DIY: How To Best Wash Microfiber for Auto Detailing

Cleaning Microfiber Towels for Detailing - towels need to be surgically clean to be most effective.

By Christopher Brown of OCDCarCare Los Angeles – OCDCarCare.com – 28 April 2015

Importance of Clean Microfiber in Detailing & Car Care

Washing 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 move processes 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 occurs from 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 optimally wash microfiber towels. 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 Washing

Cleaning Microfiber Towels for Detailing - Sort towels to wash by type.

Before Washing Microfiber : Sort All Towels by Usage Type and Soil Levels.

Before tackling how to clean microfiber towels, sorting them is essential to the process. Grouping towels for washing will depend upon; their specific usage, soil level, and type of towel. This prevents cross contamination from wheels or debris are not transferred onto finish paint towel etc etc.

Washing Microfiber towels can prove bit tricky since some towels bleed (usually darker colors) while others may lint. Therefore, mixing these types of towels, that have a potential to contaminate another types, 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 towels are soiled beyond the help of washing, then then discard or demoted those super soiled towels to a task where they cannot inflict harm on surfaces.

Once towels are sorted by type and by soil levels, they are ready to wash.

Objectives of Washing Microfiber Towels

What is the main purpose of washing 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 Washing Microfiber is to leave 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: Understanding Detailing Microfiber Towel Types & Uses. 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.

Cleaning Microfiber Towels for Detailing - Free & Clear Detergent is best for microfiber.

Microfiber Cleaning: Detergents Free of all Dyes & Fragrances are Best.

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 Microfiber Towels – ALL TYPES:

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.

Instructions for Washing Microfiber Towels 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.

Washing Microfiber Towels - Distilled Vinegar on the final rinse releases detergent residue.

One Cup of Vinegar to a Final Rinse Cycle Ensures Helps Remove Detergent.

FINAL MICROFIBER TOWEL WASHING 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 & Storing Microfiber After Washing

Washing MIcrofiber Towels for Detailing - Fold and Store towels in air tight containers for best storage.

Store Microfiber in Airtight Bins to Avoid Contamination.

ONLY dry all and all microfiber towels or materials on SUPER LOW HEAT.

High 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.

Remember: DO NOT use dryer sheets with microfiber. It is advantageous for the cloths to have an electrostatic charge, attracting particles to stick and embedded within the individual pile.

After drying, fold and organize microfiber according to usage. It is recommended to store in airtight containers to avoid dust and other contamination.

There you have it, the most effective solutions for washing 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.

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Christopher Brown

Christopher Brown operates OCDCarCare Los Angeles, specializing in paint correction, ceramic nano coatings, and Auto Detailing Training Courses.
His passion & dedication to car care lead him to writing in-depth articles about detailing in order to share with the car enthusiast & detailing communities. This lead to detailing training courses designed to develop skills, confidence, and results, enabling detailers to increase quality, efficiency, and profitability.

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