What is Microfiber?

Microfiber is a material made from synthetic fibers. It’s a combination of polyester and nylon (polyamide.) It contains thousands of tiny strands and is a common material for cleaning cloths, sheets, and furniture.

Over the past few decades, microfiber has made a splash in the cleaning world, becoming a go-to for its absorbent, scratch-free clean. But the hype doesn’t stop there. Here’s a look at microfiber’s uses and benefits.

What is Microfiber – Absorbent vs. Water Repellant

What is Microfiber?

Microfiber is well-known for its cleaning ability and high absorbency. But because of the high absorbency, it might seem like a misnomer that manufacturers also use this material for furniture, sheets, and sporting goods. After all, nobody wants their couch to absorb a spill.

But microfiber can be water-repellant or absorbent, depending on its weave. The two most common weave patterns include flat weave or split. 

Split microfiber cloths have thousands of tiny fibers that absorb liquid, attract, and cling to dust. Some even have disinfecting properties. Split microfiber, used for cleaning cloths, has a slightly rough feel if you run it in your hand.

Flat weave microfiber is what manufacturers use in furniture. The design pulls the microfiber strands so tightly together that they repel water instead of absorbing it. As a result, flat weave microfiber feels smooth to the touch, often with a suede-like texture.

What Qualifies as Microfiber?

Microfiber is defined by the thickness of its fibers. The measurement is called “deniers,” equivalent to one gram per 9,000 meters of the fiber’s length. Microfiber has one denier or less. Its strands are about 1/100th the diameter of human hair or 1/20th of the diameter of silk.

Common Microfiber Products

Here’s a rundown of the most common products constructed from microfiber.

Microfiber Cloths for Cleaning

Microfiber cloths are ideal for dusting, cleaning appliances, wiping counters, and most other household chores. Because microfiber is one cloth split into thousands of tiny fibers, it’s lint-free. But there are different types, each with its own applications.

  • Lightweight microfiber includes small cloths for cleaning eyeglasses, phone screens, and TVs. These versions feel smooth to the touch and have a flat-weave design. 
  • Medium-weight microfiber cloths are the most common and what you likely have on hand for cleaning. They come in many shapes and sizes and, while soft, will catch any imperfections if you run them over your hand.
  • Plush microfiber cloths are suitable for car detailing and buffing. They are soft, feeling the material of a fleece blanket.
  • Dual plush microfiber cloths don’t require water to clean. They contain long, thick fibers.
  • Microfiber dusters may come in various weaves, capable of attracting and trapping dust.

Microfiber Sheets

Microfiber sheets are soft and moisture-wicking – they feel nothing like microfiber cleaning cloths. There’s a chance you’ve used them before without even knowing it. 

But just like cloths, there are variations in the quality of microfiber sheets. For example, unbrushed sheets are affordable but don’t have the velvety feel of the more expensive brushed sheets. Another quality factor is the GSM, or grams per square meter rating. The GSM assesses the thread density. A microfiber sheet with a GSM of over 100 is high quality, while a GSM of under 90 is low quality.

Microfiber Furniture

One of the first widespread uses for microfiber was upholstery. The furniture brand, UltraSuede, began using microfiber in the 1970s to create faux suede furniture, helping this material boom in popularity.

Microfiber furniture feels smooth, often featuring a flat weave design. You can find it in couches, chairs, automobile upholstery, pillows, clothing, and more.

Microfiber vs. Cotton: Which is Better

While personal preference is a significant factor in microfiber vs. cotton, microfiber comes out on top in many ways. 

Cleaning – The thousands of fibers on microfiber cloths make them superior to cotton cloths. Microfiber is scratch free when cared for per manufacturers’ instructions. It’s also more absorbent than cotton, trapping moisture, dust particles, and bacteria. Plus, the tiny fibers can act as hooks, helping to eradicate stuck-on messes.

If you try to clean up a big spill with a cotton cloth, it will become soaked and smear the liquid. Microfiber has much better absorbency.

Sheets – While microfiber sheets are breathable, they trap body heat more than cotton sheets. So, if you’re a hot sleeper, cotton may be the better choice. On the positive side, microfiber sheets are wrinkle-resistant and less expensive than high-quality cotton.

Upholstery – Because cotton is a natural fiber, it doesn’t stand up to wear and tear as well as manufactured materials. Most manufacturers combine cotton with other synthetic materials to help it wear better. The benefits of cotton upholstery are that it stays cooler to the touch and accepts dye well. But, it’s also more prone to sun fading and staining.

Microfiber upholstery comes in various designs and levels of quality. Microfiber withstands regular abrasion much better than cotton and is typically water-repellant and fade-resistant.

Are Microfiber Cloths Antibacterial?

Microfiber cloths aren’t antibacterial, but they have disinfecting qualities. Rather than killing germs, bacteria, and viruses, they can remove them from surfaces. The tiny fibers pick up and trap the germs.

How to Wash Microfiber Cloths

Because microfiber cloths are so good at picking up other fibers, it’s best to wash them on their own. You can wash microfiber cloths in the washing machine with gentle laundry detergent. But skip the fabric softener and laundry additives. Fabric softeners coat the fibers on the cloth, leading to roughness and less absorbency.