How To Wash Microfiber Towels

Part of automotive maintenance is tool maintenance.

Kirkland Free and Clear laundry detergent with microfiber towels next to a washing machine.
Tony Markovich

The cleanliness of your vehicle depends on how often you clean it, how thoroughly you clean it, and the quality of the tools and materials you’re using to do the job. This includes making sure you have clean applicators and, most importantly, fresh microfiber towels.

Microfiber towels are unique due to their material makeup of typically 70-90 percent polyester and 10-30 percent polyamide. When paired together, the two fabrics create a soft but grabby towel that can be used as a duster, dryer, applicator, remover, or a washcloth, all without leaving lint or streaks. On the other hand, a dirty or bad-quality towel can be the Skeletor to your paint’s He-Man.

Blue, yellow, and white microfiber towels hanging out of a white front-load washing machine.
Tony Markovich

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Microfiber towels can be used over and over again, as long as you know how to take care of them. What you need to know is that microfiber towels can easily be ruined or rendered useless with improper treatment or poor washing habits. 

To help you protect your investments in properly plush microfiber towels, the editors from The Drive’s Guides & Gear section have assembled a quick guide to cleaning your microfiber towels. The better you care for them, the longer your towels can do their jobs. Let’s get started.

Things To Know Before You Wash and Dry

  • Always separate your microfiber towels into different loads. At the minimum, separate extremely soiled towels used on dirty, oily, and grimy surfaces and lightly soiled ones used on paint. If you want to take it even further, separate low-grade, mid-grade, high-grade towels and then cleanliness. (Ed. Note: That’s only if you’re a sociopath.)
  • After washing the oily and dirty rags, you might need to wash out your washing machine tub. Use one of the microfiber towels to wipe down the tub to remove any leftover dirt and grime that might be clinging to the washer’s walls. This will also help to remove any old fabric softener or soap residue as well. Once you wipe it down and clean it, run the washer through an empty cycle, just soap and water, to give it a rinse.
  • Make sure you clean out your lint trap and remove any lint from the dryer before inserting your microfiber towels. 
  • Never wash your microfiber towels with other clothing or cotton towels. Not only will this muck up the towels with lint, it’s also an easy way to muck things up with your significant other or get kicked out of your parents’ house. 
  • Don’t use soap pods. They most likely have scents, detergents, or other things that could clog up the microfiber.
A close-up view of a large container of Kirkland Signature UltraClean Free and Clear detergent.
Tony Markovich

Your detergent shouldn't have any perfumes, dyes, or additives.

Everything You’ll Need To Clean Your Microfiber Towels

You likely already have most of these items, but prepare for the job with this quick list.  

Hand Washing

  • Two buckets, wash bin, or washboard
  • Handheld washboard, brush, or another agitator
  • Free and clear laundry detergent (no scents, colors, additives, detergents)
  • Microfiber cleaning solution, if you’re into that (We don’t use it.)

Machine Washing

  • Washer
  • Free and clear laundry detergent (no scents, colors, additives, detergents)
  • Microfiber cleaning solution

Drying

  • Machine dryer
  • Clothesline with clothespins
  • Drying rack

Here’s How To Correctly Wash and Dry Your Microfiber Towels 

Let’s do this! 

Hand Washing

  1. Shake loose dirt and dust out of your microfiber towels outside or a garbage can.
  2. If heavily soiled, spot treat the stains and soak the towels in a bucket or bin of warm (never hot) water and a few drops of unscented free and clear detergent.
  3. To begin washing, submerge the towels in a bucket of cool or warm water and add a couple tablespoons of detergent. 
  4. Agitate the towels on a washboard or with a handheld tool to scrub out the dirt. If still dirty, repeat soaking and washing until clean.
  5. Fill another bucket with just cold water. Rinse towels in the water to allow leftover particles to work their way out. 
  6. Remove from the bucket and rinse in the faucet with cold water.
  7. Wring them out.

Machine Washing

  1. Shake out loose dirt and dust.
  2. If heavily soiled, spot treat the stains and soak the towels in warm water and a few drops of detergent.
  3. Set the washing machine to cold and/or delicates.
  4. Run the wash cycle.

Drying

The best option is to line dry your towels either on a clothesline, in your garage, or in your bathroom hung over the shower rod, but we know that’s not always feasible. If you use a machine, follow these steps and tips: 

  1. Don’t dry your towels with any other types of clothing or fabrics.
  2. Make sure you remove lint from the lint trap and remove any errant lint left in the dryer.
  3. Do not use dryer sheets or dryer balls.
  4. Place the dryer on its lowest heat setting or on air fluff/no heat. 
  5. Load it up and dry as necessary.
Blue, yellow, and white microfiber towels in a washing machine tub.
Tony Markovich

Always wash your microfiber towels with other towels that are similarly dirty. Heavy with heavy, light with light.

FAQs About Cleaning Microfiber Towels

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q: Can I use dish soap to wash microfiber towels? 

A: We do not recommend using dish soap on your microfiber towels. Even the free and clear products have fragrances and other chemicals in them that could harm or hinder the microfiber and what it’s intended to do.

Q: What is the best detergent for microfiber towels?

A: One with no additives, colors or dyes, fragrances, softeners, or anything else that could clog up the microfiber. Use a no-extras detergent and a microfiber-towel detergent together.

Q: What’s different about detergent made for washing microfiber towels?

A: Normal laundry detergent is designed to clean clothes of typical light-duty dirt, grease, and stains, but not the heavy-duty stuff that comes off a car. Microfiber towel soap claims to be specifically designed for that purpose. 

Q: Should I wash microfiber towels before first use?

A: Because you don’t know how the towels were handled or what they were exposed to before and during the manufacturing and shipping processes, it’s a good idea to wash your towels before you use them to remove any dirt or lint. This also helps avoid any unwanted color bleeding.

Q: How long do microfiber towels last?

A: The life of a microfiber towel will largely depend on what it’s used for, how harshly it’s used, and how it’s cleaned, so it’s up to you. If you question whether you should still be using the towel, relegate it to cleaning less delicate surfaces or throw it out completely. If you’re using the towel to clean off heavy oil and grime in an engine bay, it might be best to throw that out as well.

Video

This video from Ammo NYC not only discusses how to properly wash your towels, it also discusses how they’re made and how they work. Check it out.

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