Microfiber Cleaning Cloths–The Rest of the Story - Kaivac, Inc.

Microfiber Cleaning Cloths–The Rest of the Story

by | Jun 9, 2016

Microfiber cleaning cloths work like magic. At least, that is the story marketing tells. However, that is just Part of the Story.

Knowing the Rest of the Story is essential to better cleaning. Below are examples of both Part of the Story and the Rest of the Story, as it relates to microfiber cleaning cloths.

Microfiber Cleaning Cloths Tip #1

Part of the Story: Microfiber cloths capture and hold more soil because of the architecture of the fiber. These microfiber cleaners provide better aesthetic and hygienic results more quickly than cotton cloths.

The Rest of the Story: It is true to a point. Microfiber are made up of very fine, split fibers that look like an asterisk. These fibers can be 100 times thinner than a strand of human hair making it an effective and absorbent cleaning tool.

But microfiber’s removal and ‘holding’ capacity is deceptive.

So how does microfiber work? Believe it or not, it is similar to how a gecko can stick to a ceiling or wall. Microfibers attract and hold on to dirt using van der Waals forces (just like a gecko) but they can not hold an unlimited amount.

Research shows using a microfiber wipe across multiple surfaces creates a significant amount of cross-contamination, even when the surface dirt appears to have been removed.

Using the same cloth for multiple jobs can present problems. In June 2011, The Journal of Hospital Infection (www.journals.elsevier.com/journal-of-hospital-infection) reported, “The performance of all [microfiber] cloths decreased with repeated use on a succession of contaminated surfaces.” (Journal of Hospital Infection, June 2011)

Independent lab testing shows a microfiber flat mop loses 55% of its cleaning effectiveness after cleaning 32 square feet or half the size of a small bathroom. This is because the ‘hungry’ fibers load up with soil and then don’t clean as well. (TURI – Toxics Use Reduction Institute – UMASS, 2016)

In addition, once a microfiber cleaning cloth or floor mopping pad is dampened, it loses its ability to use static attraction to capture particles.

Microfiber Cleaning Cloths Tip #2

Part of the Story: Microfiber removes bacteria better than cotton cloths.

The Rest of the Story: Yes, microfiber attracts and holds on to dirt, germs and bacteria much better than cotton or other synthetic cloths. But it is that inherent “sticky” ability that causes the issue. When used incorrectly they often just become another way to give micro-contaminants a ride to other locations.

Independent lab testing shows why. This test proved that a microfiber flat mop quickly loses effectiveness at removing and holding bacteria, and becomes a source of contamination. (TURI – Toxics Use Reduction Institute – UMASS, 2016)

This is not something you want, particularly if staff is cleaning restrooms and other areas and not bothering to change tools.

Microfiber Cleaning Cloths Tip #3

Part of the Story: Wiping with a microfiber cleaning cloth is the gold standard for 21st Century Cleaning.

The Rest of the Story: Consider human hygiene. Which is better: to wipe yourself down with a damp wash cloth or to take a shower? Obviously, cleaning is simply the ‘removal’ of unwanted matter, so the latter is better.

Understanding the complete story of effective cleaning using microfiber cleaning cloths will help us avoid being part smart, or dirty.


Journal of Hospital Infection. (June 2011). Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/51059666_Assessing_the_efficacy_of_different_microfibre_cloths_at_removing_surface_micro-organisms_associated_with_healthcare-associated_infections

TURI (Toxics Use Reduction Institute) UMASS, L. (2016). Product Development Test Using ATP and Bacteria Plates. Atlanta GA: CIRI & IICRC’s Restoration Technical Conference & Symposium.

Allen Rathey is the principal of the Healthy Facilities Institute (HFI), director of the Indoor Wellness Council (IWC), and author of articles about best practices in cleaning and indoor environmental management.*The Healthy Facilities Institute (HFI) and the Indoor Wellness Council (IWC) do not endorse products.
Allen Rathey
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