How To Wash Microfiber Towels: Clean Like New In No Time!

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Microfiber towels are the heavy work horses of the detailing industry. You don’t give them much thought, but they might actually be the most-used tools in your arsenal.

After a few washes though, you may notice they’re not as good as they used to be. Perhaps they don’t pick up as much water, or they leave lint and other particles on your pristine paint.

You can get the best ones out there, rated for 500 washes, and they’ll still grow disgusting and rough after half a dozen washes. Microfiber requires specific maintenance to keep it fresh and fluffy - just as good as when you opened the pack.

In this article, we’ll get all your questions about microfiber towel washing and maintenance answered. Let’s get started.

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Table of Contents

What Is Microfiber And Why Is It So Damn Good?

Microfiber cloths (or towels) caused a small revolution in the detailing industry. They’re great for washing and superb at drying, removing several times their own weight in water from the surface. Microfiber is super soft and equally good on the body paint, glass, trim, interior, wheels, and even the engine bay. It’s a great medium for polishing, waxing, and coating. You can’t complete a detailing service on any car without going through at least a couple of towels.

How is Microfiber Made?

Microfiber is a synthetic material woven from a mix of polyester, which makes up the majority of synthetic clothes, and polyamide, which is another name for nylon. These are both types of plastic. The polyester is strong and tough, resistant to abrasion as well as most chemicals and mildew, and easily washed and dried. Polyamide adds softness, elasticity, extra strength, and durability.

The yarn is produced by melting and extruding these two plastics in a specific proportion to form an incredibly thin yet strong fiber, then weaving this into different patterns. Typical ratios are 80% polyester 20% polyamide and 70/30. The higher the polyester, the more scrubbing power you get. The higher the polyamide, the more plush and absorbent the towel will be.

If we just stopped here, the towels would have similar properties to a cotton towel - a fair bit of water absorption and cleaning power, but not anywhere near the miraculous performance of microfiber.

The process that produces the actual microfibers is called “splitting”. It uses a chemical reaction to separate the yarn into a star-shaped polyamide core and polyester wedges. The final thickness is a maximum of 10 micrometers - usually only a third of that for better-quality products. Keep in mind that a single human hair is anywhere between 17 and 180 micrometers thick.

Properties of Microfiber Products

All these little fibers contribute to an absurd surface area equivalent to a cotton cloth four times its size. This allows for water and dirt to adhere to the material more effectively. Microfiber can also hold seven times its own weight in water.

A key property is electrostatic attraction. When rubbed together, polyester and polyamide acquire opposite electrical charges. Static electricity forms between the fibers, attracting dust, dirt, bacteria, and other microscopic solid particles. The tight formation of the fibers creates a capillary action, pulling water and dissolved dirt to the center until forcefully washed out.  

Another important property of microfiber products is the density of the weave. This is measured in grams per square meter - GSM. While GSM is not a measure for quality of the materials, it can give you an indication of how the product will behave. The sweet spot is a GSM of 300-400, where you get a good balance of softness, water absorption, and durability.

How To Properly Wash Microfiber Towels

Microfiber is a miracle material. However, in order to keep its properties, you need to wash and maintain it properly.

You can’t just throw a bunch of these towels together with your other laundry and hope for the best. If you have fewer than a dozen microfiber towels, it’s best just to hand-wash them all.

Separate Microfibers Depending on their Purpose

For a start, microfiber products cannot be washed with other fabrics. Cotton, linen, and other organic materials produce a lot of lint with each wash. The microfiber will pick it up and become absolutely loaded and useless.

You also can’t wash all of your microfiber towels together. You need to separate the loads depending on what detailing jobs you used them for. This sounds like a huge hassle, but consider the following:

Would you dry your car with the same towel you used to polish the wheels? Would you wax and degrease using the same cloth? What about the towels you use around the engine bay?

You wouldn’t even think about doing this, so why would you throw them in the washing machine all together? You’re simply spreading the dirt and grime all around the good ones, making them worse overall.

Towels used for drying are practically dirt-free - quick detailer dries without leaving any residue or solid particles. It’s okay to throw these together.

Wash mitts, regardless of whether you use the two-bucket method or a foam cannon, will inevitably carry some dirt and solid particles. Window cleaners are alcohol-based, which evaporate without a trace; however, the towel itself will pick up the dirt and solid particles from the surface. Put these in another pile.

Buffing cloths could be potentially loaded with quick detailers, waxes, sealants, ceramic coatings, and polishes. These are all different products. The towels might be the same, but they need separate washes.

Towels used in the engine bay, on the undercarriage, or in the wheel arches, door jambs, and other areas loaded with grime have it the hardest. You want to wash these separately from everything else.

Pre-Soak Dirty Towels in Warm Water

Depending on how dirty your towels are, some of the grease, dirt, and other grime will rub off on the washing machine. So, you’ll have to wipe down the washing machine after use.

This is of course an unnecessary hassle. You can avoid it by soaking extra-dirty towels in warm water and extra detergent immediately after use. Set them aside for later washing when you’re done with the job.

If you hand-wash these towels before the oils and dirt have time to harden, it will be much easier to get them clean and have them last a bit longer.


Use a mild liquid detergent at all times. Go for “skin-sensitive” or “baby” laundry detergents found in your local supermarket. You don’t want any softeners, conditioners, bleaches, scents, or other additives - just pure detergent.

Fabric softeners will clog up the structure of the microfiber and make the towels ineffective at picking up water, as if they’re coated with wax. Bleaches will damage the fibers of the towel and make them deteriorate more quickly, leaving lint and particles all over your car in the process.

Powder detergents don’t always dissolve fully in water. The bits that don’t dissolve will lodge in the microfiber fabric and cause them to leave streaks and lines on glass, and possibly even scratches in the finish. Use liquid detergents only.

There are actually microfiber-specific laundry detergents out there that are guaranteed to be safe on the fabric, but don’t fall for any snake oil, like products that claim to be able to magically restore damaged microfiber or somehow make it more dense and effective.

Finally, you can add a small amount of vinegar to the fabric softener compartment if you’re using a washing machine, or directly on the towel if you’re washing by hand. This will help loosen hard caked dirt, mineral deposits, and grease.

Washing Machine Settings

It’s time to throw your load in the washing machine.

While every detailer knows they have to watch their washing temperature, it’s exaggerated that fibers can melt under high heat. Both polyester and polyamide have melting temperatures of around 400-500 degrees Fahrenheit. A normal washing machine only goes to 140 F.

Use as much heat as you need to get your towels free from dirt and contamination. However, prolonged exposure to elevated temperatures will cause some of the microfibers to tangle and form something like dreadlocks. Over time, the towel will start to lose its softness and absorption properties.

Always use the lowest heat possible. Wash QD, window towels, and drying towels in cold water. Use the warm setting for wax, sealant, and polish towels. Reserve the hot setting only for the most heavily loaded towels.

Drying Your Microfiber Towels

Here’s where you can step up your game and get more out of your microfiber towels.

Some dryers can reach over 170 degrees Fahrenheit. You never really want to go that hot with microfiber, because it will quickly deteriorate and lose its qualities.

If you’re not in a rush, it’s best to dry microfiber on the line or rack to use again in the morning.

If you have to use the dryer, pick the lowest heat option and avoid drying microfiber towels completely. Get them out a little damp and dry them overnight on the line or rack to prevent overheating.

Don’t use any dryer sheets, and double-check your load for any other fabrics, paper, or materials. Check and clean the lint catcher before and after drying.

Microfiber Maintenance Hot Tips

You can quickly lose track of which towels go in which load, what machine settings to use, and so on. Here are some useful tips for taking care of your microfiber towels more efficiently.


It’s a popular strategy among detailers to color-code their towels - for example, using green ones for drying, blue ones for waxing, red ones on the engine, and so on.

This way, you keep track of which towel goes where and will have an easier time washing them.

Use the Right Towel for the Right Job

Another popular strategy is to grade your towels. Basically, you start with a brand new towel and use it on the delicate painted surfaces. When it loses its soft and plushy surface, you can downgrade it for use on the interior, then the wheels, and finally, under the hood.

When the microfibers get destroyed beyond washing, simply throw them away or use them as rags for your tools and hands when you’re wrenching.

This way, you’re always using the highest-quality towels where it matters and getting the most use out of each towel you buy. If you’re going down this route, get yourself some color-coded or labeled bags or containers so you can keep track of what towel is used where.

Detailers LOVE These Towels
Treat Yourself To High Quality Microfiber

★★★★★ 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: Ragging On

Washing microfiber towels isn’t really that hard. A few simple rules and useful habits will cut through the hassle and get the most work out of each cloth.

Let’s quickly recap:

  1. Separate microfiber towels into loads depending on how each one is used and what products are mixed into the fabric.
  2. Use a mild liquid detergent that’s free of softeners, bleaches, perfumes, and other additives. You want just a pure, pH-neutral detergent.
  3. Use the minimum needed heat when washing microfiber towels. You can go as far as 140 degrees F, but acknowledge that this will deteriorate the towels over time. To get the most use out of them, wash them using colder water when possible.
  4. Only use the low heat option of your dryer and avoid drying microfiber towels all the way. Leave them a little damp and put them on the line overnight.

There we go - four simple steps to get your microfiber towels spick and span!

Published on Feb 06, 2021