Dust Away the Old with Microfiber

I received a question in my Ask Annie column about microfiber cloths, about what they were and what I thought of them.

With some caveats—the fibers are not natural, and stick with high quality microfiber because not all microfiber cloths are created equal—I think that microfiber cloths are great. And the color coding is fun, helpful and brings some sense to one’s cleaning closet!

Microfiber cloths are eco-friendly because they reduce water usage (both while cleaning and in avoided laundry loads), reduce the use of cleaning products and paper towels or other disposables, and they thoroughly remove dust, allergens and bacteria.

They also have a very long life span if you buy a high-quality microfiber. The microfibers I use are durable (2,000 wear cycles), have a high “scrub” factor (#36 abrasiveness), can last for 1,000 wash cycles, and have a 14,000 ml/m absorbency. A thousand wash cycles is a lot of cleaning, over a lot of years! They certainly last a lot longer than traditional rags and mops; one study found a microfiber mop to have a lifespan 10 times that of a traditional mop!

Here’s how microfibers work: They are a blend of microscopic polyester and polyamide (nylon) fibers that are split during manufacturing to create microscopic “hooks” which act as claws that scrape up and hold dust, dirt and grime. They are 1/16 the thickness of a human hair and can hold six times their weight in water! Importantly, the fibers have a positive charge. They attract dust, which has a negative charge and hold them in their network of fibers.

What makes microfiber clothes NOT ecofriendly is that the fibers used are polyester and nylon (polyamide), which are made from petroleum; a non-renewable and non-biodegradable resource. (However, the size of the cloths is not that large and, as mentioned, you might only need to buy a few in your lifetime.) Nylon and polyester are made from petrochemicals, whose production creates nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that’s 310 times more potent than carbon dioxide. And there is evidence to suggest that the production of polyester and nylon can be toxic and hormone-disrupting to textile workers. It is unclear if the fabric used in microfiber cloths would be large enough to have toxic effects on the end user.

I love the microfiber color code system. Using different colors prevents cross contamination, and quickly identifies use for different surface areas. There are usually four colors: Green, blue, yellow and pink. You decide which color to use where. Blue for the bathroom, green for the living room, yellow for the kitchen, pink for the kids’ rooms?

By Annie B. Bond


Donna H.
Donna Hopkin7 years ago

Thanks for the info. I'll give them a try.

Sanja T.
Sanja T7 years ago


Sally Harper
Sally Harper7 years ago

These cloths are great because they last so long and you can use them with just plain water. I know there's controversy, but you have to weigh the pros and cons for stuff like this. I do have them in all different colors but I don't color code them at all, and I just wash them all together, in with my regular laundry such as dish towels etc. I don't put them in the dryer, although if you forget, and they do go in the dryer it's no big deal. The color does not come out of them and the dirt gets rinsed down the drain. (Think about washing diapers - your washing machine can handle getting the dirt out and rinsing it away without depositing it onto clothes!) You can buy them anywhere - just look for them in the cleaning supplies section. They make all different sizes too, and if you have a warehouse club like Costco you can sometimes buy a pack of 20 for $10 or so. (But they're usually all the same color in those big packs.) I think the cheap ones work just as well as the 3M ones that cost more. The mops are harder to find - if your mall has an "As Seen on TV" store then you can buy them there. They might be called Star Mops or have "Miracle" in the name - it's just a mop sort of shaped like a Swiffer, but with a replaceable, machine-washable microfiber cloth to use on the head. I LOVE my mop - it's invaluable for cleaning my tile floors with either just plain water or a tiny bit of all-natural cleaner. I have 2 big dogs and a doggie door - so my floors get nasty pretty fast!

Pandy B.
Pandy B7 years ago

This is very interesting. I think I will buy some microfiber cleaning rags and maybe the mop later on too! Those old sponge mops I use just seem like they push dirt around and don't pick it up. Where can you get these things at? Like at Walmart or Meijers? Also the article says to use separate colored rags in different rooms, does that really matter? and can you wash them all together or should each color be washed separate then? Should the one you use on glass be washed by its self too? I think they might be good for my car too, cause I keep getting dust build up on my dash.

Roxanne E.
Roxanne E7 years ago

Thanks for the info, I'm goin to try them out!

Heather B.
Past Member 7 years ago

Thanks for the information, Annie.

Sally Harper
Sally Harper9 years ago

Since microfiber cloths don't seem to shed "lint" like other cloths do they seem pretty safe to me. The dirt that gets trapped in them rinses away very easily. I've been using them for years too, and I love them, I wouldn't trade my microfiber mop for anything.

Susan M.
Susan Marchbanks9 years ago

Im so confused. Are microfiber clothes more or less environmentaly conscience? I'm looking for a new mop and heard microfiber was the way to go, so I checked her first and now I feel like I have to wash my floor with baking soda and vinager on my hands and knees, with a cotton cloth. Help!

Judy Brownstein
Judy Brownstein9 years ago

I have been using microfiber cloths for years. They trap the dust, not move it around - great for allergies and asthma. Drys everything in a snap without streaks. I would recommend those made by 3M - very high quality. DO NOT use fabric softner - that will streak and make a terrible mess on mirrors. Should you have used fabric softner, wash in hot water to faciltate removing the waxy residiue. No cleaners needed. As far as micro-organisims are concerned, there are probably less after cleaning than what you walk into your house on the bottom of your shoes.

Holy Holian
Holy holian10 years ago

how safe are they if they hold dirt that well? how clean can they become when washed, asto well all the dirt is washed out, or no, micro dirt stays & micro-organisms breed, so like a sponge loaded with micro-organisms they would be worse? carrying diseases bred in micro-dirt caught in that cloth?

please explain more about the cloth as to how clean is it after washing it. how long does it take to break down in a landfill, for thats what people sue people for, for products that take to long to break down in a landfill & what do they break down into. like oasis soap is biocompatible, breaks down into plant nutrients. the problem is garbage, how to safely help break down garbage, trash, rubbish so its not polluting. that is whats needed. for if they could heat all that stuff up & change it into safe elements even combining to produce safe product then pollution would end. like the smoke is recycled into safe by-products when cooking the trash. or some chemical way that breaks down these thrown away products into safe results.