What is Microfiber made of?
If you’ve ever worn synthetic clothing or cleaned with a textured detail rag, you’ve come into contact with microfibers. But what is microfiber made of and why does it matter?
What is microfiber made out of?
Microfiber refers to a couple of different things: first, microfiber material, which is commonly used to make detail rags that you use to clean surfaces and cars, among other things. These rags have a distinct texture and a slight positive charge, making them excellent at picking up dust and dirt. Most commonly, microfiber rags are made of polyester, though they’re sometimes blended with nylon or polypropylene. The polyester is the key to giving the rags their signature texture. Polyester is a synthetic material as it’s made from petroleum.
The term microfiber is also used to refer to the tiny pieces of fabric that come off of synthetic clothing. When we wash any clothing made from unnatural fibers, like polyester or rayon, tiny pieces, known as microfibers, shed from the clothing. These microfibers are a type of microplastic.
What’s wrong with microfiber?
Microfiber and other synthetic fibers are made from petroleum. Just like plastic, these kinds of products made from petroleum eventually break down into tiny harmful pieces. The biggest source of microplastics is textiles: they account for 34.8% of microplastic globally. These bits end up in our water systems after being released from clothing in the washing machine. Eventually, they find their way to the rivers and oceans where they contribute to our ocean plastic pollution problem. It’s estimated that 176,500 metric tonnes of microfiber from synthetic material, mostly from polyester and nylon, are released globally each year.
So why do we keep using it? Microfiber is strong, durable, and cheap to make. Polyester in particular, is wrinkle-resistant, long-lasting, doesn’t fade, and dries quickly. Microfiber cloths are re-useable and perform better than cotton – a study found that after washing, they are even more effective for cleaning, even after 150 washes. They actually reduce hospital infection rates.
What did we use before microfiber?
We didn’t always wear synthetic clothing and use synthetic rags. Synthetic fiber came about in the late 1800s but didn’t gain popularity till the 40s. With the invention of nylon and spandex, synthetic fabrics quickly became popular for their stretch and stain resistance. Previous to this era, people only used natural fibers to make materials for clothing and cloth products. Cotton, linen, hemp, wool, and silk are the most common natural fibers.
If you already own microfiber cloths and synthetic clothing, you could opt for something like a Guppy Bag when you do laundry. Just throw your synthetic clothing into the bag before washing and it will catch microfibers as they shed.
For clothing alternatives, look for natural materials on the label as mentioned above. Brands like Pact focus on using organic, sustainable cotton, but you can find natural clothing at many retailers. Just be sure to read the label!
For cleaning, some people recommend using a cotton cloth diaper insert – they’re made to be super absorbent and you can throw them in the wash when you’re done. You can also grab old cotton t-shirts and cut them into rags – for more on that, check out my post here.
If you need support, join the Aim Plastic Free challenge. We’re here to help! You can join here – expect daily tips and community support. I hope you’ve found this blog helpful! As always, you can support me and the site by buying me a cup of tea or sharing the site with a friend. Your support means the world to me!