Microfiber is a highly absorbent material designed to remove and trap soils from surfaces. Microfiber can often perform without chemicals or with only a little water, which helps building service contractors save time and money while reducing the potential for cross-contamination.

Microfiber is available in many different tools. There are microfiber cloths and mitts for surfaces such as counters, windows and mirrors; wands for hard-to-reach areas; and mops for floor-care purposes.

For some cleaning tasks, microfiber is superior to traditional cloths. For example, wiping a glass window with traditional cloths usually leaves behind lint. In contrast, microfiber cloths have very little to no lint to leave behind.

The benefits to microfiber extend beyond performance levels. Microfiber mops can help reduce the potential for cross-contamination, especially in healthcare facilities. When using a traditional mop and bucket, once a janitor dips the mop and puts it on the floor, then dips it back in again, he has just contaminated the clean water in his bucket. With a microfiber mopping system, janitors can easily use a fresh mop head for each room.

Manufacturers also color-code microfiber cloths and mops to help reduce cross-contamination. Assigning each color a specific task or environment — for example, one color for restrooms, another for office settings — will help prevent the spread of germs.

Another benefit to microfiber is time savings. By using a fresh mop head for every room, janitors are using less water and not having to stop mopping to dump and refill mop buckets as often. When wet, microfiber mops also weigh less than traditional mops which allows cleaning workers to move around the building at a quicker pace. The lightness also provides ergonomic benefits for cleaning workers. A string mop might weigh eight to 10 pounds when wet; however, a microfiber flat mop will weigh less than three pounds wet. So, if a worker experiences an injury, the lighter weight of microfiber allows that employee to return to work sooner as a light duty specialist.

Besides saving time, microfiber also helps building service contractors save money by using less water and chemicals. Traditionally, an average worker uses up to 21 gallons of floor-cleaning solution for string mopping during one shift. With microfiber, the solution can be reduced to as low as two gallons. Because less water is used, there is less liquid on the floor, allowing it to dry faster, which helps reduce the potential for slip-and-fall accidents. There are additional cost savings because microfiber cloths and pads can be laundered and reused up to 500 times.

It is important to note, however, that microfiber is not appropriate for all jobs. For instance, some chemicals are incompatible with microfiber, especially bleach or acidic chemicals. These chemicals can attack and break down the fabric material itself.

Excerpted from the August 2005 and August 2006 issues of Sanitary Maintenance and the October 2005 issue of Contracting Profits.