If you’re into car care, then you’re probably worried about scratching your car’s clear coat when you wash and dry it. A scratched and swirled clear coat can make your car look dull and flat, so it’s important to use the right tools when you maintain your car to keep the finish looking fresh.
But what about microfiber towels? Do they have the potential to cause scratches on a car’s paint and glass, or are they safe to use? In this article, I’ll explain exactly how to safely use microfiber to dry, polish and wax your car. So let’s get started.
The Quick Answer
Microfiber will not scratch your car’s paint or glass if it’s clean and well-maintained. Always remove the label before using, clean the microfiber towel after each use, never drop it on on the floor, and use different towels for different areas of your car to avoid cross-contamination.
Looking for some high quality microfiber towels? Check out my recommended detailing accessories page for all my top picks.
How Can Scratches Occur?
It is possible to scratch your car using a microfiber towel if one of the following happens.
- The microfiber isn’t completely clean
- The fibers have become damaged and hardened due to improper car
The first way is pretty self-explanatory, if the microfiber towel isn’t clean, then you can essentially rub dirt and dust in the clear coat and inflict swirls and scratches.
Secondly, the microfiber itself can damage the paint if it has been improperly cared for, or is very low quality. This can happen if you expose the microfiber to heat, excessive dust or dirt, or through just general wear over time.
Here is a video on the Auto Care HQ YouTube channel talking about the most important microfiber rules, or you can read on to find out some top tips to consider when using microfiber safely on your car.
Always Use a Clean Microfiber Towel
The most important thing to remember when using microfiber to dry, polish or wax your paint, is to ensure it’s super clean.
Microfiber can be pretty tricky, because the fibers are often very deep and dirt, dust and grit can easily hide in it. So it’s really important to inspect the microfiber before you use it.
You should do this visually, and by hand as well.
The best way to do this, is by laying the microfiber on a clean, hard and flat surface, then run your hand over each section slowly. If you feel anything at all, the microfiber is likely to be dirty and either needs cleaning, or throwing out.
It may take a minute or so per towel, but it’s well worth it to avoid clear coat scratches.
Never Drop Microfiber on the Floor
Microfiber is incredibly effective at attracting particles, that’s why it’s such an effective cleaning tool. But that also means it attracts dirt.
So if you ever drop it on the floor, or a dirty surface, it’ll immediately grab it. If you use the microfiber on your car, then you’ll easily cause hundreds of clear coat scratches.
If ever I drop microfiber towels, I either throw them out, or demote them to cleaning the interior of my car, or the tires (after it has been washed). This way, I don’t risk scratching the paint.
Of course, if you thoroughly wash it, the risks are lower, but I’d rather not take the chance on my pride and joy!
Remove the Label
Most microfiber towels come with a little white label or tag made of cotton or polyester, which may seem harmless, but can actually scratch your paintwork.
Make sure you rip the tag off cleanly, all you’ll leave a jagged edge which will cause even more damage.
Wash and Store Them Properly
Since microfiber has such a tendency to attract dust and dirt, it’s really important to wash and store it properly. Otherwise you risk scratching the paintwork with it next time you dry the car. Here’s how to care for microfiber properly.
- Use liquid non-bio detergent or a dedicated microfiber wash.
- Wash the microfiber cloths on a low heat setting (30-40°C) in the washing machine.
- Don’t use fabric softeners, they clog up the fibers.
- Only ever wash microfiber with other microfiber towels, never other materials because they can easily get caught up in the fibers.
- Air dry the microfiber, don’t ever use a dryer machine. Heat is damaging to microfiber and can cause it to harden which will scratch the paint.
- Store the towels in a clean plastic bag between uses.
Replace Them Frequently
Even if you’re very careful and look after the microfiber properly, it still has the tendency to harden slightly over time.
That’s why you should always replace your microfiber towels frequently to avoid scratching your car’s clear coat.
I have a heirachy for my microfiber, to avoid wasting towels and throwing them out too often, which can get expensive.
I’ll use fresh microfiber on my paintwork, then I’ll use on the interior, then the exterior trim, then the tires.
This saves you having to buy a load of microfiber towels every month!
Use the Right Kind of Microfiber Towels
To avoid scratching your car’s paint, which is the most delicate area of your car, you should use the right type of microfiber towels.
- Use soft, plush microfiber to dry car’s paint. This is the most gentle type of microfiber, and hence the safest. Twisted-loop style fibres are popular, but induce scratches if dragged across the paintwork without lubrication.
- Very high-pile, fluffy microfiber towels should be used for quick detailer sprays.
- Low-pile, but still soft microfiber towels are good for removing waxes, sealants and coatings.
- Use waffle-weave microfiber on the glass. This type of microfiber doesn’t leave fibers on the glass which can get really annoying.
Opting for a 70% Polyester / 30% Polyamide blend also makes it less likely to cause scratches so I primarily use this type for paintwork, otherwise I use an 80:20 blend which is a bit cheaper. Most good brands will state the ratio in the product description.
Use Different Microfiber For Different Areas
Like I mentioned earlier, it’s important to use different types of microfiber, for different purposes.
To avoid cross-contamination, never use same microfiber towels on your car’s interior or wheels, and then on the paintwork.
Microfiber towels used on the interior are likely to have a lot of dust in the fibers, and ones used on the wheels are always much dirtier. If you use them on the paint afterwards, then you run a very high risk of scratching the paint.
Make sure you categorise your microfiber towels for different areas of your car.
Can Microfiber Scratch Glass?
Microfiber will not cause scratches to glass. Glass is very hard and strong, so microfiber itself won’t cause any damage. Just make sure it’s been well cleaned and well maintained prior to using, so there is nothing within the towel that can damage the glass.
Waffle weave and short-pile microfiber works much better on glass than thick, fluffy, plush microfiber which is better for paintwork
The glass sticks to the microfiber and usually pulls the fibers out leaving them on your glass. This makes the glass look dirty in direct sunlight.
To avoid this, you’re much better off using a waffle weave style microfiber towel.
Check out my ultimate guide to washing a car without causing scratches for more swirl prevention tips!
Thanks for reading! I hope you’ve found this article helpful. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog to learn more about car detailing.