Stockinette is widely used in car detailing but it is rarely discussed. So, we thought we would try to pull together everything we know and could find out about stockinette and why it is so useful to car detailers.
Since detailing is all about getting the body work to look its best then all of the materials commonly used are specialised in some way. Stockinette is useful because it is relatively inexpensive and, when used properly, won’t damage the paintwork at all. The often used description of ‘Super Soft Cotton Stockinette’ captures the basics pretty well.
Stockinette is also known as
Mutton Cloth – primarily because its original use was for the wrapping of meat
Cheese Cloth – used to make and / or wrap cheeses
Muslin Cloth – often used for personal hygiene
Grades & Uses
There are different grades / thicknesses of Stockinette available. The grades are largely used for different purposes:
coarser grades used in building and decorating
finer grades generally used in kitchens and medical environments for purposes other than cleaning and polishing
the grades used for car detailing are largely equivalent to the medical type/grade
Stockinette for Detailing / Valeting
The best stockinettes for detailing / valeting are made from unbleached (cream to beige coloured) fine grade 100% cotton. The cloths manufactured from synthetic or mixed fibres are used as rags and wipers only – never on paintwork or other similarly soft / delicate surfaces.
Cotton Stockinette is available in a variety of colours including unbleached but the most common and generally most cheaply available cloth is bleached white. However, the coloured or bleached white material is rarely 100% cotton, with bleached cotton usually made from what is known as Condenser Yarn – which is a yarn made from cycled cotton spun on a synthetic base yarn for strength. This is because recycled cotton fibres are too short to hold together on their own and need a core filament.
The properties which make stockinette so useful are its: Softness, Absorbancy and Strength when wet.
Because of the method of manufacture (circular knitted) if you cut your cloth from a roll it will shed some little bits of fluff. Therefore, the pedantic say, it isn’t possible to get Lint-free stockinette on a roll. However, if you use edged and finished stockinette polishing cloths then they are, for all practical purposes, lint-free. Another effective option is to cut a length of stockinette, shake off the bits and turn the ends in to significantly reduce fluff.
The cloth can be machine washed. However, many, if not most, detailers prefer to use until dirty and then discard. The cost effectiveness of the material makes that a viable proposition.
The main uses for stockinette in detailing are: drying, wiping, application of waxes and polishes and general cleaning up.
The cloth is made around the world with the main areas producing Stockinette being China, India, South Africa and a few places across Europe.
Note: MH Textiles produces all grades of stockinette from certified yarn in the UK and supply to the building trade, kitchen and medical as well as the motor detailing / valeting industry.