Microfiber

1 Jul 2010

How to clean microfiber?

Microfiber textiles are rather easy to launder and resistant. All depends on the fabrics and fibers taken into consideration. Polyester microfiber clothes, bed sheets or table cloths can’t be laundered the same way than bicomponent polyester-nylon microfiber mops or microfiber furniture. Here are a few advices to follow.

Mops, cloths, dusters & laundering

The regular bicomponent polyester-nylon microfiber is rather easy care and can be machine laundered. Depending on its dirtiness, it does not need to be washed after every cleaning work and can be reused a couple of times before being eventually laundered.

Dry mops, dusters or cloths that have accumulated too much dirt, dust or dust bunnies can simply be vacuum-cleaned or brushed in the outside before reusing.

Wet mops that are not too soiled can be rinsed under warm water. Warm water will loosen the fibers, which, in turn, will release the trapped dirt. Soap, dish or laundry detergent can be added and brushed over the mop to disinfect and trim the fat off.

When too dirty or after a couple of cleaning works, microfiber cleaning devices should be machine washed. For that purpose any standard detergent provided its overall pH does not exceed 11- can be employed. Water temperature should not exceed 90C (ab. 200F). Microfiber is quick to dry and can be machine-dried at temperature not exceeding 60C (ab. 140C).

Things to avoid: Do not use fabric softener when washing microfiber cleaning devices. Softener would act as a kind of wax, recovering the fibers’ surface, clogging up the micro spaces that are efficient to trap dusts and also cancelling the fiber’s chemical and electrostatic properties. Microfiber can be washed with other kind of textile provided they are lint-free. No terry cloths or dryer sheets for instance! Otherwise lint would clog the fibers as well and reduce their efficiency. If those mistakes have been committed, microfiber should be rewashed in order to recover its properties. Like most plastics microfibers are resistant to a lot of chemical products. However do not use chlorine bleach on microfibers and avoid using acetone (it can shatter polyester fibers) or strong acids (it can shatter nylon fibers).

Life expectancy of good quality microfiber can be very long compared to other cleaning devices and provided it is cared properly. Any good microfiber should resist more than 200 laundries and up to 500. To that point microfibers can still maintain their properties but the fabric might be falling apart.

Cleaning microfiber furniture (sofa, couch, sectional, chair, cushion)

Microfiber furniture is on the roll. Most people praise their durability, fading and stain resistance and easy-care characteristics. Nevertheless it does not make the microfiber fabric immune to spotting and sooner or later one might have to scrap with some undesirable smears, flecks or blots. As in any battle two things must then be considered: the field and the enemy! As for the field, pieces of microfiber furniture are not all the same and some are easier to be taken care of than others. As for the enemies, stains can be regrouped in bigger varieties, some of them being normally cleanable (fatty substances, wine, tea), others being most probably non-cleanable (bleach, acid, iodine).

First things first, before taking any action, it is necessary to read the care instructions. Microfiber furniture is labeled differently according to the way it can be cleaned. Four codes are commonly used:

  1. W refers to fabrics on which a water-based solution can be used. A mixed water and mild detergent solution can be locally applied for spot-cleaning.
  2. S refers to fabrics on which only solvent cleaner can be used. Different kind of solvent can be used, provided they are water free.
  3. S/W refers to fabrics on which both water-based or solvent cleaner can be used.
  4. X refers to fabrics that can only be vacuum cleaned. In order to prevent stain appearance, the fabric should be regularly brushed or vacuumed. Any other spot cleaning products could shatter the fabric and cause shrinking or spotting.
In any case, if some liquid is spilled accidentally on the fabric, it should be immediately dabbed with some absorbent paper towels -and not rubbed with. Microfiber can repel small water based liquid spills that will bead upon its surface, but if not removed quickly enough the liquid could soak in and ultimately leave a water ring mark when dry. The oleophilic characteristic of polyester, which composes most microfiber furniture, makes the fabric very keen to absorb any fatty substances.

Cleaning water-tolerant microfiber furniture (W and S/W type)

After having sponged or vacuumed the spot to limit the damages, the stain should be treated with a water-based solution. Different kinds of detergent can be used, such as a gentle soap, mild washing or dish detergent, upholstery shampoo or carpet cleaner. It is advisable to test the solution in an inconspicuous place and see how the fabric reacts, before treating the stain. Even if the fabric can tolerate water, it is better not to saturate it and act cautiously and sparingly. The solution should dissolve the fat stains, binding to fat molecules before evaporating. However soapy water taking much more time to evaporate the solution is to dry the wet surface with a hair dryer on cool setting or with the vacuum cleaner fit out with the soft brush. For some stains, a steam cleaner can also be rather efficient. Once dry the fabric might feel a little stiff. In that case, the fibers softness and flexibility should be restored while rubbing them with a soft brush such as a nail- or a toothbrush.

Cleaning non-water-based solvent-tolerant microfiber furniture (S and S/W type)

After having sponged or vacuumed the spot to limit the damages, the stain should be treated with a solvent. Many products can be used: rubbing alcohol or clear alcohol like vodka or gin, ammonia, lighter fluid, dry-cleaning solvents, oxygenated cleaning solutions (as long as it does not contain bleach) specific microfiber cleaning products Baby wipes have also been reported to be efficient. In any case, before treating the stain, the product should be tested in an inconspicuous place to see how the fabric reacts. The soiled area should be sprinkled with the product and gently brushed to get it seeped through the fibers before it evaporates. Once dry the fabric might feel a little stiff. In that case, the fibers softness and flexibility should be restored while rubbing them with a soft brush such as a nail- or a toothbrush.

Cleaning some specific stains

If the fabric is too soiled, and if the furniture has removable covers, it is far much easier to launder them in delicate cycle and with a gentle detergent. It is also an efficient way to get rid of watermarks. Watermarks can also be treated with rubbing alcohol but might require a few attempts. Alcohol works efficiently on ink stains as well. Removing wax is done in the same way than with most other fabrics: by quickly running a hot iron on a paper bag, an absorbent paper towel or a terry cloth previously placed over the wax spot to absorb it. As for chewing gum, the easiest way to get rid of it is to firm it up with some ice and then peel it off the fabric. Another efficient solution is to apply peanut butter on it, rub a bit and then wipe the whole thing and clean the new stain (but it should be easier). Some smears on faux suede microfiber imitation sofa can be eliminated with a Nubuck block. Lingering odors can be removed with a mix of baking soda and water applied on the spot for a bit then vacuumed. Alternatively white vinegar or specific commercial products can also be very efficient.

Auto detailing with microfiber

Microfiber -  less than 0.2 denier
Professional and amateurs auto detailers have been keen to adopt microfiber accessories. Whether to dry or polish the car, microfiber is preferred to cotton because it causes less scratch on the surface. In fact, where cotton will spread the dirt on the surface and rub them along the paint, which ultimately causes new scratches, microfiber will pull the grime into its fibers and trap it there until it is washed, avoiding further damages. Besides if both fibers are absorbent, microfiber is even more absorbent than cotton and much more efficient to attract grease and oil.


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