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Fix microfibers washed with fabric softener

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Washing your microfiber towels with a fabric softener is a very bad idea. It will clog up the microfibers, and make the microfiber loose its special properties. This guide might help you to restore them as much as possible. Even though this guide has helped several people, keep in mind that it is very likely that you’ll need to replace the towels.

How it happens

you just had a long day detailing. Your back is knackered, your knees hurt and you’re tired. The missus tells you to relax in front of the TV, she will rinse out the towels and then put them in the washing machine. A few hours later, when you go to the toilet, you walk past the washing machine and notice the bottle of fabric softener. You turn pale, your knees start to shake and time slows down… ‘did she put fabric softener in it with the MF cloths?’ you wonder…..
Shaken and frightened for the answer, you turn around and yell down the stairs ‘Hun, did you put fabric softener in the machine??’. Your ears tremble when they hear the answer: ‘Yes hunny, they’ll be nice and soft.’.
Right after you yell a few words that I’m not allowed to quote on the internet, you turn to the machine.
What now? What to do? All my expensive towels are ruined? I’m lost!!
But wait… I remember that awesome article on DetailingWiki, with this help I’m gonna fix this.

Check first:

  • Did she really use fabric softeners?
  • Have the towels been in the dryer (if so, I’m not sure this method will work for you)

What you’ll need:

  • Wheelcleaner (in my tests I used Valet Pro Blue Gel Wheelcleaner)
  • A sink with a tap with warm and cold water
  • Vinegar (like the type used in cleaning the household and such)
  • A bucket
  • A bag (like a garbage bag or something that will be watertight)
  • A megaphone (very important!)

The treatment for microfibers

  1. Check if the machine is still running. If it is, turn the knob to a setting that will pump away the water and end the washing program. (don’t wait till it’s done). If the machine is already done, just go to step 2.
  2. Take out the towel(s) and open the crane with warm water (just warm enough so it won’t burn your hands, the warmer the better). Rinse the towels very thoroughly. Don’t fill up the sink, let the water run. I spent at least 10 minutes per towel in my tests. The better you rinse, the better the effect will be.
  3. Fill the bucket with lukewarm water and a good amount of vinegar. In my test I used about 6 till 8 liter of water with between 250ml and 500ml vinegar.
  4. Use something to hold down the towels (I used a clean rock). Make sure it will stay under the water and won’t float to the surface.
  5. Leave it to soak for at least a night. I left it to soak for about 24 hours.
  6. Take out the towels and rinse them thoroughly under running warm water (just not warm enough to burn your hands, but as warm as possible).
    (you can repeat step 3 to 6 a few times if you want to be sure)
  7. Mix a decent amount (like 2L or something) of the wheelcleaner. To be sure I diluted it 1 part of wheelcleaner to 3 parts of water.
  8. Wring out the towels as much as you can. Then put them in the (garbage) bag. Add enough of the wheelcleaner/water mix to make sure that they are completely wet.
  9. Squeeze out the air and tie the bag. Make sure it’s air tight. This will make sure that the towels inside the bag are completely soaked in the wheelcleaner and won’t allow it to float to the top or anything. This technique will also prevent you from having to use to much of the wheelcleaner.
  10. Leave it to soak for at least 24 hours. (in one of my tests I left it for 48 hours, but I didn’t really notice a difference with the ones that soaked 24 hours).
  11. After at least 24 hours, open the bag and rinse out the towels (again, warm water).
  12. Put the towels in the washing machine (if you recently washed something else with fabric softener, let the washing machine do a full cycle on 90 degrees with nothing inside, to rinse out as much as possible of the fabric softener residue). Add a decent amount of vinegar (I used about 300ml) and let it do a normal washing cycle at about 30 degrees (don’t add any other washing liquids).
  13. When done, you can put the microfiber towels in the dryer or let them air dry (putting them in the dryer will remove most of the dust in the fabric and will make them softer).
  14. When the dryer is done, the towels are ready. They should be fine again. Try them out and please report your findings.
  15. Grab the megaphone, turn it on (full volume), hold it very close to your missus’ ear and scream at the top of your lungs “NEVER WASH MY MIRCOFIBER TOWELS WITH FABRIC SOFTENERS”.

Unfortunately, this won’t work for everybody. But the towels that where used in the test came out at about 80% of how they used to be. Not enough, but with further testing I couldn’t make them perform any better. The towels used in the test ended up having to be replaced anyway, but I still use them for wheels, underbodies, engine cleaning and wheel arches. And they perform well enough for those jobs. Without the treatment above, they weren’t even suited for those jobs.

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