The next generation of janitorial hand tools has increased cleaning efficiency with the inclusion of a new microfiber technology.

Manufacturers explode nylon, cotton and synthetic fiber strands into smaller wedge-shaped filaments, 1/16th of their original size, to create microfibers. Each filament’s wedge shape results in a long, sharp edge along the length of the shaft, which lifts soil from a surface when rubbed against it. Products will vary in based on proprietary weaving processes.

“The microfiber mops that we use are very worthwhile. They are very abrasive, wring out better and last longer,” says Steve Johnston, assistant manager for night operations at the University of Texas (Austin),the largest university in the U.S., with 110 buildings and 10 million cleanable square feet.

The microfiber “cloth” is not only abrasive, but also stronger than cotton, and able to stand up to multiple reuse and hundreds of washes. Though the initial cost is greater that that of cotton, the high durability makes the overall cost of buying micro-fiber comparable. Cotton mop heads, however, are much more absorbent than microfiber versions.

“We also have incorporated a sponge into the middle of the microfiber mop head to help with absorption, but in the long run, the microfiber mop head has so much more to offer than cotton,” says Debra Carlson, marketing coordinator at Geerpres, Muskegon, Mich., which sells hand tools incorporating microfiber technology.

The reduced absorbancy of microfiber allows cleaners to wring out more dirt and water. So, in addition to having a cloth with a gritty texture that can remove more surface dirt than conventional tools, the cloth also is cleaner longer.

Less dirt, less work
Not only does this new technology clean better than conventional methods, but it saves time and money.

“We like the efficiency of the microfiber mop we use. We don’t have to dust mop, and that saves us about five to eight minutes per room,” says Lee Ann Tencate, director of Building Services at Mercy General Health Partners, Muskegon, Mich.

The process of making the microfibers creates an electric charge that makes the surface attract dirt and hold onto it. So instead of pushing dirt around, you are picking it up,” says Carlson.

Another factor in the microfiber mops’ favor over cotton mops is that they use less cleaning solution.

“The more abrasive cloth cleans better, so you use less solution, and that is more cost effective in the long run,” says Bob Robinson Sr., president and CEO of Kaivac Manufacturing, Hamilton, Ohio.

Word is getting out
Microfiber technology has been around for a while, but it has been slow to catch on in the United States, where people seem to be more resistant to change.

“The U.S. is behind Europe by 10 years when it comes to microfiber technology use,” says Robinson.

With all of the new products out on the market using microfiber technology, exposure is occurring slowly but steadily expanding.

“Everyone sees them and assumes they are like any other mop or cloth,” says Carlson. “But when you get one in your hand, nine times out of ten, you are hooked.”

Not just mops
“We like the hand cloths because they are absorbent, as well as clean better and reduce bacteria,” says Johnston. “Two years from now, we will use microfiber hand cloths and mop heads exclusively. I recommend the technology highly.”

Many things you can do with a cloth towel you can do as well or better with a microfiber substitute.

Another use for microfiber has been in squeegees. Eagle Power Manufacturing of Mendota Heights, Minn., incorporated the technology into its squeegees to take advantage of the extra abrasion, says Pat Marsh, president.

“This requires less pressure from the end user, therefore eliminating some of the repetitive motion stress over the long run, Marsh adds.

The need for less pressure to clean also allows for larger squeegees, because they then clean just as well as older, smaller versions that require more user pressure, says Jim Willingham, CEO of New Day Cleaning, a window cleaning company based in Lubbock, Texas. This change allows window washers to cover more area, saving time and end user fatigue, he adds.

D.M. Maas is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee