Car Care / Griot's Garage

Absorbency Showdown: The Great Towel Tussle

towel_test_thumbnailOur towels pack away so much water even camels get envious, but exactly how absorbent are they? I was charged with finding this truth, and it isn’t as self-evident as one would expect. Meet our five contenders in the “Griot’s Garage Battle in a Bucket” showdown, and then scan the results charts to see who came out on top.

The “best towel” question used to be a simple tug of war between micro fiber and natural fiber. Griot’s Garage offers options in each, and we’ve even introduced options that seek to offer the best of both worlds!

First, what is micro fiber?

Micro fiber is a man-made polyester/polyamide fiber that is split, resulting in a dandelion seed pod-like structure. But instead of floating away on the wind, these synthetic “fiber pods” absorb water at a physics-cheating rate. This fiber pod split creates strands several hundred times finer than a single strand of cotton, which enhances its ability to safely lift and trap dirt, and also substantially increases the softness of the final product. A win-win for car enthusiasts.

Not all micro fiber is created equal. Different grades vary in both performance and manufacturing complexity. Griot’s Garage uses the highest quality micro fiber, developed specifically for detailing applications. Since all our micro fiber is of the same high quality, it’s the weave that makes the products different…

towel test 01_11117-micro-fiber-dry-towelMicro Fiber Drying Towel (11117)
Our Micro Fiber Drying Towel’s unique weave lays the fibers down, which compacts them, giving the towel more densely grouped strand ends, and vastly superior absorbency. This innovative towel has sewn-in pockets for easier holding in tough areas like rocker panels and grillework. I use it on large vehicles and sometimes on the upper portions of cars before switching to the Ultra-Thick for the lower sections. Works best when allowed to dry completely between uses. Size 25″ x 35″.

towel test 02_11023-ultra-thick-MF-towelUltra-Thick Micro Fiber Towel (11023)
Our Ultra-Thick Micro Fiber Towel sports a looped strand weave and foam core that acts like a collection pond to really pack in the water. I like the maneuverability of this towel, especially on low-hanging rocker panels, and many customers enjoy its heavier feel. Use it in conjunction with one of our water blades. Size 16″ x 24″.

towel test 03_11101-stay-soft-chamois

Stay Soft Chamois (11101)
Traditionalists who prefer the natural approach will appreciate the Stay Soft Chamois. Made from only the finest, smoothest sheepskin, the Stay Soft Chamois is rinsed in warm water to ‘activate’ it prior to usage. This chamois delivers scratch-free, lint-free results even after being wrung out. The incredible thing about the natural chamois is how completely dry you can get it with a quick twist. One good wring will maximize its absorption. Keeping your chamois clean is important, so be especially careful of extra dirty areas and don’t use the chamois on wheels. It’s machine washable (in warm water) and should be air dried prior to storage. Size is difficult to measure precisely because natural chamois are made from a sheep not a sheet. A good ballpark is 30″ x 30″.

towel test 04_15400-dimpled-synthetic-chamoisDimpled Synthetic Chamois (15400)
A man-made version of the chamois, our Dimpled Synthetic Chamois is specially-textured to quickly and efficiently draw in water. It wrings out quickly and provides absolutely lint-free drying performance. It is machine washable (under 150 degrees Fahrenheit) and should be stored moist in the included plastic storage case. Size 16 1/2″ x 24″.

towel test 05_11310-large-micro-fiber-chamois

Micro Fiber Chamois (11310)
A modern twist on an old favorite. We have melded the performance characteristics of a natural chamois with  high-tech micro fiber into one hard-working product. Soaks the surface dry the first time, leaving no beads or streaks of moisture. When the Micro Fiber Chamois gets saturated, a quick twist expels water and gets you back on task. Size 20″ x 30″.

Absorbency Test

1) Weigh each contender dry. 2) Place an empty wash bucket on the scale and zero it out. 3) Put the test towel in the bucket on the scale. Zero again. 4) Pour an amount of water, approximately three gallons, into the bucket to completely saturate the towel. Recorded the weight. 5) With tongs, remove the saturated towel from the bucket. Recorded the weight. 6) Without removing the water from the bucket, submerge and saturate the next towel in the water and repeat the experiment. The weight of the towel was then converted to ounces [pounds / .0625]. This method takes the wringing-the-towel process out of the equation, which is beneficial because it is difficult to remove all the moisture from each towel consistently. Each candidate was weight-tested five times and the results were averaged.

Absorbency is a big part of drying for sure but the size and maneuverability of the towel is also important, and plain-old personal preference also plays a part. We have broken down absorbency by total absorbed, absorption per square inch, and absorption by cost, in dollars per ounce absorbed. The best performers are bolded. Click the images to enlarge…



towel_test_chart_3Hopefully this product information and absorption data will be useful in helping you make and  informed towel-buying decision. Whatever tool you choose, remember that drying is when many blemishes and swirl marks are introduced into paint. Use care and top-quality products at this stage in the detailing process and enjoy perfect paint for years to come!

Have fun in your garage!


  1. Stuart Miller says:

    I would warn anyone buying towel dispensers from Griot’s Garage that refill supplies are arbitrarily dropped from the catalog and may not be available in the future. This happened to me so I now have a dispenser on the garage wall that no longer functions (after 3 years). In addition, although Griot commits to responding to email questions within 48 hours, I am still waiting after 72 hours…

    • Hi Stuart. We apologize for the delay in responding. It’s my understanding that Customer Service has got you taken care of. If that’s not the case, please drop me a line and I’ll be happy to assist. Thank you for being a Griot’s Garage customer!

  2. Thanks for the write-up. Helped me decide which ones to buy. I am looking forward to special offers/discounts to get one or two of these 🙂

  3. Armand Aquino says:

    Thanks for this review, Evan. I have been a Griot’s customer for 15+ years…wow, I can’t believe how time flies. Anyway, just as you stated above, “remember that drying is when many blemishes and swirl marks are introduced into paint.” So having said that, what’s missing from above is which towel scratches the car the least? That’s what I’ve always wondered about. Also, since you have so many options from above, I would venture to say that the products above could be consolidated. I.e. – if we number the products 1 to 5 from left to right, I would venture to say that #2, #3 and #5 are similar enough (they are all chamois) that #5 could be eliminated due to the high cost. And then #2 could be eliminated since #3 has more absorption than #2. As for #1 and #4, you can eliminate #1. Why? #1 is $27 for a 25 x 35 inch towel. #4, the thicker one, is $17 for a 16 x 24 inch towel. Although it’s smaller, it absorbs more per inch and is cheaper dollars per ounce…

    So given above, although I already have a few of #1’s, I would go with #4’s if I were to start all over again. But the key thing that always bugged me was, which of these towels would have a much lesser chance of scratching the car!? That’s probably where I’d put my money…

    • Keith Rouleau says:

      Thanks for your rational – based on your post I went ahead and changed my order from the large micro fiber towel to the Ultra-Thick Micro Fiber Towel (11023).


  4. Hello, i read your blog occasionally andd i own a similar
    one and i was jyst curiious if you get a lot of spam remarks?
    If so how do you protect against it, anny plugin or anything
    you can recommend? I get so much lately it’s driving me maad
    so any assistance is very much appreciated.

  5. Excelent blog you have here but I was wanting to know iff you knew of any
    user discussion forums that cover the same topics discussed here?
    I’d really lovve to be a part oof group where I can gett suggestions from other
    experienced people that share the same interest.
    If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

    Many thanks!

  6. Keith Rouleau says:

    I just ordered one of the Ultra-Thick Micro Fiber Towel (11023) along with a wash bucket starter kit.

    I’ll post a review of my experience with the Ultra-Thick Micro Fiber Towel within the next 2 weeks.

  7. Please offer microfiber drying towels for dishes! The kitchen stores don’t do this, and your car towels are the “wrong colors” says my wife.White, black, grey . Hey, there are more dishes than cars, and car guys do dishes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *