Microfiber Cleaning Rocks

I was looking for a way to get the fingerprints off my laptop, and after trying to use glass cleaner and paper towels I realized I didn’t really want to carry glass cleaner around. I remembered this little cleaning cloth I’d gotten with my sunglasses. It was a microfiber cloth they’d said, it didn’t need cleaner. Just rub lightly, and all schmutz would be removed from the glass. It certainly worked well on sunglasses, camera lenses, and my binocular lenses.

I gave it a try and it worked pretty well. The cloth in question was pretty small – meant for cleaning small items that were really only covered with the odd fingerprint – and I wanted something bigger. I got curious and started looking around online. What is microfiber? Is it really a better way to clean stuff, or just some late-night infomercial cleaning gadget that doesn’t really work for long?

I found several “green” sites that extolled the virtues of microfiber, but I’ve found that many folks will put up with pretty bad quality for a cause so I was still a bit skeptical. After researching a bit more I learned that microfiber has pretty much taken over the car detailing field, and is on its way to dominating several janitorial areas. So with my usual new-hobby fervor I went to my local hardware store and bought some. Then I ordered some from a web site. Then another. And another.

Long story short, microfiber is pretty darn useful stuff. I’ve found pretty good value from the folks at www.microfiberusa.com [UPDATE – SEE BELOW] (I don’t get a cut, I’m not an affiliate…yet). Prices are competitive and towels seem a bit heavier than others. The towels you see in stores are pretty expensive, and vary a lot in quality. You want the ones that are “hundreds of thousands” of fibers per inch, not 90,000. Turns out that microfiber is made in two grades. The good stuff is 180,000 to 220,000 fibers per inch, the cheaper stuff is 90,000. The latter is what you see in bundles at Sam’s, Target and the like. The difference is in the ability to pick up oil, which is what microfiber really brings to the table. It’s very absorbent and excels at taking oil off of surfaces.

Here’s some things I find microfiber really good for:

  • All of those shiny electronic surfaces you really don’t want to be spritzing glass cleaner on. Like cell phones, ipods, etc. A quick rub with microfiber quickly removes all fingerprints and schmutz. Stubborn areas submit to bit of breath-fog.
  • Drying pots and pans that always seem to have some kind of oily film on the outside after hand-washing. Microfiber is really, really good at picking up oil of any kind and using it to dry these items leaves them squeaky clean.
  • Cleaning the outsides of appliances you can’t get wet. Stove control panels, grill controls, electric fry pan outsides and the like. A quick scrub with a barely damp microfiber cloth will leave them squeaky clean. When I first got them I cleaned the control panel for my grill. It was almost caked with old sticky grease. Scrubbing it felt like buffing a coat of wax on a car with cleaned areas being slippery and dirty areas being very sticky. It worked, albeit with a bit of elbow grease, but without the usual half-a-bottle of 409.
  • Our stainless refrigerator is easy with microfiber. It works on fingerprints and anything else our 14 and 30-month olds leave on it.
  • With two little girls around we have a lot of spills and goopy stuff to wipe up. Microfiber keeps us from going broke on paper towels, and is a lot softer on the skin than wet cotton. It also does a good job cleaning up hands and faces after greasy meals.
  • A slightly damp microfiber cloth and a bit of time transformed my absolutely filthy keyboard at work into something looking like new. Just a rubbing required.

The key is to wash it by itself WITHOUT fabric softener or dryer sheets, and to use it just barely damp. About as damp as it comes out of the spin cycle – it’s actually hard to get it wrung out enough after you get it wringing wet. If microfiber is too damp, it doesn’t pick up oil and it leaves a lot of haze.

So if you’re looking for an easy way to clean these things, give microfiber a try.

[UPDATE] BE WARNED! Microfiber USA does supply good product, but their ordering system sucks. If you’ve ordered in the past, when you check out you will find the last billing address you used entered for you. Sort of, because the state will not be entered. If you miss this and try to place your order the system will complain and in the mean time WILL RESET ANY VALUES YOU’VE CHANGED, including changed quantities, addresses, etc. As a result of this, an order of mine went to our old address and was lost.

There is also no way to change your password on the site from the rather short one they supply by default.

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