Microfiber towels, wash mitts, sponges –you name it, they get dirty. Even though you might hose these off or let them dry and re-use them, they need to be washed! If you have a few laying around in a bucket somewhere, keep reading.
I’m guilty of picking up a new wash mitt or pack of microfiber towels instead of washing my old ones, but it’s worth keeping them clean, especially for more expensive towels.
In this blog post, I’ll break down how to wash and dry microfiber towels, mitts, and sponges based on how detailers wash them.
What to know about cleaning microfiber towels for detailing
To start, it’s important to separate microfiber towels based on what they are used for: glass towels, interior towels, exterior towels, and drying towels are all examples.
If you also have cutting pads that need washing, check out this post I wrote explaining how to clean those after you finish this one!
Professional microfiber towels have a GSM rating (or grams per square meter) that indicates the density or generally how thick the fibers are. The polyester in them helps to lift, while polyamide is the absorption element of these. Most have a 70/30 or 80/20 ratio.
Ammo NYC has a great video explaining this concept here if interested.
Tip: Use your towels appropriately and separate them by GSM rating!
Lower GSM-rated towels (thinner, with less pile) are used on glass, while those with a high GSM rating (thicker, plusher, and softer) are used for drying or applying wax. This is why separating them is so important.
You simply don’t want to cross-contaminate different types of towels, since they absorb different chemicals.
Tip: Use a detergent free of dyes and perfumes
While they do make detailing-specific detergents for towels, there are several detergents on the market that are free of perfumes, dyes, and other chemicals, like All Free and Clear or Tide.
If you’re a professional detailer with tons of expensive towels, then by all means pick up a professional microfiber detergent. However, if you’re like most, a consumer detergent (without additives) is really all you need to wash towels safely.
Also, never use fabric softeners, since these can potentially clog or damage the fibers.
Option 1: Use a standard washing machine for towels and most mitts
I don’t recommend washing detailing towels in your primary washing machine you use for clothes if you can help it.
All of the wax, sealants, and anything else on your towel will eventually stick to the side of your washing machine, contaminating your clothes unless you are diligent about wiping it down.
Once you have your microfiber towels separated (based on if they were used to apply the same wax, leather cleaner, glass cleaner, etc.) you can begin to wash them.
How to wash microfiber towels in a washing machine
- Step 1: Separate by type based on type (or how you’ve used them)
- Step 2: Add a safe detergent with no dyes, perfumes, and NO FABRIC SOFTENER.
- Step 3: Wash with warm water. Warm water chemically helps to clean better since chemical reactions happen faster!
- Step 4: Rinse thoroughly, but avoid a high spin cycle
Tip: Purchase a used washing machine on Craigslist or another marketplace
Washing machines are everywhere online and can be cheap since people generally want them out (and they can be a pain to dispose of). I’ve picked up used washing machines for $50 before on Craigslist, and they still work pretty well.
Option 2: Purchase a portable washing machine
Another option is to purchase a portable electric washing machine. I’ve seen these units available here on eBay for around $75 to $200, and are perfect for washing light loads.
You basically plug them in, add water, add detergent, and once the cycle is over, empty the dirty water out before adding clean water to rinse.
You can also find hand-crank portable washing machines for much less if you don’t mind cranking these things.
Option 3: Hand washing
While you can technically hand wash some microfiber towels and mitts, it will simply take a lot longer to remove set-in stains. Really all you need is a 5-gallon bucket, and a grate or even a plunger for agitating.
Tip: Soak dirty microfiber towels with stains in a bucket
Even if you plan to machine wash, pre-treating towels by hand with a safe detergent can make removing stains a little easier. Just make sure to throw away towels with stains like grease, oil or anything else that isn’t worth the effort.
A smudge here and there? Overnight soaking may be your best bet.
Cleaning wash mitts
Generally you should follow the same process for chenille wash mitts as you do microfiber towels for the wash process.
For any kind of lambswool mitt, it’s best to hand-wash these instead of using a washing machine and dryer, since they tend to break apart rather easily and shrink up under heat.
How to dry microfiber towels and wash mitts
Once you have washed your microfiber towels, be sure to dry them on cool (or the lowest heat setting) and keep them separate based on type.
It’s also a good idea to check for paper or other debris that can cause lint to stick to your towels.
Microfiber is generally okay for the dryer as long as you set the on the lowest setting possible. Microfiber tends to shrink and break apart under high heat, so just be careful.
Drying wash mitts or sponges
For wash mitts and sponges, placing them on a drying rack to air dry is a good idea of you have one. You can also hang these in your shower or another area free of dirt and debris.
Tip: Store all of your clean microfiber towels in clear plastic bags!
You can find these bags online in various sizes. Many of these are designed for shipping clothing for e-commerce sellers but they make it easy to keep towels separated by color and most importantly…clean.
If you are serious about detailing (and not leaving streaks), knowing how to use and maintain a good set of detailing towels and wash mitts is a must.
I recommend purchasing cheap terry cotton towels for applications like cleaning engine bays since it’s simply not worth washing these (or getting your nice towels soiled).
Over time you will need to invest in a new set, but as a general rule, pick up a 10 or 12 pack of each variety based on your needs (you’d be surprised at how many you will go through, wash, and dry over the course of a year!).
Now that you’re on your way to getting those towels clean, be sure to check out these 5 ways to use isopropyl alcohol (IPA) in detailing you might not have heard of.