How to Dry a Car Safely After Washing

How to Dry a Car Safely After Washing

Believe it or not, one of the most important aspects of cleaning a car is the drying step after you have completed a wash. This stage in the detailing process is often overlooked and neglected by some with a little less experience and can make a huge difference to the finished product.

There are many reasons why you should be drying a car correctly, both from a paint safety point of view and the overall finish and look of the car after the wash step.

Once you have learned the correct and best practices for drying, you will never look back.

In this post, I will explain why it is important to get this right and share some tips on the best ways to round off your detailing skills when it comes to car drying.

How to Dry Car

Why It’s Important to Dry A Car After Washing

Can you let a car air dry? Of course, you can but you are going to get sub-optimal results and you run the risk of damaging the paintwork.

There are several reasons why it’s important to dry your car (correctly) after washing. Let’s take a look.

Water spotting / Shampoo Residue

Water spots and shampoo residue can be easily seen as spotty stains on your cars finish, they happen due to beads of water resting on your paintwork, which have had a chance to dry out naturally and leave behind a residue. Even if you are careful, chances are you will still have seen them at some point. For those of you who may need reminding, this is what they look like.

how to dry car

You may think to yourself – no big deal right? Wrong! In extreme cases, the mineral content that can be left behind by a water spot can do serious damage to your cars paintwork which may be incredibly difficult to remove. It is best to remove any water left behind as quickly as possible to prevent “etching” into your beloved paint. Once this happens the likely only way of removal would be a machine polish.

Quality of The Finish

Water spotting aside, the overall finish and visual impact of a freshly washed car will never be as good if you let it air dry. You will eliminate any slight streaking or imperfections if you dry your car correctly and remove all water droplets after the wash step.

How to Dry A Car After Washing

Now that you know why it’s important to dry your car – it is equally important to know how to dry your car ( correctly and safely ) after washing. There are a few different methods for drying a vehicle, each with their pros and cons. 

Believe it or not, there is quite a high risk of damaging your cars paint if you do not use the correct tools and methods when drying. Any time you are coming into contact with your cars paintwork you can potentially inflict swirls and scratches if not done correctly.

Let’s take a look at some of the options you have available to you.

Using a Good Quality Microfiber Towel

One of the most popular ways for many enthusiasts to dry their cars is to use a good quality microfiber towel. Due to the fine nature of microfiber, Particles of dirt or anything on the surface of your paint is much less likely to cause scratching or swirls as you work your way around the car with the towel.

One of the other reasons why microfiber towels are so great is because they can absorb up to seven times their weight in liquid. This makes them extremely efficient at soaking up all the water on your paintwork quickly and safely.

Of course, not all towels are made equally – for example, don’t pick up any old bath towel you find around your house and attempt to dry your car with it. Chances are you will damage your paint.

Always make sure it is a good quality microfiber towel specifically made for a car’s paintwork.

There are many different drying techniques you can use to dry your car, you can see a few of the most popular methods in this great video below.


If you want to read more about drying towels and which ones I recommend you can see another post on it here.

Using a Blower To Dry A Car

One of the safest and arguably one of the best ways to dry a car is by using a blower. This ensures an absolute zero contact drying method so you eliminate any risk of swirling or scratching your paintwork. If a car has some good hydrophobic protection applied to the paintwork (such as a Ceramic Coating), a blower will make drying the car an absolute breeze as the water will just run off with very little effort.

using ceramic coat

Using a blower will also remove any trapped water from cracks or crevices and dry water from areas that a microfiber towel just cannot reach.

When I use the term blower I use the term very loosely. So what exactly do I mean by blower? There are many different options available to you to use. For years people have been using :

How to Dry CAR

As the detailing world progresses and technology advances I can see more people leaning towards using a blower to dry their car. You don’t always need to splash out on an expensive dedicated car drier though, the other two options listed above are also quite viable.

Extra Tips For Car Drying

Now that you know the best methods for drying a car, it’s time to level up and learn some extra tips to help you get the most out of the drying process. 

1)Make Sure You Dry The Car Quickly On A Sunny Day

On a sunny day, water tends to evaporate very quickly which can increase the chances of water spots. As I mentioned in one of my previous guides you should be speedy after the wash step if the temperatures are high or you are washing in direct sunlight.

As soon as you finish with washing you should get your ass in gear and aim to get all of the water from the surface of the car as quickly as possible.

2)Use a Quick Detailer Or Drying Aid If Using The Microfiber Towel Method

A quick detailing spray or drying aid should ideally be applied to a wet car before actually towelling it dry, as this will further help to reduce water spotting and streaking. It will also add a nice layer of gloss to the paintwork.

CarPro Elixir is what I am using at the moment when drying my car and find it excellent.

carpro elixir review

3)Apply a Ceramic Coating To Your Car

Ceramic coatings are extremely hydrophobic and are great for repelling water. Those of you who follow this blog will know that I recently applied a ceramic coating to my car and I can safely say that it has made a huge difference when it comes to drying.

Water sheets and beads from the car effortlessly and it has made drying the car a walk in the park.

Ceramic Coating combined with the blower method for drying is an absolute winning combination and will be the most effective and safest method for drying a car.


Well there you have it, you have all the information you need to perfect your drying methods. Of course, others will have their own tips and tricks but these are just the ones I use in my routine. Some of these tips were also featured on a car maintenance guide over at 

Until Next Time,

Happy Detailing!

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About the Author – Darren O Hara

Darren is the founder of the DriveDetailed blog and is a keen detailing enthusiast living in the rainy south of Ireland. When he is not cleaning his car he is always researching ways he can improve his techniques and enjoys testing out new products.

Darren currently drives an Audi TTRS and is a big fan of performance cars.

You can follow Darren on Instagram @darrenoharacork

4 thoughts on “How to Dry a Car Safely After Washing

  1. Hello Darren,
    After using Elixir as drying aid after washed, is it ok to apply normal polish then liquid wax afterwards? Kindly advise. Appreciate.

  2. Hi Zaw , nothing wrong with that – Elixir shouldn’t have any negative effect on the other products.

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