Microfiber is to the cleaning industry today what the automobile was to the transportation industry in the year 1900.
Not only does microfiber work better than traditional cotton cleaning cloths..... it works exponentially better.
Its actually quite ironic how microfiber functions. Microfiber itself is 100% plastic. As I'm sure you know, plastic is totally non absorbent. It's impossible for plastic itself to absorb anything. So how does it work?
There are two different types of plastic that are woven together. A hard plastic (polyamide) and a soft plastic (polyester). Good quality microfiber is usually a 70% polyester and 30% polyamide blend. These fibers can be woven together then stretched. They found that once these fibers are woven together they can stretch the resulting fabric almost indefinitely before it breaks. Hence the term "microfiber" was coined.
Once the fiber is stretched to about one tenth the width of a human hair they treat it with a chemical that "splits" the fibers apart separating the polyester portion of the fiber from the polyamide portion. The result is a very tiny space between the fibers. It's true that both portions of the plastic fibers are totally non absorbent, but the space between the fibers create a capillary action that draws molecules into the cloth.
It is said that microfiber is ten times more absorbent than ordinary cloths. Microfiber can absorb 10 times its weight in liquid! Wow!! That's significant.
It's very effective cleaning with microfiber because these fibers are stretched so tiny you are working primarily on the molecular level. Not only does it clean to a brilliant shine but it picks up up to 99% of the bacteria on any surface as well. This means that microfiber is almost as effective of a disinfectant as formaldehyde! The difference is that instead of killing the bacteria you are simply picking it up with the cloth and can rinse it out later. Microfiber could be considered as a disinfectant WITHOUT the use of chemicals.
If there is a downside to microfiber it's that it is indeed plastic. Plastic can take centuries to biodegrade under normal circumstances. This means that a microfiber cleaning cloth could potentially float around in the ocean for hundreds of years. You could say that microfiber is the most environmentally friendly we know of right now. Although it is plastic and not biodegradable like cotton or linen, it can last decades before you ever have to dispose of it. Rather than going through hundreds of pounds of paper towels you could potentially save the environment that needless concern by using these microfiber products properly.
One way you could make your microfiber last is to wash it out with dish soap or hand soap only. Keep it away from laundry products. Virtually all laundry soaps have fabric softeners which work great on fabrics.... not plastic. Fabric softeners tend to melt plastic and although the cloth would look the same after laundering it would never work the same because all the "split fibers" will have melted together. It is best to wash your microfiber cloths out with a drop or two of dish soap, rinse it out using warm water then hang it to dry.
Personally I think the benefits of using microfiber for your everyday cleaning far outweigh any detriments. Microfiber is safe and effective, lessens the use of paper products and chemical disinfectants and pretty much leaves things shiny when you use them. So go ahead and enjoy using microfiber! It's easy to use and tremendously effective and it can be lots of fun too!