Imagine that you're about to embark on a month-long backpacking excursion. You don't want to bring a lot, so you want to pick clothes that won't take up a ton of room in your backpack. Of course, you'll want to choose clothing made of a comfortable material. A wrinkle-resistant fabric that you can stuff quickly into your bag would be a plus, as well as something that's easy to wash and quick to dry.
Microfiber clothes fit the bill for travelers and others who want garments that are versatile, easy to care for and comfortable. Although you might think of microfiber as a material used mainly for cleaning cloths and mops, microfiber increasingly is being used to make active wear.
That's because microfiber's lightweight quality makes it perfect for draping clothing. The spaces between its strands make it breathable, wrinkle-resistant, stain-resistant and easily washable. Microfiber keeps sweat away from body and has the feel of lightweight cotton.
So, what is it? Microfiber is any fiber with strands less than one denier, a measurement of fineness of a fabric. Polyester microfibers usually have a diameter for 10 microns or less, half the size of silk fiber! Most microfibers are made synthetically, with polyester and nylon the most common combinations. Dr. Miyoshi Okamoto developed microfiber technology in Japan in the early 1970s; however, it wasn't until 1989 that microfiber production began in the U.S. While initially microfiber was mostly used to make cleaning products, in the following decades it gained popularity as a fabric for clothing.
In addition to its comfort and convenience, microfiber is easy to care for and launder. If you wash it properly and purchase quality microfiber, your clothes can last for up to 500 launderings. For more on caring for microfiber clothes, see the next page.
Tips for Washing Microfiber Clothes
Depending on the type of microfiber your clothes are made from, you'll either machine wash or hand wash your garments. Look at your clothing's tag to determine the type of microfiber your clothing is made from. For example, bicomponent polyester-nylon can be machine washed. If the label doesn't indicate the type of microfiber, you can find instructions on the tag letting you know whether the garment should be hand washed or machine washed.
When machine washing microfiber, use warm water and mild detergent, following the guidelines on the detergent label to determine how much to use. Avoid washing with other fabrics such as terry cloth towels or cotton clothing because these items might produce a lot of lint that will cling to microfiber.
If you're unsure of the type of microfiber you've got, err on the side of caution and hand wash your clothes using warm water, mild detergent and a soft-bristle brush to work out any tough stains. Whatever you do, don't use fabric softener or detergents with fabric softener. Fabric softener will cover and clog the fibers' surface. Also, don't use dryer sheets or chlorine bleach.
Air drying will help your microfiber to last longer, and since microfiber dries very quickly, it's generally a win-win plan to avoid the dryer altogether. However, if you machine dry, use a low heat setting, and only dry with other microfiber products. As with washing your microfiber, never dry it with products that will produce a lot of lint, as lint will clog the fibers of your garment. There's no need to iron microfiber clothing because the material holds its shape very well. But if you must, use a cool iron and don't apply much pressure.
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- Microfiber. "What is microfiber?" (April 2, 2012). http://www.microfiber.com/microfiber.html
- Microfiber Wholesale. "How Microfiber Works." (April 2, 2012). http://www.microfiberwholesale.com/How-Microfiber-Works.html
- Microfiber Wholesale. "Washing Microfiber." (April 2, 2012). http://www.microfiberwholesale.com/Washing-Microfiber.html
- Smith, Joyce A. "Microfibers." Ohio State University: Textiles and Clothing." (April 17, 2012). http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/5546.html