ICS Magazine

The Emergence of Microfiber in Hard-Floor Maintenance

October 11, 2006


Since the introduction of microfiber in the mid-eighties, it has gained popularity and appeal in the cleaning industry. Although at first there were many skeptics, few can deny the impact it has made.

Microfibers are the finest fibers produced. Technically they can only be microfiber if they are less than one denier per filament. A denier is a unit of measurement that equal to the fineness of a yarn weighing one gram for each 9,000 meters of continuous filament. In terms of visual appearance they are extremely thin and are more than 100 times smaller in diameter than a human hair.

There are a number of fibers that are manufactured into microfiber, but most are derived from polyester or nylon. A microfiber cloth may consist of a single type of microfiber or a blend of more than one type. Microfiber may also be blended with regular-sized fibers.

Microfiber cleaning cloths are used for all kinds of tasks, but the impact they have on floor maintenance is noteworthy. This technology has allowed us to have extremely fine synthetic fibers that are lint free and possess strength and durability as well as exceptional absorbency, which is why they have faired well in our industry. The individual fibers are split during the process of manufacturing; these tiny splits are excellent for holding soil, which is why microfiber mops are effective.

Microfiber mops generally consist of a lightweight aluminum handle with a pivotable flat rectangular frame of varying lengths and widths. The frame will usually have several fabric-fastening strips that the microfiber pad or head attaches to. The pads or heads come in a variety of thicknesses and textures, and they can be used for many different applications, from dry mopping to floor-finish application. Many companies now manufacture these heads for different applications. They are often color coded to identify where they are to be used and for what task.

In addition to the microfiber mop, changes have been made in the receptacles as well. Microfiber mop receptacles are different than the traditional mop bucket and wringer. Mop buckets are designed to carry cleaning solution in which the wet mop is frequently submerged, churned and wrung out. After several trips to the bucket the solution is no longer effective and the cleaning solution is anything but clean.

With microfiber systems there are usually two receptacles mounted on a cart apparatus; several microfiber pads or heads are submerged in the cleaning solution receptacle. When the technician cleans an area, a clean pad from the solution receptacle will be wrung out by hand or with a flat mop wringer and used to mop the designated area. When the pad becomes soiled it is not put back in the solution receptacle, it is put in a container for soiled cloths, and a fresh microfiber pad is pulled from the cleaning solution and attached to the mop. Fewer trips to the deep sink to dump water and get fresh water are a definite time saver.

The mops are compact and lightweight, they produce less drag so they are easier to use and less tiring than traditional string mops. The different types of heads available give the technician an opportunity to use the right pad for the right job. Because they leave very little moisture on the floor, the floors dry quicker, a definite benefit to individuals who are in the facility during cleaning hours. Less drying time equates into lowering the potential liability of a slip-and-fall injury.

When you consider that a gallon of water weighs approximately 8.33 pounds, you will come to the conclusion that mopping with a fully loaded string mop will tire an individual out rather quickly. Also, the continual dumping and replenishing of fresh water means the technician has to pick up and dump a substantial weight (4 gallons of water weighs approximately 33 pounds). Using a microfiber mopping system will result in the technician lifting less and moving lighter loads.

Because the mop is so maneuverable, it is easy to get the floor finish into the area it belongs. The low, flat profile allows the technician to get floor finish closer to the baseboards with less splatter than traditional string mops. Cutting edges, getting into corners and controlling lines make it much easier for the technician to be exacting in detail without leaving excess floor finish on the baseboards. Although the microfiber flat mop does not hold as much floor finish as a string mop, it has better control in getting even, consistent coats applied with fewer problems.

Although microfiber mops can be laundered in standard washing machines, wash them separately. If they are washed with other towels or rags that have lint, the microfiber will pick it up and hold it. Generally, it only takes a few minutes to rinse out a microfiber pad by hand.

It is safe to say that microfiber is here to stay. Technicians using microfiber in hard-floor maintenance are usually very happy with the end results. Those that have not moved over to microfiber may find that a new generation - and future generations - of microfiber will ultimately win them over.