All hail the microfiber cloth!

Filed in Blog by on March 1, 2011 24 Comments
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Mrs Green loves her microfiber cloths!

Mrs Green loves her microfiber cloths!

You might remember that it was very difficult for me to give up disposable paper kitchen towel.

I used to get through quite a lot of it and although I bought FSC or recycled paper and I could recycle the polythene, it was still weighing heavy on my conscience as a ‘convenient’ item I should do without.

After all, the 3 R’s – reduce, reuse, recycle are in that order for a reason!

I’d quite forgotten how amazing microfiber cloths were. I’ve been using them for years; long before our zero waste lifestyle was born. I bought them because I heard they last a long time and you don’t need to use chemicals. As I’ve been ‘light green ‘ for a number of years and I love a bargain, these seemed like the perfect frugal option.

I was putting the washing away the other day and looking at my grubby microfiber cloths, It then struck me that I’ve had my first lot for about 10 years! Yes, they are a tad grey after being washed with coloured items that leak dye and yes, they are thinner than they were when bought new, but 10 years – that’s pretty good going isn’t it?

What I love about them is being able to do chemical-free cleaning. Also their absorbency has to be seen to be believed – they just drink up spills like a parched man in a desert…

For chemical free cleaning you can use just water. I like to make chores as pleasurable as possible so I have a couple of plant misters filled with water and essential oils. My favourite blend is lemon and lavender which not only smells uplifting but is anti bacterial too. I use this mix on everything from floors to the table. When Little Miss Green was a tot I used to spray the mix onto her hands too; it’s that safe!

So yes, the microfiber cloth is getting my award for ‘Great zero waste product’ of the month. I must admit, I wrestled with my conscience for a bit when I bought them because they are made from man-made fibres, BUT I think that gets outweighed when you consider how long they last, how few chemicals you need AND you’re able to use them instead of a disposable product.

Any other microfiber lovers among you? Or have you found a better product that I need to know about?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (24)

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  1. Julie Day says:

    We’ve been using e-cloths for a while now for dusting and they are great. Mum still uses paper towels, Plenty, but she dries them out so she can reuse them again and again, then I try to put most of them in the compost.

  2. Kathy says:

    I’ve got a few microfibre cloths and love them, but I think my absolute favourite must be my kids old nappies. Even though my youngest is 6 and no longer needs a nappy during the day, we hung onto them and call them ‘cleaning nappies’ . We keep a stash in the bathroom and toilet to wipe up spills (I have boys) so that we don’t need to use stacks of toilet paper and they’re big enough to sit on the floor and be wiped using a foot. They also come out to absorb all sorts of other spills and cleaning jobs. I’ve even been known to use them on my bicycle chain. The best thing about them is when they come to the end of their life, I can add them to the compost bin so they’re completely waste-free.

  3. CarSue says:

    We LOVE our microfiber cleaning cloths! We’ve had the same set for about 2 years, and they’ve held up remarkably well. They have little letters written on them with permanent pen (“K” for kitchen messes which might be rather gross, “G” for glass cleaning only which is usually just finger smudges, etc.). We don’t wash the glass ones nearly as frequently as the kitchen & washroom sets. They’re great for everything from big spills to leaving our aquariums sparkling and spot free.

    The hardest part of giving up paper towels, for me, was that we have 3 dogs (2 of them QUITE large), and sometimes we get messes or dead “surprises” brought in from outdoors. I couldn’t bring myself to scoop up some of this stuff with my microfibers & then just toss the cloth into the “dirty” drawer to await washing. So I began collecting a few old T-shirts, far beyond usefullness for being thread-bare, stained, hole-ridden, etc. I cut them into squares and have them in a box in the garage for those “Oh my word, why in heaven’s name did I stop buying paper towels?!?!” kind of messes. I don’t feel so guilty just putting the whole mess in the bin that way.

    Way to go on your decade’s old set, Mrs. G!

  4. Teresa says:

    I’d had a white microfibre cloth for a while which I didn’t use as I didn’t know what it was. Then I bought two more white ones only to find coloured ones for sale in a local ironmonger’s shop. I find the white ones get mucky and it’s harder to get them looking clean. I also bought one for cleaning glass and one for cleaning CD’s. Recently I gave two of the white ones to a friend and bought some a green E-cloth from Lakeland.

  5. Antonio Pachowko says:

    Hi Mrs G

    I have a few microfiber clothes around and I find them excellent for dusting and generally cleaning. They last a long time.

    Now to my pet hate. Using water (with a microfibre cloth) is not Chemical free as water IS a Chemical. It is a chemical, a solvent and large amount of it is known to result in death (i.e drowning). This annoys me with steam cleaners (which are very Good I use then to clean my freezers, ovens and hob) as steam is basically superheated water at higher temperature and pressure, but cannot be said to be chemical free as it still uses a chemical. Water and air are both chemicals but it is pure laziness of peoples part it should say Microfibres (and steam Cleaners) are toxic chemical free or uses a natural solvent. I have not know one process that uses a vacuum to wash something clean. It is bad science.

  6. Attila says:

    I love microfibre cloths; they tend to be cheaper and bigger when sold as car cloths rather than for cleaning. I saw some pastel ones in Poundland yesterday and resisted the urge to buy them as we have loads but…
    I also cut up old t shirts and even the non-icky parts of old knickers and keep them in the rag bag (one I made like a pegbag). So they are on hand in the kitchen when we need them. I do buy paper towels but we use very few.

  7. My youngest child is 36. I still use her diapers for cleaning, diapers that were last used for diapering 34 years ago. I also have two in the kitchen that I use for straining jelly.

    In 1982 I quit buying paper towels, paper napkins, or Kleenex (tissues). I use my sewing scraps and old, cast off clothing cut into large and small pieces. It works quite well for cleaning dog poop from my shoes. Then, it can be thrown away with no washing. Some rags I wash; other rags I toss. I use dish towels in the kitchen for drying dishes or minor spills on the counter. Or, I use dishcloths. I don’t use clothing rags as dishcloths or dishtowels. I purchase those and relegate them to fulltime cleaning clothes when they are threadbare.

    As for microfiber–I cannot bear to touch it. It’s just too creepy to feel. Eeeek! If I decide to use a microfiber for it’s superior dust-grabbing powers, I hold the microcloth with another cloth. I have a yellow one for the kitchen, red for the bath, and brown for the car. But, I cannot find them because their creepy feel causes me to just ignore them mostly, clean or dirty. They were free with 8 gallon gasoline fillup.

    I even gave up tp about three years ago. A huge stack of washcloths (30 or 40) that are (1) old or (2) purchased at at thrift store, or (3) were a forced purchase to use up a store credit before the card expired. If my IBS acts up, I can use napkins from fast food or cloth rags that are meant to be tossed and not washed.

    No paper products enter my house. Oh, I do have tp for company. I hide my washcloths so as not to creep people out.

  8. Beth says:

    I love my microfiber cleaning cloths. I label them in permanent ink so that the kitchen ones and the bathroom ones don’t mix. They make cleaning so easy and I pretty much only have to use baking soda, vinegar, or wood oil soaps to clean with now. Although most of the time, water is all I need!

    I switched to microfiber clothes and a cloth napkin/paper towel substitute over a year ago and haven’t bought paper towels or napkins since. Not buying these paper products and purchasing a lot fewer cleaners has saved me a bundle! I love it when green actions and frugal actions align!

    I like really CarSue’s idea of cutting up dead tee-shirts to use for those messes that you really don’t want to clean and reuse the cloth.

  9. Alex says:

    I have been using microfibre cloths for about six months now and they really are awesome. Tea-stained mugs are a thing of the past along with a million other things. But… I wonder if you can help me out with how to pro long their lifespan.

    I wash mine regularly but as they are used for wiping up and washing dirty things (I’m specifically talking about the kitchen ones now) they inevitably get stained. So far I haven’t worried too much about this although it would be nicer if they were still clean for the sake of aesthetics, especially when we have visitors. The newest problem however, is that they are no longer soft, they dry to a crispy hardness and come out smelling very dodgy until I get them in soapy water again. They’re really not acceptable in their present state and I admit to buying some *gasp* bleach the other day with a good soak in mind.

    I haven’t bleached them yet and don’t even know if this will work but please please please let me know how you have managed to keep yours in a hygienic state for ten years.

  10. Jane says:

    We only use loo roll in the house unless someone has such a bad cold they really need softer tissues, although there are a few handkerchiefs left with nametapes on from schooldays. I do have some microfibre cloths but I actually use old holey worn-out T-shirts and pants as cleaning cloths. You can tear the material quickly to make smaller cloths for putting shoe polish on type tasks and it works very well on glass. You choose which bits you keep and which bits you throw out or compost. They go on and on being chucked in the washing machine. You can use a microwave to nuke a wet cotton dishcloth instead of boiling it in a pan but I would imagine this would melt a microfibre cloth.

    Oh and who who said cleaning cloths should be square – they can be sleeve shaped and Y-front shaped as well as most of the back of a t-shirt shaped!

  11. Hazel says:

    Have to second (third) the terry nappies. Mine get used a lot for all sorts of mopping/wiping/soaking up spills and are great. I’ve got a way to go before I can say they’ve been around anything like 30 years though!

    I have a couple of microfibre cloths, which I like, but also bits of tshirt which I like just as much and I do like the fact that I can compost them when they’ve had it, although they perhaps don’t last as long as the microfibre cloths.

  12. Teresa says:

    I have different coloured microfibre cloths for different rooms whereas I had three white ones. I was going to clean my bathroom with a used J-cloth and sodium bicarbonate and then remembered about the microfibre cloth in the bathroom. This morning I had a good clean around though will be cleaning the toilet with kitchen paper which I then flush down the toilet (naughty) and the floor with old scraps of material and cut up t-shirts and then throwing them away.

  13. Mrs Green says:

    @Julie Day: I remember washing a piece of kitchen towel once, I don’t remember the brand, but it came out like a thin washcloth and didn’t break up; I can’t imagine how thick it must have been to survive that!

    @Kathy: @Hazel: Great idea Kathy and Hazel, old cotton t-shirts and towels are great too, for those without old nappies ๐Ÿ™‚

    @CarSue: Oh I hear you on the dogs thing! I used to keep an ’emergency’ roll on hand for cat puke and ‘presents’ – you’ve done well to use old t-shirts; very brave!

    @Teresa: Sounds like you are building up quite a collection, Teresa and you sound very organised too with different colours for different areas.

    @Antonio Pachowko: I consider myself told, Antonio; science was never my strongest subject at school ๐Ÿ˜‰

    @Attila: Great tip about the car cloths; I’ll look out for them

    @Practical Parsimony: I totally get what you mean about not wanting to touch them. I didn’t share the delicate piece of information that I have to lick my fingers before I pick them up (or better still put them under the tap). I thought it was just me …

    @Beth: I love mixing ‘green’ with frugality too. So pleased you’ve found something that works!

    @Alex: Hi Alex, well first things, I did not show my ‘white’ ones on the photo. They are totally grey and never come clean, but I’m pretty sure they are biologically clean and that’s good enough for me. Mine are tough too – we have very hard water. Have you been using fabric softener? This is a big no no with microfiber as it stops the absorption and MIGHT lead to an icky smell. I’ve not had that experience myself and they always go in on a 40 with a regular load. I also use eco friendly washing liquid or powder – whatever I have to hand. We don’t do anything special with them at all, so I’m at a loss as to how to help you really…

    @Jane: Hi Jane, I must admit to buying soft tissues when we have a cold, there’s nothing worse than that sore bit under your nose ๐Ÿ™

  14. Alex says:

    @ Mrs Green. Interesting. No I don’t use conditioner but everything does get washed cold from the tap. Australia seems to be a little behind on their washing machines and although you can buy “modern” front loaders they are more expensive and we only have an old-fashioned top loader which doesn’t seem to come in set temperatures. It’s either cold or hot. After trying hot once and shrinking everything I stuck with the plain cold. I use eco wasing powder too.
    Hmm, maybe I just need to wash more regularly. I might try soaking them in bicarb and see if that helps ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Alex, no matter what I did in the way of washing, deodorizing, or bleaching my regular dish cloths in the kitchen that are used for wiping counters, the stove, and washing dishes, the stunk. Pure stink that made me gag. Finally, I had just thrown them clean into a bag. Each time I washed dishes, I draped one over the top dishwasher rack and anchored it with dishes. Lo and Behold, Hallelujah! They smelled cleeeeean.

    Before using the dishwasher to clean them I had also used vinegar, baking soda, both together, laid them on the ground for the morning dew, left them on the clothes line for days, make a magic potion and said a charm. Okay, I lied about the magic part. Actually, the dishwasher was magic.

    Mrs. Green, other people think it is weird that I cannot stand to touch them. I will try licking my fingers…lol.

    Ragbag rags are ALWAYS for throwing out because I never run out of scraps.

  16. Jane says:

    My mother always used to boil the dishcloth in an old pan on the stove.

    At my parental home we do still have some old nappies – the liners are used for straining blackberry and apply jelly etc and the terry ones have done a couple of generations and then if falling apart were used as cloths. However old towels have been used more often. There are always parts of towels which are fine when the other parts are threadbare. Old towels get smaller and used for different purposes – those that were once bath towels turn up as small kitchen hand towels.

  17. Teresa says:

    My white e-cloths after cleaning the kitchen are now filthy and stained despite rinsing them out. I’m going to keep them for cleaning the kitchen floor. I decided to buy another e-cloth today so went to Lakeland. I saw Lakeland own brand microfibre cloths for cleaning showers and windows and even microfibre tea towels. I couldn’t find a general purpose one. I asked an assistant who showed me them on another aisle and said the e-cloths were on special offer at two for one but I only wanted one. Then I saw a Lakeland own brand microfibre cloth for cleaning kitchens and it was a different colour than the other ones I had and a bit cheaper than the e-cloths.

    I cleaned the curtain rail and rings with the new kitchen cloth which hadn’t been cleaned for years and now I have dust and grime on the cloth which I find difficult to get out.

  18. Teresa says:

    I washed the white cloths today by hand and scrubbed with soap and then rinsed them out and washed them again in the washing machine along with other laundry. The stains have gone but the cloths are now grey.

  19. Colleen says:

    @Alex:
    I believe that you will find that most microfibre clothes come with cleaning instruction that say do not bleach. I believe it effects the fibres so they can no longer grip onto the fine particles that they are designed to remove. An oxygen bases whitener may be better for stain removing but I am not sure about that.

  20. Mrs Green says:

    @Alex: Fascinating about your washing machines. Ours have about 60 different programmes and most people only ever use about 3 of them… :

    Thanks everyone for sharing your experiences and tips on how to clean them. I just put up with grey ones and fortunately they don’t smell bad. Interesting about washing them in a dishwasher…

  21. Alex says:

    @ Colleen, I decided not to bleach them in the end and you’re right. I went and bought a couple more last week and the packet said “do not bleach”. Instead I soaked them in hot water with bicarb and they now smell fresh again, even though still stained.

    @ I decided to try some homebrand ones and although thinner are still pretty good. But oh my goodness, I had forgotten what they feel like when they are brand new. You’re right – they stick to every little bit of uneven skin on my fingertips if I don’t wet them first, yuck. I guess it won’t be long before they go all stiff and spudgy like my old ones though.

  22. Mrs Green says:

    @Alex: Great news on the bicarb, Alex ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Teresa says:

    The one I bought last week is now mucky despite me rinsing it out frequently while using it for cleaning so that will have to be washed now. The now grey white ones that I was using before in the kitchen I’m now using to clean inside cupboards and on top of shelves as they haven’t been cleaned for ages.

    I’m reading How Clean is Your House and there is much encouragement to use paper towels to clean the toilet and in places that are really filthy to save on contamination. For general everyday wiping around they encourage the use of a weaved cotton cloth and to wash it every day. It’s not something I would use as it is full of holes. Prefer a J-cloth myself but they need to be thrown out after using for a week.

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