Microfiber towels.
Waffle-weave microfiber.

Proper towel selection for a car wash and/or detail center is instrumental in helping to produce a shiny, streak-free car. Towels are an important tool, and deciding which one to use can sometimes be confusing. Towel selection is usually a personal preference, so it is up to the car wash manager/owner to find a towel that works best for his/her operation. While there is technically no wrong or right answer (except for a towel that doesn’t work well), it is good to know all of your options.

In Part I of this article in the April issue of Auto Laundry News, we discussed cotton terry towels and paid particular attention to the colors, sizes, and weights in which they are available. This month, we will focus on microfiber and huck/surgical towels.


Microfiber towels are just as popular as cotton terry towels. They possess all the attributes that make a good car wash towel including absorbency and being lint-free. Microfibers typically hold about seven times their weight in liquid. They never become super heavy when wet, making them easy to handle. These towels are used in all areas of the car wash, including body drying towels, window towels, and detailing. Microfiber is also available in various sizes, colors, thicknesses, and types.

For the car wash industry several types of microfiber styles are available. These include terry microfiber, waffle weave, and glass towels. There are other types of microfiber available, but these are the most commonly seen at the wash.

Terry Microfiber

Terry microfiber is the style that usually comes to mind when you are thinking about microfiber. These microfibers have a slight loft in their pile, which is effective for both cleaning windows and drying cars. Terry microfiber is available in many different sizes. However, typically a cloth around 14” x 14” up to 16” x 16” is the most common for use on the windows and the interiors. Larger microfibers that can range from 15” x 24” up to 16” x 27” are more common for use on the body of the car. Once again, blue and green are very popular but microfibers can be found in a wide array of colors. There is no break-in period for these cloths, and they can be used right out of the package. To avoid residual lint that may have fallen back onto the cloth during the manufacturing process, you should wash your microfiber once before using. Just be sure to wash them on a cool setting and dry on low heat/air dry. Microfiber will melt when exposed to higher temperatures (approximately 105 degrees or more). Also, microfiber towels should never be washed with regular towels, as the lint from a cotton terry towel will stick to the microfiber.

Waffle Weave Microfiber

Waffle weave microfibers look just like they sound. These cloths have a waffle pattern to them, which some operators like because of the added texture. They are very versatile and make for a great towel on the windows. This style can trap a lot of water because of the ridges, so it also makes a great general towel. Other people who use waffle weaves feel that the ridged texture helps to better clean raised dirty surfaces such as bird droppings.


Both terry and waffle weave work very well for cleaning glass and mirrors, but some prefer the finish provided by a microfiber glass cloth. There is no pile to these cloths, making for a smooth surface. It is all personal preference, and you can get the same results from any of these microfiber cloths when used properly.

Not for Everybody

The benefits of using microfibers are numerous. However there are a few reasons that prevent some people for purchasing them. As stated above, microfibers are extremely heat sensitive and will melt when washed in hot water or placed in a hot dryer. They also become ineffective once washed with fabric softener. The cloths will actually appear normal, but they will become ineffective and cause streaking. If washing instructions are followed, a good quality microfiber can actually last up to 500 washings. Microfibers do such a great job at trapping and absorbing water that some washes in the colder regions switch to cotton during the winter months due to freezing.


While many people use microfiber now, huck/surgical towels are still the preferred window towel for many car washes and detailers. They are 100 percent cotton, lint free, and super lightweight, making it easy to reach the corners of the windows. They are extremely easy to break in, and are still fairly low cost.

Hucks are easy to care for, but you are limited on the color and the size. While they are naturally absorbent, they can’t physically hold as much liquid as either a microfiber or a terry towel. Hucks work really well on the windows, but microfiber creates less streaking and tends to be superior in performance.


The options are plentiful, and often the solution to finding the right towel is by testing out different ones. Towels are low cost, especially when compared to many of the other equipment/tools used in the car wash industry. It is easy to try out various towels until the right one is found. Once a towel system is in place and is working well, stick with that system. For many car washes, this solution could be a combination of these towels.

Valerie Sweeney is vice president of ERC Wiping Products Inc. located in Lynn, MA. You can visit the company on the web at www.ercwipe.com.