Microfiber vs. Cotton Towels – Which One Is Better For Car Detailing

cotton and microfiber towel comparison

If you’re a car detailing enthusiast, I’m sure that you already know the answer. But this article is targeted at beginners just entering the world of car detailing and might not know the best type of towels for cleaning cars.

In this post, I’ll explain why microfiber towels are better than cotton towels for car detailing and why you should never use the latter.

Key Takeaways:

  • Microfiber towels are superior to cotton towels for car detailing purposes.
  • All car detailing experts agree that microfiber towels are the best type of towels for washing vehicles.
  • Cotton towels don’t have good cleaning properties, cause scratches on cars, aren’t soft, and can’t absorb as much water as microfiber towels.
  • Some people still use cotton towels because of a lack of knowledge.

Microfiber vs. Cotton Towels For Cars

I made a simple comparison table so you can quickly see why microfiber towels are better than cotton towels when it comes to detailing cars.

AspectMicrofiber TowelsCotton Towels
AbsorbencyExcellent absorbency due to fine fibers. Can hold a lot of water and liquids.Good absorbency but not as efficient as microfiber.
SoftnessVery soft and gentle on car surfaces, reducing the risk of scratches.Soft but may not be as gentle as microfiber.
Lint and ResidueHighly durable, can withstand multiple washes, and maintain performance.More lint and residue, can leave streaks or fuzz behind.
DurabilityHighly durable, can withstand multiple washes and maintain performance.May wear out faster, especially after frequent use and washing.
Cleaning PerformanceEffective at removing dirt, dust, and residues without scratching.Less effective at picking up fine particles, may scratch if not careful.
PriceTypically more expensive upfront but cost-effective in the long run due to durability.Usually cheaper initially but may need to be replaced more often.
MaintenanceIt’s harder to wash but can used over 200 times if maintained properly.Easier to wash but wear quickly.
Recommended UseIdeal for most car detailing tasks, including drying, washing, cleaning, buffing, waxing, etc.Easier to wash but wears quickly.
VersatiliyThere are dedicated microfiber towels for washing, drying, cleaning, buffing, etc. Only one type of towels.
Microfiber vs Cotton Towels For Cars: Comparison Table

Here’s also a video that you can watch if you want:

Why Microfiber Cloths Are Superior To Cotton

All detailing experts consider microfiber towels to be their holy grail while rendering services. Microfiber suits various needs, whether cleaning the windows, treating leather seats, or washing the exterior of a vehicle.

If you are in the automotive detailing business or just a hobby detailer who likes to wash their car, I will tell you the 3 key reasons why microfiber towels are better for car detailing.

1. Great For Cleaning The Dirt During The Detailing Process

Microfiber towels are more effective in cleaning compared to regular towels. It consists of tiny microfibers that pick and trap the dirt inside.

Usually, towels made up of cotton fail to do so and can smither dirt around the surface of a vehicle when rubbed or wiped against the vehicle’s surface.

In addition to this, microfiber is ideal for cleaning. They produce a static charge when the fibers of the microfiber material rub together during the wiping motion in the cleaning process. This allows the fabric to clean the dirt effectively since the charge attracts dust and dirt particles.

2. Microfiber Towels Are Non-Abrasive in Nature

As I mentioned earlier, the fiber of the material is tiny, about 1/100th of the diameter of human hair. When this is combined with the synthetic build-up of polyester and polyamide blend, it is made extremely soft.

Some detailing experts choose to use towels with a varying blend of two, depending upon which service and result they want to achieve. Usually, higher polyamide blends will make the microfiber towel even softer and ideal for cleaning delicate surfaces like the vehicle’s paint.

These towels lift away dirt in a non-abrasive way, even when the towel is wiped from the surface. Hence, there is no chance of paint damage or scratching.

3. Microfiber Towels Are Extremely Absorbent

The absorption capacity of microfiber towels is remarkable. This is mainly due to the presence of thousands of tiny fibers that suck up liquid from the surface.

It can absorb 8 times its weight in water, making it an excellent choice for drying a vehicle’s surface without any drop of water or liquid.

The synthetic build of these towels is such that they absorb liquid and are extremely quick to dry out. Since they can be dried quickly, there is little to no chance of bacteria inhabitation.

Choosing The Best Towel For Car Detailing

The basic purpose of a detailing towel is to soak the water, dry your car, wipe off the dirt, fragments, and other particles from your vehicle’s surface, and assist in the processes of detailing or polishing.

The most important thing to keep in mind while using a towel for detailing is ensuring that the vehicle’s paint remains intact.

Having said that, the worst choice you can make in this process is to opt for an abrasive fabric that can damage the surface of your vehicle’s paint.

There are various components that should be taken into account while deciding on buying car wash towels:

1. Level of Softness

The level of gentleness of the towel will ensure that you do not accidentally damage the exterior or interior of a vehicle. Choosing a towel that remains soft and gentle even after various washes is crucial.

In terms of softness, microfiber towels are a much better choice for washing cars:

  • Cotton tends to be too stiff, making swirl marks on the car’s paint.
  • Microfiber possesses a unique fabric wave that makes it softer even without washes.

2. The Strength And Durability of Fabric

The strength and durability of fabric are extremely important for auto detailers. And while both cotton and microfiber towels are pretty durable, microfiber is still a much better option for washing cars.

It is mainly because of the tightness of the fabric threads present in the microfiber towels that deliver great strength to make them last longer.

3. Size of The Towel For Detailing

Detailing is not a single-level process. It includes various tasks like washing, interior cleaning, waxing, and scrubbing.

An expert will always feel the need to switch to a different-sized towel for each activity.

Chemical Guys MIC_507_06 Professional Grade Premium Microfiber Towel, Gold (16 in. x 24 in.) (Pack...
  • Scratch free, lint free and swirl free
  • Long lasting microfiber
  • Effective cleaning under wet and dry conditions

Large-sized towels are ideally used for the vehicle’s exterior to cover more surface area at a time. Large-sized towels are the best option for drying the car. They can soak so much water that you can dry out the whole car without draining them.

4. Weight of The Detailing Towel

Usually, thicker and heavier towels are aimed to absorb more liquid. On the contrary, lighter and thinner towels have the advantage of drying quickly.

Cotton towels are often too heavy, and once they’re wet, they’ll take a lot of time to dry. On the other hand, microfiber cloths are pretty light, even when they’re much thicker than cotton towels.

5. The Color Range of The Detailing Towel

You may think that coloring isn’t so important at first, but it actually is. Many professional car detailers use the “color coding” technique – for instance, they only use blue towels for cleaning glass, red towels for cleaning interior plastics, etc. That way, you always use the same type of microfiber towels for one purpose.

More importantly, colored microfiber towels won’t wash out and translate the color to other things in your washing machine – that’s why I highly suggest using them.

Conclusion

There will always be a better way to do something, and so far, microfiber cloths are the best towel type for car detailing.

If you’re in search of the best microfiber towels for washing cars, check out my recommendation.