It’s time to go back to school. In our last blog, we introduced our readers to the basics automotive detailing and called it Buffing 101. Today, we’ll enroll you in Buffing 102, the next evolution on our series about detailing – specifically when it comes to the final step called buffing.
As we addressed in the previous article, there are several buffing products on the market. Some of them work better than others. But, across the board, microfiber buffing products are by far the best materials to remove polishes, waxes, cleaning products, and paint protection products.
However, there is a lot of misleading information on the internet about microfiber materials. Even worse, many consumers make initial buying decisions mainly on this inaccurate data. So, let’s introduce some facts about microfiber buffing products.
In the information below, we’ll provide an in-depth review of what goes into microfiber. What exactly is microfiber? What makes it good and what does GMS mean? Finally, what type of microfiber should be used for removing polishes? Which is best for a waterless wash, spray wax or even a SiO2 Boost Spray?
What Makes a Microfiber Buffing Product High-Quality?
Not all buffing products are equal. In fact, even within individual product categories, there are several grades or splits, materials, and ratios that impact the quality of buffing materials made from microfiber.
Microfiber is a continuous filament fiber – which means it’s a combination of two individual materials – polyamide (which is a byproduct of nylon) and polyester. The unique interlocking composition of these two fibers helps produce the anti-scratching and substance collection attributes needed for buffing.
When it’s assembled, the two materials are woven together in a pie-shaped pattern. This is known as the split.
When the microfiber buffing product is used, the two different fibers split due to their differences in the surface tension of each. This creates a sharp edge, groove, and gully that collects materials with reduced scratching.
Introduced in the late ‘80s, the one criterion used to judge microfiber towels was the ratio of polyester to polyamide. Recently, industry experts are not certain this ratio really has any impact on the microfiber towel.
As stated above, there are two materials used in microfiber buffing products – polyester and polyamide. There are two primary ratios of blend 80/20 and 70/30 (percentage of polyester to polyamide).
In years past, the 70/30 ratio was considered by many experts as being a more absorbent blend, since it contained a higher percentage of polyamide. However, as the technology in construction has improved, the gap between the 80/20 and 70/30 grades has narrowed significantly.
There is another factor that impacts the quality of a microfiber buffing product – and that’s the quality of the material. While its assumed that polyester is the same universally, as is polyamide – it’s simply not true.
This is like assuming that all vodka, whiskey or tequila is universally the same quality. While the raw materials might be similar, the quality of those materials and the way they are processed makes a huge difference in the final product.
With microfiber, the sourcing of the raw materials is another important element that factors into the overall quality. Most microfiber raw materials are sourced from two countries – China and South Korea.
While the two are quite similar, the quality of these raw materials can vary. It’s not fair to generally assume that the location of the sourcing is equal across the board. However, like technology has improved the ratio gap, so has it narrowed raw material sourcing.
What is GSM with Microfiber Materials?
The three criteria above are major factors that determine the quality of microfiber products. However, when it comes to buffing materials, GSM or Grams per Square Meter is really the secret sauce. This is the weight of the microfiber filaments.
All fibers are weighted in grams based on a 9,000-meter long strand of a fiber. With microfiber, the filaments are thinner than one percent of the thickness of human hair. In fact, 200,000 microfiber filaments are packed into one square inch of finished fabric.
The weight in grams or GSM of a microfiber equates to how well the microfiber will hold up over frequent use. The higher the GMS – the longer it should last at a high-quality level. This is crucial for a buffing microfiber towel or cloth – as you’ll use this product to remove substances used mainly in the paint protection process.
What are the Types of Microfiber Towels?
So – now that we have a general understanding of the terminology and what goes into each, lets explore the different options you have for specific tasks you’d use microfiber in auto detailing.
General or All-Purpose Microfiber Towels
The all-purpose microfiber towel is exactly that – something you could use for multiple uses. It’s typically a 16” x 16” size, 80/20 blend of polyester and polyamide – with a GSM rating from 250 to 300. It’s a good towel that is absorbent of liquids, and can be used on metal, paint, plastic, glass, leather, and vinyl wraps.
The all-purpose towel will feature a “hooked” design. This allows the towel to spread the liquid agent (either a spray wax, waterless wash, or ceramic boost spray) evenly over the surface. This allows the liquid to bond to the surface or loosen debris (if that’s the application).
It’s strong enough to be used in a scrubbing action – to remove deep debris or sticky substances (like bug splatters or brake dust) – without scratching the surface.
Glass Microfiber Towel
This type of towel is similar in design with the all-purpose, with one major exception – they are 100% lint free. To accomplish this, the weave (design of the microfiber) and the nap (the size or depth of the microfiber weave) is tighter and smaller.
The construction of this material helps collect glass cleaning agents without leaving streaks. It also reduces the potential of scratching the glass due to it’s smooth finish. The glass microfiber towel will also grip well, which again – reduces streaking of glass cleaning liquids. Most glass microfiber materials are an 80/20 construction with a GSM from 250 to 300.
Drying Microfiber Towels
There are two major types of microfiber trying towel weave constructions: waffle weave and terry weave. Each offers different benefits, multiple grades of GSM and different composition.
Waffle Weave Drying Towel
The most common drying towel is the waffle weave design – mainly due to its price point. The material is typically an 80/20 blend, with GSM’s ranging from 350 up to 600. It’s a pique fabric that is cross-stitched in a waffle pattern, which scoops up water as it glides over the surface. This helps the product to soak up water – quicker.
Once it is saturated with water, with the user wringing it out. However, it’s still wet, which will leave streaks unless the towel is dry. It’s common for car owners to use multiple waffle weave drying towels
Terry Weave Drying Towel
You’ll commonly hear these types of drying towels as ultra-plush. And that’s no joke. The material is incredibly soft and features a very long pile on one side and shorter on the back. It’s two sided, allowing you to use the same towel over larger surface areas.
A high-quality terry weave drying towel will be a 70/30 construction and range from 1,000 to 1,150 GSM. Anything higher than that makes the towel exceptionally thick, and difficult for wringing out collected water.
Buffing Microfiber Towel
A microfiber towel designed for optimal buffing is going to fall between the all-purpose and drying towel. The best ones are 70/30 – as polyamide is very good for absorbing flashed liquids on a surface area. And that’s the point of a buffing microfiber towel in the first place.
The material will be fluffy that is ultra-soft to the touch. It’s much different in design than the all-purpose towel, as it’s intended to remove residual and leave a streak-free and brilliant shine behind. There are two schools of thought on buffing towels.
Buffing towels that are good for waxes and sealants are made with a short, tight weave. Microfiber towels that feature a deep, plush, and soft construction are best for removing quick detailing sprays and ceramic boost sprays.