Choosing the Correct Glass Towels: Why Aren’t The Windshields Clean?

This post was written by Joe Gartland (Dr. Joe) and published in Kleen-Scene Issue 36.

It is almost 2021 and I find it amazing that the last contest in car care is getting windshields clean. Millions of dollars have been spent on equipment, research, chemicals, and automation to make vehicles look gorgeous. And what is the most frequent customer complaint?  The most repeated answer is “dirty or streaky windshields.” If this was your answer, you are spot on, no pun intended.

How do we change and make things better?  Are there ways to overcome challenges that are old as the car wash business itself?  The answer is yes, and it is with towels.

Good Towels for Cleaning Glass
Superior Microfiber Glass Towel: 16”x24”

Commit Glass Towels To Cleaning and Drying Glass Only

Commit towls to cleaning and drying glass only. There is no point in wiping a greasy door jam, and then using the same cloth to smear the grease on glass. To avoid this, Doctor Joe recommends using color-coding This is the process of assigning a specific color towel to a single application. To help you with this, the good doctor offers most glass towel selections in an assortment of colors. In addition, New Pre-Washed Surgical Towels (DJS1600-XX) 16”x24” are available in seven-vibrant colors. Pick a color like yellow or hot pink that is clearly dedicated to cleaning glass.

Secondly, glass towels should be used on one car only.  One or two towels, one car. After cleaning windshields, towels in service need to be pulled from the line and washed. Start the next car with fresh towels. This is important and requires one to make the proper towel investment to keep your crew in clean stock while on the front line. In other words, step two is, do not go cheap on me. It does not make sense to use a soiled towel to clean a dirty window.

A great towel for for cleaning windshields
Ultra-51 Glass Cleaning Towel: 16”x16”

The next question should be is “How do you get the towels clean, especially microfiber?”

Cleaning Dirty Car Wash Towels

Contamination found in car wash towels is far different than the soil, food, and dirt found in other towels around your home. Regular laundry soaps and chemicals are not formulated to professionally clean and revitalize microfiber fabric. For cleaning and restoring microfiber towels, we highly recommend Prime Emulsifier Towel Cleaner, exclusively available from Kleen-Rite. It is uniquely formulated to remove the mix of dirt, oil, waxes, and grease from split microfibers. When used regularly, it will clean the fibers, open the pores, and improve absorbency.

Now that you are using dedicated towels for cleaning glass, are working with enough stock, and are cleaning them properly, what kind of towels should you use?

The Towel To Avoid

One important part of this answer is to share with you what you should not use on windshields (and this will surprise you). The other parts of the answer will improve your car wash forever.

Starting out with the shocker: Terry Cloth Microfiber is not the optimal pick for cleaning windshields. That is right, the world’s most popular body drying towel, detailing towel, and cleaning towel is not necessarily the best glass cleaning towel.

Here is the reason why. When terry microfiber towels are manufactured, the yarn is soaked in sodium hydroxide to split the fiber. This increases the towel’s ability to absorb, but also makes the fiber ends inelastic and brittle. The lint you see in the sunlight on the windshield is from the microfiber brittle ends that break off. It looks like fine snow on the windshield. This is called filament lint. Lint is the first thing your customers notice when as they enter their car.

The best way to get it off windshields, is to not get it on glass in the first place. It is exceedingly difficult to remove.

Better Glass Towels

Doctor has a better suggestion:  Ultra-32 Waffle Weave Microfiber Towels (DJMF3200-XX). Measuring 16”x24”, the yarn is different. It is heavier and open-ended, so there are no brittle split ends. In addition, a special nano lint-suppression technology is deployed during manufacturing eliminating lint. These towels have a superior ability to remove heavy smoke, sticky candy handprints, and more from windshields. The small pouches scoop up water and holds it firmly within the towel. Doctor Joe suggests using a committed color for the windshield and a second color for drying car bodies.  These towels hold up to seven times its weight in water!

Also, if a smaller size is preferred, Ultra-36 Waffle Weave (DJMF3600-XX) 16”x16” is also available in three colors as well.

What about streaks? They are not for the meek. I can tell you for sure your customers do not like them either. Where do streaks and smears originate from and how do you get rid of them?

What Causes The Trouble?

1st Smokers: When tobacco smoke goes into solution as it gets wet during cleaning, it becomes diluted and redeposits a light film that dries a creamy white or grey. If you wash the windshield again, the same thing happens again, only the film dries lighter. Wash it again, happens again.

2nd Vinyl Dressing & Polish: Not only does this get on the glass during application, when it dries in bright sunlight it oxidizes and deposits itself on the windshield. Go to clean the windshield and experience the same issue that you had with the smoke-covered windshield. The grief repeats itself.

3rd The Plastic Dashboard: That is correct. In the sunlight and heat, the plastic dries out, oxidizes into a gas, and deposits itself as an irritating dry white covering on the windshield. Do not believe me? Did you ever leave your clean car locked and unattended for a few days? How did the streaks appear on the inside windshield?
When you go to clean the glass, it is the same battle that you have with the smoke and vinyl dressing.

The best glass cleaning towels
Black & Blue Diamond: 16”x16” and 16”x24”

The good news is Doctor Joe has the prescriptions. First, clean the glass with a Surgical Towel (DJS1600-XX, DJS1700-BL) or better yet a Waffle-Weave (DJMF3200-XX, DJMF3600-XX). If you are working on the outside glass you will be finished.

When you are ready to work “magic” on the inside glass, here is what comes next. Use a smooth microfiber towel to perfectly remove every remaining trace of dirt, smear, smoke, and grime from the windshield. It will be a work of art. And here is your towel selection that will finish your masterpiece:

The Best Towels For Cleaning Glass

GOOD- Superior Microfiber Glass Towel: 16”x24” (DJMF1123_XX) Like the original 3M™ Lint-Free Cleaning Cloth. Removes residues including, smoke, fingerprints, grime, oxidized vinyl dressing, and smudges from windshields. The fine-fiber nubs on the towel’s surface are ideal for eliminating the pesky white haze that remains on glass after cleaning. Streaks and smears will disappear.

BETTER- Ultra-51 Glass Cleaning Towel: 16”x16” (DJMF5100-XX) can be used as the towel of choice in cleaning windshields and automotive glass or as the cloth of choice in the final wipe for streak and smear removal. This is the same towels provided by your eye-doctor for cleaning your sunglasses. Therefore, it is made heavier and larger for car wash use. Glass towels especially need to be changed out frequently. The towels are extremely aggressive with dirt removal. Use one towel per car.

BEST- The Black & Blue Diamond: 16”x16” (DJMF5600-XX) and 16”x24” (DJMF5500-XX) These 300 GSM towels feature a small bird’s eye shaped weaving pattern that shaves dirt, grime, streaks, and smoke off glass like a sharp razor. The Black or Blue Diamond can be used as the glass towel of choice in your wash or as the final streak and smear removal cloth.

If you noticed a position is taken here that towel selection, care, and use have more to do with getting the windshields right, you are correct. While the importance of cleaners, is not to be discounted, they do not make the glass clean. It is your team that makes windshields clean. Now, with the right game plan and towel selection, the streaks no longer need to give you the creeps!

Interested in learning more about glass and window cleaning? Check out our other blog posts on this topic:

Car Wash Glass Cleaners

Automatic Car Wash Window Cleaning

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