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Microfibre or microfibre is synthetic fibre finer than one denier or decitex/thread. This is smaller than the diameter of a strand of silk, which is itself about 1/5 the diameter of a human hair. The most common types of microfibres are made from polyesters, polyamides (e.g., nylon, Kevlar, Nomex, trogamide), or a conjugation of polyester, polyamide, and polypropylene (Prolen). Microfibre is used to make mats, knits, and weaves for apparel, upholstery, industrial filters, and cleaning products. The shape, size, and combinations of synthetic fibres are selected for specific characteristics, including softness, toughness, absorption, water repellency, electrodynamics, and filtering capabilities.
Production of ultra-fine fibres (finer than 0.7 denier) dates back to the late 1950s, using melt-blown spinning and flash spinning techniques. However, only fine staples of random length could be manufactured and very few applications could be found. Experiments to produce ultra-fine fibres of a continuous filament type were made subsequently, the most promising of which were run in Japan during the 1960s by Dr. Miyoshi Okamoto, a scientist at Toray Industries. Okamoto's discoveries, together with those of Dr. Toyohiko Hikota, resulted in many industrial applications. Among these was Ultrasuede, one of the first successful synthetic microfibres, which found its way onto the market in the 1970s. Microfibre's use in the textile industry then expanded. Microfibres were first publicized in the early 1990s in Sweden and saw success as a product in Europe over the course of the decade.
Microfibre is also used to make tough, very soft-to-the-touch materials for general clothing use, often used in skirts and jackets. Microfibre can be made into Ultrasuede, an animal-product-free imitation suede that is cheaper and easier to clean and sew than real suede.
Another advantage of fabric (compared to leather) is that fabric can be coated with various finishes or can be treated with anti-bacterial chemicals. Fabric can also be printed with various designs, embroidered with coloured thread, or heat-embossed to create interesting textures.
Textiles for cleaning
In cleaning products, microfibre can be 100% polyester, or a blend of polyester and polyamide (nylon). It can be both a woven product or a non woven product, the latter most often used in limited use or disposable cloths. In the highest-quality fabrics for cleaning applications, the fibre is split during the manufacturing process to produce multi-stranded fibres. A cross section of the split microfibre fabric under high magnification, would look like an asterisk. The split fibres and the size of the individual filaments working in conjunction with the spaces between them that make the cloths more effective than other fabrics for cleaning purposes.. The structure traps and retains the dirt and also absorbs liquids.
Unlike cotton, microfibre leaves no lint, the exception being some micro suede blends, where the surface is mechanically processed to produce a soft plush feel.
For microfibre to be most effective as a cleaning product, especially for water soluble soils and waxes, it should be a split microfibre. Non-split microfibre is little more than a very soft cloth. The main exception is for cloths used for facial cleansing and for the removal of skin oils, (sebum), sunscreens, and mosquito repellents from optical surfaces such as cameras, phones and eyeglasses where in higher end proprietary woven, 100% polyester cloths using 2 µm filaments, will absorb these types of oils without smearing.
Microfibre that is used in non sports related clothing, furniture, and other applications isn't split because it isn't designed to be absorbent, just soft. When buying Microfibre may not be labelled to designate whether it's split. A quick way to determine if microfibre is, is to run the cloth lightly over the palm of the hand. A split microfibre will Cling to any imperfections of the skin, which can be both heard and felt. Another way is to pour a small amount of water on a hard flat surface and try to push the water with the microfibre. If the water is pushed rather than being absorbed, it's not split microfibre.
Microfibre can be electrostatically-charged for special purposes like filtration.
Microfibre is widely used by car detailers to handle tasks such as removing wax from paintwork, quick detailing, cleaning interior, cleaning glass, and drying. Due to their fine fibres which leave no lint or dust, microfibre towels are used by car detailers and enthusiasts in a similar manner to a chamois leather.
Microfibre is used in many professional cleaning applications, for example in mops and cleaning cloths. Although microfibre mops cost more than non-microfibre mops, they may be more economical because they last longer and require less effort to use.
Microfibre textiles designed for cleaning clean on a microscopic scale. According to tests using microfibre materials to clean a surface leads to reducing the number of bacteria by 99%, whereas a conventional cleaning material reduces this number only by 33%. Microfibre cleaning tools also absorb fat and grease and their electrostatic properties give them a high dust-attracting power.
Microfibre cloths are used to clean photographic lenses as they absorb oily matter without being abrasive or leaving a residue, and are sold by major manufacturers such as Sinar, Nikon and Canon. Small microfibre cleaning cloths are commonly sold for cleaning computer screens and eyeglasses.
Microfibre is unsuitable for some cleaning applications as it accumulates dust, debris, and particles. Sensitive surfaces (such as all high-tech coated surfaces e.g. CRT, LCD and plasma screens) can easily be damaged by a microfibre cloth if it has picked up grit or other abrasive particles during use. One way to minimize the risk of damage to flat surfaces is to use a flat, non-rugged microfibre cloth, as these tend to be less prone to retaining grit.
Rags made of microfibre must only be washed in regular washing detergent, not oily, self-softening, soap-based detergents. Fabric softener must not be used. The oils in the softener and self-softening detergents will clog up the fibres and make them less effective until the oils are washed out.
Microfibres are used in towels especially those to be used at swimming pools as even a small towel dries the body quickly. They dry quickly and are less prone than cotton towels to become stale if not dried immediately. Microfibre towels need to be soaked in water and pressed before use, as they would otherwise repel water as microfibre tablecloths do.
ENVIRONMENTAL AND SAFETY ISSUES
Microfibre textiles tend to be flammable if manufactured from hydrocarbons (polyester) or carbohydrates (cellulose) and emit toxic gases when burning, more so if aromatic (PET, PS, ABS) or treated with halogenated flame retarders and aromatic dyes. Their polyester and nylon stock are made from petrochemicals, which are not a renewable resource and are not biodegradable. However, if made out of polypropylene, they are recyclable (Prolen).
For most cleaning applications they are designed for repeated use rather than being discarded after use. (An exception is the precise cleaning of optical components where a wet cloth is drawn once across the object and must not be used again as the debris collected and now embedded in the cloth may scratch the optical surface.) In many household cleaning applications (washing floors, furniture, etc.) microfibre cleaning fabrics can be used without detergents or cleaning solutions which would otherwise be needed.
There are environmental concerns about this product entering the oceanic food chain. However, no pesticides are used for producing synthetic fibres (in comparison to cotton). If these products are made of polypropylene yarn, the yarn is dope-dyed; i.e. no water is used for dyeing (as with cotton, where thousands of litres of water become contaminated).
To read more about microfibre, please click on the following link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microfiber