Cleaning Microfiber Towels for Auto Detailing: The Most Effective Method
By Christopher Brown of OCDCarCare Los Angeles – OCDCarCare.com – 28 April 2015
The Importance of a Clean Microfiber in Auto Detailing
Cleaning Microfiber Towels is a common subject in auto detailing, yet doesn’t receive in depth explaination. This is a bit strange because clean microfiber towels are ONE OF THE MOST CRITICAL COMPONENTS of any Detailer’s equipment and effective detailing procedures. Clean towels become increasingly more important the further along a vehicle moves through the detailing process. Because work should always be performed so that processes are moving forward; offering further refinement with each step toward finished results.
Therefore, clean towels are most vital when vehicles reach the final polish stage or final wipe stage. This is the most critical time for a clean cloth, ensuring that no potential harm is caused by dirty or contaminated microfiber towels.
This article offers information explaining why microfiber towels require the utmost cleanliness. More importantly, readers will learn how to obtain this optimal cleanliness. The methods described here work equally as well for anything constructed of microfiber such as applicator pads or wash mitts.
Sorting Microfiber Towels Prior to Cleaning
Before tackling how to clean, microfiber must be sorted. Grouping towels for washing will depend upon; their specific usage, soil level, and type of towel. This ensures cross contamination from wheels or debris are not transferred onto finish paint towel etc etc.
Cleaning Microfiber towels can prove bit tricky since some towels bleed (usually darker colors) while others may lint. That being said, mixing these types of towels that have a potential to contaminate another type should be avoided. Therefore, wash towels of all the same type together. For example; wash all interior towels with one another, wheel towels together, polishing/compounding towels together, and so on and so forth.
In addition to type, evaluating the level of soiling and type of soiling is necessary when pairing towels together when washing. A towel containing grease, hard embedded articles, or other substances or objects which could potentially transfer onto another towel during the washing and or drying process. If soiled beyond recovery of washing, then towels should be discarded, or demoted to a task where they cannot inflict harm on surfaces.
Once towels have been sorted by type and by soil levels, they are ready to wash.
Objectives of Cleaning Microfiber Towels
What is the main purpose of cleaning microfiber? “To get it clean!” everyone will obviously and immediately blurt out, with a half laugh. Yes this is absolutely true. However, microfiber pile functions optimally when unclogged and statically charged. Because Microfiber’s most significant and prized trait is clinging onto particles or liquids and holding onto them.
The Overall objective of Cleaning Microfiber is to leave the individual microfiber fibers (pile) Completely Unclogged.
Cleaning microfiber towels should continue until zero contaminants AND detergent remain embedded within the pile (individual strands) of the microfiber. (for a more in-depth look at the construction of microfiber and its usage see OCDCarCare’s article: The Magic of Microfiber for Auto Detailing. ) For this reason a “free detergent” should be used. This is a detergent without color or scenting agents which could potentially become embedded with the pile. So, at minimum, microfiber towels should be cleaned twice. And, depending if the machine is a high efficiency or front loader, they might even require a third washing.
It may sound ridiculous to wash microfiber 3 times, but it’s all relative to the finish quality goals. Additionally, no fabric softeners are required when cleaning microfiber towels since they potentially clog up the weave, robbing clean microfiber of the important electrostatic charge. This charge helps attract fine dust and soiling particles to the microfiber, locking them into the pile.
For compounding, polishing, and particularly high amount of general soil levels from say, interior cleaning, add a 1/2 cup of a d-Limonene based citrus cleaner (APC – all purpose cleaner) to the first wash in order to help break up the initial soiling and cut through any tough grime or solvents.
General Guide Lines for Washing All Microfiber Towels:
1] Don’t Overload the Washing Machine Past 70% Capacity. Especially important for HE washing machines since Microfiber is extremely dense, absorbent, and highly effective at retaining water. When loading a machine past 70% full, the microfiber will morph and bunch into a large ball, reducing the movement of the towels within the machine. Agitation is the primary cleaning method of a washing machine. Therefore, overloading a machine will only cause frustration due to wasted time, water, and detergent with towels that remain soiled. Also, overloading washing machines may lead to overworking the motor, causing premature ware and a possible motor breakdown.
2] ALWAYS Wash microfiber towels on a warm/warm machine setting. This ensures the best penetration of dirt and grime. Too hot of water could possibly overheat the fibers, leading to a melting of fibers into small hard balls. These melted balls are a potential scratch hazard to surfaces. Once a towels pile is overheated and partially melted the towel should be discarded or re-purposed for a non paint task.
3] Select the Most Water Possible Paired with Longest and Most Aggressive Wash Cycle : This will ensure the wash cycle will adequately cover each microfiber towel with cleansing soapy detergent water. Also, the more aggressive the washing cycle the better the overall result from cleaning, do to more agitation and penetration of cleaning agents into each individual microfiber pile.
4] A Presoak Is Useful For Heavily Soiled Towels: Presoaking heavily soiled towels ensures optimal washing since it loosens the bond of soil to microfiber pile. To do this, simply place soiled towels in a solution of detergent and APC in warm water that is just on the verge of being hot. Soak towels 1-4 hours and then place directly into the washing machine.
Microfiber Washing Instructions ► Top Loading Washing Machines (FIRST WASH)
If using a top loader: after the machine has filled itself and run for about 5 min, pause the cycle for about 30-40 min, allowing the load to soak in the detergent and loosen up the soiling. Then allow the cycle to run its course and just before it finishes, restart the agitation cycle again. Top loading machines are THE BEST means of washing microfiber since they are the most violent, forcing cleaning water into the microfiber’s pile via agitation.
Microfiber Washing Instructions ► High Efficiency/Front Loading Machines (FIRST WASH)
If using a front or HE machine don’t despair, you can still achieve great results; it just requires a bit more time and effort. Again, begin with a warm water wash and, after the machine has added all of its water, open the top up and add more warm water. THEY KEY is finding the sweet spot to each machine. At some point the machine will say, “no more” and will begin to drain. So by trial and error you will find this spot and load water JUST SHY of the overload point. I suggest using a gallon container of some sort to measure the exact amount for each machine. Next, allow the washing cycle to run its course, and just before it finishes, restart this cycle.
Microfiber Washing Instructions – SECOND (Final) WASH For ALL Washing Machine Types
Repeat steps from first wash, using only detergent in the second wash. (NO APC in 2nd wash) This serves as the final wash, removing any remaining dirt and residue from the towels. Add extra water to the HE machine as directed in the first wash.
►► NOTE: Just before the Final rinse, add 1 cup of white vinegar to the machine. Then allow the machine to agitate a bit, mixing the vinegar into the towels. The vinegar works as a natural rinsing agent, ridding the microfiber piles of any excess detergent residue that remains.
► FINAL MICROFIBER TOWEL CLEANING TIP: Always remember to smell the load after the second wash. If traces of anything other than light vinegar remain, then the load needs another wash. This is particularly important for paint correction towels, such as those used for compounding and final polishing. These towels require the most attention since aluminum oxide and paint residue which can become deeply embedded within fibers.
Drying Microfiber Towels After Washing
ALWAYS dry all microfiber towels or other microfiber materials on SUPER LOW HEAT. Otherwise, the heat could melt and sear the pile fibers into hard little balls. These melted fiber balls instantly make towels too aggressive for paint correction, granting the ability to scratch surfaces. ►Again remember: DO NOT put dryer sheets in with microfiber since it is advantageous for the cloth to have an electrostatic charge cloth, attracting particles to stick and embedded within the individual pile of the weave.
After drying, fold and organize your microfiber according to usage. It is recommended to store them in an airtight containers to avoid dust and other contaminants.
There you have it, the most effective solutions for cleaning and drying microfiber towels. These long term care methods will enable long lasting towels. Also, the above methods result in surgically clean towels, able to combat the most finicky of painted surfaces.
~Keep on Buffin’
© Christopher Brown – OCDCarCare Los Angeles – OCDCarCare.com – 2015
For more informative articles regarding: auto detailing, paint correction, technique discussions, and many other things car care related please browse: OCDCarCare’s – Auto Detailing Article Archive.
His passion & dedication to car care lead him to writing in-depth articles about detailing related subjects in order to share and interact with the car enthusiast & detailing communities. Eventually, this lead to detailing training courses designed to develop skills, confidence, and results which enable detailers to increase quality, efficiency, and profitability.
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