Plush to waffle weave, glass towels to wash pads, and even more recently polishing pads, microfiber has forever changed how shine freaks keep their cars looking great and how detailers correct, protect, and care for customers cars. The argument could be made that no single advancement in the world of car care has had a larger impact in the last decade than microfiber. Professionals and enthusiasts alike all keep a hefty supply of a wide variety of towels on hand at all times, but despite its omnipresence in the care care world there is still a fair amount of mis-information and mis-understanding as to how they should be cared for.
WHAT IS MICROFIBER?
What good is it to get into all the minutia of microfiber if you don't first have an understanding of the materials composition and history?
Microfiber can be composed of many parts, most commonly in the detailing / car care industry we use a combination of polyesters and polyamides. These microscopic laboratory born fibers are around 1/100th the diameter of a human hair, this ultra fine thread is what gives microfiber its delicate touch and super soft feel. To put that size into perspective, if you were to think of a regulation basketball as the equivalent of the diameter of a human hair, an individual strand of microfiber would be smaller than an M&M chocolate candy!
Why is this important? While you might see a fluffy towel with your naked eye on a microscopic level there is a very tiny, but very uniform and durable strand there. Almost all microfiber will share an identical fiber structure, regardless of weave or pattern. How the fibers are laid out will impart different characteristics to the material (plush for delicate surfaces, waffle weave for drying, flat for glass, suede for coatings, etc)
Each individual strand has a star-like structure and all strands are virtually identical across the entire surface of a towel. If you could pull a fiber from one towel, and another from a different towel of similar quality and cross section them you'd likely not be able to tell them apart. This leads to a uniformly soft towel that performs the same regardless of fold or what portion is in contact with the surface. This is in stark contrast to the wild inconsistency of cotton fibers which can vary in shape and size from one strand to the next. (see the image below)
The star shaped structure on each strand allow microfiber to trap small particles, dirt, moisture and debris making them very effective for cleaning. Compared to the inconsistent, tube-like, shape of cotton which is absorbent, but not ideal for cleaning microfiber has a clear advantage.
Your microfiber should be cleaned after every use. While it might be tempting to let that drying towel sit and use it again next weekend you run the risk of contamination causing swirls or letting something set into the towels that will be more difficult to remove later. Cleaning microfiber is usually the least enjoyable part of a detail, but in the end staying on top of your laundry just ensures that your towels will be at their best and ready when you are.
- Always separate your dirtiest towels, like those used to clean wheels or for metal polishing, from your 'good' plush and drying towels to avoid cross contamination and wash them in separate loads.
- Keep cotton and other materials out of the wash loads. Wash microfiber only with other microfiber.
- Set washer to a warm water setting. Some heat is required to break down waxes and polishes. Cold settings will not clean towels as effectively.
- If your washer is equipped with an extra rinse cycle, use it. This will make sure as much of the contamination and remaining soap is removed from the towels as possible.
- Microfiber can be machine dried if you prefer, use a low heat setting and NO FABRIC SOFTENER. Air or line drying is also an option, be sure to do this somewhere the towels cannot be contaminated with dust or lint.
MICROFIBER PADS & APPLICATORS
- Just like with towels, separate any extremely dirty or contaminated pads from the group and wash separately to avoid cross contamination.
- Wash pads and applicators separate from towels. The foam backing and velcro can become snagged and damaged during agitation by a towel in the same load.
- Use a brush to break up heavy, caked in, polish residues on pads before washing.
- Set washer to a warm setting, not hot. Pads have a glue membrane that is sensitive to high heat so stick to warm wash water settings.
- Air dry all pads and applicators on a wire rack to maximize airflow and expedite drying.