Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Towel tips for success

Presenting the biggest towel mistakes you can't afford to make

August 21, 2013

When it comes to the towels you use at your wash or detail center, it’s important to make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep them as pristine as possible. And, it’s not just about looks, it’s also about their absorbency and quality, both of which can be achieved with some prowess and tenacity. 

To find out how to keep towels in pristine shape, there are some mistakes you should avoid making, we turned to Joe Gartland, owner of Towels by Dr. Joe, and carwash consultant Ira Feinberg, author of “Make Your Fortune Washing Cars, CEO of CarWash World, Inc., and known to some in the industry as the “Dean of Clean.”

  1. First thing’s first. Every new towel should be washed and dried before it is used.
  2. Avoid bleach. Avoid fabric softener. "Do not use any of these when it comes to washing your towels," Dr. Joe said. "Sure, fabric softener will make the towels nice and soft, but it causes the fibers to repel water.” Also, bleach ruins the fibers as well.  
  3. Consider using vinegar: Use white distilled vinegar to wash towels, Dr. Joe said. “It’s very unique,” he said. “It’s acidic and is excellent for dissolving grease, killing mold and softening the towels. It also released the lint.” Vinegar can be used on both terry and microfiber towels. Depending on the size of the washer, a half cup to 1 cup of vinegar should do the trick.  It depends on the size of the washers, but ½ a cup to a cup should do it.
  4. Do not mix vinegar and detergent in the same wash. Never use these two together, said Dr. Joe, although they should be used alternately. Vinegar doesn’t have to be used for each washing. It can be alternated with detergent. “You should use vinegar maybe every other wash, or intermittently throughout the week. Even if you want to use detergent, you should know that it can build up on towels over time and vinegar can remove the build up on th towels, too.”
  5. Use front-load washing machines. Feinberg said a modern front-loading, auto processed, micro-processed machine will properly rinse the towels and will properly disperse the cleaning agents.  They ultimately save you money, too,” he said.
  6. Don’t over-dry the towels. Find a washer with a very good extractor, said Feinberg, that can dry the towels, too. “That way you don’t need a dryer. A dryer can dry out the towel. A dry towel causes loss of life of the towel. The heat can overcook the towels.” If you have to use a dryer, use a low setting. If you do dry your towels in a dryer, be sure to clean out the lint trap regularly.
  7. Spend more on good towels. According to Feinberg, it simply isn’t worth it to save money on less expensive towels. “Don’t go by price,” he said. “Go by credibility. Pay more, but get more life out of your towels.”
  8. Have separate towels for separate jobs. Have separate towels for each task and color code them. One towel for detailing, one for windows, one for the body of the car, and another just for door jambs, said Dr. Joe.  Towels used for drying windows should only be used for the windows. Road tar and silicone grease, found on door jambs, can cause streaks on windows, so you should never use the same towel for those areas and then on the windows.
  9. Wash cotton towels and microfiber towels separately. Microfiber towels can attract the loose lint that comes off of cotton towels, Dr. Joe said.
  10. Pay attention the weather. Why? Because on rainy days towels will need to be washed and dried to thwart odor-causing bacteria growth, according to Dr. Joe. And, remember, he added, bacteria eats fiber.