The Best Way To Dry A Car EXPLAINED: Streak - Free Shine!

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If you have owned a car for some time, you’ve probably realized that keeping its paint spotless, shiny, and crease-free isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. It is said that 95% of swirl marks, creases, and scratches on car paint are caused by using the wrong washing and drying techniques.

Most people get the car-washing part right. Regular washes help to keep mud, salt, grime, bird poop, and other contaminants from damaging your car’s paint. It’s the drying methods we need to correct to get the brilliant outcomes we seek, and that’s what we’ll be discussing in this article.

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Table of Contents

Drying A Car Wrong Can Ruin Your Hard Work

First off, it’s important to debunk the theory that washing your car is more important (or requires more attention) than drying your car. Most car owners are diligent when washing their cars; they take their time and use the best products to get rid of all the gunk that sticks onto car paint. However, they give little attention to drying their cars. All that hard work you put in when washing the car can be ruined by using the wrong drying techniques.

Washing (and rinsing) helps to remove much of the dirt and grime that your car’s paint may collect, but it rarely gets all of it. A few tiny bits of dirt usually remain after a wash, even though you may not see them. Also, when cleaning the car outside, a few bits of dirt may be blown onto your car after you finish washing and rinsing it.

When you dry your car casually using a cloth or towel, you can drag these bits of dirt over the surface of your car and cause unsightly streaks and scratches. Using the wrong towel or cloth can also work against your efforts, as the fabrics in some towels can be abrasive and scratch your car’s paintwork.

Should You Even Dry Your Car? What’s Wrong With An Air Dry?

It’s a fact that many car owners don’t give much attention to drying off their vehicles after washing them. This is especially so in rain-prone areas, where car owners argue that drying their cars off with towels is pointless because they get rained on regularly, particularly when it’s hard to do anything about it, e.g. while they’re asleep or at work.

However, that doesn’t take away the fact that air drying a car after washing and rinsing it results in the formation of unappealing water spots/watermarks on your car’s paint, working against your efforts to make the car clean and presentable. Yes, rainwater droplets left on a car’s surface may cause water spots because they may trap dust and other impurities in the wind. However, rainwater pales in contrast to the effects of the water that flows out of your water hoses. Tap/hose water has a lot of minerals. These minerals leave more noticeable spots when dried up, and those spots may even etch your car’s paint when left there for long periods. In such a case, you would have to use an abrasive polish to remove the blemishes from the paintwork.

The No-No List: How NOT To Dry Off A Car

  1. So, the first way NOT to dry off your car is what we’ve just discussed: don’t air-dry it. This ties in with refraining from washing and drying when there’s direct sunlight or when the surface of your car is hot; you may intend to dry it off with a cloth, but the water may dry up and leave water spots before you have time to wipe it off.    
  2. You should also avoid using squeegees and water blades to dry off your car. A lot has been said about water blades on the internet about how they help you remove almost all the water on your car’s paint in a matter of seconds. Undoubtedly, water blades and squeegees can help you dry your car quickly, but they can also damage your paint. When these water blades find tiny dirt particles on the paint, they drag them along the surface of the paint, leaving unsightly scratches.  
  3. Another way NOT to dry your car is to do so using common towels or rags. The fibers of the common towels or rags you use may be too abrasive for car paint cleaning, so they could end up leaving scratches and swirl marks on the paint. In addition, if the rags or towels are not designed to trap dirt as they absorb the moisture on the surface like microfiber towels do, they may also end up dragging dirt particles across paint as you wipe, causing damage to your paint. In line with this point, also avoid using used towels or rags. Many car owners don’t throw away the rags and towels they use to clean their vehicles. Because of how they’re usually cleaned or stored, these towels (even microfiber towels) may have old bits of dirt and lint that could scratch and damage your car’s paintwork.    

You also shouldn’t use excessive force when drying off your car. That’s a sure way to get scratches and swirls on your paintwork, since you’ll end up pressing dirt particles onto the paint as you wipe. Instead of using manly force to get all the moisture off the paint, get a highly absorbent towel that will absorb the moisture without you having to apply much force at all.

Option #1: The Microfiber Towel Is The Best Way To Dry A Car

Quality microfiber towels are the gold standard for washing/drying/buffing towels in the auto detailing industry. As their name suggests, they have ultra-small fibers that are said to be two times thinner than silk and eight times thinner than cotton. Most of them are made from polyester and nylon. Thanks to their ultra-small fibers as well as the way they’re woven together, microfiber drying towels are great at picking up or lifting dirt particles or wax away from car paint. Therefore, you won’t have to worry about dragging dirt over the surface of your car with these towels. Microfiber towels also do a great job of absorbing moisture from car paint, especially when they’re already a bit wet or damp. The denser they are, the more absorbent they are, so you would do well to invest in denser microfiber towels, even if these are a bit pricier.

Torque Detail has developed an innovative detailing spray called the Turbo Waterless Detailer, which you can use with your damp microfiber towels when drying off your car. This detailing spray provides a layer of lubrication between the towel and your car’s paint when you’re wiping off moisture, meaning that it helps to protect your car’s paint from swirls and scratches during the drying process. This detailing spray also provides a high-gloss, anti-static shine, while enriching any wax or sealant you may have applied on your car previously.

Simply spray the Turbo detailer onto the section of the car you’re working on and then use a damp microfiber towel to wipe off all water droplets. Depending on the size of the microfiber towels you have, you can fold them once or twice. Use one side to dry off a section of the car; when it gets saturated, turn to another side of the towel and continue. Start at the top and work your way down, making gentle strokes with the towel. You’ll probably need a few towels to dry off your car fully.

Thanks to the hydrophobic attributes of the detailing spray, your paint will repel water and cause it to roll off. Moreover, the product’s anti-static properties will prevent dirt from sticking onto your paint. Therefore, with this product, your paint will stay dry and shiny for longer.

Option #2: Chamois As A Drying Towel

Thanks to their non-abrasive and highly absorbent properties, chamois cloths are also widely used by auto detailers as drying towels. Chamois is available in both natural and synthetic forms. Natural chamois leather may be made out of sheepskin or goat/pig leather, while synthetic chamois may be made from water-soluble synthetic polymers. These cloths are often large, so one common way of using them to dry vehicles is to spread them over a portion of wet car paint and then drag them toward you as they absorb moisture from the vehicle’s surface. Another glorious thing about chamois cloths is that you only need one to dry off an entire vehicle.

Compared to microfiber towels, chamois cloths are better at absorbing water from car paint. However, these cloths aren’t as effective at picking up dirt and other contaminants. When chamois comes into contact with water on a car’s surface, it clings to the surface as it absorbs the moisture. When you try to lift or pull the chamois cloth to yourself, you may notice a sort of suction effect between it and the car paint. Because of this, chamois cloths can drag dirt particles over the surface of your car’s paint, causing scratches and swirl marks.

Option #3: Leaf Blower Or Compressed Air

Another way in which you can dry your car after washing it is by using compressed/pressurized air. You can use an air compressor, leaf blower, or vacuum cleaner that’s reversed to get the job done. These air blowers are available in a variety of brands and with different output capacities. They often feature long power cords and long, flexible hoses, enabling you to move around the vehicle, blowing water off all its sides.

One advantage of using compressed air is that this is arguably the quickest way to dry your vehicle. Depending on how large your vehicle is, it may even take you less than 10 minutes to blow all the water off its paint. Another advantage is the fact that it helps you to remove water out of places that towels and cloths can’t reach, e.g. door jambs, mirrors, grille inserts, and gas caps. The water that gets trapped in these areas often ends up seeping out after you’ve dried off your car, ruining a lot of your hard work. Compressed air helps you to deal with that.

When blowing water off your car’s paint, go section by section, working from the highest point down to the bottom. Compressed air beads up the water and pushes it around until it blows off the car entirely.

Option #4: Waffle Weave Towels

Microfiber towels are not made equal. Waffle weave microfiber towels are among the most absorbent microfiber towel types. Made from rich fabrics, these towels are woven in a unique way that forms small ‘honeycombs’ like those of waffles. These honeycombs increase the surface areas of these towels for enhanced absorbency. They also draw moisture away from your car’s paint, leaving the surface dry and spotless.

Waffle weave towels can absorb up to nine times their weight in water, so you only need a few of them when drying your vehicle. They also trap and lift dirt that may have been left on the car’s surface. For these reasons, they’re widely used in the auto detailing industry as drying aids.

★★★★★ 5 Stars
Highest Quality Microfiber Towels

Quality counts! Bad towels or rags can cause micro scratches and swirl marks. These towels are designed specifically for car detailing and are 100% paint safe. Their edgeless design has no rough edges to scratch your vehicle. Featuring a unique two sided design: one side that has longer fibers for buffing and the other side has short fibers for removing product.


Summary: You’re Now A Car Drying Expert!

You may be saying to yourself, “All the above is a bit much because I’m just an average car owner who isn’t into the whole car-show thing.” That may be so, but drying your car correctly will also help to protect its paint. The more you protect your car paint, the longer the car will last. Drying your car is just as involved a process as washing it. When you get it done right, you’ll love the outcome; the glow and shine of your car will be well worth the effort.  

While heavy-duty leaf blowers make the drying process easier and quicker for you, they may set you back a bit. Microfiber towels are ultimately the more affordable option, and when used with detailing sprays like the Turbo Waterless Detailer™, they deliver results that are far superior.

Published on Nov 16, 2020