It seems that microfiber is everywhere these days. You can find microfiber in household cleaning cloths, athletic gear, upholstery on furniture and cars, and even bed sheets. But what is microfiber, and is it really something new?
What is Microfiber?
Whether you see the term microfiber or microfibre (European spelling), it is a reference to the thickness of the fibers used to create the threads that are then woven into cloth. A microfiber is no more than 1 denier (a standard unit of weight) thick—about one-fifth of a human hair.
All microfiber currently on the market is man-made. Most are made of polyester but may also be mixed with nylon to add strength and water repellency. A few are made from rayon and resemble the qualities of natural silk. Depending upon the shape, size, and combination of materials, microfibers can take on different qualities, like strength, softness, water absorbency, or repellency.
The production of these ultra-fine fibers actually began in the 1950s. Remember Ultrasuede from the 1970s? It was made from microfibers, and scientists have continued to find new applications as more and more companies develop uses for the easy care fabrics that consumers want.
Uses and Care of Microfiber Fabrics
Cleaning rags and mops: Microfiber cloths, mops and towels can be found everywhere and are excellent fabrics for cleaning. They are woven to be strong and long-lasting, and due to their extremely fine man-made fibers, they leave no lint or dirt. Due to the type of microfiber used, these cloths are electrostatic and will also absorb grease and oil. Because of the fine thread and weave, they can even be anti-bacterial because they will pick up small bacteria that a cotton cloth can not.
The cloths should not be used with bleach or acidic cleaning solutions because they can damage the fibers. Chlorine bleach should not be used when washing the cloths.
Cleaning cloths made of microfiber should be washed after every use in laundry detergent. Never use self-softening, soap-based detergents. Washing after every use will prevent the dirt and debris collected by the cloth from scratching surfaces. Never use fabric softener on these cloths because the residue from fabric softener will clog up the fibers and make them less effective.
Activewear and compression garments: Many garments promoted for use by athletes—jerseys, t-shirts and shorts—are made from microfiber fabrics because the material wicks perspiration away from the body. The tightly woven fabric is also used for compression garments that are used for both athletic training and medical uses to increase blood flow.
All of these microfiber garments should be washed using cool or warm water by hand or in a gentle machine cycle. Never add fabric softener or bleach and allow to air dry.
Accessories and sports equipment: Most of the fabric wallets, coin purses, backpacks and shoes that you purchase today are made of microfibers. The fabric makes them water-resistant and strong. Microfiber is even used in today's desert combat boots and to make footballs and basketballs.
Bed sheets, table linens, and towels: Since microfibers are extremely thin, they can be woven to feel very silky but still remain quite strong. Bed sheets made from microfiber are breathable, light, longer lasting than natural fibers, and easy to wash. And, because the fabric can be woven so tightly to make pillow and mattress covers, it is great for those with allergies because dust mites are more easily trapped.
Tablecloths and napkins are woven from microfibers with qualities that will cause spilled liquids to bead up, making stain removal much more simple. The opposite weaving technique is employed for microfiber bath and beach towels, so they will absorb water quickly and in great quantities. These towels will dry quickly and are less likely to mildew than cotton towels if not dried immediately.
Follow the care labels on your bedding and linens when washing. Avoid fabric softeners and chlorine bleaches. Microfiber sheets, tablecloths, and towels should not be dried on high heat or for extended periods of time. Fibers can actually melt at high temperatures and wrinkling can become nearly permanent.