Professional Carwashing & Detailing

A very fine towel

May 26, 2010

Editor’s Note: This article is taken from a previous issue of Professional Carwashing & Detailing®. If you would like to submit an article or topic idea for the Management Tip of the Week, please e-mail Editor Kate Carr.

From the beginning, the car care industry relied on the cotton terry towel to serve as the primary tool for washing, drying and polishing. This standard towel went through some changes over the years; various sizes and textures were introduced, as well as new polyester blends.

For several years, these advancements met the needs of many full service carwashes. But operators have always grappled with the question of what towel produced the best window and/or the best lint-free body dry-down.

A seemingly insignificant item such as a towel can cause much grief to an auto care business owner. No one wants to hear complaints about lint, scratches or streaks. While many car care specialists have found the right terry towel or huck window towel, still others continue to search for “the” perfect towel. Some have settled for a certain type of traditional towel and are doing fine, but it pays to continuously reevaluate your options.

Enter microfiber
Until recently, few people involved with the car care industry had ever heard of microfiber towels. Now, people in the business are very inquisitive about this product. They are looking for ways of improving the way they wash and detail a vehicle.

Today’s car care industry is increasingly competitive, and today’s consumer demands quality work. It’s not just cars rolling into your wash; ego, status, big bucks and emotion are also coming through the lines.

Microfiber products have played a major role in vastly improving efficiency and quality. These towels generally contain 30 percent polyamide and 70 percent polyester, or a 20-80 percent mix. This polyamide/polyester mix ensures excellent cleaning and water absorbing qualities.

A good microfiber towel will have thousands of microfibers per square inch. Used with a little bit of glass cleaner, this product will go a long way.
Microfiber is exceptional on glass because it has lint-free scrubbing power and its ability to cut through tobacco smoke and other dirt is unparalleled.

Avoid thin microfiber towels and waffle-weave pattern towels — they tend to have less microfibers ingrained in them. Over time, these towels will be less absorbent.
To get the best results when using microfiber, the user should separate the towels by color and size as a way to code them for a specific purpose.

For example, a smaller 16x16-inch works well for windows and in obscure areas like mirrors and the interior front and back windshields.
As with traditional terry towels, when doing vehicle dry-down, most car care experts at the carwash or detailing center prefer a larger microfiber towel. Again — use a different color to distinguish the body towels from window towels. A 16x27-inch size is very popular for this use.

The newest trend tends to favor a large 24x35-inch size that many operators are excited about. They can work quicker by covering more area with a larger, quality microfiber towel.

The two sizes mentioned above in another color would be a third option designated for detailing, polish removing and buffing.

Microfiber is a detailer’s best friend. It is amazing how soft they are for polishing dark color, clear coat automotive finishes so popular today. The last thing you need is a super fine scratch on a black luxury car or SUV. Remember, like you, the majority of today’s customers demand perfection.

Towel care
In the effort to find perfection and get the best results from microfiber towels, we need to know the proper way to care for and wash our towels.
In a gentle way, microfiber towels scrape the dirt and polish from the surface of a vehicle and then store the particles or liquid in the thousands of microfibers in the towel.

This needs to be kept in mind when caring for the towel.
• Slightly warm water is best for washing microfiber. You should wash the towels with a liquid detergent that is bleach-free. Liquid detergent is preferred over powder because there is a chance that powdered detergent may not dissolve completely. This risk is concentrated if you use cold water. Remember, microfibers tend to hold everything.
• Always wash your microfiber towels on gentle cycle; never wash microfiber with terry or other types of towels. The microfiber will treat any lint or other material from traditional towels like dirt and store the particles within the microfibers.
• Never use fabric softener. The microfiber towel will accumulate the softener and saturate the microfibers, thus reducing its effectiveness.
• Never dry microfiber in a dryer on high heat. You could actually melt the towel with excessive heat. Dry on low heat or just extract your towels.

Finding the best terry towel or microfiber towel for your use is accomplished with a lot of trial and error. It seems like everybody has their own favorites. Find what works best for you and set up your own system.

Bob Gartland is the resident authority on carwash towels at Joseph Gartland, Inc. — Beautiful Toweling. He has over 30 years of experience serving the auto care industry. He welcomes inquiries on carwash towel problems and questions. Feel free to contact him at Bob@beautifulrags.com. You can request written instructions for the proper washing and care of all types of towels as well.