Green Cleaning With Microfiber Cloths

How Are Microfibers Made?

Microfiber cleaning cloths, just like the name says, are microscopic fibers which they weave together from a blend of polyester and polyamide. There are also newer blends that have come out recently that incorporate cotton and silk for a softer, stronger fabric which leaves little chance of scratching fine automotive finishes, but these cloths tend to be on the more expensive side. For residential cleaning purposes, the polyester/polyamide blends work very well.

There are many different types of microfibers on the market these days. You can probably go into a dollar store and get yourself a pack of 3 for a couple of dollars or, you can spend up to $20 for a cloth embedded with silver, which helps inhibit microbial growth within the fabric. Several factors go into the price, which I will explain down below.

close-up of a microfiber cloth
how a microfiber cloth is made

What makes a microfiber cloth clean so well?

A good quality microfiber cloth has anywhere between 200,000 and 380,000 fibers per square inch. That's over 70 million fibers on the average 16x16 inch split fiber microfiber cloth! The thickness of the strand varies from 1/6th the thickness of a human hair all the way down to 1/200th. The smaller the fiber, the better it will be at picking up germs and grime. As you may have guessed, the smaller the fiber, the higher the price.

GSM stands for “Grams per square meter” and indicates the density of the cloth. For house cleaning, a GSM rating between 200 and 350 tends to be effective for most  purposes. The microfibers in the 300-330 GSM range are a good balance of quality and price.  The higher the density, the softer, more durable and gentler the cloth will be. The lower the density, the more aggressive the cleaning action will be on tough stains and debris.

Split fiber microfibers tend to be in the higher price range because the process requires special equipment but the towels last much longer and are way more effective. A split fiber microfiber cloth can absorb over 7 times their weight in water! In fact, the  splits in the strands are what is responsible for picking up and retaining the germs on hard surfaces. The strands work like tiny “fingers” reaching out to grab the ultra-fine particles (like germs) and pulling them deep within the fabric. If you've ever hand washed a microfiber, you might be amazed at the amount of dirty water that rinses through it after use. Research also shows that a better quality microfiber reduces germs on surfaces by 99%.

Color coded microfibers

The color soding on microwave towels helps to prevent cross-contamination of mold and other pathogens. It also eliminates the possibility of embedded sand from scratching glass and other delicate surfaces. So, for example, you can use red cloths for bathrooms while always using blue cloths for windows and mirrors. Designate green cloths for dusting furniture while using yellow cloths exclusively for floors. If you do this, like we do, it also helps if you launder the colors separately as well.

Here are a few quick tips about microfiber cleaning cloths:

color coded microfibers
  • When you use a 16x16” towel like we do, you can fold it into quarters which fits perfectly in your hand and gives you eight sides to use before you toss it into the dirty towel bag for the day.
  • Many of the better quality microfibers have a short pile on one side while they have a thicker pile on the other. The short side is better for scrubbing while the plush side is great for polishing.
  • Polyester is for scrubbing and polyamide is for water absorption. So, an 80-20 blend would have 80% polyester and 20% polyamide which would be good for scrubbing. A 70-30 blend would be a little softer but better at absorption.
  • If you really need to absorb more water, go for the waffle weave towel.

How To Wash Microfiber Cloths:

  • A good quality microfiber can go through the wash (correctly) between 500 and 1000 times before it loses its effectiveness.
  • Always wash with similar microfibers if you decide to use the color coding method.
  • Sort through your load to be sure there are no paper towels or anything that will break up in the wash. Pulling paper or other particles, like lint, off of the microfibers is a chore.
  • Hot water (less than 180 degrees) and a little liquid soap are all you need to keep them clean.
  • You should NEVER use fabric softener when washing microfibers. It clogs the strands and reduces its effective lifespan.
  • Dry in a dryer free of lint and keep the temperature setting on low to increase the useful life of your cloth. High heat may melt the fibers. Line drying also works, but the dryer tends to pull away any lint from the washing process.