And it’s chemical-free.

By Katie Holdefehr
Updated November 09, 2017
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microfiber cleaning cloth set
Did you know that microfiber is actually capable of cleaning on the microscopic level? The fibers are so tiny, they can brush bacteria off of surfaces, even when used without sprays or chemicals. Plus, they create a streak-free shine on mirrors and windows. To buy: $7;
| Credit: Amazon

I recently interviewed a couple of cleaning pros to get their advice on cleaning the toughest spots around the house. Debra Johnson from Merry Maids and Donna Smallin Kuper, the author of Cleaning Plain & Simple, offered up tons of pearls of cleaning wisdom, including one essential cleaning supply I’d been overlooking: the miraculous microfiber cloth.

While I’d written about (and used) microfiber cloths before, I didn’t fully appreciate how different they are from standard cotton cleaning cloths, all the way down to their intricately woven fibers. When you use a microfiber cloth to clean a mirror, that streak-free shine is visual proof of the microfiber cloth’s superiority—but there’s more to this fabric than meets the eye.

Microfiber is a synthetic fabric crafted from, you guessed it, very tiny fibers. Each fiber is smaller than one dernier, which translates to the diameter of a single strand of silk, or about one-fifth the diameter of a strand of human hair. And because the fabric is made from a blend of polyester and polyamide, microfiber cloths contain split fibers, which give them more surface area and make them more porous than cotton, according to Merry Maids.

But what makes this fabric truly amazing is that these super-tiny fibers allow the cloths to clean on a microscopic level. While cotton rags tend to just smear bacteria around on a surface, microfiber can actually wipe bacteria away. According to one study conducted by UC Davis, using microfiber mops reduced surface bacteria by 99 percent, while a standard mop removed only about 30 percent of bacteria.

While microfiber clearly works wonders at getting rid of bacteria, it's most effective when it's clean and thoroughly washed, otherwise, you’re back to smearing dirt and bacteria around. The easiest way to make sure you’re really cleaning: fold your microfiber cloth multiple times, so that you can turn to a fresh side of the cloth as you work. When the entire cloth has been used, tossing it into the washing machine will refresh its cleaning powers. If you're using a fresh microfiber cloth, our cleaning pros recommend skipping the harsh chemical sprays and spritzing the cloth with water or vinegar instead.

Does the small, but mighty microfiber sound too good to be true? It turns out that the miniscule fibers that make it capable of brushing away bacteria also happen to be its only downfall: The fibers are so tiny, they’re hard to filter out, and are ending up in waterways via our washing machines. Patagonia, a brand known for using microfibers in its outerwear, is partnering with research groups to figure out the potential effects of this. Until then, folding your microfiber cloth will maximize its cleaning power and make it last longer between washes.