How Microfiber Works

by Lawton Brothers | Sep 06, 2017

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Of all the natural and the ordinary synthetic textiles used for cleaning, cotton has reigned supreme for its ability to absorb liquids. Until, that is, the development and industrial manufacturing of microfiber took the field. While certain microfiber products can easily repel liquids, those strands used in cleaning cloth often surpass cotton in every absorption metric. What is microfiber, how does it work and why would you trade your cotton cleaning fabrics with a supply of it?

What Microfiber Is

Microfiber is composed of two synthetic materials polyester and nylon. Because these substances are extruded from a liquid form, they can be made as thick or fine as desired. Manufacturers measure textile fibers with a variety of standards including deniers (pronounced DEN-yers). To give an idea of the scale, the diameter of a human hair is roughly 20 deniers.

In order to be considered "micro," fibers must be thinner than 1 denier. The more slender the filament, the more absorbent the strand. Some filaments are as thin as .013 deniers. For best absorption, the microfiber filaments are split such that if you were to look at the cross section of one, you would see what appears to be an asterisk, star or flower pattern, with petal shapes surrounding a center dot. This splitting provides the super soft feel of the fabrics.

How Microfiber Works

Due to the separated structure of the microfiber strand, it enjoys significantly more surface area with which to absorb liquids in wet applications.

For dry cleaning, as the fibers graze against each other, they create a static electric charge that attracts dust. As particles of dust come in contact with the towel or sheet, they are pulled into and trapped within the spaces between the lobes. The same principle allows the towel or cloth to draw in and trap oils, as well.

To prevent lint from other fabrics filling in the gaps in microfiber strands while washing, they should be washed only with other microfiber cloth and not with cotton or any fabric that will shed lint. Proper washing releases the accumulated dust and dirt from the towels.

Common Benefits of Using Microfiber Towels and Mops

Microfiber technology can and should revolutionize the janitorial industry. Although, at present, microfiber products cost more than traditional cotton, their benefits bring savings over time in multiple ways.

  • Because they are lighter, less human energy is required to clean with them, improving crew efficiency and reducing fatigue and injuries. Microfiber towels and mops finish the job in fewer swipes, whether wet or dry.

  • Often, dry wiping can replace spray-and-wipe cleaning techniques because the towels can absorb oils without first dissolving them with a solvent.

  • Microfiber mops trap much more dirt and require less water in the bucket. Wringing is easy compared to large looped cotton mops that often redistribute the dirt more than remove it. Floors become genuinely cleaner quicker and with less effort.

  • Because they can absorb and hold seven times the amount of water than a conventional towel or mop, they need to be wrung out less often, saving the crew more time.

  • Towels clean more effectively with less water or cleaning solution.

  • Dusting requires no polish or chemicals while picking up 99 percent of the dust.

  • They leave no lint residue on glass or other glossy surfaces.

  • Microfiber requires less water to launder and less heat to dry.

  • Their washing lifecycle can exceed that of cotton five times over.

Uncommonly Effective Infection and Cross Contamination Control

Best of all, the use of microfiber offers a much more efficient system for controlling cross contamination. With conventional cotton mops, either the mop head or the cleaning water must be changed between rooms in healthcare settings to avoid cross contamination from one room to the next. Moving heavy buckets or heads takes time and care. However, with the super absorbency and light weight of microfiber, staff can simply change mop heads after each room, never placing a used head in the charge bucket. Also, where cotton fibers pass over the top of the tiny, narrow crevices in a floor, microfiber filaments will drop in and grab the smallest particles of dust and even the microbes.

In one case study at the University of California Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, CA, cultures from the floor were taken prior to and after cleaning. They found that a cotton mop was able to remove 30 percent of the dirt and bacteria, but the microfiber removed an astonishing 99 percent. As the study concluded, the hospital calculated that they could clean the floors in 100 rooms with microfiber using only one gallon of water and fifty cents in chemicals. The cotton mops required 21 gallons of water and $11.55 in chemicals for the same number of rooms.

At the end of the study, the metrics displayed a mere $27 dollar savings per 100 rooms with microfiber after all costs were factored in. However, the superior effectiveness of the sanitation heavily weighted the benefits towards microfiber over cotton.

Because microfiber works so well in any cleaning situation, demand for the products is certain to explode. Increased production will lower the cost until microfiber becomes the most sensible and economical choice in the janitorial industry.

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