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Car Drying 101: Chamois vs Microfiber Towels vs Blowers

Looking to drying your car, truck, or SUV? You have options including chamois (shammies), microfiber towels, and even blowers. Some are safer and more effective than others

In this blog, I’ll break down the pros and cons of each drying method, how to decide what’s best for you, and a few recommendations.

Drying with microfiber towels

good car microfiber towels

In general, microfiber towels are a safe and popular way to dry a vehicle. More specifically, microfiber drying towels. Drying towels have longer pile and can absorb more water than standard microfiber towels; these are plush and a lot thicker.

With whatever drying product you decide to go with, make sure your car is free from all dirt and debris before using towels (or shammies). Forgetting to wash away a spec of tar or gravel and sliding a towel over it is a surefire way to leave a scratch!

Pros

  • Come in all shapes and sizes. Most are a standard size, but you can buy pretty large microfiber towels that are perfect for drying large vehicles
  • Some made for interiors or exterior use
  • Most are relatively inexpensive

Cons

  • You probably need several towels if detailing multiple vehicles
  • Can leave streaks when damp
  • Cheaper towels can leave behind cotton particles

Chamois

good car chamois

One of the most effective products to dry a large vehicle (or even a boat) is a chamois. These are usually a super-absorbent synthetic rubber type material (or leather), and are ideal for larger vehicles and for drying fleets of vehicles.

I have used a few of these throughout the years, and they are one of my favorites, simply because you can wring it out and don’t need a bunch of towels.

Pros

  • Great for large surfaces
  • Very efficient at absorbing water
  • Only one is required to dry your entire vehicle

Cons

  • Requires water to use, not ideal for waterless eco-friendly sprays
  • Potential to scratch vehicle if used incorrectly
  • Dries hard, not as convenient to store

Car blowers

professional car blower - dryer

One device that you may or may not have seen used are car dryers (also called blowers). Most of these made for detailing are electric and corded, although I have seen models that run off of battery power.

Adam’s Air Cannon Car Dryer

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Some blowers are made specifically for car drying like this Adam’s Air Cannon Car Dryer actually filters the air to keep the surface clean of debris, blows warm air, and also comes with a strap. Unlike leaf blowers, this can blow the water out of crevices with a flexible nozzle.

This is a great tool for drying because it can be maneuvered in tight crevices, unlike a bulk leaf blower. 

If water spots are your main reason behind purchasing a blower,  check out this post I wrote about using purified water and deionizers to help eliminate these water spots for good.

On the other hand, a handheld detailing blower like the MetroVac Sidekick is great for drying motorcycles and areas that are hard (or impossible to reach) with a towel.

MetroVac Sidekick Handheld Blower

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handheld motorcycle car blower

These are great for wheels and when used in combination with cloths or chamois.

Pros

  • Helps prevent water spots, since water is blown off
  • Easy to operate, no wiping or rinsing
  • Can dry a car relatively quickly

Cons

  • Can be noisy depending on the model you buy
  • Most require portable power to operate as a mobile detailer
  • Some models can be bulky
  • Can take some time, depending on the blower

What to keep in mind when using blowers

  • If you use a leaf blower or handheld, just be sure not to blow from the ground up, to avoid spraying debris and dirt on your vehicle.
  • If your blower has wheels, be careful not to damage the vehicle when dragging cords and hoses around.

My Recommendations

It really comes down to personal preference, but I generally prefer using a combination of a chamois and microfiber drying towel on my truck.

This is simply because my vehicle isn’t a show car and I have experience with them…but it depends on what you’re drying.

Luxury cars or show cars: Microfiber Towels 

For a luxury car, you’ll want to use the highest quality microfiber towel you can find. Below are a few good high-quality options to take a look at that all serve different purposes.

These are significantly more expensive, but won’t fall apart or risk scratching the surface like cheaper towels:

Most of these are higher GSM (Grams per Square Inch) towels and significantly different than standard towels you will usually find at Walmart or a local store.

Below are a few different types of towels I recommend based on your needs

Most cars or vehicles: Chamois or towels

In general (unless you are a professional detailer) I would recommend a good middle-tier multipurpose microfiber towel to get started. These you can usually pick up in packs 3-4 and really do a pretty good job for most applications.

From personal experience, the cheaper 10-12 pack towels (for $5) you want to stay away from, because they are not as soft and aren’t great for drying. I have bought cheaper plush cotton towels, but they tend to leave white residue all over the surface, so keep that in mind.

A chamois is the quickest way to soak up water when used properly, but risky because if used improperly can cause scratches.

  • Leather chamois – These are what most chamois used to be made of, but absorb far less water than synthetic chamois
  • Synthetic chamois – The one I have is the CleanTools Absorber which works great. I see these everywhere and are a good option for most vehicles.

Fleets, bikes, or luxury personal vehicles: Car blowers

If you’re looking for the most efficient option of simply removing beads of water, a blower is a great option, as long as you get one powerful enough.

It’s also the best method for luxury vehicles since it eliminates contact with paint completely; many show cars don’t risk towel usage for drying.

There are a couple of options to choose from that are made specifically for drying cars and motorcycles that you can try out, but it depends on your needs.

Good commercial option: Metro Vaccum Air Force Blaster – Some have called this little thing a tornado in a can, which I am pretty eager to try out. It’s among the top commercial auto blowers you can buy, and a great compact option for pros.

Good general-purpose option: For general-purpose use, I honestly recommend just a good electric leaf blower over a gas-powered one.

Echo 56V Handheld Blower

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  • If you want portability and aren’t detailing many cars, a cordless blower that runs off of a battery like the Echo 56V handheld pictured above is a solid choice. A bit more expensive, but a really nice option for home use.
  • The Worx Turbine you can also pick up for around 50 bucks on Amazon the last time I checked and is a cheaper corded option.

Conclusion

It really comes down to personal preference for most people, but give a few of these products a try to see what works the best for you and your budget.

Avoiding streaking and water spots also have a lot to do with the types of products you use to clean your vehicle with, but the right drying equipment is definitely a big part of the equation.

Baxter Overman is the founder of Carwash Country and has been been cleaning up dirty vehicles for nearly 20 years. Since 2017, he's helped thousands of beginners see better results by learning the fundamentals of washing and detailing. He's on a mission to make the car wash process more fun...and way easier.

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