1/9 SLIDES © Staff, Courtesy of Chemical Guys
While vacuums for cars have come a long way in keeping interior upholstery tidy, the implementation of microfiber fabrics has been huge for car cleaning and detailing. Compared with materials like cotton or paper, microfibers are much softer, more absorbent, less abrasive, and less likely to leave lint. These traits make them especially useful for towel-drying a wet coat of paint after a wash. For this purpose, the cloths can be gently swept over the surface of the paint and pick up excess water without leaving a mark. More rigid varieties of microfiber can also be used to apply polish, wash glass, and to dust off interior surfaces.
What to Consider
There are three main factors to consider when buying a microfiber cloth, those being the pile height, the texture, and the material composition. Pile height measure the softness of the cloth. For the purpose of drying the car, the softest possible fabric should be used, but more abrasive towels can be used for polishing paint or cleaning hard plastics. Texture varieties include “waffle” and “suede.”
The waffle type provides higher absorbency, while suede ensures uniform softness across the cloth. When it comes to composition, microfiber is usually about 80% polyester fabric to 20% polyamide. The polyester gives the material its trademark softness, and the polyamide lends absorbency. We find that premium towels tend to contain a little bit higher concentration of polyamide compared to budget brands. The cloths also come in a range of sizes, from just a few inches wide to multiple feet. Most products can also be machine washed and reused dozens of times under normal conditions.
How We Selected
Popular Mechanics has picked these products based on a combination of auto detailing and cleaning knowledge, and review data from sites like The Drive, Motor1, and TrueCar. Factors like product size and price are also taken into account to provide a wide variety of buying options.
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1) Meguiar’s Water Magnet
As the name implies, this cloth was made with drying in mind, and cover a large 22 by 30–inch area to do the job quickly. It also comes with a waffle pattern for maximum absorbency. Composition is the standard 80% polyester with 20% polyamide.
Although it provides good coverage at a low price, some reviewers have noted that it isn’t particularly soft compared to more expensive options.
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2) Maxshine Yellow Edgeless
This five-pack of 16 by 24–inch cloths promises “supersoft microfiber” thanks to their thick suede texture. Each fabric sheet is actually two-sided, with a long pile gentle side, and a more abrasive short pile side. They’re good for washing, waxing, and drying without leaving much in the way of lint.
During the washing process, the deep fibers help grab dirt and lift it safely away from paint. Material is once again 80% polyester. The relatively small size of the cloth may also mean you’ll be wringing it out several times while drying, and take longer. Overall, though, this is a solid multipurpose kit.
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3) E-Cloth Glass Polisher
Unlike most microfiber cloths, this set of four features a rough and rigid surface with extremely short pile height. Perfect for applying elbow grease and scrubbing the grime off of windshields and mirrors, as well as chrome surfaces. You’ll just want to keep these away from paint, as they’re liable to leave tiny scratches in a sensitive clear coat. The cloths are 20 by 16 inches apiece, and 80% polyester. The manufacturer also guarantees the product will last at least three years, or about 300 washes.
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4) Chemical Guys Wooly Mammoth
This drying towel with a cutesy name almost looks closer to a throw rug than a simple hand cloth. The Mammoth comes with a massive 25 by 36 inches of coverage, and nearly half an inch of thickness. The fibers come in a long pile suede, with 30% polyamide content for added absorption. The large size, however, can come at a disadvantage when the cloth fills up with water, becoming awkwardly heavy for some users. You’ll also want to run it through the wash once before use to strip it of potential lint.
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5) Detailer’s Preference High Density Towels
This kit gets you a dozen bright blue cloths with medium coverage at 16 by 24 inches. The suede pile height is relatively short, so they’re more suited to scrubbing than fine detail work. The microfiber composition is also 80% polyester, and leaves minimal lint upon use. Black satin stitching around the border ensures the cloth will retain its shape across many uses and washes.
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6) Adam’s Ultra Plush Drying Towel
This cloth provides good 29 by 36-inch coverage, and gets top marks in both softness and absorption. It scoops up water droplets with very little effort on the user’s part, and can dry an entire mid-size vehicle in one pass.
Adam’s even claims “You’ve never seen a towel that sucks up this much water.” One side of the product has soft long-pile microfiber, while the is more absorbent polyamide material. It’s best to make sure the soft side is the one coming in contact with paint at any given time.
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7) Siga Microfiber Six-Pack
This cloth’s small 14 by 16–inch size makes it perfect for stowing a few in the car for periodic dusting, or to mop up emergency spills. You could even take on many spills at once, considering that twelve of them come in the box. It’s best saved for the interior, however, because the coarse short-pile pattern won’t be good on paint.
The makeup is more washcloth than drying towel, and has a very high polyester content. That’s 87% versus only 13% polyamide, and leaves it less absorbent than its contemporaries.