Woman cleaning chalkboard with microfiber cloth and glass spray bottle

Microfiber for cleaning and more: How does it work?

Last Updated: August 28, 2021

You’ve probably heard the hype surrounding microfiber for cleaning, but what is this magical material, how does it work, and is it all it’s cracked up to be?

Microfiber is all the rage in cleaning circles, and it’s a popular textile for sheets, blankets, and clothes. But what is it, and why is it so special?

First, what is microfiber?

Image of 3 Grove Co. microfiber cloths

It is a textile made from super-fine synthetic yarns split into millions of microscopic fibers that are up to 100 times finer than a human hair. This gives it an enormous amount of surface area and makes it highly absorbent — a microfiber cloth can hold seven times its weight in water.

Most of these cloths are made of a blend of polyester and nylon. These two plastics are forced through an incredibly tiny pipe, and the fibers that come out the other side are woven together and split apart into microfibers up to 20 times smaller.

Mrs. Meyers cleaning products and Grove Co. cleaning caddy

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Microfiber vs. cotton: What’s the difference?

The primary difference is that microfiber is a synthetic fabric, while cotton is a natural material.

Although cotton has its own negative effect on the environment, overall, it’s greener and has less environmental impact, but it’s not nearly as effective at cleaning — or as soft on your skin.

Microfiber vs. cotton for furniture and clothes

Microfiber sheets, clothing, and upholstery are softer than cotton, but they’re not as breathable. They resist pilling better, but they wear — and sleep — warmer. It also doesn’t shrink or wrinkle like cotton does, and it’s more durable and affordable.

If you have sensitive skin or often overheat, microfiber clothes and sheets may be uncomfortable for you.

Brushed microfiber, which is especially popular for sheets, couches, and blankets, is more velvety, thanks to the brushing that lifts the fibers to make them softer and fluffier.

Microfiber vs. cotton for cleaning

Cotton cleaning cloths are less expensive, but they don’t pick up and hold onto dirt — mostly, cotton just pushes dirt around. Since cotton cloths are made with organic rather than synthetic materials, they harbor odors and bacteria.

Cotton dries slower and leaves lint behind too, which is a special kind of drag when you’re cleaning glass.

Microfiber has a longer cleaning life than cotton — and a much longer lifespan in general, since it’s made from plastics that can take centuries to biodegrade.

Check out Dane from The Rag Company explaining microfiber — with graphics! — in this short YouTube video:


Prevent cross-contamination with color coding

Microfiber cleaning cloths often come in multicolor packs. Assign different colors to different tasks so you’re not washing your dishes with the cloth you clean the bathroom with.

Why is microfiber so good at cleaning?

Image of person cleaning counter with Grove Co. blue microfiber cloth

Microfibers are so small that they can glom onto the teeniest, tiniest dust particles. If you could shrink down enough to clearly see a single fiber, you’d observe that the dirt is literally stuck to it. But how?

Ever see a gecko on the ceiling? He’s there because his little reptilian feet are packed with microscopic hairs held fast against the ceiling by the van der Waals force. This very weak electromagnetic attraction becomes pretty powerful when multiplied across millions of hairs. That little lizard isn’t going anywhere until someone knocks him down with a broom.

The dirt trapped in your cloth is stuck there in the same way. It’s only released when you rinse the cloth under hot water, which relaxes the microfibers, breaks the van der Waals force, and releases the dirt.

Ready to test them out? Browse our rundown on the 7 best microfiber cleaning cloths.


Is microfiber anti-microbial?

Microbes like bacteria, fungi, and some viruses are no match for microfiber. But it’s the size of the fibers in your cleaning cloth that determines the size of microbes it’ll pick up. Microbes are measured in microns — the diameter of an average human hair is 70 microns.

The fibers in an average microfiber cleaning cloth range in diameter from around 3–5 microns and will pick up pollen, most typical bacteria, and anything larger — including dust mites and their highly allergenic poop.

The best cloths — including E-Cloths — have fibers that measure around 0.33 microns — roughly 1/200th of the width of a human hair. These cloths remove more than 99 percent of bacteria and some viruses, which typically range from 0.1 to 0.5 microns in size.

What are the benefits of microfiber?

No chemicals needed

Microfiber is more effective than any other cloth at removing dirt, most bacteria, and some viruses from surfaces around the house, including your dishes — and it doesn’t require any chemical disinfectants or harsh cleaning solutions to do it.

In fact, soaps and detergents reduce the effectiveness of it. All it needs to do its job is water, and not that much of it.


It’s also lint-free, which makes it ideal for cleaning glass stovetops, cleaning windows, mirrors, and the housings of your electronics.

Typical microfiber cloths aren’t static-free, though, so don’t use them inside your electrical devices — unless you purchase a special, static-free cloth for that specific purpose.


Microfiber at the museum

The world renowned Field Museum in Chicago switched from paper towels to microfiber cleaning cloths and mops to make its huge quantity of glass sparkle and its thousands of square feet of floor space shine — without chemical cleaners or excessive water.

How to clean with microfiber

How to clean glass with a microfiber cloth

It doesn’t scratch glass or leave lint or streaks behind.

Soak a microfiber cloth in hot water, then wring out as much water as you can. Wipe down mirrors and windows with the barely-damp cloth until they’re crystal-clear — no streaks!

How to clean a car with microfiber

It won’t scratch your car paint, either.

To wash your car with microfiber, use one clean, damp cloth to wash the exterior and another to dry and buff it to a streak-free shine. Use a third to first clean the interior windows and then wipe down the hard surfaces inside the car.

How to dust with microfiber

A dry microfiber cloth removes dust from nearly any surface in your home, but a microfiber duster makes it easy to reach up high and get in all the nooks and crannies.

These dusters come in all shapes and sizes, including a removable, washable microfiber pad affixed to an extendable pole.

How to mop with microfiber

A microfiber mop uses way less water than a regular mop and removes far more dirt and bacteria from your floors.

These mops generally have a removable, washable pad. Dampen the pad, wring it out, and mop. When you’re done, toss it in the laundry.


What about wood surfaces?

Angela Bell, Lead Grove Guide, says, “I like to keep a microfiber cloth on hand in any room that is wood heavy, like the living room, dining room, and bedroom. When I have a spare moment, I can wipe down surfaces — dry microfiber cloths are great at trapping dust, fur, and dander.”

How to clean microfiber

With proper care, your cleaning cloths will remain effective through upwards of 500 washes — and your sheets, blankets, clothes, and body and hair towels will stay soft and look like new for years.

Laundry items illustration

Can you put microfiber in the washing machine?

Yes, but:

  • Wash it in warm water. Hot water (140 degrees or higher) may damage the fibers and make them less effective.
  • Never wash it with linting fabrics. Lint may reduce its effectiveness — plus it’s hard to get lint out of it.
  • Use a mild, natural laundry detergent. Harsh detergents, synthetic fragrances, and dyes damage fibers and leave behind residues that reduce their attracting powers.
  • Never use chlorine bleach, fabric softeners, or harsh laundry boosters on it.
Laundry items illustration

Can you dry microfiber towels in the dryer?

Yes, but:

  • Never dry it on high heat, or you’ll damage the fibers. Tumble dry on a low-heat setting — or better yet, hang them in the sun to dry.
  • Don’t dry it with lint-producing fabrics.
  • Use dryer balls instead of dryer sheets to control static and keep it soft.


How to clean a microfiber couch

Cleaning a microfiber couch is easy! First vacuum up any crumbs on the couch.

Then get some distilled water and a soft bristled brush and start moving in circular motions around the couch to get up any light stains.

Laundry items illustration

How to wash microfiber bedding

Wash your bedding separately from non-microfiber items. Don’t wash microfiber sheets or blankets with dirty microfiber cleaning cloths.

How to wash microfiber towels

Hair towels and bath towels don’t get as filthy as cleaning towels, so wash body towels separately from your cleaning towels. You can dry them together if you wish.

How to clean a microfiber cloth between uses

It takes a whole lot of rinsing and wringing under hot water to release the huge amount of visible and invisible debris trapped in your cleaning cloth.

Get the cloth soaking wet under hot water, and wring it out repeatedly. Set a white dish in the sink so you can see the dirt coming out — when the water runs clear, wring it out a few more times, and hang it up to dry.

Follow Jonathan Van Ness' lead and find more natural cleaning supplies at Grove

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