Why Super-Cleaning Microfiber Has Never Caught On In The U.S.

Barbara Flanagan of I.D. Magazine has a fascinating article about microfiber, a cleaning cloth introduced in Europe a decade ago that’s never caught on in the U.S., despite its ability to clean all sorts of things without the use of cleaning chemicals—”the product cleans surfaces mechanically, not chemically, by scraping them with microscopic precision.”

When Flanagan tested microfiber products herself, she found that they worked as promised but made people feel that something was off—and illustrated how deeply packaging and brand expectations control our cleaning purchases:

Robbed of the sensory excitement of cleaning solutions—bright colors, heady fumes, sudsing, foaming, and definitive rinsing—everyone felt ineffective and disarmed. The rituals didn’t feel right. But unquestionably, the stuff worked. Windows disappeared, floors gleamed, the Subaru sparkled.

She went on to ask the big cleaning companies what they thought of microfiber, and was met with a generalized “meh”:

Several lines of questioning, repeated over the course of two months, via approximately 100 phone calls and countless emails, uncovered several facts. First, large makers of household chemicals are very, very hard to reach and are unwilling to reveal their ingredients for fear of piracy. Second, they’re hell-bent on convincing customers to disinfect their premises using the strongest chemicals possible to annihilate bacteria and viruses, evidenced not just by the kind of products they sell and the scare tactics by which they’re marketed, but also by the corporate refrain I heard over and over: Okay, maybe microfiber can remove germs, but it does not kill them.

(To disinfect or sanitize, technically one must kill 99.999 percent of microorganisms in 30 seconds.)

Never mind that removing germs is likely to be enough for the average homeowner, assuming he or she takes the time to wash the microfiber cloth properly afterward. Never mind that new university research finds that “safe” household chemicals are proving unhealthy now that so many of them are building up and mixing together inside our hyper-sealed homes, then draining outdoors. Never mind that more scientists are predicting the rise of superbugs as over-disinfecting threatens to create invincible strains of bacteria and viruses.

But of course corporate self-interest is only half the story, because U.s. companies are responding to the desires of their market, and the U.S. market remains a place where chemicals and no-work convenience win out over a re-usable cloth.

The observation that all company spokespeople confirmed, whether makers of disinfectant toilet-bowl cleaner or makers of microfiber, was quite a revelation: America loves its cleaning chemicals, and lots of them. We have a distinct cleaning culture. And as much as that culture makes us look stubborn, superstitious, underinformed, and overly aggressive, it’s who we are.

“The Strange Case of the Missing Microfiber” [I.D. Magazine]

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. HYDRAULICMONSTER says:

    It probably doesn’t help that you only hear about them in bad late night television Infomercials.

  2. egosub2 says:

    First I’d heard of them. Hell, I’ll take ten.

  3. NightSteel says:

    So where can I get these here in the US?

  4. m.ravian says:

    yeah…where do we get them? since i am allergic to every cleaning product and fragrance known to man (i mostly use Ecover at home), this would be uber helpful.

  5. mwdavis says:

    Well, you know I have microfiber cloths, but never knew until this minute that I didn’t need to use cleaners along with them. “Microfiber marketing” folks haven’t communicated the nature of their product to me.

    I hardly love chemicals, but I had never been told that microfiber was an alternative.

  6. missdona says:

    My mother is obsessed with them and does entire laundry-loads of microfiber cloths. Note: never use fabric softener on microfiber cloths. It ruins the magical powers.

    I know that some will say never use fabric softener on anything, ever, but I digress.

    You can get them at Target by the method cleaning products or my mother buys them in bulk at Sams Club.

  7. teh says:

    From the looks of it, you can find them from Target or QVC (at least online). I seem to recall also seeing some at auto parts stores.

  8. missdona says:

    Oh.. and she always uses some sort of cleaning product with the microfiber cloth, unless it’s a dry-dusting situation.

  9. Melt says:

    These are perfect for your car too…No more Armor All (or other stuff) needed. Perfect for drying your call, dusting the interior, etc. Got mine from Amazon.

  10. Scubastevie00 says:

    Have you been living under a rock? How do people not know about microfiber. Almost every pair of sunglasses I’ve ever bought has come with one. Mind you everyone has seen those little Oakley sleeves that the sunglasses come in, they were microfiber at one point also. Microfiber FTW

  11. Truvill says:

    So will we need to have them shipped overseas?

    I don’t mind myself, since I have contacts there, but I’m actually interested in this alternative.

  12. DrGirlfriend says:

    I’ve been using them for the past few months. For light cleaning they are great.

    I saw a pack of like a dozen at Costco – they are bright yellow and I believe the packaging advertises them as being for drying your car after washing it. But they’re just regular microfiber. I’ve gotten a few at a local shop called Kitchen Kaboodle, which I believe only has brick & mortar stores in Oregon but they do have an online store. On top of that, I’ve seen them at Safeway. I’d be willing to bet they are more ubiquitous than you’d think – once you notice them you see them in lots of places.

    @mwdavis: I have a set of microfiber sponges that I got recently, the packaging is really clear about not needing to use soap or chemicals, only water. But up till then, I’d never seen any of my previous cloths put that on their packaging.

  13. You can get them at Target, Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, and a host of other local stores that carry cleaning supplies/rags, and other things of that nature.

    I LOVE microfiber cloths. They are the only thing that I use to clean my safety glasses. When sawdust gets on them, the microfiber doesn’t scratch the surface, so I can still see after cleaning them.

  14. freshyill says:

    @missdona: Interesting that you should mention the fabric softener. I have some microfiber dish towels from Target, and they’ll invariably come out of the dryer with the fabric softener sheets attached. They’re not very old, and it does seem like they don’t dry as well as they did before I first washed them. I’ll have to dry them separately in the future.

    For anyone wondering, these things dry dishes like a miracle. I found them at Target with the regular dish towels.

  15. DrGirlfriend says:

    @missdona: I also don’t run mine thru the dryer after washing them. I have noticed that the ones who have gone thru the dryer just aren’t the same afterwards. They still work okay, but not as well. Fortunately they line-dry pretty quickly.

  16. ptkdude says:

    I have a microfiber towel to clean my bowling ball with, and it doesn’t work worth a crap without cleaning solution (i.e. Windex). It actually doesn’t work any better than my Hello Kitty cotton towel.

  17. freshyill says:

    @Scubastevie00: I think everybody has encountered them at some point or another, but I’m not sure many people at all realize how useful they are.

  18. mdoublej says:

    I picked up a microfiber cloth at the Auto parts store, and not only does it work amazingly to dry my car, windows and all without streaks, after that it’s nice and damp to wipe out the interior.

    I also have the microfiber cloths that come with Apple Clean spray, those work great on my MacBook and my TV.

  19. OnceWasCool says:

    Is this the old Miracle Cloth of the 1970’s or the man-made shamies of the 1980’s?

  20. MyPetFly says:

    If these are what I’m thinking of, and I believe they are, they’ve been sold for many years as lens cleaning cloths, and I’ve been using them. Expensive camera lenses, glasses, etc. They’re great, and no lens cleaning fluid is needed.

    In fact, I use them on myself, and I haven’t had a shower in years. Same with my teeth. Toilet paper? A thing of the past… ; )

  21. missdona says:

    I just bought a 36 pack at Amazon for $20. This article is inspiring me to be more like my mother.

    Also, they’re awesome on granite countertops.

  22. jscott73 says:

    Yes, I have been using these for a couple of years now for cleaning/drying my car until I read recently, that since they are made of plastic, they may actually scratch and damage the paint. Whether or not that is true I do not know but I bought a real chamois on sale at Target recently for drying the paint. First one I have ever owned and I have to say it works way better then anything I have used before.

    Anyways, I will continue to use microfiber for everything else, now if I can just convince my wife not to use so much cleaner and to use these instead…

  23. EmarBea says:

    The microfiber cloth has been around for several years. I have two here at my desk. I use one to clean my glasses and one to clean the monitor screen. I have one in my car to clean the inside of the windshield. I also use one as the wash cloth when washing dishes.

    But the wife hates the feel of the microfiber and won’t touch it. She says it feels creepy. I’ve seen microfiber shirts and pants in the stores but I do not like the feel of the material as an item to wear.

    They are sold in WalMart stores where the dish towels etc are and in the automotive department in packs of three. They make excellent dust cloths too. Just throw them in the washing machine and they are good to go again.

  24. AndyRogers says:

    “the product cleans surfaces mechanically, not chemically, by scraping them with microscopic precision.”

    Scraping? And you want me to use these “scrapers” to dry my car? Clean my expensive TV, computer screen, etc?

  25. Bye says:

    Is this the same concept as the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser? I used one of those again this weekend on the tub and was again amazed by what it could do…but it made me wonder if the ‘magic’ involved was doing something worse than chemicals to my tub.

  26. etinterrapax says:

    They’re awesome. I’ve used them for about two years, and I have different colors for whichever part of the house–bathroom, kitchen, etc. I’ve found that you can either use no chemicals or less of a given chemical, if it’s necessary, for great results. The mops are terrific too.

  27. missdona says:

    @AndyRogers: My 46″ Sharp Aquos actually came with one to clean the screen. I think they’re using “scrape” in broad sense.

  28. greeky says:

    At target the bright orange microfiber cloths found in the automotive section are cheaper than the microfiber cloths in the cleaning section. You just have to not be bothered by that bright orange color and you’ll save a few dollars.

  29. ChuckECheese says:

    @NightSteel: Microfiber cleaning cloths are available at any mass retailer. You may be able to find them in a reasonably priced bundle of 10 or so, for less than a dollar each. They look sorta like terrycloth, but with a finer weave, and a distinct rubbery, “grabby” texture when you touch them. They are made of 100% poly. You see them in lurid shades of lime green and periwinkle.

    If you can’t find them with the domestics, look for them in auto accessories.

  30. jscott73 says:

    @AndyRogers: Agreed, they are made of plastic and I don’t trust them anymore on my car’s paint or my TV, but for everything else they are great.

  31. LucyInTheSky says:

    on a different note, even if you don’t use these things, what happened to using vinegar, rubbing alcohol, baking soda and lemon juice? if you’re so concerned about the big bad germs and don’t trust using nothing but a cloth, use natural stuff. it works just as well.

  32. etinterrapax says:

    @Rey: They work similarly, but Magic Erasers are melamine sponges. And though I don’t know anything about their environmental impact, it’s probably higher than microfiber, since bits of the melamine flake off and get washed into the drain when you use them. But no, the magic is also microscopic abrasion, and I imagine that over time, it can wear the finish off of a fiberglass tub, but chemicals do that anyhow.

  33. foxbat2500 says:

    I hate how its basically impossible to by non-antibacterial soap. With all this antibacterial nonsense we are just making stronger germs. We’ll pay for it in the end.

  34. Hmmm, I just got a brand new computer chair that is upholstered in Microfibre. Does this count? prolly not… I wonder what cleans microfibre, cuz this chair is a cat hair magnet and it’s not helping matters that I keep getting cigarette ashes all over it. Don’t worry folks, it’s not tobacco.

  35. friendlynerd says:

    @foxbat2500:
    I’ve taken to using cheap shampoo as hand soap. Think VO5, White Rain, Suave, that sort of thing. It smells great and feels just like hand soap but without the (completely unnecessary) antibacterial ingredients.

    And a 99 cent bottle will last quite a long time.

  36. mannyv says:

    The problem is marketing.

    Unless you’re one of the majors, you don’t have a lot of budget for a blast-it marketing campaign. First, you need to dump the name: microfiber is a description, not a product name.

    Then, you need to pitch it correctly. “Clean without chemicals” or something like that.

    When reporters and spokespeople say things like “U.S. companies are responding to the desires of their market, and the U.S. market remains a place where chemicals and no-work convenience win out over a re-usable cloth” it’s a nice turn of phrase and trite, easy-to-digest psychobabble. But it’s probably wrong.

    Every consumer products company makes oodles of money off of cleaning solutions. Why would they try to sell a product that obviates that revenue stream?

  37. BrianU says:

    Same thing included with expensive sunglasses and prescription eyeglasses. I’ve seen them used for expensive wristwatches and jewelry. So while they don’t seem to be in every household by the dozen, I wouldn’t say they are so uncommon as to be noteworthy. Maybe Americans just have less reason to pay a lot more for small pieces of fabric than paper towels/rags and our plethora of cleaning sprays and fluids.

  38. freepistol says:

    my mom has one of these, they stick to her hands, cause she has really dry chapped hands. they stick like velcro, and she hates the feeling of it so she doesnt use them.

    i wish she could convince my grandmother of the cleaning power of the microfiber though, grandma loves lysol. shes gone so far as to spray lysol on my 6 month old babies toys, thankfully he didnt put it in his mouth before i realized this.

  39. foxbat2500 says:

    @friendlynerd:

    Good idea

  40. egosub2 says:

    @Scubastevie00: I may have been under a rock, but at least I wasn’t getting pwnz0rd by a manufacturer of ugly, expensive sunglasses. Because, under a rock, it’s dark.

  41. Sudonum says:

    They also work great for polishing or cleaning gold and silver. My jeweler’s given them to me when I’ve asked about proper cleaning.

  42. B says:

    Wait, is it these things?
    They might work wonders, but the sales technique is especially grating.

  43. Alexander says:

    If Billy Mays don’t tell me, than I don’t believe it!

  44. Sidecutter says:

    @friendlynerd: Non-Antibacterial handsoaps are easily available at Target. They have at least a half-dozen varieties in the same place with the antibacterial soaps, refill jugs too and Target branded versions too. A normal counter-sized pump container of the Target version of one of the brand names there is about a buck.

  45. egosub2 says:

    @alexander: If only there were some way to oxygenate these microfiber cloths, we could get the estimable Mr. Mays on board.

  46. weakdome says:

    @ptkdude: Sounds like you must have some seriously dirty balls.

  47. forgottenpassword says:

    so i could use old micro-fiber clothing (for a while there micro-fiber was the new “wow-material” for clothes) to clean my shower?

    First I’ve heard of these for cleaning cloths.

  48. Alexander says:

    @weakdome: Thanks, you just made my day!

  49. Chris Walters says:

    Hey everyone, the author of the article says the word “microfiber” isn’t regulated and is liberally applied to all sorts of items, so you might have to do a little research before buying a true microfiber cloth or product. I found some this morning that were sold by Rubbermaid, but only through their professional division.

    Wikipedia says no fabric softener, no bleach, and no ironing–all will damage the strands or clog them up so that they don’t capture debris properly.

  50. snoop-blog says:

    I have them for my eyeglasses and it’s true DO NOT use anything, do not even breath on them, or so the instructions say.

  51. missdona says:

    @Chris Walters: Right. Mom doesn’t bleach or iron them either.

  52. snoop-blog says:

    and whoever said no more armor all for their dash needs to know that the oils and lubricants in the armor all are for preventing your dash from drying out and cracking, so yeah, you should still use armor all on your dash.

  53. snoop-blog says:

    Zennioptical ($8 eyeglasses) which I heard of from the Consumerist sends a micro-fiber cloth with every pair of glasses. Thanks again for refering me to zenni, I have bought 14 pairs of eyeglasses from them since and always had a good experience.

  54. Mapmaker says:

    The informercials for one particular brand are great: [shamwow.com]

    My brother started to watch it and was expecting it the entire time to be a parody ad or something from truth.com – at the end, waiting for it to be “you can’t wipe away the lies of Big Tobacco” or some other nonsense.

  55. chenry says:

    The one place Microfiber clothes did catch on? Paintball. Ask a paintball player. More often than not, they’ll either have a microfiber, or have used one. They’re great for cleaning your gear and wiping the paint off your mask in a second.

  56. friendlynerd says:

    @Sidecutter:
    Right, or I could get a bottle that can fill my soap dispenser 3 times for the same price.

  57. Anonymously says:

    The giant pack of yellow microfibers in the Costco automotive aisle are a fantastic deal. In general, I’ve found towels in the automotive section cheaper than the ones in the housewares section.

    Never expose your microfiber to excessive heat or the fibers could melt (its plastic, ya know). Always wash in cold/warm water and dry on low or line dry. Do not use fabric softener.

    Just as there are many types of cotton towels, there are many types of microfiber towels, some better for certain jobs than others. Shorter nap towels clean glass better (there’s less drag) while thick towels can help prevent scratching. Waffle weave towels are great for drying.

  58. I’ve been using them for years now, I love em. You can get them anywhere, here’s a link to some from ace hardware

    [www.acehardware.com]

  59. FrankenPC says:

    I use microfiber cloths all the time. Fantastic invention. Throw them in the washer every once in a while and they are good to go. Clean your eye glasses, LCD screens, etc..

  60. Poisonthescene says:

    @Scubastevie00: I agree, I’ve had two computer cases and an ipod touch come each come with a microfiber cloth. If they’re shipping with all touches/iphones, how can people not know about them?

  61. jusooho says:

    In Korea, they give these things as a promotional item, its got a name of the place and its phone number.

    You can use it for cleaning your phone or your glasses. Very nice and small to fit in your pocket as well.

    My daughter got one with a cartoon character on it. My one that I use is yellow like a car cleaner rag. Haha.

  62. velvetjones says:

    @lookatmissohio: in the sponge/mop/broom lane at Target. They’re great. I also tuck them into my swiffer handle and use them instead of buying refillsl. They seem to work better if they’re a little damp.

    @foxbat2500: Burts bees has a great sulfate, pthalate free non anti-bac hand soap. They also sell several non anti bac soaps at Whole Foods.

  63. cruster says:

    @jscott73: Actually, microfiber is pretty much the material of choice for the more car-care obsessed among us. The scratching tends to come from the edging on the cheaper microfibers, which is usually another polyester. Find microfibers edged with silk or cotton and you are good to go. Most pro detailers use these on a daily basis; I’m no pro but I use various microfibers for washing, drying, waxing, and polishing – inside and out, and you would be hard pressed to find even a microscratch on my car. Not all microfiber cloths are created the same.

  64. Drowner says:

    The discovery that soap = no more dead babies seemed to be when America fell in love with harsh chemical products.

    Note: This is my favorite medical history story. I will use any excuse to post it.

  65. sir_eccles says:

    @foxbat2500: For simple non-antibacterial soap you should try Dr Bronners. As a bonus you get to read all the stuff on the bottle.

  66. egosub2 says:

    @Poisonthescene: Didn’t you hear? We’ve been living under a rock. The convenience of portable media devices is significantly diminished by our stationary, subterranean way of life. Also, there’s no Apple store under the rock. And Apple has always seemed to us to be a little too pleased with themselves. We’re an independent, quarrelsome bunch under here.

  67. sir_eccles says:

    @Drowner: Here’s the kicker though, normal soap is just as good if not better than anti-bacterial soap and hand washing technique is more important than the chemicals used.

  68. mike says:

    Huh…first I’m hearing of them too. Someone needs to advertise!

  69. LordieLordie says:

    I got a huge pack of those at Costco last year. It is an amazing product. But they stopped carrying it.. I still have some but they start to age..

  70. Orv says:

    @snoop-blog: The problem with Armor All is once you’ve used it once, you have to keep using it or the dash will crack. It replaces the plasticizers in the vinyl with its own more volatile ones, which look nice and shiny but dry out fast. At least, that’s what I’ve heard. I don’t let the stuff near my dash or my vinyl convertible top.

  71. snoop-blog says:

    @Orv: absolutly right, which is why I use alternative products that last better but even your owners manuals will suggest using such products.

  72. katylostherart says:

    these kind of sound like swim chamois. i know real chamois are made of leather, but they have microfiber (i think) ones that like speedo puts out in 8 colors. i remember those things hold like a gallon of water or something mental anyway. we also used to use them to wash and dry dogs at a kennel i worked at. they scrubbed pretty awesomely and soaked everything up. also buff the spots out of cars with them and generally make everything shiny.

  73. Drowner says:

    @sir_eccles: I KNOW! But medicine, and alot of other industries in America, hinge on the thing. It has to be a new thing no one has ever tried before. “Sure rubbing my hands together, I’ve done that before. Rubbing my hands together with cooked animal fat?! SCHWA?”

  74. TeraGram says:

    @LordieLordie: That is where I got mine, also. They were made by 3M/Scotch. I still have them and they work fabulously! I have one that I immediately dedicated to delicate glass, such as my eye-glasses. Most others are for general cleaning around the home. One has become hopelessly grungy and is now relegated to mostly cleaning floors.

    They’re a major part of my home cleaning routine and as a result, my cleaning budget has seen a significant decrease.

  75. ellastar says:

    @LucyInTheSky: I’ve found that these cloths work GREAT with a water/vinegar mixture on glass.

    @foxbat2500: I refuse to buy anything that advertizes being anti-bacterial. No thanks, I like my bacteria to stay un-resistant.

    @freepistol: My mom lysol-ed everything when I was a baby. Not so much for my brothers. Which is why I’m the one with all kinds of allergies and they have nary a worry. A little exposure to dirt and germs won’t hurt anyone.

  76. @foxbat2500: I highly suggest you buy a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s magic soap. First off, it is real soap. most of the stuff that says “soap” on the packaging is not soap, but detergent.
    Dr. Bronner’s is all natural, organic, and does an amazing job of cleaning. You can even use it as shampoo, and mouthwash. Campers use it all the time because it is healthy, and takes the place of everal items you would normaly fill your backpack with.
    it is sold at health food stores. Trader Joe’s sells it as well.
    It is the crazy bottle with scripture all over it.
    I use the peppermint. It foams so much, that a little drop on a sponge or a loofah can do most jobs. A 32oz. bottle lasts me months.

  77. Xay says:

    There is a pretty good market for microfiber towels for hair styline. I wouldn’t dry my locs with anything else – no lint and they suck up water like you wouldn’t believe.

  78. katylostherart says:

    @ellastar: ok my main problem with germs is the smell. i think that’s a lot of people’s problem, or maybe i’m just overly hopeful that people have half a brain. however, if you use hot enough water with enough scrubbing, you really can clean anything sans soap. with cast iron pans and stuff you just use hot water and a steel wool, no soap, no bleach, no nothing. it’s still clean, germs removed, free to cook with again.

  79. Carl3000 says:

    Ahh yes I’ve heard this song and dance before: “Big Industry vs. little old me who just cares about the environment gosh gee whiz – they do it in europe you are just too dumb to understand it.” Although that is an excellent marketing plan to target upper-middle class liberals.

  80. BlackFlag55 says:

    Two things to know …. Tavistock Institute and PR Newswire. Understand these two and the ‘programming’ of the American mind begins to come into focus. And resistance ain’t futile … it’s a damn good feeling.

  81. Orv says:

    @ellastar: Hmm. I still use Windex and the classified section of the newspaper to clean my windows.

  82. typetive says:

    I have a microfiber cloth that I keep in my car. I’ve never washed the interior windows (4 years) … just a brisk rubbing with my miracle cloth and it wipes away greasy smudges on the dash, dust in the grain of the door panels and that foggy stuff from the windshield.

    I bought it at Target in the automotive section … a set of three of them for something like 5 dollars. The other two I use in the house for dusting. Great for TVs, electronics & monitors because it grabs the dust instead of pushing it around.

  83. scooterist says:

    we use Microfiber mops to clean our wood floors. All they need is to be a little damp and they remove literally all marks from the floor. I also use them to dry my car after washing it, but now I’m going to try washing it with just a damp microfiber cloth.

    The only thing with the packs you buy in places like Bed, Bath and Beyond are that they are small ones. I want larger versions if anyone knows where to get them.

  84. spinachdip says:

    @weakdome: You win life.

    @Carl3000: I’ll never understand American Exceptionalists who will reject things that are clearly in their best interests because “Here in America, we do it our way” or “Ewww, that sounds liberal/commie pinko!”.

  85. scooterist says:

    I’m embarrassed to post this, but a workmate just told me to look on QVC.com and search for microfiber. So I did and there they are a a pretty reasonable price. I might have to buy them (but under an alias of course).

  86. ironchef says:

    [www.amazon.com]

    Pack of 36 for $20 bucks.

    There’s also 10 for $11 bucks on Amazon too.

  87. HOP says:

    yeah….they work fine for me……..

  88. Cool, off to Amazon.com I go. I hate smelly (and over-prices) cleaners.

  89. quirkyrachel says:

    Anyone know where you can buy this online?

  90. chrisexv6 says:

    Microfibers can be fine on your cars paint, I use them all the time. The key is to buy GOOD microfibers (check some automotive detailing forums on the net). Some people have gone as far as getting a jewelers loupe (sp?), wiping a blank CD down with a new MF rag, and then looking for scratches. The good ones (no scratches) are what we use on paint, anything that scratches can be relegated to dirty work (wheels, door jambs, etc).

    Another tip is to put some white vinegar in the rinse when you are washing your MF towels. Keeps them soft and “microfiber-y” longer. I throw them in a dryer on its lowest setting for a bit (“air dry”, so it really just tumbles them for a while) then I let them air dry the rest of the way.

    I buy the yellow Costco ones for general work, cheap enough that I dont mind them getting a mess and tossing them. Turns out some of the Target brand are actually good even for paint, I have a bunch of those.

    And there are different types of MF too…….waffle weave is better for drying, the tighter weave is better for polishing/removing wax.

  91. Youthier says:

    I don’t understand the obsession with cleaning chemicals most people have. I mean, I use them a lot but I have OCD and recognize that as an actual disorder, not business as usual.

    I have been using microfiber for dry dusting for a long-time though and it’s definitely a fabulous invention.

  92. JustinAche says:

    I’ve been using microfibers for at least 10 years now. On my old Chevelle, and on all my motorcycles. If someone has not heard of them, they must be living under a rock.

    I do use chemicals on some of them (usually Honda Cleaner, which is great for any bike or car, regardless of brand), but sometimes just the towel itself, slightly damp

  93. opsomath says:

    Dude, how did an article about the niftiness of microfiber cloth become a blanket condemnation of American culture?

    “as much as that culture makes us look stubborn, superstitious, underinformed, and overly aggressive, it’s who we are.”

    Because I use Lysol? Excuse me?

  94. bohemian says:

    We have been gradually buying more of these over the last year. First for dusting, then for cleaning things after I figured out you could use them for cleaning too. I have been using them with Method brand cleaner or window cleaner. I will have to try with just water. I had no clue they could work with just water.

    We have been getting ours at Target in the automotive section. I got dishtowel sized ones there a few weeks ago. They do an amazing job of drying dishes and cleaning up counters. Don’t use them to wipe your hands dry though. They seem to strip the oil out of your hands or something. I did this for a few days and my hands were chapped all over.

    The chemical industry is huge. People pay around $4 for all the new super duper anti-bacterial whatever they are selling this week. They seem to keep upping the ante like the disposable razor industry has. We banished anti-bacterial stuff years ago. We have been slowly swapping the stuff we have been using (Method brand) for things like vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice etc. and have been surprised at how well some of them work. We got a bathtub like new clean with lemon juice & baking soda. When we moved in we were sure it was going to have to be replaced when we could not get it clean with caustic cleaners.

    The shamwow guy looks like a freaky cartoon character.

  95. krom says:

    And we wonder why our children don’t do as well in school.

    Could it perhaps be because we are dumb as bricks, and encouraged to be so?

    Time and time again, we see that Americans simply live in a different world from… the rest of the world; and utterly and stubbornly refuse to think and act rationally.

    Microfiber doesn’t sell well in US because it doesn’t provide the right “cleaning experience”. Right, because Americans place the experience over the actual results. If it doesn’t feel like cleaning, it’s not really cleaning, so let’s go back to the chemicals, which don’t do so great, and leave fumes and who knows what, because that’s what we expect — instead of, you know, *cleanliness*.

    Likewise, despite raging oil prices, smart cars and other economic vehicles don’t sell, because they’re not cool enough. Despite that they save tons on gas and pollution… American’s place coolness or luxury as a priority on driving, rather than, say, how well something gets you to where you need to go.

    Likewise, density is frowned upon in America, despite being intentionally built and popular elsewhere, because it makes closer communities, brings services and jobs closer to homes, provides more vibrant places to live. Right, because Americans place ownership, volume, and dominion above living affordably and socially.

  96. ironchef says:

    Less chemicals you need to buy=more money saved.

    I think the Europeans got it right. Less money goes to overpriced cleaners for the same or better amount of cleaning (no residues or toxins).

  97. bohemian says:

    @opsomath: Yes. Lysol is nasty, and toxic. Please evolve.

  98. Wait..who hasn’t heard of these? I have quite a few, they initially were sold as camera lens / electronic cleaning cloths…so I have a ton…

    I have two I got at a yard sale new in the package that are at least 30 years old, work perfectly.

    Don’t use detergent in the wash, it ruins them. Just hand wash in the sink really.

  99. mgy says:

    @Mapmaker: I am so glad that you came in here to post about the Shamwow. I don’t use it, but it’s my single favorite commercial.

  100. Carl3000 says:

    @spinachdip: Not sure what you are talking about I didn’t say any of those things

  101. boss_lady says:

    Not sure if I missed this, but some of them can also be used in the dryer instead of dryer sheets. Yes, it decreases their life-length, but it grabs all the static without the chemicals of dryer sheets (plus the extra waste). Only thing is, it’ll inevitably be stuck to your pants, shirt, etc. when you take them out of the dryer, so you’ll have to hunt for it. Also, it’s warm weather season, so yahoo for hanging your stuff out to dry.

  102. a_brown-eyed_grrl says:

    I’m going to buy some of these. I’m moving away from even using Method and Mrs. Meyers. My husband comes from a family who has to bleach everything to “clean” it, so it’s been a struggle, but I think he’s finally on board. It helped that I complained A LOT when I’d walk in the house and it reeked of bleach.

  103. boss_lady says:

    @krom: Wish I could say that some Canadians are better, but I work with a guy who just bought a new car with a V-8 and bragged about how much gas it burns through. There’s also a guy in town with a giant pick-up truck whose back-window decal says:

    “Burnin’ gas and haulin’ ass”

    Puke.

  104. Snakeophelia says:

    LOVE these, but didn’t know they weren’t supposed to in the dryer. I bought mine on Amazon.

  105. boss_lady says:

    @suburbancowboy: Dr. Bronner’s is wicked! At first, I had a hard time getting over the sick-scary amounts of bible scripture, but once you see how much and how well it works, you’ll have a hard time going back. I worked at a locally-owned healthfood store, and that’s how I got into it. I’ve used it for everything from cleaning the bathroom to shampoo/bodywash/facial cleanser while camping. Being a girl, I also love the scents that are available. Last time I checked, there was Peppermint, Lavender, Eucalyptus, and Unscented. Apparently you can also get it in a ‘bar’ form now, too, which may not last as long, but be more convenient for camp. Long live Dr. Bronner’s (no, I don’t work for them).

  106. spinachdip says:

    @Carl3000: Of course you didn’t. You simply alluded to it.

  107. nedzeppelin says:

    @friendlynerd: isn’t all soap supposed to be antibacterial? what’s the point if it isn’t

  108. spinachdip says:

    @wiretapstudios: I haven’t heard about this stuff. At least I didn’t know they were a substitute for household chemicals (I tend to tune out infomercial sales pitches).

    Though I become more and more convinced that I can easily and effectively replace all chemicals in my house with white vinegar and baking soda. Watching vinegar do its work on a humidifier after years of neglect is nothing short of amazing.

  109. jhurley03 says:

    @lookatmissohio:

    I own a natural cleaning business. I use microfiber for pretty much everything. You should look into Earth Friendly products as an alternative besides the Ecover.

  110. cerbie says:

    Even when you find them, like anything else, quality will vary. Funny how you pay so much for those ones to clean glasses with, yet one with 20 times the area for the same cost doesn’t work half as well. IE, just about anything on Advance or Autozone shelves tends to be crap. Target seems to have some decent ones, though.

    BTW, I’ve only recently begun to use them a lot.

    @LucyInTheSky: Nothing? I use all that stuff all the time. You can also use such rather safe chemicals with the fancy microfiber cleaning cloths, where needed or desired (even the greatness of microfiber can not replace the greater greatness of baking soda).

    As an aside on the chemicals, try Pure Castile. The one with the quotes all over the bottle. Works fine on skin, gets rid of misc. car grime no problem, takes care of mold, etc., and is more or less just good quality oil soap. It can replace many cleaning products around the house (like scrubbing bubbles and gojo). Just figure out a good scent for you, and off you go…with your microfiber cloth, of course, to keep this on topic :).

  111. VikingP77 says:

    I can’t even go near the cleaning products aisle without sneezing! Seriously that stuff is horrible and I dread for what it does to the environment. I’m am totally buying some of this at Target today! Maybe even Amazon…awesome article!

  112. friendlynerd says:

    @nedzeppelin:
    No, soap needs additives to be antibacterial. Any soap will remove bacteria from your hands and send it down the drain, but “antibacterial” soaps actually kill what’s on your hands.

    Theoretically.

    The issue is that antibacterial soaps are rarely used correctly. If you look at the directions you’re really supposed to have it on your hands a minimum of 30 seconds. Most people are through washing their hands and out the door by the time 30 seconds has passed. The result: killing the weaker bacteria and leaving the stronger ones (likely more harmful ones than the ones you just killed) to thrive. At the same time you might be maiming those stronger ones but the ones that live go on to reproduce, making more of the resistant strains.

    Final result: chemical-resistant superbugs.

  113. Orv says:

    @andykay: I would still bucket-wash the car if it’s got a significant amount of dirt on it. While the microfiber cloth won’t scratch the paint, grit trapped in it can.

  114. bcsus83 says:

    I use them. I will have to admit, though, that I like the smell of my house after I clean it w/ chemicals. It smells “clean”. I find after I use the microfiber cloths, I go around and spray Febreze throughout my house just to give it that ‘clean’ smell. HAHAHAHA! I’m such a sucker, I know.

  115. bhall03 says:

    The REAL reason microfiber hasn’t caought on in the US is it is based on the METRIC SYSTEM.

    =)

  116. irv says:

    I use these; they’re awesome and they dust anything. My mom got me a few from Dollar Tree, I think, or maybe Sam’s Club.

  117. opsomath says:

    @bohemian: Hmm. That comment is as inflammatory and presumptuous as the original article.

    I will tell you one reason microfiber won’t replace cleaners; geometry. When my dog is a bad dog on the carpet, no amount of rubbing it with microfiber will get the dog crap out of the places where it has soaked. I want me some surfactants to get in there and kill those e.coli bacteria before I walk on that surface with bare feet again. Or consider the humble corner. No matter how hard you push that microfiber towelette into the corners of where your kitchen counter meets the wall, there will be a teeny, tiny space where the cloth can’t get. This may be a problem only Mr. Monk could worry about, but the point is that mechanical cleaning methods don’t solve every cleaning problem.

    Incidentally, I own a cast iron skillet (great for steak) and use mechanical cleaning on it every day, just about.

  118. spinachdip says:

    @opsomath: That’s why god invented vinegar and baking soda.

  119. BScrivner says:

    YOu can buy them at Target.com , Wal-Mart, Costco and Trader Joe’s, so how missing are these products?

  120. Proof that the majority of american consumers are idiots and the companies that cater to them know this for a fact.

  121. missdona says:

    If people are interested in cleaning without chemicals, you should check out the Lotus Sanitizing System. It’s a countertop oxygenator that transforms tap water into supercharged cleaner, 10x more powerful than bleach, but completely nontoxic.

    I’ve had one for over a year and use it on everything but wood in my house.

    And it comes with a microfiber cloth :)

  122. spinachdip says:

    @BScrivner: I shop at TJ’s but never shop in the non-food sections. Now I know. Thanks!

  123. KilbyJobonomic says:

    Bought a two pack of micro fiber cloths from GM at Stop & Shop based on this
    thread. I cleaned a bunch of surfaces in the kitchen with water, but it
    seemed like I could do the same with any cloth. So I put a micro fiber
    towel to the ultimate test. A few months back I had to remove the tinting
    on my car windows. Anyone who’s done this knows that a windows sized layer
    of a super gummy adhesive is left behind. The only way to remove this
    adhesive according to numerous car care forums is to use chemicals. Lots of
    them along with razor blades or trash bags. It would take hours, not to
    mention leave the car smelling like nail polish remover, or gasoline, or
    Goof-Off for days.

    I dampened the cloth, went out and rubbed a bit on the remaining glue
    covered window. Holy freaking micro-fiber Batman!!! I cleaned the adhesive
    off of the entire window in 20 minutes. There is no residue left and I can
    now open the window again without it sticking. Micro fiber cloth = good!

  124. coren says:

    Mark me down as one of those who doesn’t give a crap about the “mystique of cleaning”. Less work, no harsh chemicals, and relatively inexpensive? Sign me the hell up.

  125. crimsonwhat says:

    Where can I get some of these, for real?

  126. TechnoDestructo says:

    I have some microfiber shop towels, and they kind of suck. Sure, they’re really absorbent…once you finally get them to absorb anything. They also feel really weird to the touch when both they and your hands are dry. They’re just generally unpleasant.

  127. shagybones says:

    [www.shopmicrofiber.com]

    This is a site that my wife runs, microfiber is a great product and we have been using it for years. If anyone is interested I may be able to convince her to put up a coupon code for the consumerist gang :)

    shagybones at yahoo.com if you are interested or have any questions.

  128. shagybones says:

    Okay, I asked my wife for a coupon code for her site and she setup a 15% off code:

    [www.shopmicrofiber.com]
    SMFOR15

    Hope everyone enjoys!

  129. theRIAA says:

    @AndyRogers: @AndyRogers: @AndyRogers:

    yes, you do. They scratch less than cotton cloths, less than your bare hand, but their “micro” scrappers remove dirt more effectively.

    rub your hand over a fresh, dry microcloth and you will feel the difference

  130. Whinemaker says:

    Microfiber never gets the dust off of my furniture – it just sort of shakes off of the cloth when I move to a different area (yes, I dust regularly, but I live in the San Joaquin Valley, aka ‘dust bowl’) I always have to use a light spray furniture polish.

    But, much better cloths are ones I get at the janitorial supply or Smart & Final … they’re a flannel-like material, treated with some sort of waxy substance. Hands down, the best furniture dust cloths EVER! You never have to use polish, and the dust sticks to ‘em like a magnet.

  131. fisherman23 says:

    I have been using these for years and they are truly the best. I never buy window cleaning solution anymore, just get them lighly damp and they will clean windows crystal clear. I buy them in 25 packs at Sam’s Club. I haven’t bought a roll of paper towels since I bought these things.

  132. fever says:

    I think part of people’s reluctance to use them is that it’s hard to feel they are “clean” even after they’ve been washed. That being said, I use them, but probably not as much as I could. Of course, I also don’t clean anywhere near the level my mother would say was close to satisfactory… But at least there are no super-bugs around me.

  133. shagybones says:

    Hello, I saw you were interested in microfiber. My wife runs a company that sells them and I had her set up a coupon code for Consumerist readers. Please let me know if you have any questions.

    [www.shopmicrofiber.com]
    15% discount code
    SMFOR15

    Also, she said Microfiber is not abrasive and doesn’t scratch. Microfiber is unique, and works so well, because the fibers are actually split on a microscopic level, so they grab in and trap dirt, instead of just pushing it around.

  134. Kajj says:

    One drawback that I think is overlooked, since most cleaning products are marketed to suburbanites, is that for me using a reusable cleaning cloth is markedly more expensive than using paper towels and some kind of cancer-based chemical product.

    A roll of paper towels and a bottle of blue stuff costs me less than three dollars if I find a good sale, and gets me 25 to 50 cleaning jobs, depending on how many towels I need. Washing and drying a microfiber cloth at the laundromat costs three dollars, and gets me one cleaning.

    And for those who are about to say “Just wash it in the sink, you lazy deserve-what-you-getter!” …I’ve tried that. Microfiber’s magical grippy properties are unhelpful when you’re trying to release the dirt.

  135. angelmom1 says:

    I found mine by accident in the auto store. Started using them as dish clothes, then found larger ones at grocery outlet, use those as dish towels. Now I use them for everything, in cases of really tough grease or grime I use a little vinegar in the water I rinse the clothes in, grundge gone. I even use them as washclothes, great for exfoliating. So far I haven’t found anything I can’t use them on or with. My grandkids would rather have their little face washed with the microfiber than a plain washcloth, and don’t fight getting cleaned up after meals. Their great.

  136. Bramble73 says:

    Particularly in the last few years disposable cleaning products have really been the in thing, from Swiffers to one-time use toilet bowl scrubbers. In part I think because people have become more aware of the germs that linger in sponges and mops. I’ve found myself falling into that trap. I’ve got disposable scrubby things in the kitchen for stubborn pans, swiffer wet and the equivelent for cleaning the vinyl floor, and I don’t want to even think about quickly I go through paper towels cleaning up after my cat (he gets confused as to where his litterbox ends and the bathroom floor begins).

    So I stopped by Target on my way home to grab a pack of microfiber cloths, and I tried them out on a particuarly stubborn dish which had been used to cook some sugary glaze that I just couldn’t get to come off with any other implement, and while it didn’t come all the way off, the microfiber cloth did a better job then anything else I’d tried, including baking soda. My cat was “kind” enough to piddle on the floor in front of the litter box, so I wiped that up with another microfiber cloth, rinsed it out and as of this morning there was no cat urine smell, but we’ll have to wait a little longer to see if they can truely replace paper towels for that application.

  137. competentgirliegirl says:

    Microfiber cloths are the bomb. I use them with very hot water to clean my glass top range and they get all the stuff off except for what needs to be bladed off (glass top owners know what I mean). These things are amazing and will take grease and grime off any surface with just a little bit of pressure.

    They are also great for “damp” dusting. Just spritz with plain water and they grab all the dust easily.

    My understanding is that the more you subject them to soaps, detergents and cleaners, the sooner they will wear out. Meaning: their little diamond cut fibers that are so good at grabbing dirt will degrade and no longer work properly. They should only be rinsed out well with hot water unless they are very dirty and then washed with a mild soap and air dried.

    The American sheeple need to let up on all the chemicals. I am always floored by the logic (lack of) of those who rush out to buy the latest air freshener that’s conveniently sprayed into the air every 20 minutes! Disgusting way to poison yourself! All those fake fragrances in everything from cleaners to air fresheners are POISON to the body. The conglomerates have to make $$ for their shareholders so they’ll claim anything (like you NEED these to “freshen” your air). OPEN A WINDOW if you need fresh air! Use some plain vinegar or baking soda if you want a good SAFE cleaner that won’t poison you! Just say NO to chemicals, especially when urged to buy these by the corporate giants who are only trying to make $$ and could care less if you live or die. Really, people, all they want is your money, they don’t care if they make you sick with their poison products.

  138. Ars says:

    Microfiber cloths are 100% awesome! I use them dry for light dusting, but I usually keep a small spray bottle of 50% isopropyl alcohol and 50% distilled water for helping with particularly sticky or greasy jobs.

    I’ve pretty much stopped using store-bought all-purpose cleaners since you can clean just about anything with one or more of

    Water
    Isopropyl alcohol
    Vinegar
    Ammonia
    Bleach

    Just remember to never mix ammonia and bleach and read the directions!

  139. neilb says:

    We use the Target ones as the absorptive material on pocketed cloth diapers. They work very well, are cheap, and last forever.

  140. HeebyJeeby says:

    I bought some of these and they work great – the brand name was Starfiber and they have a website. What was hard for me was getting used to the texture – they feel weirdly rough and grabby, but that’s what makes them work.

  141. e.varden says:

    @Orv:

    Armor-All. Evil product.

    You acorrect sir! Once you apply to plastics, paint, rubber or leather you are doomed, hooked. It lasts maybe two weeksweeks, rich and shiny.

    Then it evaporates, taking with it original phthalates (sp) (plasticizers – that element which makes plastic flexible) and leaving your surface looking, well, bad.

    Buying a used car? Check the tire-walls. Are they preturnaturally black (and shiny, even)?

    Run. They’ve been Armor-Alled. They are decaying even as you look.

  142. HoseaFanuimor says:

    I just Googled “microfiber cleaning products,” and was interested to see
    that most of the websites that were selling “super-cleaning microfiber”
    products were directed to men: car stuff, boat stuff, computer stuff. The
    product isn’t being sold to the women who buy most of the regular cleaning
    products, and P&G and other cleaning product companies aren’t going push a
    product that will put them out of business! That’s just simple math. If
    the microfiber manufacturers want sales in the U.S., they have to figure out
    how to sell their product to the people who buy the most of all products:
    women. Now I will go buy some microfiber cloths at the car accessories
    store down the street, because they sound great to me.

  143. Overheal says:

    convenient that they dont talk about how much cheaper a microfibre cloth is versus buying chemicals.