Twenty years after microfiber's debut and success throughout Europe, the United States is still slowly embracing microfiber technology. Often, it's a product that is misunderstood, underutilized and considered too expensive. Despite these perceptions, studies show that microfiber technology makes for a cost-effective cleaning tool that can reduce labor hours and dollars from the bottom line.

As demand has grown for microfiber technology — specifically mops and cloths — manufacturers have created products that are more effective, easier to use and more affordable. There are many new factors to consider when calculating the true return on investment (ROI). A properly implemented microfiber-based cleaning program can streamline cleaning tasks, improve cleanliness, while reducing water and chemical usage. It's also a cost-avoidance program — microfiber technology minimizes product replacement, and if used properly, helps preserve interior finishes, saving thousands of dollars and labor-hours in restoration.

Microfiber Technology Increases Productivity

Microfiber technology, specifically many of the miocrofiber mopping and dusting systems are designed with the user in mind. The systems significantly reduce heavy lifting and awkward twisting associated with wringing and using a wet string mop. This is primarily due to eliminating the need for repeated fillings, lifting, moving and dumping of mop buckets.

When using ergonomic tools, workers dramatically reduce the risk for repetitive stress injuries such as back strain, which cost millions of dollars in workers' compensation claims every year. At the same time, the lightweight microfiber mops are also ergonomically designed to maximize custodial productivity.

An evaluation conducted by one cleaning operation found that switching to lightweight microfiber technology flat mops increased custodial productivity by 18 percent. The cleaning times were also reduced because the lighter weight microfiber flat mop was faster to maneuver than a cotton string mop.

An important factor that is rarely considered when calculating ROI is the intrinsic value of microfiber technology. Introducing a new cleaning tool, such as microfiber technology, can impact the perception of the facility's occupants and the custodial employees. The move can also result in harder-to-quantify returns such as improved custodial staff morale.

However, a custodial manager can prove that microfiber improves health, hygiene and indoor air quality by conducting ATP measurements on surfaces within the facility. Areas properly cleaned with microfiber should show an improvement over areas cleaned with traditional tools.

Incorporating microfiber technology into a cleaning system can offer a rapid return on investment when every factor is quantified. Improvements in terms of increased labor efficiencies, reduced employee injury, improved cleanliness, reuse capabilities, and reduced water and chemical consumption, all impact the bottom line. The cumulative value of all these factors is what counts.  

Tips To Selecting Microfiber Technology

Not all microfiber is created equal. Custodial managers should evaluate the following factors when selecting a good quality product:
• Durability – the number of times a microfiber can move across an abrasive surface before wearing through, degrading or developing holes.
• Abrasiveness – the higher the scrub factor the better the performance of the cloth in removing dirt and bacteria from a surface or microscopic crevice.
• Absorbency – the more liquid the cloth will absorb and hold.
• Wash Cycles – the longevity of the cloth through machine wash and dry cycles before deteriorating.    

BJ MANDELSTAM is the founder and president of Cleaning Matters, Denver. For more information, visit