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Guide to Properly Drying Your Car So You Don’t Destroy Your Paint

If you followed along in my article How to Wash Your Car without Destroying Your Paint you know that the less you touch your paint, especially with abrasive materials, the less scratches and marring you get.

It is very important, then, that you understand the best ways to dry your car with the least amount of contact with your paint.

I’m going to share with you three very easy tricks to help you dry your car quickly and safely.

Ideally, you’ll use all three methods together to save the most time and reduce the most risk of scratching your paint.

Sheeting / Flooding

The terms refer the same thing. You take the nozzle off of your hose, hold the hose parallel to the panels of your car (to reduce splashing), and literally flood the exterior of the car with water.

The water forms a sheet that pulls water with it as it flows off of your paint. This will remove a large majority of the water droplets remaining on your vehicle after rinsing it.

Start from the top of the car and flood the water down the panel.

This technique works best when your car has a last step product (LSP for short) on it such as wax or sealant.

LSPs help reduce the water’s ability to cling to your paint.

Finish by opening and shutting all of the doors and trunk on your vehicle to shake loose any water that might be hiding in the seals.

You should use this technique every time you’re finished washing your car whether you’re leaving the car to air dry (to reduce water spots) or manually drying the car (to reduce the amount of work left to do).

Forced Air “Drying”

Just like the sheeting technique, this works best when your car still has enough wax or sealant on it for water to bead up. This is an optional step in the drying process, but it’s hugely beneficial to your paint if you can swing it.

The idea is to take an air source such as a leaf blower (see What is the Best Electric Leaf Blower for Drying a Car), air compressor, or wet and dry vac (shop vac) that is reversed, and blow the water beads down and off the car.

This technique will leave the least amount of water for you to need to dry up with a towel. It also gets water out of pesky areas such as door jambs, mirrors, trim, etc…. that tend to continually seep water while you’re toweling down your vehicle.

If you’d like to know more about the best blowers to dry your car, read The Best Blowers for Drying a Car

Towel Drying

Put down the dish rags, bathroom towels, and paper towels (yes I’ve seen someone dry their car with paper towels, eek).

Those types of fabrics and materials are way too aggressive for your paint and they don’t really absorb water all that well.

I’m not a fan of cheap chamois either and I’ll tell you why:

Since most cheap chamois have no nap (loose fibers), any dirt that happens to fall on the car while drying just gets dragged across the paint.

If you’re serious about keeping your paint intact you need to invest in a good quality microfiber towel or quality chamois.

The typical go to, for good reason, is the waffle weave microfiber towel. I recommend one at least 20” x 40” for most vehicles.

These towels have insanely good water absorbing properties and are soft enough to not mar your paint if you’re gentle.

Just make sure you purchase one that has rolled edges and uses a soft thread. Cheap towels with raw edges and rough thread will scratch your paint. Learn more about microfiber towels her in my article: “The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Microfiber.”

Start by dabbing or blotting the remaining water spots on the car.

You don’t want to drag a towel around your car if you can help it and you certainly don’t want to do it while it’s dry.

Once you’ve finished blotting up the water on the car, you can lightly wipe in linear motions to remove the last bit of water.

TIP: Microfiber towels (especially waffle weave) work best when slightly damp. If your towel is sucking up water very well try misting the towel with water and wringing it out so it’s slightly damp.


To really make sure you’re not rubbing your paint more than you should perform all three techniques in order. Flood the paint with water so it sheets and pulls most of the water drops off of the car. Blow dry as much of what is left. Finally, dab up any water drops you struggled to chase off the paint with the blower.

If you cannot swing the blower then at least do the water sheeting followed by a wipe down with a quality waffle weave or chamois drying towel.

Once the paint is wiped down proceed to wiping down all of your door jambs, wheels, and  engine bay with multi-purpose detailing towels. You don’t want to use your premium drying towels in these areas because you risk soiling them.

Congrats, you’ve taken the extra steps in drying your car and ensured you didn’t install any scratches!

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