How To Clean Microfiber Cloths That Maximize Their Service Life

Microfiber cloths are the best cleaning and drying tools in the kitchen. The way you wash and dry your microfiber cloths can have a big impact on how effective they are. This article is about how to wash microfiber cloths, how to dry them, and how to store them. If you do it right, the microfiber cloths can last for a long time.

How to clean microfiber cloths

Cleaning microfiber cloths is easy if you know the tricks. You can hand wash or machine wash. Follow these simple steps to clean your microfiber cloths.

Hand-washed

  1. Separate the microfiber cloths according to their functions
  2. Shake the cloths to release any dirt
  3. Pre-soak the dirty cloths for 5-10 minutes in a bucket of cool or warm water
  4. Agitate and rub the cloths with your hands to release accumulated dust and germs
  5. Rinse the cloths one by one under running water 
  6. Wring out excess water
  7. Dry the cloths

Machine-washed

washer
  1. Separate the microfiber cloths according to their functions
  2. Shake the cloths to release any dirt
  3. Put the dirty cloths into the washer
  4. Add the detergent as usual
  5. Choose cold water or warm water
  6. Start the soak cycle. If the washer does not have this function, simply start the delicate wash cycle and allow agitation for 5-10 minutes. Manually pause the washer and soak the cloths for 30 minutes. Then restart the wash cycle
  7. Dry the cloths

Tips on washing your microfiber cloths

  • Never use fabric softener, bleach, or detergents with additives. If you use the wrong detergent, rewash the microfiber cloths immediately
  • Use cold or warm water
  • Do not launder microfiber cloths with your regular clothes
  • Hand washing works best for cloths that are used for light cleaning like dusting and drying your plates. For dirtier cloths like wiping the spill, you have to do machine washing to clean them thoroughly

How to dry microfiber cloths

Microfiber cloths dry quickly. Air drying is the best way to dry them. You can also dry them in the dryer. But you have to use no heat or tumble dry because high heat is the enemy of the microfibers. High heat can ruin the microfibers completely if high temperature is used.

Follow the steps to dry your microfiber cloths after washing.

Air drying

  1. Wring out the excess water
  2. Shake the cloths
  3. Hang up the cloths on a clothesline

Machine drying

  1. Clean the dryer lint trap before drying
  2. Do not use dryer balls or dryer sheets
  3. Never dry the microfiber cloths with other materials
  4. Tumble dry at low heat or use an air-dry setting
  5. Take the cloths out quickly once drying is completed

How to store microfiber cloths

Store your clean microfiber cloths in airtight containers that protect your cloths from exposure to the environment.  But containers take up a lot of space. If your space is limited, drawers or stacked cabinets are the best fit for you. Never put your clean microfiber cloths in an open space because they attract dust, germ, and any particles in their surroundings.

Before storing the cloths, make sure they are completely dry. Otherwise, you create a favorable environment for the growth of mildew and develop an unpleasant odor.

Once the cloths are dried, the cloths are folded and organized by their purpose of use. This can help your grade the cloths quickly and avoid cross-contamination.

How to remove the smell

Vinegar is a great option for removing the smell of microfiber cloths. It’s been a natural cleaner for centuries. It will not only remove the smell softly but also disinfect the cloths, making them odorless and clean.

First, mix 1/4 cup of white vinegar with 2 cups of water. Put the dirty microfiber cloths into the mixture and soak for 30 minutes. Then rinse with water thoroughly.

How to remove grease and treat heavily soiled microfiber cloths

Pre-treating the contaminated microfiber cloths before washing is the key to retrieving the heavily soiled cloths. This will help break down and loosen dirt from the cloths. 

Follow the below steps to retrieve the cleaning power of the microfiber cloths.

  1. Apply liquid detergent to the stains directly
  2. Rub the stains gently with your fingers
  3. Rest 5 minutes
  4. Rinse and wash them normally as they should be

If the microfiber cloths are very dirty, do this.

  1. Prepare a bucket of lukewarm water. Add detergent into the water and agitate
  2. Soak the cloths in the detergent mixture for 30 minutes. It takes longer if the microfiber cloths are very dirty
  3. Rub the cloths 
  4. Rinse and toss them into the washer to continue the cleaning

If the cloths are extremely contaminated, pre-soaking and washing cannot completely disinfect the microfibers. The last resort to bring them back to life is boiling.

Boiling

  1. Boil a pot of water around ¾ full
  2. Add the dirty microfiber cloths into the boiling water with a tong
  3. Boil for 3-5 minutes. Don’t overboil them
  4. Take them out with a tong and launder them immediately as your regular laundry

If boiling fails to make microfiber cloths gain their cleaning power again, retire the cloths to less important tasks and replace a new one.

How to remove lint and debris

Removing lint and debris is pretty simple, but with a little more work.

  • Roll the cloths back and forth with a lint roller
  • Use a soft brush to remove lint and debris
  • Pat over the microfiber cloths with a masking tape 
  • Shake the microfiber cloths to let the debris fall off. Soak the cloths in a bucket of water to loosen the sticky specks. Then proceed with the washing procedure of the microfiber cloths

You may use more than one of the above methods to remove lint. 

But the most simple, effective way to get rid of lint and debris is precaution. Take the following precautions to avoid lint or debris clinging to the microfiber cloths.

  • Avoid mixing microfiber cloths with other fabrics in all circumstances including washing, drying, and storing
  • Hand wash if possible as the washing machine may have specks 
  • Clean the lint sieve and the washer before loading your cloths

What are microfibers? 

Microscopic view of microfiber

Microfibers are synthetic fabrics that are mainly made of polyester and polyamides. That’s why microfibers cannot stand high heat.

The fibers are split into many ultra-thin fibers in the manufacturing process that make them a hundred times thinner than hair, and so increase surface area for holding 7-8 times their weight in liquid. That means they absorb more water and grab more dirt compared to other cloths. 

With the static electric charge, microfibers attract stuff and hold onto them rather than spreading around. They can remove 99% of bacteria without using any chemicals whereas cotton can pick up 30% only. The dirt trapped in the microfibers can be released easily by washing in water. These properties make microfiber good at drying and cleaning.

Can you use detergent to wash microfiber cloths?

Yes, you can. Water is the best for cleaning microfiber cloths. But it’s impractical to use water only in some circumstances. You need detergent to do deep cleaning for heavily soiled microfiber cloths.

Any detergent without fabric softeners, bleach, or additives (like scents) is good to use. 

As discussed before, microfiber fibers are excellent at picking up stuff and holding on to them. Any softeners or additives will stick to the microfibers which makes them stiffer and less absorbent. Bleach erodes and damages the fibers. They will become useless in some extreme cases if you use the wrong detergents. Therefore, check the ingredients of detergents before using them. Or you can use the specialized detergents for microfiber cloths if you don’t want to risk your cloths. No matter what detergents you prefer, rinse thoroughly to prevent the detergent from staying behind to affect its performance.

Also, don’t use powders as they may not dissolve completely and clog up the fibers. 

Can you wash microfiber cloths with regular laundry?

No, you can’t. You should wash microfibers in one load. They are designed for grabbing everything that they touch. The lint and any specks of dirt inside the washing machine are attracted to the fibers which result in decreasing their effectiveness. So always separate your microfibers from your regular laundry. Also, make sure that you clean the lint sieves before washing microfibers, and don’t use a dryer sheet for washing.

What temperature to wash microfiber cloths

The question is controversial. You can see different answers across the website. Some say the wash temperature should be 86 °F. Some say you can wash as high as 140 °F. Some report that microfibers melt at 140 °F.  

The reason?

Microfibers from different manufacturers have different qualities and combinations of raw materials. They are synthetic fabrics that are mainly made of polyester and polyamides (aka nylon). They are plastic in nature. That’s why microfibers generally cannot withstand high heat. Different ratios of these two materials result in different melting points of microfibers.  

Thus, always check the care tag of the cloths to wash at the right temperature because the manufacturers do the test for their products and find out the best wash temperature.

How often to clean microfiber cloths

There is no definite schedule to follow. It all depends on how dirty your cloths are, how often you use them, and where you use them.  If you use it to dust, the cloths can be used several times before thoroughly cleaning. If you do deep cleaning, kitchen cleaning, or bathroom cleaning, you may clean and disinfect the cloths thoroughly after use.

Before the deep cleaning, I highly recommend rinsing and gently washing the cloths for 30 seconds after each use. Then, hang your cloths over the rim of the bucket to air dry until you wash them. This is the perfect time to prevent dirt from becoming stubborn stains. This way avoids dirt drying and letting something set into the cloths that will increase the difficulty to remove later. 

Do you need to clean the microfiber cloths before first use?

Yes for reusable microfiber cloths because the cloths may get lint, dust, and germs during the processes of manufacturing and shipping. Remember to wash different colors separately to prevent color transfer. But you don’t have to wash new disposable cloths as they are manufactured in a clean room and sealed to protect them from the surroundings.

How long do microfiber cloths last? When should it be replaced?

Generally, the microfiber cloths can last at least 300 washes. They can last longer if you clean and care for them properly.

But… as you know, many factors can affect how long your microfiber cloths last. The quality of the cloths, how often you use them, what you use them for, and how well you take care of them can determine the lifetime of your microfiber cloths. 

The most effective way to determine whether or not to replace a new one is visual inspection. When you notice the following signs, it’s time to retire them.

  • The cloths wear out.
  • The cloths no longer pick up stuff like dust, dirt, and water.
  • No matter how hard you try, you cannot remove the stains or the smell.
  • You notice streaks when cleaning the windows.
  • The texture becomes stiff rather than soft when you touch the cloths.
  • The cloths become very thin.

Prevention of cross contaminations (implementation of the color-coded system)

The color-coded system is one of the simplest methods to prevent cross-contamination. This will prevent the spreading of germs. Different colors of microfiber cloths in the kitchen can be classified into different categories based on their applications.

For example: 

ColorApplications
WhiteDrying plates and cutlery
RedDrying your hands
GreenWiping up spills and liquid
YellowDusting
BlackHeavy duty like cleaning grease, stove, or oven

You don’t have to follow the above matching. You can assign the colors to different tasks based on your own needs. With this color-coded system in mind, you can separate and care for them more effectively. 

Final thoughts

Caring for microfiber cloths is a simple task. But you have to do it right. Avoid high heat during washing and drying. Do not use fabric softener, bleach, and detergents with additives. Launder the cloths separate from other fabrics. Generally, caring for the microfiber cloths properly prolongs their life and maintains their effectiveness.

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