Fall through early winter is an excellent time to replenish towels at your car wash or auto detailing business. While personal preference matters, there are some guidelines you should consider when purchasing towels.

Microfiber 300 GSM.
Waffle weave.
Tricot smooth weave.
White cotton.
Plush 400 GSM with red stitching.
Diamond weave close up



• Highly recommended, as they’re truly designed for commercial uses like car care
• Synthetic material that wicks water like chamois
• Doesn’t leave lint behind
• Unaffected by mildew
• Doesn’t fade — dye is actually in the yarn
• Can be washed many times, providing an emulsifier is used instead of a regular detergent
• Can only be dried under low heat
• Becomes saturated quickly, but wrings out easily


• Natural fabric
• Can be washed and dried with high heat without immediate damage, but loses performance over time
• Subject to mold when wet
• Will fade
• Naturally absorbent, but towel becomes heavy and more difficult to use
• Low price point for high-traffic businesses or locations vulnerable to theft


Before purchasing any towels, it’s important to determine how you want to use them. Color coding is a great way to effectively use towels across your entire operation. Simply choose a different color towel for each and every task at your car wash — blue for glass cleaning, red for polishing, and so forth. This helps avoid costly mistakes and accidents. You’d never want to grab a towel to dry a car and realize too late that it was already used to remove polish on another vehicle. That means lost time and cost.
Various colors need to be washed separately. Color coding means towels will already be with a like color and not require additional sorting. It’s crucial to find a distributor with a wide variety of color options so you can plan your towel color coding system.


It’s tempting to purchase a large volume of one type of inexpensive towel from a big box store and use it for everything. You’ll find that this is costlier over time because they’re intended for light, domestic use. Instead, seek out towels designed for a specific purpose
It will achieve the best outcome and last longer — performance and sustainability.


For general drying, use a terry towel with a large surface area and ample weight. Optimal size is 16” x 24” or 16” x 27”. This is typically large enough to dry an average vehicle without being too awkward or difficult to handle. Terry microfiber towels with a weight of 270 to 325 GSM (grams per square meter) are the most cost-effective options that still provide a thorough drying with one towel.
Smaller, dark towels that are 12” x 12” in size, with about 200 GSM weight, can be used for quick drying of tight areas like doorjambs, wheel wells, and trunk edges. Use 400 GSM towels for premium, high-end wash and detail packages to ensure an absolutely complete drying process.

Glass and Mirrors

Towels used to clean glass should be changed out frequently to make sure you’re wiping with a spotlessly clean towel. For glass-cleaning towels, 16” x 16” is a sufficient size, while 16” x 24” is on the larger end.
Waffle-weave towels are the most aggressive towels for cleaning glass. They have the appearance of a waffle, with deep-seated pockets that scoop water, cut smoke residue, and remove streaks. Waffle-weave towels can also be used for minor drying and wax removal. Go with a smaller size for glass only, and slightly larger for all-purpose drying and glass cleaning.
Tricot, or smooth weave, microfiber towels are used to clean glass and mirrors. These towels are essentially larger versions of the fine cloths that you receive with eyeglasses or sunglasses. Tricot towels offer excellent smooth surface cleaning ability with no filament fibers left behind.
Diamond weave, or birds eye weave, microfiber towels feature a flat weave with crosscuts that cut through dirt and grime like a tiny razor. This is a high-tech, lint-free microfiber option for glass and mirrors. They frequently come in black or blue color options. Black will not show stains, while blue shows what was removed.
For both smooth weave and diamond weave, you can typically use a 16” x 16” size. For glass cleaning, it’s helpful to fold your towel and use one side for the first pass, then the other side for a final pass. It might be easier to use a larger 16” x 24” towel if this method is used.

Removing Wax and Polish

An orbital or rotary polisher removes polish and wax on a car’s surface. A towel is used to remove just the little bit of residue that remains, so it can be on the smaller side. A 16” x 16” terry or waffle-weave microfiber towel is sufficient for this task. A bright color like red is a great choice so they’re easy to identify and don’t get reused for other purposes once covered in residue.

Courtesy Towels

For a towel that you’re giving away, choose a small and lightweight towel that isn’t too costly. Consider a 12” x 12” towel with a 200-270 GSM weight and a color that fits your branding.
For a courtesy towel that customers return after drying their vehicle, a medium to heavy towel is suggested — perhaps 16” x 16” to 16” x 24” and 270 to 300 GSM. Choose something affordable yet sustainable. Order amounts depend on how you distribute courtesy towels. If they’re in a bin where customers can use them liberally, have more on hand. If an attendant is handing out one towel at a time, you can order less. Also, consider how prevalent theft is in your area when determining how many towels you need.
If you’re selling towels, use the same type of towels as listed directly above, but sell them in smaller 12” x 12” or 16” x 16” sizes. For retail sale towels, you should offer a variety of dark and light colors to attract interest.
With a loyalty program, customers pay a regular fee to keep one towel and exchange it when it’s dirty. These towels should be high-end options meant to add value and impress. Consider dark, plush, heavyweight options around 400 GSM. It’s also a good idea for loyalty program towels to have a unique aspect that makes it clear customers are returning the same towel. For instance, you might choose a towel with contrast color stitching around the edges.


Due to the high demand for towels during fall and winter seasons, be sure to allow for lead time when placing your textile orders. Ordering well ahead of time means your supplier will either have everything in stock or have time to procure any backordered products.
Place towel orders for the winter rush now, in fall, so you are ready for the first storm surge.
Avoid any business interruption at crucial times. Refine your approach to towel usage, organize your color coding, and use the tips above to buy smart. The time to order towels is today!

Job T. Leach is a copywriter in the marketing department at Kleen-Rite Corp. He can be reached by e-mail at jobl@kleenrite.com. For this article, Joe Gartland was consulted for his knowledge and advice. Gartland, a.k.a. Doctor Joe, is a respected towel-business veteran with a special focus on the car care industry.