Microfiber cloths and mop heads are becoming popular amongst building service contractors. But before a BSC jumps in to purchase them in bulk, the company should first educate managers and front-line workers about the proper use and care of microfiber as well as develop a maintenance program.

Having a microfiber maintenance program saves a BSC money in a number of ways. A good program will preserve the microfiber material, will keep the microfiber fabric performing at its highest potential and allows a BSC to purchase the most cost-effective microfiber heads available.

Minimize Costly Mistakes

Microfiber towels are made of a tough material.

It’s considered to be a very high-performance product, but one of the major downsides is that the material is easily damaged by heat. Heat is the biggest enemy of microfiber. It can destroy the fabric instantly or it can break it down over time. Microfiber is made up of a blend of 80 percent polyester and 20 percent nylon. The chemical properties of nylon make the material a thermoplastic, so it can melt in hot temperatures. Once the nylon melts down, the fabric is useless.

Any microfiber maintenance program includes a laundry regimen. BSCs that use outside laundry services need to ask them if they have worked with microfiber before. Also, make them aware that all microfiber heads and cloths are launderable, so they’ll have to launder a variety of sizes and shapes. It is equally important to stress that all microfiber can melt in a hot washer and dryer cycle.

“Make sure to wash it in at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit,” says Jim Thompson, president of A-1 Building Services, Byron Center, Mich. “We are washing them at 160 degrees. The higher the heat the more it has an effect on the longevity of it.”

More importantly, the microfiber must then be dried on a low heat setting to prevent shrinkage or melting damage. If a BSC’s cloths are damaged in the dryer cycle, they are irreparably harmed. Be sure to adjust dryer temperature to 140 degrees or lower.

Once a microfiber thread is disfigured, it loses its ability to absorb. Microfiber’s absorbing power comes from the v-shaped channels that run through each thread lengthwise. Soil, germs and all sorts of other debris and liquids get trapped in those channels. Those channels also allow microfiber to absorb seven times its weight in water. However, the channels can slowly melt shut during the laundry cycles.

If microfiber is laundered properly, then it should survive 400 or more cycles before they become unusable, says Mons Larson, director of operations, JaniKing of Phoenix.

Microfiber can’t get laundered with other materials that produce lint. The foreign lint wedges into the v-shaped channels of the microfiber threads. That causes the material to shed the excess lint as a custodian cleans with it. Janitors will also notice the microfiber isn’t performing as well due to lint build-up.

Maintaining Microfiber

A well-oiled laundry routine isn’t the only thing a BSC should know about for microfiber maintenance purposes.

Gritty surfaces such as stone and grout will tear microfiber fabric, so if a BSC must use the cloths on these surfaces, it can extend the life of the microfiber by trimming any snags with scissors.

When performing specialty jobs such as waxing with microfiber, the mop heads should be rinsed with hot water immediately, Thompson says. Otherwise, the wax will dry and be nearly impossible to remove and the product have to be thrown away.

“We do use cheap heads for retail services (on the) wood floor, marble, granite, so after we wax the floor we can just throw the head away for a convenience factor,” Thompson says.

While microfiber is strong enough to resist harsh chemicals, some chemicals do, however, fade the color of the fabric. Not that a cleaning towel’s appearance necessarily affects its utility, but fading may occur after much laundering, impacting color-coded microfiber cleaning programs.

Taking care of microfiber involves an understanding of its makeup and a commitment to the life of the cloth. A comprehensive maintenance program must focus on laundering, with special attention given to drying the products on low heat, as well as training employees proper uses that preserve the longevity of the product.

BSCs should discuss these issues, and any other microfiber-related concerns, with their distributors, who can help answer questions about specific products. As green cleaning and cleaning for health programs become more popular, knowledge of microfiber maintenance is going to be a valuable asset for those who want to protect their cleaning tool investments.

Gabriel Phillips is a freelance writer based in Union Grove, Wis.