clean the section, and it cost me a good amount of time.

    I hope this helps!

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