This is part two of a three-part article about extending the life of microfiber through proper laundering.

Microfiber mops and cloths are designed for repeated use and most brands should withstand anywhere from 300 to 500 laundry cycles. According to industry manufacturers, if the product is properly used and cared for, the product itself often will fall apart long before the microfiber becomes ineffective.

The first step in ensuring microfiber is being laundered properly is to make certain the machines used for washing soiled product meets manufacturer’s recommendations. The type of washing machine used to launder microfiber products should be highly considered, since some standard residential or commercial machines will not provide the desired result.

Manufacturers say it is important to remember that microfiber should be washed in temperatures that do not exceed 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Often, commercial cleaners and even hospital-based laundering facilities clean at temperatures around 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and don’t wash long enough to kill microorganisms that are being picked up with microfiber products.

Recognizing the need for machines that thwart microbial contamination, some newer commercial washing machines have built-in settings for washing microfiber. But washing machine manufacturers have taken it even further by engineering machines that specifically meet washing requirements for reusable microfiber cloths and mops.

In these machines, the cleaning process starts with a special spin cycle, which dewaters mops and rids them of 50 percent of dirt and soil before it even begins the main cleaning cycle. The machines use water temperatures ranging from 140 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. They can even disinfect through a 180-degree cleaning cycle with a hold time of 15 minutes — a feature that residential or commercial washers can’t achieve.

And although there are no strict requirements as to what can and can’t be washed with microfiber, experts say it is important to be conscious of what other products are included in the wash load. A common mistake is washing microfiber with textiles that are prone to lint, says Babette Beene, environmental services manager at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. If this happens, the microfiber will collect the lint, clogging the fabric and making the product ineffective. To avoid this, it is recommended to launder microfiber separate from any other products.

Washers should also be filled only to 80 percent capacity when laundering. This is important because microfiber absorbs more than cotton, and wash loads must be adjusted to accommodate the expansion of fabric.

“The trick to releasing soil from the fabric is light agitation in water. If the washer is packed too full, you reduce that ability,” says Baswell. “If you load the washer too light, you reduce the agitation quality that happens with the cloths rubbing against each other.”

If loads are packed below the recommend 80 percent, Dyer adds that chemicals can remain in the mops and rags, even after the rinse cycles.

Equally important to the cycle load are the cleaning detergents used when washing microfiber. Most detergents that have an overall pH of under 11 (standard in most detergents) are safe to use when laundering microfiber mops and cloths, depending on the amount used.

“Normally a light suds product will clean microfiber mops and rags,” says Dyer. “A light sour can be used on some microfiber to help remove any alkalinity left in the cloth in the final rinse.”

When it comes to using chlorine bleach, Dyer says some manufacturers recommend using it in the washing cycle to help whiten the mops and cloths, as well as for sanitation reasons. However, he warns that end users should always read the label on the product because microfiber of poorer quality will become less effective when laundered with bleach, diminishing its magnetic properties and breaking textile fibers. In fact, if bleach is used during the laundering process on products that cannot withstand it, the number of wash cycles can be substantially reduced to as low as 200. Some floor care items also contain foam backings that break down by the alkalinity of bleach. 

One chemical experts agree should be avoided when laundering microfiber is fabric softener. The magic of microfiber lies in the wedge-shaped strands that allow it to pick up dirt, and fabric softener actually clogs up the fibers and renders it ineffective.

previous page of this article:
Proper Laundering Prolongs Microfiber Life
next page of this article:
How To Properly Dry Microfiber