What Is Microfiber and Where It is Used?
Over the past few years, people have become understandably more health-conscious and slightly obsessive about cleaning. A 2023 poll found that cleaning cloths made of microfiber make up more than half (58%) of the pandemic-era cleaning hacks people learned. While microfibers aren’t new — dating back to the world’s first microfiber in 1970 from Japan — these poll results signify just how much the COVID-19 pandemic affected people’s cleaning habits.
Today, microfiber is considered an extremely effective material for cleaning with much less effort than traditional methods, and often without the need to add cleaning solutions or chemicals. The material is also considered highly durable as it’s designed to hold shape and is more resistant to staining, making it a great fabric for apparel and even furniture. Below, we’ll take a closer look at how microfiber is made, why the fabric has become extremely useful in its use cases, and where they are most commonly used:
How is Microfiber Made?
Microfiber is made by melting polyester and polyamide separately. The mixture of these two plastics is forced through a tiny heated pipe so they weave together before being split into microfibers 10-20 times smaller. We’ve previously discussed polyester as one of the most common synthetic fibers, including nylon — a polyamide — and acryl. In our post, we also mentioned other fibers of the polyester series and polyacryl series. Some of these fibers, like tetron and cashmilon, can also be used to make microfiber fabric.
Microfiber cloths can vary in the size of the fibers they use, which impacts their cleaning efficacy. In average microfiber cloths, fibers are 10-50 times thinner than human hair. For reference, this is smaller than pollen grains — at 5-10 microns — or red blood cells and roughly the same size as typical bacteria. This is why microfiber cloths are considered highly effective for antibacterial cleaning.
Why is Microfiber Helpful?
As discussed in our introduction, microfiber cloths are one of the most popular types of cleaning cloths used today. This is because microfiber products are considered an essential component of environmental cleaning and disinfection protocols. Studies have shown that microfiber cloths have superior microbial removal properties to other cleaning textiles. Aside from usage at home, microfiber cloths are also typically used in health care settings to ensure bacteria is cleaned adequately from commonly touched surfaces.
Today, microfiber is available as single-use — monofilament, polyester — or durable and launderable — bicomponent, polyester + polyamide. Studies have demonstrated that new and laundered microfiber clothes and mop pads achieve similar microbial removal efficacies in a clinical setting. This suggests that, as long as microfiber cloths are laundered according to parameters set by the CDC, the microbial removal efficacy is sustained throughout its claimed lifespan.
Where is Microfiber Used?
We’ve established that microfiber fabrics make for good cleaning cloths. At the same time, different materials and fiber sizes can impact their effectiveness. Below are some of the common uses for microfiber:
Some types of eyewear benefit more from microfiber cleaning cloths as they have additional films or protective layers on their lenses. Progressive lenses are one of these, as they are designed to have three areas or zones of magnifying power that change gradually within a single lens. These lenses have additional layers to add tint, anti-glare, or anti-scratch properties and won’t easily be scratched or damaged when cleaned with microfiber cloth.
Other types of eyewear that can benefit from microfiber cleaning are sunglasses with polarized lenses, as these also have additional film layers put on their lenses to reflect light from specific angles. When cleaned using non-microfiber cloth, polarized eyewear can lose effectiveness or be prone to scratches and lingering debris.
We previously mentioned using microfiber as a textile for apparel and fashion. Microfiber is as soft and durable as it is good at cleaning, making it desirable for clothes and accessories. Additionally, microfiber is known to have moisture-wicking properties, giving a garment quick-drying features instead of getting soaked easily.
Today, microfiber is commonly used to make women’s skirts and jackets. Some types of microfiber also feel like suede or leather, making them popular for fashion accessories like belts, wallets, handbags, and other accessories that typically feature genuine or imitation leather.