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The science of microfiber cloths

If you’ve read our blog for a while, you probably already know that microfiber cloths are primary trade tools for every self-respecting cleaning professional. Microfiber cloths have their uses outside of house cleaning too – just think what you use back at work to wipe your laptop screen, or before hopping in to your car, when you need to clean up your glasses. When you are shopping at a drugstore, or a larger supermarket and walk down the aisle filled with cleaning products, microfiber clothes are very likely to catch your attention. They just look like something that will work well, right?

This article won’t be debunking any myths. The microfiber cloths do work. Our cleaning pros love using them. But have you ever wondered why it is so? Why couldn’t you just grab a simple cotton cloth, or maybe use an old t-shirt to clean your home? What makes the microfiber cloth such a good tool for house cleaning? Let’s find out!

What microfiber cloths are made of?

The name explains the most of it. Microfiber cloths are made of fibers, which you probably won’t be able to see with a naked eye. You would have to use a microscope. So microfiber means just micro (very small) fiber. In more scientific terms the prefix ‘micro’ means something 1,000,000 smaller than the basic unit. For example, 1 micrometer is 1,000,000 smaller than a meter. Or in other words, 1 micrometer is 1,000 smaller than a millimeter. It turns out, that a fiber is classified as microfiber when it is no wider than 10 micrometers. It turns out to be 5 times thinner than a human hair.

Microfiber clothes are primarily made of some mix of polyester and polyamide. Polyester is the dominant material here – it usually makes up between 70% and 80% of a microfiber cloth. The rest is polyamide. For example, check out this microfiber cloth from Vileda (our cleaning pros use similar ones) – it’s made of 30% of polyamide and 70% of polyester.

Why microfiber cloths work so well?

Easy to catch dirt

Microfiber cloths are made of very thin fabrics woven together. They are perfect for catching even smallest grains of sand or dirt. To make them work even better, microfiber cloth manufacturers split fibers into even thinner strands, producing asterisk-like fibers. A picture is worth a thousand words, so just see the difference between cotton (bottom) and split microfiber threads (top) in the illustration below.

A diagram illustrating the differences between the split microfiber and cotton threads.
Split microfiber threads (top) are more effective in collecting the dirt from surfaces compared to the regular cotton threads (bottom).

You may encounter a similar illustration on packages of microfiber cloths, such as the ones from Vileda:

An illustration of a split microfiber thread on the package of microfiber cloths from Vileda
An illustration of a split microfiber thread on the package of microfiber cloths from Vileda
No loose threads

There are few things more annoying during house cleaning that loose strands of fabric left by cleaning cloths. Because microfiber cloths are made of polymers such as polyester and polyamide, which are generally strong fabrics, they do not disintegrate with use. This means no loose fabric strands on mirrors, countertops, and windows. You may remember from our recent article on dust, that cotton-based fabrics tend to wear out with time. This is the very reason, why you keep fighting with those loose fabric strands when you choose to clean with cotton cloths. Paper towels are no better here. Paper tends to shred, and so it will leave some loose strands too. Microfiber cloths, on the other hand, are made of threads which are very hard to break apart, saving you the loose-thread worries.

Good at absorbing oils

Before you read on, think about some of your polyester or nylon (polyamide) clothes. Is it easy to ‘catch’ oil stains on them? I bet you said yes. Is it easy to remove those stains? This time, I’d guess the answer was no. With microfiber clothes it is no different. Since they are made of a mix of polyamide and polyester, they will absorb oil as easily as your clothes made with similar fabrics. Only in this situation, the oil absorption is something you are probably happier about.

Good at absorbing water

Microfiber cloths are real champions when it comes to water absorption. It is mainly because of polyamide’s chemical properties, allowing it to form hydrogen bonds with water (check out this short video on YouTube to learn more about hydrogen bonds if you’re feeling fancy or want to impress someone at some cocktail party). Microfiber cloths can absorb as much as 98% of moisture. This can be compared with only 70% of moisture absorption in the case of regular cotton cloths. What is means is that for the same sized cotton and microfiber cloths, you will be able to use the latter for longer, before you need to wring it.

A word of caution

If you want to learn more about microfiber clothes, make sure to check out the YouTube video below. In it, Melissa from Maker's Clean does a great job in explaining the advantages of microfiber cloths. It’s just over 10 minutes long and definitely worth watching. I must admit that it helped me quite a lot in doing a research for this article!

A word of caution

While a new microfiber cloth is usually gentle on the surfaces, it can accumulate grit (loose particles of stone or sand) with ongoing use. For this reason, you should avoid using old microfiber clothes on your high-tech devices, such as you LCD screens. It’s best if you stick to microfiber cloths with non-rugged (smooth) surfaces. If you don’t have such cloths at hand, just use any brand *new* microfiber cloth to clean your screen.

Grete Kuusk


  • "Featured photo" by Steve Johnson: for source click here
  • "Photo no.1" by Vassia Atanassova: for source click here
  • "Picture no.2 ": for source click here

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