Microfibre cleaning cloths appeared on the market in the 1990s, though the research behind them dates back to the late 1950s. It was one of several popular products derive from the same line of research, another being Ultrasuede. This whole line has produce synthetic fibres that have been put to several different uses, often better then the natural products they replaced.
The name and function come from the fact that the individual fibres of the cloth are very thin, in the order of one denier or less. A denier is about the thickness of a single strand of silk, about 20% the thickness of a human hair. Because of the thin nature of the fibres in the cloth there is a lot of space between fibres. This empty space allows the material to absorb a great deal of water.
The small size of the cloth fibres also allow it to clean on a much smaller scale. The tiny scale fibres can attach themselves to the most minute dirt particles, even microscopic sized ones. The adhesive forces (called van der Walls forces in physics) of the cloth are so strong at this microscopic level that even germs and bacteria are trapped and removed from the contaminated surface with a good microfibre cloth.
It is this last property, the ability to remove germs, that makes microfibre cloths so much better than conventional fabrics. Most surfaces previously required ac loth to physically remove the dirt and a chemical to deal with the germs or bacteria; they also required solvents to break down grease. Microfibre cloths achieve this without chemical means, removing many toxins from the home environment.
Microfibre cloths achieve with Physics the type of cleaning previously only possible with chemistry. This is a huge advance, and does away with many other cleaning products. A great deal of cleaning can be done with the microfibre cloth alone.
Good microfibre cloths are ‘split’, which means the tiny fibre itself divides into many smaller filaments. This greatly increases the cleaning effectiveness and water absorption of the material.
Look for a microfibre cloth that is split, and with a denier number (size of filament number) less than 1. Really good microfibre cloths should have a denier number of 0.33.