First, let's look at what microfiber is. Microfiber is defined as any fiber that is 1 denier or less (denier is a measurement of fineness equal to a unit of fiber weighing one gram for each 9000 meters). To put that into perspective, microfiber is 1/100th the diameter of a human hair and 1/20th the diameter of a strand of silk. There are approximately 200,000 fibers in one square inch of a microfiber towel. High Quality microfiber used for cleaning is often 0.5 denier or smaller. That creates a lot of surface area in which to absorb liquid or hold dust and dirt.
In cleaning products microfiber is a blend of polyester and polyamide (nylon). In higher quality cleaning textiles the fiber is split during the manufacturing process to produce spaces in each fiber. If you were to look at a cross section of split microfiber it would look like an asterisk. It's the split fiber working in conjunction with the space between them that do the work. They pick up and hold the dust and dirt, and absorb liquid. Lower quality microfiber cleaning products may not be split (neither is microfiber clothing or furniture because you don't want them to be absorbent).
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For microfiber to be effective as a cleaning product it has to be split microfiber. If microfiber isn't split during manufacturing it isn't much more than a very soft cloth, duster or mop. Microfiber that is used in clothing, furniture and other applications isn't split because it isn't designed to be absorbent, just soft. It's important when buying microfiber cleaning products to make sure that they're split. When buying from a retail store if the packaging doesn't say its split, don't assume it is. One way to determine if the microfiber is split is to run the palm of your hand over it. If it grabs the imperfections on your skin then it's split. Another way is to pour a small amount of water on a table and take a towel or mop and try to push the water. If the water is pushed it's not split microfiber, if the water is absorbed or sucked into the fabric then it is split microfiber.
In addition to the open spaces in the fibers created during the splitting process, microfiber is an effective cleaning tool because the fibers are positively charged. Dirt and dust are negatively charged so they are literally attracted to microfiber like a magnet. The microfiber holds on to the dust and dirt until it's released in the laundering process or when it's rinsed out.
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The attributes of split microfiber discussed above make it a true green cleaning product. Microfiber works extremely well as a cleaner without added chemicals. All of the edges on each fiber created during the splitting process act like squeegees scraping up the dust and dirt while the open spaced between the splits hold it. When water is added to the towel or duster it helps emulsify the dirt allowing it to be scrubbed off the surface being cleaned.
The advantages to using microfiber to clean are almost endless. Given the facts that they can last hundreds of washings when cared for properly, can absorb 7 times their weight in liquid, are hypoallergenic, don't need added chemical cleaners it's no wonder their popularity has skyrocketed in the last decade.
Microfiber towels, mops and dusters can last hundreds of washings when cared for properly. There are two very important things to remember about caring for microfiber:
1. Keep them away from heat, this means don't dry them in your dryer under high heat.
2. Don't use fabric softeners or detergents with fabric softeners.
They may be washed in your home washing machine or by hand, but to ensure the long life of your microfiber please follow these guidelines.
Wash in warm or hot water with mild detergent. Do not use fabric softener, it will clog the open spaces in the microfiber that do the cleaning rendering the towel or mop useless. Microfiber tends to grab a hold of lint in the wash just like it grabs dirt and dust when you’re using it to clean. With this in mind be careful of what you wash microfiber with. Avoid washing it with anything made of cotton especially terry cloth towels, socks etc. Ideally you should wash microfiber only with other microfiber, but if you need to mix loads wash it with other non-linting synthetic materials.
Wash in hot water with mild detergent, use a soft bristled brush if necessary. Rinse thoroughly.
Air drying microfiber will make it last the longest. Microfiber dries relatively quickly. If you choose to dry your microfiber in a dryer do so on low heat or no heat and only dry with other microfiber products to prevent the mops or towels from picking up lint. Microfiber will grab a hold of any lint given off by other items in your dryer if they are dried with anything else that lints.
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