Microfiber towels are one of the most important tools in a detailer’s arsenal, but due to their non-glamorous nature, they’re also one of the most overlooked. A high-quality towel can mean the difference between having a show-ready finish, or having to start a detail all over again due to scratches!
Hardware store towels are an okay starting point, but if you want to up your game and really detail properly, it’s worth investing in the right towels. To learn more about what microfiber is and how it works, check out this brief video.
Terms to Know
- Pile – The fluffiness referring to the length of the fibers. “Low pile” is less fluffy than “high pile” with long fibers. This is the same term applied to carpet and other fabrics.
- GSM – Referring to “grams per square meter” or the density of the fabric. Higher density or higher GSM microfibers are softer and more gentle on surfaces than lower GSM towels.
Not all towels are equal and some are better at specific tasks than others. Choose the right kind of microfiber for what you’re doing, and you’ll get even better results. The following styles are all made using microfiber, and are designed for different types of work.
All Purpose Terry or MF Terry
These are fluffy low-pile on one side and a tight, flat weave on the other. Extremely popular because of how cheap they are to produce & sell, this is the style of microfiber towel you see in every hardware and big-box store. A jack of all trades, the MF Terry is used for just about everything, from cleaning up spills around the shop to drying or removing products like wax & polish. Since this is the most common type of towel, there are a lot of junk versions out there with less than 20% Polyamide in their blend. As a general rule, stick to 80/20 blends or higher for best results.
Example: Creature Edgeless by The Rag Company
Sometimes called a “Plush” or “Dual Nap”, the Dual Pile is similar to the MF Terry, but the fluffy side has a medium-length or longer pile. This is one of the most popular styles of detailing towel, due to its versatile nature. While less-common than the MF Terry, the Dual-Pile can still be found in many auto parts stores. Because the Dual-Pile is able to do everything from dusting & drying to product-removal, many detailers keep things simple by getting a large supply and using them as their only style of towel, with a different color for each task. Dual Piles are usually found in the 300 to 450 GSM range and often made with an 80/20 blend, although many found at auto parts store are cheap and contain less than 20% Polyamide. If you plan to dry with it, a 70/30 blend version is best because the extra Polyamide allows it to absorb more liquid.
GSM: Higher than 400
Some consider Dual-Piles with a high-enough GSM to be “Super Plush”, but for our purposes, the Super Plush is a towel with a medium-to-long pile on BOTH sides and a density exceeding 400 GSM. This type of towel is one of the most popular “Premium” styles, due to its forgiving nature. The longer pile allows the towel to safely remove dust & debris by picking it up and away from the surface being worked-on. Of course, even with the increased pile, it is always best to keep the work-surface lubricated to minimize risk. The Super Plush is often the towel of choice for waterless/rinseless washes, wax/polish removal, dusting and drying. Blends for this type of towel usually start around 80/20, but 70/30 is ideal if you plan on using it to dry.
NOTE: In the extended-family of the Super Plush are the ULTRA PLUSH. (Or Dual-Plush) The Ultra Plush are essentially two towels stitched back-to-back to create a superbly-dense towel with an extremely high GSM. Many start around 600 GSM, but you can find examples that go as high as 1400 GSM.
Example: Dry Me A River by The Rag Company
Recognizable for its unique multi-level square-shape pattern that looks like a certain breakfast food, the Waffle Weave is a nearly flat design to do very low pile. Developed to be the most efficient style for drying, Waffle Weaves tend to be thin, but what they lack in density is made-up-for by their exceptional ability to absorb. The multi-level design wicks moisture away from the surface and stores it in square “pockets”. When full, the thin-nature of the towel proves itself useful by making wringing a simple task. (Even for those with weak-hands) Some suppliers will tout the “thickness” of their waffle weave, but that misses the point of the design. Density for Waffle Weaves will usually fall between 200 and 500 GSM, but the most important stat to look for when choosing a Waffle Weave is the blend. A 70/30 blend is ideal, because 30% Polyamide will retain more liquid than an 80/20 will, but polyamide is somewhat-costly to produce, so those “thick” waffle weaves are often lower-Polyamide-content towels compensating with extra material.
They also make great bath towels if you’re short on laundry day.
Features a thin, flat design with a corduroy/ribbed type of texture and a slick, shiny surface. Glass Towels don’t really have any pile to speak-of, but their tiny ridges serve to remove smudges, smears and streaks on glass, chrome and other smooth materials while leaving a perfectly-clean surface behind. Glass Towels can come in many blends, but the good ones are usually 80/20 or 70/30 and feature a GSM in the 250 to 350 range. While the Glass Towel style is the best for cleaning glass & polishing shiny metals, not everyone enjoys how “grippy” they can be on a work-surface. Keeping the towel properly-lubricated will help, but if you find occasional “bunching” to be an annoyance, then Waffle Weaves are a suitable alternative for performing similar tasks.
Example: Suede Cloth from The Rag Company
A thin, flat design that bears some resemblance to a leather chamois, but is much smoother & softer to the touch. MF Suede is a purely synthetic material, so no actual leather is used to create it. MF Suede comes in a wide range of sizes, and can be used for anything from removing fingerprints on glasses, TV’s & computer monitors to applying ceramic coatings over a car’s paint. Blend and GSM are not as important with MF Suede as they are with other types of cloths & towels, but high-quality manufacturers will usually produce their MF Suede with an 80/20 or 70/30 blend.
A very thin, flat design that feels slick to the touch like satin or silk. Knit MF is almost-exclusively used for lens cloths. Knit MF lens cloths are effective, inexpensive and easy to store anywhere. Many companies like to use Knit MF lens cloths as promotional items, since it’s easy & affordable to print anything from text to complicated designs on them. Blend and GSM are not as important with Knit MF as they are with other types of cloths & towels, but high-quality manufacturers will usually produce their Knit MF with an 80/20 or 70/30 blend.