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MICROFIBER TECH: Tiny Fibers That Make a Big Difference


Microfiber drying a car

Microfiber has forever changed how car enthusiasts who take their shine seriously care for their cars. The argument could be made that no single advancement in the world of car care has had a larger impact in the last few decades than microfiber. Professionals and enthusiasts alike keep a hefty supply of various towels on hand at all times. Despite its omnipresence in car care today, there is still a fair amount of misinformation and misunderstanding about this amazing material. Let’s dive in, dispel some myths, and learn how to maximize our microfiber towels.


What is Microfiber?


Before getting into the minutiae of microfiber, it's essential to understand its composition and history.


Microfiber is manufactured from a combination of polyesters and polyamides. These microscopic, lab-born fibers are around 1/100th the diameter of a human hair. To put that size into perspective, if a regulation basketball represented the diameter of a human hair, an individual strand of microfiber would be smaller than an M&M! These ultra-fine threads give microfiber its delicate touch and super soft feel, making them far less likely to cause scratches than traditional fibers like cotton. Additionally, the increased surface area leads to better cleaning and drying performance.


When viewed under a microscope, each microfiber strand has a star-like structure, and all strands are virtually identical across the entire towel surface. This consistency leads to a uniformly soft towel that performs the same regardless of the fold or portion in contact with the surface, unlike the inconsistent fibers of cotton.


Comparion of microfiber and cotton strand
Individual microfiber strand cross section (left) compared to cotton fibers cross section (right) under magnification,

The star-shaped structure allows microfiber to grab and hold onto nearly anything, lifting it safely from the surface. Compared to the inconsistent, tube-like shape of cotton—which is absorbent but not ideal for cleaning—microfiber clearly has an advantage.


Where Did Microfiber Come From? 


These tiny man-made textiles have been produced since the 1950s, but early applications were limited. Technology at the time couldn't produce long, continuous strands consistently, making microfiber expensive and time-consuming to produce. In the late 1960s, Japanese researchers made a breakthrough, producing microfibers in long, continuous strands. This advancement led to microfiber’s adoption in various textile applications in the 1970s.


By the 1990s, microfiber gained popularity in the cleaning products market, particularly in janitorial and hospitality industries, due to its sanitary properties and low tendency to shed lint. In the early 2000s, car enthusiasts realized the cleaning power and scratch-free nature of microfiber, leading to its widespread acceptance in car care. Over time, advances in manufacturing introduced new configurations, weaves, and better-quality materials. However, the market also saw an influx of lower-quality towels, technically microfiber but lacking in density and material quality, which did not clean as well and could cause scratches. 


How Do You Find Quality Microfiber? 


Autowash microfiber towels
Autowash microfiber towels are available at locations in vending machines for purchas and soon in the app!

There are three basic characteristics to evaluate when choosing microfiber towels for your car:

Ratio:

The percentage of polyester to polyamide in the towel. Look for ratios like 70/30, 75/25, or 80/20. Anything higher, such as 85/15 or 90/10, is considered unsafe for delicate surfaces like automotive paint. Any towel with a ratio in these ranges should be reserved for greasy jobs like oil changes, and not caring for your car’s exterior surfaces.

Weight:

This number represents grams per square meter (GSM), indicating the towel's fiber density. Lower-quality towels have lower GSM when compared to a towel of similar weave and size. For use on paint and delicate surfaces, start around 300 GSM, with high-end towels like the Luxe Pro-Grade available at Autowash reaching 500 GSM!

Edges and Tags:

While most microfiber itself is safe for your car, tags and cheap edging are not. Low-quality towels often have sewn-in tags or plastic edge stitching that can scratch your paint. All towels offered by Autowash are tagless and feature 100% microfiber edging or in some cases are fully edgeless designs.


What is a Cheap Towel Really Worth? 


Cheap towels pose a risk for those wanting to care for their vehicle without causing scratches. Buying bulk packages of 50 generic yellow “microfiber” towels at big box stores may save money, but it risks scratching your vehicle and the cost to have a professional remove scratches from your vehicle can be hundreds, or even thousands of dollars! Also, lower performance from low-quality towels means you'll need several cheap towels to complete the same job as a single high-quality towel.


Can Microfibers Be Reused? 

Investing in quality microfiber towels means years of use with minimal effort. Microfiber is machine washable, provided you follow a few simple rules:


  • Wash Microfiber Only with Other Microfiber: Mixing microfiber with cotton in the wash traps lint in the microfiber, reducing its effectiveness.

  • Use Liquid Laundry Soap: Standard liquid detergents are safe for cleaning microfiber. For best results, use dye-free, perfume-free detergent and add ½ cup of distilled white vinegar during the wash cycle.

  • No Fabric Softeners: Fabric softeners provide polymers and oils for fibers to absorb, clogging microfiber and reducing performance. They may also cause streaks on paint and glass.

  • Low or No Heat: Always wash on a warm or cold cycle and tumble dry without heat. High heat can melt the tiny fibers, harming performance.


By following these guidelines, you can maximize the lifespan and effectiveness of your microfiber towels, keeping your car looking pristine for years to come.


Microfiber at the Ready


Microfiber is a truly remarkable material that can make cleaning safe and effective, even on delicate surfaces. Now that you understand a bit more about the material and its care we encourage you to keep a collection on hand. A few high-quality microfiber towels in your car are perfect for touching up your exterior after a wash or addressing fingerprints and smudges between washes. Whether you take your cars to car shows or just use it to get around town, microfiber is an invaluable addition to your car care routine that ensures your vehicle is always getting the best possible care… Because you love your car!  



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FAQs


What is the best microfiber towel for car detailing?

Look for towels with an 80/20 or 75/25 polyester to polyamide ratio and a GSM of at least 300. High-end towels can go up to 500 GSM, offering superior softness and absorbency.


Can microfiber towels scratch car paint?

Quality microfiber towels are designed to be gentle on car paint. However, low-quality towels with rough edges or tags can cause scratches.


How often should you wash microfiber towels?

Wash microfiber towels after every use to maintain their effectiveness. Always follow proper washing instructions to extend their lifespan.


Can I use fabric softener with microfiber towels?

No, fabric softeners can clog the fibers and reduce the performance of microfiber towels. Use a gentle, dye-free detergent instead.


What GSM is best for car drying towels?

A GSM of 300 to 500 is ideal for car drying towels, providing a good balance of absorbency and softness.


How do I store microfiber towels?

Store microfiber towels in a clean, dry place away from direct sunlight. Ensure they are completely dry before storing to prevent mold and mildew.








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