Understanding terry towels - Professional Carwashing & Detailing
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Understanding terry towels

Learn about one option for towels to determine your preference.


Terry towels are still extremely popular in the carwash and detail industry. This is the same type of towel used at home in bathrooms. They are absorbent, durable and versatile, making them a top choice. Soft terry towels are ideal for the body of the car, while lower-cost towels can be used for upholstery cleaning, carpet spotting, and cleaning wheel wells and door jambs. 

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There is a large variance in terry towel types, as well, and many different factors contribute to the overall performance of the towel. For wax removal and drying car bodies, the most popular towel is approximately 16 inches by 27 inches, also referred to as a hand towel. These towels typically range in weight between two-and-a-half and five pounds per dozen. Smaller 16-inch by 19-inch towels are usually much lighter weight and can be used for dirtier jobs like wiping wheel wells, door jambs or taking a touch spot out of the upholstery or carpet. Larger terry towels are sometimes preferred by those that are detailing larger vehicles, such as trucks. These towels are bath towel-sized and can measure 20 inches by 40 inches and larger.


A low-quality terry towel may feel scratchy or fall apart after a few washings. A higher-quality terry towel might feel softer and last many washes. Since all detailers have preferences as to what they like in towels, it’s important to know what qualities work for you. The most popular is a towel that weighs either three or four pounds per dozen. Work with a towel vendor to get the feel and thickness you like. Some people like a plusher nap on their towels, while others prefer a sheared pile, also referred to as lint-free. While no terry towel is 100 percent lint-free, some versions lint less than others.


Some detailers do not like terry towels for several reasons. They tend to be bulkier than microfiber, so they aren’t necessarily quite as versatile. As stated above, they also can lint (although a good towel won’t continue to lint after the break-in period). Microfiber can be used right out of the box, while terry towels need to be washed several times before use to become absorbent and get rid of lint that is common in a new terry towel.

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