The best car drying towel is no longer made from chamois leather. This is a shame because I grew up just wanting to smell them. (Am I weird or did everyone love the smell?)
The modern age brings modern materials and modern fibers. A quality microfiber drying towel can soak up much more water than a traditional chamois, with much less effort.
Waffle weave, synthetic, microfiber, pile, leather. There are lots of materials for drying cars, but is there really going to be that much difference between?
To an extent, they all do the same job. Some work slightly differently (a synthetic chamois needs more effort and ‘wiping’.) Some dry nearly 99% with a gentle pass. And some may leave the car with just a light sheen of water. It really does depend on how picky you want to be.
As silly as this may sound, you also need to think about your ability to wring it out. Some of the drying towels need maximum effort to wring them out. Some don’t need as much but they could hold a lot of water and be quite large.
Choosing a huge towel if you’re 5′ tall with short arms is pretty much a recipe for dragging it across the ground. Equally, if you’re not exactly a Mr. Clean lookalike, then anything that requires strength to wring it out perfectly well is going to be a challenge.
That’s why we chose six different drying towels to review. All of them dry a vehicle well. Some are more costly. Others are cheap. You pay your money and take your choice.
Best Towels for Drying Car
- Rating: 5.0 / 5
- Brand: Chemical Guys
I love the name of this – the Woolly Mammoth. They called it that because of the deep pile. It’s the ‘shaggiest’ towel available – around 1″ in thickness with the pile.
It’s pretty large at 25″ x 36″, and has precisely split fibers in a spiral pattern, which makes it super absorbent. Chemical Guys say it’s the most absorbent towel they’ve ever made. It’s able to soak up over a gallon of water without the need to wring it out.
The Chemical Guys Woolly Mammoth has had some thought put into the details as well. The edging of the towel is made from silk rather than some sort of nylon banding (which always scratches.) And when used correctly, it’s guaranteed to be swirl-free, scratch-free, and lint-free. However, it does need washing before its first use.
Yes, this is expensive for a drying towel, there’s no denying that. But, it is machine washable and reusable. It should last a number of years if taken care of properly and will leave your car shining like a new pin.
- Rating: 4.9 / 5
- Brand: Meguiar’s
This microfiber drying towel can absorb up to twice the amount of water than a traditional terry towel can, and of course, it’s much softer. The X2000 uses a waffle weave texture (which helps with the absorption rate) and is a reasonable size – 22″ x 30″.
Some consumers have commented that it’s quite thin (especially when compared to something like the Woolly Mammoth.) But, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Thick doesn’t equal better drying. Thanks to the thinner material, it’s much easier to wring out. You need much less effort to wring it than some of the other towels. This is an important consideration.
It dries to a spot-free and streak-free finish and is cheap enough to have a couple on standby.
If you have trouble with the larger & heavier drying towels, this one’s for you.
Traditionalists will all tell you that you can’t beat a chamois.
And the next car drying towel to make it onto our list is this CleanTools synthetic chamois, sized at 27″ x 17″. It delivers a non-scratch, swirl-free finish on any surface, and is easily stored (wet) in its own tube. Made from a unique material that’s rather like a sponge in the form of a towel. It lasts forever when cared for properly.
This one is completely machine washable. It’s resistant to mold, mildew, and most chemicals. Even if it does dry out, a soak in water will soon revive it. They claim that it dry’s anything ‘easier & faster’. But, in my experience, any synthetic chamois never dries 100%. They always seem to leave a very light sheen of water.
Rather uniquely, it’s available in a range of different colors and is the best chamois for drying a car. Choose this one if you want a long-lasting, dry anything towel.
- Rating: 4.6 / 5
- Brand: THE RAG COMPANY
And here it is surely, any drying towel using ‘Dry me a River’ has to win an award for their marketing? Genius.
This is a twin-pack of Korean weave microfiber, featuring a waffle design with over 400,000 fibers per square inch. It’s very high quality. It’s everything that you’d look for in a drying towel, all rolled into one towel.
They’re sized at 20″ x 40″, so these are the Junior towels. Despite being a bit smaller than some of the competition, they suck water up like a desert. It can hold up to ten times its own weight in water. They’re made from AA-grade microfiber (the best.) It allows you to get a swirl-free and scratch-free finish with minimal effort. That’s due mainly to its ability to soak water up rather than displace water.
I always use two drying towels, so the twin-pack is super handy. Choose these if you’re starting off along the microfiber route and you won’t regret the purchase.
- Rating: 4.5 / 5
- Brand: Chemical Guys
They hold around 9 times their own weight in water, but you really do need two of these to complete the job in one go. They just seem to lack a little something compared to their Woolly Mammoth drying towel, despite being the same size – 25″ x 36″.
Similar again, they use a silk banding for the edges, however, the difference is that instead of using a shaggy pile, these are a waffle weave design. They’re super soft and when used correctly will always leave your paintwork with a scratch and swirl-free finish. Completely lint-free, but they do need washing before first use. And, of course, they’re completely reusable and machine washable for a longer life.
If you’re a Chemical Guys fan-boy and don’t want the expense of the Woolly Mammoth, then this is the drying towel for you. Ultimate finish, if you use two of them.
Cheap and cheerful but large – 28″ x 36″, just over 7 square feet in total area. Compared to some of the more expensive drying towels, these don’t have the same absorbency rate – around three times their own weight, and that’s slightly offset by the size.
They feature a ‘deep & unique’ waffle weave which leaves no streaks, no water spots, and no swirl marks, along with a clear coat safe.
It’s been noticed that these drying towels seem even more susceptible to snagging (which is an issue with microfiber anyway.) But, for the money, they could almost be used once and then put out to pasture.
Machine washable and reusable, these are budget microfiber drying towels. I’d buy a couple of these just to leave in my trunk for emergency use and general wiping up of liquid messes.
First up, you need to think about what you’re actually doing – going for the final wipe over & dry or just removing the bulk of the water ready for detailing? Will one drying towel (whether that’s microfiber, chamois or synthetic) be enough to do the job in one go? Is your vehicle a large SUV or small compact?
The modern microfiber towels are great for soaking up water and giving a dry, streak-free finish, but they’re also renowned for snagging on the slightest thing; panel gap, high spot, handle, trim finisher. They all present a very real snagging danger to a microfiber drying towel.
You may think that you just need to be a bit more careful with it all, but that’s simply not the case. It’s like they’re a magnet for bodywork imperfections and high spots. I’m surprised more paint shops don’t use them when prepping for the final topcoat!
The Best Way to Dry a Car
It’s difficult to state just what is the best way to dry a car. There isn’t really a right answer, but conversely, there is a wrong way to do it.
Once you’ve power washed and cleaned the vehicle with your preferred soap, you’re left with quite a lot of water just sat beading up on the paintwork (if the wax is doing its job properly). You can use a silicone blade to remove the excess, but that doesn’t really dry it, and it does carry the risk of leaving swirl marks or scrape marks.
Some people don’t bother with any type of manual labor when it comes to drying. They get an industrial blower (like a leaf blower) to dry the car. The benefits are that it’s easy, quick and guaranteed to dry it without doing any damage whatsoever to the paintwork, but they’re also noisy, quite heavy and not everyone has one.
Besides, drying your car by hand gives you the chance to inspect the paintwork for dings or nicks that may require a bit more attention. For me, hand drying is the only way.
If you’re looking to dry your car with a towel of some sort, make sure that it’s been prepared properly before using it – a microfiber towel will want washing before first use (or it will leave quite a lot of lint) and a chamois of any sort will require wetting (and wringing out) first.
Pro Tip: Never wash your microfiber towel with other garments or use fabric softener – it reduces the ability to soak up the water, and lessens the static properties, leaving it ineffective.
I use a microfiber drying towel, so this is my method.
I lay the towel out completely, working from the top-down, letting the towel soak up the water rather than trying to displace the water through scrubbing or wiping. I gently move the towel across the bodywork, quite slowly, and do this for all of the cars, my aim is to get 90% of the water in one hit (and with some of the bigger towels, this is entirely possible).
Once I’ve done the first pass, if the towel needs it, I’ll wring it out and go again, only this time using more of a wiping motion, again working from the top down.
You need to be extra careful when using a large drying towel. It’s easy to let the edge or corner drag on the floor without realizing it. Before you know it, you’re introducing grit, dirt or debris to the paint and costing yourself a full paint buffing job at the very least.
Unless you’re a hardcore detailing freak, it’s likely that you’ll leave the panel gaps and door jambs to ‘air-dry’. But, I don’t feel the job is finished correctly if I do that. It’s to got to be all or nothing as far as I’m concerned.
When looking at these drying towels, it seems that people use them for all manner of things – from drying shower screens to their pets and even their own hair!
Sure, you’re not wanting to spend big bucks on a drying towel to mop up some spilled coffee or other domestic mess. However, some of these towels would be ideal to keep around the home for just such an emergency.
When it comes to a drying towel for your car, it really does depend on just how particular you want to get with it. If I was the type of guy that was cleaning, polishing, and detailing my car every other week, I’d see no issue with spending twenty bucks on a drying towel. Not only will it do a better job, but it will also take less effort and less time.