Detailing & Car Care DIY: How To Best Wash Microfiber Towels

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

By Christopher Brown of

The Importance of Clean Microfiber in Detailing & Car Care

Washing Microfiber of Towels is a common subject in auto detailing, yet doesn’t receive much in-depth explanation. This is a bit strange because clean microfiber towels are ONE OF THE MOST CRITICAL tools for any Detailer.

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 best wash microfiber towels. The methods described here work equally as well all things made of microfiber such as applicator pads or wash mitts.

To learn more about Microfiber and its Amazing and Essential uses in Auto Detailing and Car Care read the OCDCarCare Article: Auto Detailing Microfiber Explained: Towel Types & Uses.

Sorting Microfiber Towels Prior to Cleaning

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

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

Before learning how to clean microfiber towels, understanding how sorting them is essential to cleaning and their longevity.

Grouping microfiber towels for washing will depend upon their:

  • Dedicated Usage Type
  • Soil Level
  • Special Usage Considerations

This sorting methodology prevents cross contamination from wheels or debris are not transferred onto finish paint towel etc. etc.

Washing Microfiber towels is sometimes a bit tricky since some darker colored towel fibers bleed, which may stain light colored towels. And others towels may have a tendency to lint. Therefore, avoid mixing the types of towels that have a potential to contaminate another towel types.

Sorting Microfiber Towels by Dedicated Usage Type

The first, and maybe most important washing principle is to wash towels of all the same usage type together. For example; wash all interior towels with one another, wheel towels together, polishing/compounding towels together, drying towels together, and so on and so forth.

The objective is to avoid any possible cross contamination from one type of towel to another.

For example: compounding towels are only washed with compounding towels. By mixing compounding towels with finish polishing towels, more contamination may be passed to the polishing towel.

Sorting Microfiber Towels by Soil Level

Secondly, evaluating the level of soiling and type of soiling is necessary when sorting towels together for washing.

Any towel, containing grease, hard embedded particles, or other substances or objects which could potentially transfer onto another towel during the washing and or drying process, needs to be separated.

If towels are soiled beyond the help of washing, then then discard or demote those super soiled towels to a task where they cannot inflict harm on automotive surfaces.

Sorting Microfiber Towels by Special Usage

If any microfiber towels have a special usage, then only wash this type together.

After all towels are sorted by usage type, then 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, half laughing.

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.

Microfiber should be cleaned as many times as necessary until zero contaminants AND detergent remain embedded within the pile (individual strands) of the microfiber.

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.

Whenever washing microfiber towels or media, no fabric softeners should ever be used. Fabric softeners leave residue behind that clogs 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 a more in-depth look into the history, construction and usages of microfiber, see OCDCarCare’s article: Understanding Detailing Microfiber Towel Types & Uses.

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

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

How Many Times Should I Wash Detailing Microfiber Towels?

How many times to wash a certain type of microfiber towels depends on the usage.

The short answer is 1-3.

It may sound ridiculous to wash microfiber 3 times, but it’s all relative to the washing machine type and the needs of the towel type.

For towel types that don’t tend to get too dirty one wash may be perfect. These types include: drying towels, interior towels, or glass towels.

At minimum, most microfiber towels for dirty tasks, or dedicated towels for compounding and polishing, should be cleaned twice. The first acts as a general pre wash (loosening up) and the second is the deep cleaning wash cycle.

And, depending if the machine is a high efficiency or front loader, they might even require a third washing.

PRO TIP: For an extra cleaning boost, add a 1/2 cup of a d-Limonene based citrus cleaner (APC – all purpose cleaner) to the first wash cycle in order to help break up the initial soiling and cut through any tough grime or solvents.

This is especially helpful for microfiber towels used for for compounding, polishing, and particularly dirty towel tasks.

Rules for Washing Microfiber Towels – ALL MACHINE TYPES

1] Don’t Overload the Washing Machine Past 70% Capacity.

This Principle is especially important for High Efficiency (HE) washing machines because Microfiber’s construction is extremely dense, absorbent, and highly effective at retaining water.

When loading a machine past 70% full, the microfiber will tend to bunch into a large ball. This reduces the movement of the towels within the machine, lowering the amount agitation, and thus cleaning of each towel. So, overloading a machine will only cause frustration due to wasted time, water, and detergent since towels will not have enough space to move to be properly cleaned.

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 Temperature Settings.

Washing microfiber towels on warm settings 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-painted surface specific task.

3] Select the Most Amount of  Water Possible Paired with Longest and Most Aggressive Wash Cycle :

Maximum water settings 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. This is because more agitation and longer wash cycles lead to greater penetration of cleaning agents into each individual microfiber pile.

4] Use a Presoak for Heavily Soiled Towels

Presoaking heavily soiled towels ensures optimal washing since it loosens the bond of contamination particles to microfiber fibers.

To presoak, simply place soiled towels in a solution of detergent and All Purpose Cleaner (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 Machine – 1st Wash

  • Set the Cycle for Warm Water with the Longest & Most Aggressive Agitation Cycle
  • After the machine has filled and run for about 5 minutes, Pause the wash cycle, for 15-30min, to allow the load to soak in the detergent and loosen up the soiling.
  • Allow the cycle to run
  • Just before the machine finishes the washing portion, re-run the agitation cycle again. (may need to experiment to get the timing down)

Top loading machines are THE BEST option for cleaning microfiber since they are the most violent and really get more water and agitation to the microfiber.

Microfiber Washing Instructions: High Efficiency & Front Loading Washing Machines – 1st Wash

If using a front or HE machine don’t despair, you may still achieve good results, it’s just more time consuming.

  • Set the Cycle for Warm Water with the Longest & Most Aggressive Agitation Cycle
  • After the machine has filled and run for about 5 minutes, open the top up and add more warm water via the detergent area. THE KEY is finding the sweet spot to each machine. At some point the machine will say, “no more” and will begin to drain. With trial and error you will find this spot and load water JUST SHY of the overload point. Use a container to measure exactly how much to add and make a note.
  • After the water is added, Pause the wash cycle, for 15-30, min to allow the load to soak in the detergent and loosen up the soiling.
  • Allow the cycle to run
  • Just before the machine finishes the agitation ‘washing’ portion of the cycle, re-run the agitation cycle again. (may need to experiment to get the timing down)

Microfiber Washing Instructions: ALL Machine Types – 2nd or Final Wash

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 each 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 and Storing Microfiber Towels & Mitts 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 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.

“ALWAYS Keep Learning to Strengthen Your Passion & Your Business.”

© Christopher Brown – OCDCarCare Los Angeles

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Christopher Brown
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