How To Dry A Car Safely: Reduce Spots, Streaks, and Scratches

Washing a Porsche GT4

Your car’s paint is susceptible to spots, streaks, and scratches if not cared for properly. When you reach the car drying step in your wash process, you want to avoid the sun, cotton towels, dirty microfiber towels, inferior paint sealants, and also hard water if possible. I’m going to share with you how to dry a car safely so you can steer clear of damaging your paint’s surface. 

Most scratching and swirls you see in paint come from the drying process. In my experience, this step is the one you need to pay the closest attention to when detailing your car; don’t get lazy at the end of your wash. During the washing step, you can introduce marring to your vehicle’s surface if you’re not using the correct equipment like a quality wash mitt (check for debris on it) and if you’re using improper techniques such as cleaning from the bottom-up vs. top-down. I’ve recorded several videos where I show you my way of washing a car correctly.    

A few tools that will play a vital role in the car drying process if you want to avoid jacking up your paint:

  • DI (deionized) water. Our current deionized water system solution provides 300 gallons of mineral-free, deionized water based on your water input quality. Remember me mentioning avoiding hard water if possible? This system is the answer for that; I’ve had my share of water spots, and I can certainly tell you they’re not fun getting out. If you do get them, be prepared to pull out the polisher or, even worse, wet sanding. You want to avoid the latter at all costs. Having DI water will change your life. We include this system in our custom install solution, which has been a difference-maker in our community. 
  • EGO Leaf Blower. Okay, so I’m excited about this product - it took me a few years to convince EGO to let me sell these, and we finally have them. It’s always good to avoid physical contact with your paint’s surface. Using a leaf blower prevents scratches because you’re using the air from the blower to dry the car off. What makes the EGO line special is 1) they’re cordless, 2) not gas-powered, and 3) they have variable speeds that deliver up to 765 CFM (depending on the model you choose). CFM is cubic feet per minute, which is a measurement that tells us how much space in cubic feet you can fill with air in one minute. All you need to know is that these blowers have a ton of output - precisely what we want when drying our vehicles. If you want to have an even better experience with this blower, I suggest adding a stubby nozzle and a blower band. The nozzle will make handling the blower much easier, and the blower band ensures you won’t scratch your paint if you happen to hit the surface with the tip of your blower; plus, it looks cool. 
  • Drying Aid. The Obsessed Garage drying aid is a lubricant that adds a sacrificial layer of protection to your paint’s surface. It works even better on a ceramic-coated vehicle. This product is what I’d categorize as an “accomplishment” product. You’ve spent the last hour or two cleaning your wheels and washing your car; now you’re ready to dry, protect, and make it shine. You’d use this after you’ve blown your car off; this allows the drying aid not to be diluted because you won’t have any water or very little water on the surface. 
  • Microfiber towels. You must have the correct microfiber towels when drying your vehicle. I like to use a high pile drying towel and a low pile drying towel to wipe off the drying aid and any excess water from rinsing. Using them in tandem gives you the best outcome; start with the high pile and follow up with the low pile - leaving a dry, streak-free surface. 

Not everyone will take the extra steps to ensure their car’s paint is dried correctly. I’d hope you’re not like everyone else, and if you have the slightest bit of care for your vehicle, you’ll invest the time to dial it in.  

My Steps To Drying A Vehicle

I always like to preface my methods of doing things with “My way” or “How I” because I know everyone has their way of doing things. I never want anyone to think there’s only one way of doing things; the techniques I’m sharing with you have worked for me and several others for years. 

After I’ve rinsed the car soap off my car, I then:

  1. Grab my EGO blower (580 version) and blow-dry the entire vehicle. I like the 580 version because it’s lightweight and has sufficient output to get my car dry. Remember, you’ll get the car 95% dry using the blower; whatever little water you have remaining will be addressed in the next step. 
  2. Grab my drying aid that I have in a sprayer bottle and spritz a small amount on each panel of my vehicle; I’m working in sections on this part. I’m first wiping off the drying aid with my high pile microfiber towel and then following up with my low pile towel to get any leftover solution off. Depending on your conditions, you may have to spray the drying aid on a few panels at a time. I’m in a climate-controlled environment, so I can spray larger areas without worrying about overspray.
  3. At this step in the process, my towels are pretty saturated with drying aid, so I’ll take the low pile (orange) towel and hit my door jams as well as the engine bay and inside the trunk area. 

The best way to dry a car is entirely subjective. No matter what steps you take to dry your vehicle, just know that you want to take precautions. Don’t dry wipe, and always be sure that the surface is lubricated. “My way” has worked, and I’ve yet to experience any heavy scratching or marring on my paint.