If you wash your own car, you probably know how important it is to do the job in a way that won’t destroy your paint. You understand that anything you touch your car with does just a little bit of damage, however small, and that said damage adds up over repeated washings.
After all the work it takes to wash your car carefully, would you dry it off with a bathroom towel or a dishrag? Of course not. If you want to protect your paint job, drying properly is just as important as washing correctly, and that means you can’t just use whatever towel you have lying around.
But what towels can you use? Don’t fret if you’re lost: our reviews will show you the way. We’ve gathered 10 of our favorite car drying towels, and ranked them so you can pick the one that’s best for you. Read on to learn everything you need to know about finishing your car wash right.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
|Best Overall||Chemical Guys Woolly Mammoth Microfiber Dryer Towel||CHECK PRICE|
|Best Value||VIKING Waffle Weave Drying Towel||CHECK PRICE|
|Premium Choice||Griot’s Garage Terry Weave Drying Towel||CHECK PRICE|
|Meguiar’s Water Magnet Microfiber Drying Towel||CHECK PRICE|
|Zwipes Auto Microfiber Waffle Drying Towel||CHECK PRICE|
The 10 Best Car Drying Towels – Reviews 2020
1. Chemical Guys Woolly Mammoth Microfiber Dryer Towel – Best Overall
If you know Chemical Guys from their superior-quality buffing and waxing kits, you won’t be surprised to see them at #1. It’s hard to beat the plush, abrasion-free, hyper-absorbent Woolly Mammoth Microfiber Dryer Towel.
Our tests found it to be versatile, low-maintenance, and just plain fun to use. If you’ve only ever used the traditional chamois for drying your car, you’ll be shocked at how much the Woolly Mammoth is able to absorb – we dumped it in a full bucket on a lark, and found the surface of the water quite a bit lower when we checked back.
The only problem we have with the Woolly Mammoth is that we wish it was bigger. It’s also a good idea to wash it before you use it, to cut down on lint.
2. VIKING Waffle Weave Drying Towel – Best Value
The Chemical Guys Woolly Mammoth is a great towel, but definitely on the pricey end of the spectrum. If you’re looking for the best car drying towel for the money, you want the Viking Waffle Weave instead. It’s 7 square feet of highly absorbent, reusable material.
The lack of any sort of abrasive edges proves that Viking has thought hard about making this towel work right. It’s soft, won’t leave any marks, and is useful for other tasks, like buffing or even drying your hair.
Our biggest complaint is that it doesn’t dry quite as efficiently as some other microfiber towels. One might be able to finish drying a sedan, but with a truck, van, or SUV, you’ll probably need two or three. Fortunately, at the price, you have to buy four to equal the price of one of our #1 pick.
3. Griot’s Garage Terry Weave Drying Towel – Premium Choice
The Terry Weave Drying Towel from Griot’s Garage is undeniably expensive. The question is whether it earns that money – and to us at least, the answer is yes.
It’s insanely absorbent, capable of holding up to 5 pounds of water. In practice, that means you’ll have to go over each area with it once to remove every single droplet. That’s it. That radical efficiency also means much less chance to leave streaks, swirls, and scratches.
As fantastic as it is, though, the price is just too high for the purpose. To get to #1, a towel has to be accessible as well as functional. We’re also concerned about a few terry-weave strings we saw getting loose after a few uses, meaning this towel might not last long enough for the cost.
4. Meguiar’s Water Magnet Microfiber Drying Towel
Meguiar’s is another car care brand we’ve rarely been disappointed by. That said, their products also often feel like they have unfulfilled potential, and that’s exactly how we felt about the Water Magnet.
It’s a waffle weave towel, absorbent and soft, but lags just a bit behind the competition in its power to pick up water on the first pass. Likewise, its size – 22 inches by 30 inches, or about 4.5 square feet – leaves a bit to be desired and means drying will take longer and require more wringouts.
We were almost completely satisfied with the X2000 Water Magnet. It’s less abrasive than microfiber and holds a ton of water. The price is low enough that you could easily afford two, which makes a lot of our issues irrelevant. But if you like your drying towels to feel thick and substantial, the Water Magnet won’t do it for you.
5. Zwipes Auto Microfiber Waffle Drying Towel
The Zwipes Auto 879-2 is most notable for its awesome price point. You can get a two-pack of these for the price of one standard car drying towel. Each towel is over six square feet in size, offering a lot of cleaning power for very little money.
They perform much better than the budget price would suggest. You’ll find them lint-free, and sufficiently absorbent to last a long time. A two-pack is probably enough to dry off any vehicle in your garage, short of an 18-wheeler or private jet.
You knew there was a catch coming, though, and here it is: these towels don’t last. After half a dozen washes, the material starts coming apart. Exactly when they start to break down varies, since quality control is not great with these towels – one pack we tried was noticeably more absorbent and durable than the other. Since you can’t be sure what you’re going to get, Zwipes lands at #5.
6. The Rag Company Microfiber Waffle-Weave Drying Towel
By this point on the list, we’re getting into options with about as many bad points as good ones – we advise making sure all the top 5 are unavailable before you consider buying any of these.
Case in point: we’d happily use this drying towel from The Rag Company, called the “Dry Me A River,” if we didn’t know there was anything better. Its Korean-sourced weave isn’t soft at the start but gets softer as you use it. It’s mostly paint-safe. At 20 by 40 inches, the two you get in each pack should be enough to dry your car.
And yet, the few things we don’t like about Dry Me A River add up to a less-than-stellar experience. They leave a little too much lint, hold a little too much dirt, and have to be wrung out a few too many times. Finally, we can’t overlook that our favorite brands are soft right from the start – we didn’t have to break them in.
7. Adam’s Ultra Plush Drying Towel
Let’s start with the obvious: Adam’s Ultra Plush Drying Towel is at #7 because it’s wildly overpriced. We like Adam’s Polishes, but this microfiber towel isn’t in the same league as the others that cost this much.
While it does everything you’d expect it to do – drying in one swipe, drinking a ton of water, and leaving a spot-free finish – it has to be cared for regularly with microfiber revitalizer, or you’ll start needing to wring it out more and more often.
On top of that, the towel’s smooth side isn’t nearly as “ultra-plush” as you’d expect from the price. On the first few washes, though, Adam’s Ultra Plush is right at the top of the absorbency heap.
8. CleanTools Absorber Synthetic Drying Towel
We’re not at all sure what “No. 1 Choice of Car Lovers” means – we love cars, and we’re pretty sure about keeping The Absorber at #8. It makes the list at all for being affordable and way more absorbent than a chamois, but mostly for being basically indestructible, performing at the same level for years on end.
The drawback is that The Absorber is unfortunately not all that absorbent. Yeah, it beats a chamois, but so does every other car drying towel on this list. Compared to our top picks, this is really just moving the water around. Also, despite its claims of being mold-resistant, a lot of units have a distinct mildew smell right out of the box.
9. SINLAND Microfiber Car Drying Towel
SINLAND’s Microfiber Car Drying Towel has two sides, one with coarser fibers for cleaning and drying broad surfaces, and one with finer fibers for getting the details. We liked the feeling of using them, and they’ll absolutely leave the advertised streak-free and scratch-free finish.
They’re small, though. Really small. At 16 inches to a side, you’re paying way more per square inch than you should be. Also, while these towels might leave your car free from scratches and swirls, they won’t leave it free of lint – in fact, they’ll shed all over it.
We could forgive all that if cleaning didn’t take so much work, but these towels require more elbow grease than any other we’ve tried so far. We suspect they’re not car drying towels at all, but applicator towels being marketed as drying towels.
10. Autofiber Dreadnought Microfiber Car-Drying Towel
Here we are at the end. Autofiber’s Dreadnought Car-Drying Towel, despite being at #10, has a few of the things we look for. Its edges are invisible, with no sharp lines to scratch your paint. It’s good at covering glass without leaving streaks. And it can be air-dried quite a few times before you need to launder it.
As for why it’s this low: we noticed right away that its construction is shoddy. Some towels we tested started losing threads after three or four uses, but the Dreadnought had loose threads when we opened the package. It takes a lot of work to dry off your car’s surface, increasing the risk of damaging the paint job, and it snags on basically everything, losing even more threads.
This isn’t a bad towel. All the others are just better.
This guide is for those of you who’d rather search for your own car drying towel than choose one of the items off our list. While shopping for your new favorite towel, here are the most important factors to consider.
When looking for a towel to dry your car after hand-washing, microfiber is the only way to go:
- Cotton towels as you might use in the bathroom, are way too rough — remember, your car’s paint job is way more delicate than your skin.
- Squeegees are better but can leave scratches if they pick up any dirt.
- A chamois is way too thin.
Whatever towel you’re interested in, make sure it’s microfiber before you go any further.
This should be proportional to the size of car you’ve got to clean:
- “Junior” 16×16 inch microfiber towels are best for the smallest jobs, like spot-cleaning your windshield.
- From there, the larger the vehicle, the larger the towel needs to be if you want to finish the job with only one (though honestly, we recommend always having a backup on hand anyway).
The main way to classify microfiber towels is by their pile depth, which measures how thick and soft the towel is. It’s best measured in grains per square meter (GSM) – a higher GSM means a thicker pile.
- Short pile towels, at 200 to 250 GSM, should only be used on surfaces without vulnerable paint.
- Standard medium pile towels, from 250 to 400 GSM, are best for buffing or polishing your car’s paint.
- Medium plush pile towels, from 400 to 600 GSM, make good drying towels for painted surfaces.
- Long pile towels, from 600 GSM upwards, are more expensive, but even better at harmlessly drying painted panels.
- Waffle weave towels are unusual. They’re made of lower-pile microfiber crisscrossed with a higher-pile grid that makes it look a bit like a waffle. These are great drying towels, especially for reflective surfaces.
Many towels look great when you first use them but start to fall apart over time. You can’t test for longevity, so the best way to find out how long a certain towel will last is to read reviews from other people who have used it. Remember, a long-lasting towel pays for itself, as you won’t have to replace it every three months.
The Chemical Guys Woolly Mammoth came first in our reviews. It’s the ideal of a car-drying towel: skillfully woven, gets the water in one go, and leaves your paint job as though it was never there. Cleaning it is a breeze, and it’s so soft you can use it in the shower if you want. The fact that our biggest problem is “there wasn’t more of it” should tell you all you need to know.
The Viking Waffle Weave drying towel is a great car-drying towel for the money. It’s a champion dryer for an incredible price, though you might need more than one to finish the job.
You now know everything you need to know to leave the chamois world behind and step into the light. We live in a golden age of towels — don’t wait to get yours.
Featured image credit:VIKING 912401 Waffle Weave Drying Towel, Amazon
- A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
- The 10 Best Car Drying Towels – Reviews 2020
- 1. Chemical Guys Woolly Mammoth Microfiber Dryer Towel – Best Overall
- 2. VIKING Waffle Weave Drying Towel – Best Value
- 3. Griot’s Garage Terry Weave Drying Towel – Premium Choice
- 4. Meguiar’s Water Magnet Microfiber Drying Towel
- 5. Zwipes Auto Microfiber Waffle Drying Towel
- 6. The Rag Company Microfiber Waffle-Weave Drying Towel
- 7. Adam’s Ultra Plush Drying Towel
- 8. CleanTools Absorber Synthetic Drying Towel
- 9. SINLAND Microfiber Car Drying Towel
- 10. Autofiber Dreadnought Microfiber Car-Drying Towel
- Buyer’s Guide