Microfiber cloths come in a variety of colors, sizes, weaves and thicknesses. Many feature different blends of polyester/polyamide, expressed in percentages. All of this can be confusing for building service contractors who are seeking to learn more about microfiber cloths and how they can best be utilized in cleaning environments.

Microfiber is a synthetic fiber made of a blend of polyester and microfiber polymer bundled together in a microscopic strand. The strand is then split into fibers and woven together to form products such as mops and towels. As compared to cotton counterparts, microfiber is often considered superior, able to capture up to 99 percent of bacteria on many surfaces.

At least one major manufacturer has designed a grading system for its microfiber cloths. It’s heaviest-duty cloth, for instance, will tolerate extensive commercial washing and should be used on oils and embedded soils. Some manufacturers offer a variety of cleaning cloths generally ranked as good, better and best. Knowing which cloth is best for which job can be difficult, but as a rule, higher-grade towels are thicker, can be used longer and can be washed more times than the more basic microfiber cloths.

Fluffy and thick are not synonymous, however; better microfiber cloths are more tightly woven, making them feel stiffer. A towel with a bit of nap on it will feel softer but break down sooner. The depth found in thicker, heavier cloths makes them good for lighter jobs, such as dry dusting, as well as heavy cleaning. Glass-cleaning may require a tight but thin cloth. Thicker microfiber mop heads are good at cleaning and scrubbing, while thinner ones can be used to apply floor finishes.

A good indicator of cloth quality is how many passes it takes to remove hand lotion from a mirror. A high-end cloth will perform the task in one or two passes. Another simple test is to run a microfiber cloth over the back of the hand, and feel how it catches. A quality cloth will offer more resistance.

To make sure the product performs to a BSC’s specifications, examine the type of area being cleaned, worker preference, the type of soil that needs to be removed, the type of finishes that will be cleaned and the amount of square footage expected out of a single application. No matter what grade is needed, a few things will indicate a quality microfiber cloth product: that it is large enough to be folded four times and that it has piping around the edges to help the fabric withstand multiple washings.

Exerpted from the May 2007 issue of Contracting Profits.