Microfiber (British spelling: Microfibre) is fiber with strands less than one denier. Microfiber is a blend of polyester and polyamide. Fabrics made with microfibers are exceptionally soft and hold their shape well. When high quality microfiber is combined with the right knitting process, it creates an extremely effective cleaning material. This material can hold up to seven times its weight in water. They are also used for some cleaning applications, because of their exceptional ability to absorb oils.
Microfiber is constructed in a blend of 80/20 ratio of polyester/polyamideams. They are made from a warp knitted thread, composed of wedge-shaped polyester filaments with a core of nylon. The fiber's wedge shaped filaments follow surfaces, lift up dirt, and then trap the particles inside the fibers. The capillary effect between the filaments and nylon core creates a high absorbency, which in turn enables this cloth to clean and polish at the same time.
To clean a microfiber cloth, wash with warm soapy water and rinse well. The warm water opens up the fibers, allowing them to release the locked in dirt. Placing the cloths in a washing machine and then drying them in a dryer on low heat is also effective. No fabric softeners of any kind should be used as the chemicals clog up the microfibers, making them less effective. Bleach should also be avoided as it corrodes the fibers over time, making them less effective. Ironing is also potentially damaging.
Microfiber performance apparel has become a very popular alternative to cotton apparel for athletic wear, such as cycling jerseys, because the microfiber material wicks moisture away from the body, keeping the athlete cool and dry. Microfibers were also initiated for use in the military and for many federal agencies, such as in the so-called Future Force Warrior Program in the United States. This allows for more rapid drying of the soldier and less skin irritation due to moisture.
Microfiber materials, such as PrimaLoft are also used for thermal insulation as a replacement for down feather insulation in sleeping bags and outdoor equipment, due to its better retention of heat when damp or wet.
With microfiber basketballs already popular worldwide and in FIBA, the NBA proposed the use of a microfiber ball so players could handle the ball better. This comes about because microfiber has the ability to absorb water and oils, meaning that sweat from players touching the ball is better absorbed, making the ball less slippery.
Microfiber is also widely used by car detailers to handle such tasks as removing wax, quick detailing, cleaning interior, cleaning glass, as well as drying. Due to its fine fibers which leave no lint or dust, microfiber towels are a popular choice for avid car detailers and enthusiasts. Chamois leather is also used.
In professional cleaning, microfiber is used in many tools, for example mops and cleaning cloths.
Microfiber cloths on sensitive flat surfaces
Care should be exercised when using microfiber for cleaning of sensitive surfaces. By nature it accumulates dust, debris, and particles inside its material. Sensitive surfaces (such as all high tech coated surfaces e.g. CRT, LCD and plasma screens) can easily be damaged by a microfiber cloth if it has picked up grit or other abrasive particles during use. The cloth itself is generally safer to use on these surfaces than more common cloths, particularly as no cleaning fluid is required for cleaning such surfaces.
One way to minimize the risk of damage to flat surfaces is to use a flat, non-rugged microfiber cloth, as these tend to be less prone to holding for example sand grains. One should also wash and dry the microfiber cloth after each use. Care should be taken to use prescribed washing and drying methods to ensure proper handling.
Washing microfiber cleaning cloths and mops
Cleaning textiles made of microfiber must only be washed in regular washing detergent, not oily, self-softening, soap-based detergents. Fabric softener may not be used. The oils in the softener and self-softening detergents will clog up the fibers and make them less effective until the oils are removed by washing.
Other textile uses
Microfibers used in table cloths, furniture, and car interiors are designed to repel liquids and consequently are difficult to stain. Microfiber table cloths will bead liquids until they are removed, they are often advertised showing red wine on a white table cloth that wipes clean with a paper towel. Unfortunately, microfiber furniture has a tendency to attract and contain cat hair within itself.
Microfiber textiles tend to be inflammable and emit toxic gases when burning. They are made with synthetic fibers such as polyester and nylon (often constructed from polypropylene), which are made from petrochemicals.
Microfibers are not made from a renewable resource and they are not biodegradable. However, the petroleum energy used in fertilizers, pesticides, transportation and processing to produce cotton and other renewable resource fibres may outweigh direct use of the petroleum as base stock for producing fibre.
- PrimaLoft Outdoor
- UC Davis Health System: Newroom. UC Davis Pioneers Use of Microfiber Mops in Hospitals: Mops reduce injuries, kill more germs and reduce costs. June 23 2006. http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/newsroom/releases/archives/other/2006/mop6-2006.html
- Sustainable Hospitals Project, University of Massachusetts, Lowell. 10 Reasons to Use Microfiber Mopping. http://www.sustainablehospitals.org/PDF/tenreasonsmop.pdf