Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Microfiber: A True Wonder Fiber

September 19, 2010

Microfiber is a synthetic fiber derived from a blend of polyester and polyimide whose individual fibers are roughly 1/16 that of a human hair but are able to hold more than six times their weight in liquid.

When used as directed, microfiber can help reduce chemical usage or eliminate it altogether.

And, according to Peter Sheldon, vice president of operations for Coverall North America Inc., microfiber is extremely durable and can last up to 100 times longer than traditional textiles.

Because of its ability to attract and trap moisture and soils at the microbial level without redepositing them onto surfaces, microfiber is increasingly becoming the go-to solution for janitors, custodians and maintenance professionals alike.

Aside from its ability to drastically reduce cross-contamination issues, microfiber can help increase the efficacy of cleaning regimens by increasing worker productivity and delivering a superior clean compared to that of traditional cotton mops and cloths.

Increase Productivity

According to the ISSA 540 cleaning times, utilizing microfiber flat mopping is 54 percent faster than traditional string mopping methods.

Studies have shown that the increased mechanical agitation of microfiber enables it to remove matter more quickly and with significantly less effort than older processes.

Because microfiber can remove dirt, dust, water and other soils from surfaces more effectively than conventional cotton cloths and string mops, members of cleaning staffs appreciate them and find them much easier to use.

"Overall, the worker is lifting less and maneuvering lighter tools," says Ying Zhang, senior product manager of hard surface cleaning for Rubbermaid Commercial Products LLC. "Microfiber mopping completely eliminates the need to rinse and wring as you would with a traditional string mop, saving time."

Unlike traditional cloths and mops that tend to move dirt and water around, microfiber attracts soil and moisture and traps them inside its fibers.

These unwanted substances are then stored within the fibers of the cloth until washed away.

Reduce Chemical Usage

"Microfiber cloths are an environmentally friendly, green cleaning option that can be used without chemicals," states Thomas Merrill, category manager for Kimberly-Clark Professional. "Microfiber cloths effectively trap soil and quickly absorb liquid for streak-free cleaning on virtually any surface — from glass, mirrors and bathroom fixtures, to stainless steel, brass and more."

There are now even microfiber cloths offering antimicrobial protection, meaning they clean while inhibiting the growth of stain- and odor-causing bacteria on the cloths or mops.

"Because microfiber can trap more dust and dirt than traditional mops, and remove up to 95 percent of microorganisms, microfiber requires less chemical use than traditional cleaning tools," notes Zhang.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) specifies microfiber products as part of their Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification requirements because they conserve water, reduce the use of disposable products and require fewer harsh chemicals.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

"Microfiber mops require less space in washers and dryers than conventional mops do, saving on water, detergent and energy," proclaims Zhang. "This extended life cycle, along with the reduction in labor and chemical costs, results in a lower overall cost."

A traditional microfiber cloth or mop can withstand as many as 500 launderings — far surpassing the launderability of cotton counterparts.

Because of this — coupled with the fact that fewer chemicals are required with their use — an investment in microfiber will undoubtedly pay for itself.

According to Kathy Ledford of Microfiber Products Ltd., the trick is to train workers to use microfiber and get them away from the old ways of cotton cloths and mops.

"Once workers learn the benefits and the ease of use microfiber products provide, they will gladly throw down that old string mop and kick that bucket of dirty water away," concludes Ledford.

While certain industries embraced microfiber technology years ago, new market segments such as health care, education and office buildings have started using microfiber cleaning solutions more often and have discovered the benefits microfiber has to offer.

"Microfiber allows for better soil removal with less water and fewer chemicals than any other textile currently available," adds Sheldon. "While vacuum recovery methods are the most effective at complete soil removal, textiles will continue to be needed to clean irregular surfaces that simply have to be wiped."

As microfiber continues to expand into different markets, the technology itself will continue to evolve.

But, as Zhang points out, buyers should be aware because "not all microfiber is created equal."