Knowing how to clean microfiber cloths will extend their usefulness and prevent cross-contamination. As one of the ten necessary cleaning tools everyone should own, microfiber cloths are indispensable at keeping your home clean. They do require proper care to work well, though.
If you’ve ever held a microfiber cleaning cloth in your bare hand, you’ve probably noticed that it’s more bristly and rough than a standard towel. That’s because the ultra-fine fibers in this synthetic fabric are woven and then split to increase surface area.
You’ve probably also noticed that your microfiber upholstery or clothing don’t have the same roughness. When used as a replacement for leather or suede, the fibers aren’t split.
The split fibers of a microfiber cleaning cloth are what makes them so great at picking up dust or powering away grime. Unfortunately, that same texture makes them harder to clean since the fibers grab onto dirt and other messes.
While it’s tempting to think you can treat them like regular fabric, improper washing will wear away the split bristles and ruin their scrubbing power.
How To Clean Microfiber Cloths
To keep your microfiber cloths in good shape, follow these steps.
Use Separate Cloths for Separate Tasks
It’s a good idea to have separate microfiber cloths for dusting, for cleaning kitchens, and for cleaning bathrooms. That’s why I like multi-colored sets like these. I use the yellow set to dust, the blue ones in the bathroom, and the white ones everywhere else.
When Should You Wash Them?
Kitchen and bathroom cloths: Microfiber cloths used in the bathroom or kitchen, along with those used to clean greasy messes, should be washed after each use. Using hot water (over 120°F) will kill lingering germs.
Cloths used for polishing or dusting: Microfiber cloths used to dust, polish mirrors or glass, or to clean other dry messes need to be rinsed well under running water then allowed to air dry. Launder them more thoroughly every four or five uses.
How To Clean Microfiber Cloths
Regardless of how you use them, eventually all microfiber cloths need to be laundered. To keep them in good condition, you need to understand a few things.
1. Never use bleach or fabric softener. Both bleach and fabric softener will ruin your microfiber cloths. Bleach erodes those split fibers that give them such excellent cleaning power. The surfactants in fabric-softener cause the fibers to clump. Both destroy microfiber cloths’ cleaning powers.
2. Don’t use vinegar, either. Although vinegar is a wonderful laundry aid, its acidity will erode the bristles.
3. Pretreat stains before washing. Use a drop or two of liquid dish or laundry detergent to treat stains. Gently rub this in on both sides with your fingers and allow it to work for 5 minutes before washing.
4. Wash them in a separate load. The bristles on microfiber will pick up lint from other types of fabric. Agitation with other fabrics will wear down the bristled fibers, too. So never wash microfiber cloths with other loads of laundry. You can launder all of your microfiber cloths together in one cycle using hot water — the heat will disinfect them.
5. Air dry them if you can. It’s best to air dry microfiber cloths and, fortunately, they dry very quickly. Hang them from the laundry line in a sunny spot for added disinfection. Or, drape them over the shower rod, and they’ll dry within an hour. If you’re in a hurry and need to toss them in the dryer, use a low-heat setting and skip the fabric softener sheets.
How long do they last?
If properly cared for, your microfiber cloths should last over 100 washings. Replace them when they lose their rough texture and start to feel more like washcloths.
NOTE: This article first appeared on Feb. 23, 2012. It has been revised and updated for republication.