Microfiber

Microfiber

[mahy-kroh-fahy-ber]
Microfiber (British spelling: Microfibre) refers to synthetic fibers (fiber) that measure less than one denier. The most common types of microfibers are made from polyesters, polyamides (nylon), and or a conjugation of polyester and polyamide.

Microfiber is used in the manufacture of non-woven, woven and knitted textiles. The shape, size and combinations of synthetic fibers are selected for specific characteristics, including: softness, durability, absorption, wicking abilities, water repellency, electrodynamics, and filtering capabilities.

Microfiber is commonly used for apparel, upholstery, industrial filters and janitorial products.

Material

Microfiber is a fiber with less than 1 denier per filament. (Denier is a measure of linear density and often used to describe of the size of a fiber or filament. Nine thousand meters of a one-denier fiber weighs one gram.) Fibers are combined to form yarns. Yarns are knitted or woven in a variety of constructions. While many microfibers are made of polyester, they can also be composed of polyamide (nylon) or other polymers.

History

Microfibers were first publicized in the early 1990s in Sweden, and saw success as a product in Europe over the course of the decade. In 2007, Rubbermaid began a line of microfiber products for American markets, the first major company to do so.

Functional uses

Clothing

Microfiber performance apparel has become a very popular alternative to cotton apparel for athletic wear, such as cycling jerseys, because the microfiber material wicks moisture away from the body, keeping the athlete cool and dry. Microfibers were also initiated for use in the military and for many federal agencies, such as in the so-called Future Force Warrior Program in the United States for more rapid drying of the soldier and less skin irritation due to moisture. However the U.S. military has since banned the wearing of most synthetic clothing due to melting and burn risk.

Microfiber underwear have been said to cause problems with yeast infections for some women.

Insulation

Microfiber materials, such as PrimaLoft are also used for thermal insulation as a replacement for down feather insulation in sleeping bags and outdoor equipment, due to its better retention of heat when damp or wet.

Basketballs

With microfiber basketballs already popular worldwide and in FIBA, the NBA proposed the use of a microfiber ball for the 2006-07 season. The ball, which is manufactured by Spalding, does not require a "break-in" period of use as leather balls do, and has the ability to absorb water and oils, meaning that sweat from players touching the ball is better absorbed, making the ball less slippery. Over the course of the season, the league received many complaints from players who found that the ball bounced differently than leather balls and that it left cuts on their hands. On January 1, 2007, the league scrapped the use of all microfiber balls and returned to leather basketballs.

Cleaning

Microfiber products used for consumer cleaning are generally constructed from split conjugated fibers of polyester and polyamide. Microfiber used for commercial cleaning products also include many products constructed of 100% polyester microfiber. Fabrics made with microfibers are exceptionally soft and hold their shape well. When high quality microfiber is combined with the right knitting process, it creates an extremely effective cleaning material. This material can hold up to seven times its weight in water. They are also used for some cleaning applications, because of their exceptional ability to absorb oils.

Microfiber is also widely used by car detailers to handle such tasks as removing wax, quick detailing, cleaning interior, cleaning glass, as well as drying. Due to its fine fibers which leave no lint or dust, microfiber towels are a popular choice for avid car detailers and enthusiasts. Chamois leather is also used.

In professional cleaning, microfiber is used in many tools, for example mops and cleaning cloths. Microfiber mops are more costly than conventional mops, however some institutions find them more economical because they are longer lasting and require less effort to use.

Microfiber cloths are also now used to clean photographic lenses, with major manufacturers such as Nikon and Canon offering them.

Care should be exercised when using microfiber for cleaning of sensitive surfaces. By nature it accumulates dust, debris, and particles inside its material. Sensitive surfaces (such as all high tech coated surfaces e.g. CRT, LCD and plasma screens) can easily be damaged by a microfiber cloth if it has picked up grit or other abrasive particles during use. The cloth itself is generally safer to use on these surfaces than more common cloths, particularly as no cleaning fluid is required for cleaning such surfaces. One way to minimize the risk of damage to flat surfaces is to use a flat, non-rugged microfiber cloth, as these tend to be less prone to holding for example sand grains.

Cleaning textiles made of microfiber must only be washed in regular washing detergent, not oily, self-softening, soap-based detergents. Fabric softener may not be used. The oils in the softener and self-softening detergents will clog up the fibers and make them less effective until the oils are removed by washing.

Other textile uses

Microfibers used in table cloths, furniture, and car interiors are designed to repel liquids and consequently are difficult to stain. Microfiber table cloths will bead liquids until they are removed, they are often advertised showing red wine on a white table cloth that wipes clean with a paper towel. Unfortunately, microfiber furniture has a tendency to attract and contain cat hair within itself.

Environmental issues

Microfiber textiles tend to be flammable and emit toxic gases when burning. They are made with synthetic fibers such as polyester and nylon (often constructed from polypropylene), which are made from petrochemicals.

Microfibers are not made from a renewable resource and they are not biodegradable. However, they are designed for repeated use, unlike many disposable cleaning materials such as paper towels. In many household cleaning applications (washing dishes, floors, furniture, etc.) using microfibre tools disposes of the need to use detergents and cleaning solutions, bringing potentially significant environmental and economic benefits.

References

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