How to Wash Microfiber Cloths to Preserve Their Cleaning Power

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Microfiber cloths do the cleaning for you, but have you ever thought about how they should be cleaned?

Once you start cleaning with microfiber cloths, you never go back. And there’s a lot to love about these handy little towels. For one, they’re remarkably effective. They’re also reusable, making them great for the earth and your wallet. But if you don’t know how to wash microfiber towels properly, you could be lessening their effectiveness with each laundry cycle (the same can be said if you don’t know how to wash towels properly).

To extend the life of your microfiber cloths, knowing how to do laundry in general, along with how to choose the best washing machine temperature and best dryer setting, is key. Using the best laundry detergent doesn’t hurt either. And no matter what you’re cleaning, be sure to check the laundry symbols first—they’ll guide your washing and drying. Here, we explain the ins and outs of how to wash your microfiber cloths so you can start fresh every cleaning session.

Why you need to know how to clean microfiber cloth properly

It’s crucial that you know how to wash microfiber towels, but first you have to understand how they work. No, there’s not some magic force causing these cloths to pick up every piece of dirt and dust on your surfaces. The “many hands make light work” principle is what makes microfiber cloths a cleaning dream.

Unlike cotton or nylon cloths, which have large fibers, microfiber cloths have thousands of tiny fibers. In fact, there are 200,000 fibers in one square inch of a microfiber cloth. When you’re cleaning, all of those tiny fibers pick up and hold the dirt, dust, and liquid.

Aside from the thousands of fibers, another aspect that makes these cloths so absorbent is the fact that the fibers are positively charged. The dirt and dust that sit on surfaces in your house is negatively charged, so the mess is attracted to the cloth like a magnet. The microfibers hold onto that dust and dirt until it is released when the cloth is rinsed out.

But all of that sets them up for issues if they’re not cleaned properly. You might be a fan of the best-smelling laundry detergent, but products with fragrances and other add-ins can coat those tiny fibers, making the cloth less effective at cleaning. And when microfiber rags are tossed in the dryer, they can pick up dirt and lint.

How to wash microfiber towels

Jennifer Druckamiller, director of product experience at microfiber company Norwex, suggests reusing your microfiber cloths a few times in between laundering. Simply rinse them under warm water after you’re done using them and hang them up to dry.

“When it’s time to launder, wash microfiber cloths separately or with other lint-free items (microfiber is designed to grab and hold onto lint),” she says.

And skip the harsh and scented detergents, which can coat the fibers of the cloth, reducing the amount of charge and, in turn, making it less effective. “Prevent the fibers from being coated in your washing machine by using a detergent that is free [of] fillers and additives,” says Druckamiller.

If your towel is only a little dusty or grimy, skip the washer. Here’s how to wash microfiber towels by hand:

  • Check the cloth’s tag or website for proper cleaning instructions. Referring to the laundry symbols is a good way to avoid disasters like shrunken clothes or ruined linens.
  • Shake out the dirty microfiber cloth, either outside or over a trash bin, to get rid of excess dirt and debris.
  • Hand-wash the cloth in warm water using an unscented, additive-free detergent.

If your towel needs a deeper cleaning, toss it in the washer. Here’s how to wash microfiber towels in the machine:

  • Choose detergent wisely. Use a gentle, unscented detergent free of additives and fillers.

  • Know the best washing machine temperature. Run the washer with cold or warm (not hot) water. By not using hot water, you’ll remove the dirt and grime from the cloths while still keeping their electric charge.

  • Use a small amount of detergent. A good rule of thumb is two teaspoons or less.

  • Add a splash (about a tablespoon) of white vinegar in your laundry basin to neutralize odor and get the smell out of cloths that stink.

  • Never use bleach or fabric softener.

  • Let the washer run for only half of the agitation cycle. Stop the cycle and allow the cloths to soak for around 20 minutes. Resume and finish the cycle.

  • Remove the cloth from the washing machine as soon as possible, and shake out the crinkles.

How to dry microfiber towels

microfiber cloth hung and drying outside iso_petrov/Getty Images

Washing microfiber cloths is only half the battle. How you dry the microfiber cloth is equally important when it comes to ensuring it maintains its charge for as long as possible and remains lint-free.

The ideal method: Hang microfiber cloths to dry outside in the sun or inside with good circulation. If you can, avoid throwing them into the dryer, which reduces microfiber’s efficacy much faster.

If you can’t avoid machine drying, at least be sure you’re doing it properly. Here are some tips for keeping your microfiber cloths in good condition through machine drying:

  • Give the lint trap a thorough cleaning to stop the microfiber from attracting unnecessary lint.
  • Separate laundry before drying. Microfiber towels should go into the machine on their own. If you throw microfiber into the dryer with your clothes, it’ll pick up the lint from other fabrics.

  • Use a low heat setting.

  • Dry without using a dryer sheet. Even the best dryer sheets can clog up the fibers and make the towel less effective.

  • Remove from the dryer as soon as the cycle finishes.

  • Never iron. Too much heat will melt the fibers.

Tips for maintaining microfiber towels

While microfiber towels aren’t one of the pricier cleaning items you have to purchase, you can still try to get the most bang for your buck by keeping them in tip-top shape.

  • Don’t use strong, chemical-based cleaning products. Surprisingly, they work best when used with just water.

  • Avoid washing cloths after every use by giving the towel a good shake and thorough rinse in the sink after a cleaning session.

  • Keep all of your microfiber towels together in one place, separate from other towels or laundry.

FAQs about microfiber towels

Can you wash and reuse microfiber towels?

Yes! This is one of the many glorious aspects of a microfiber towel. It is designed specifically to be washed and reused over and over again. That said, over time, the strength of the towel’s charge will lessen, and it’ll become less effective. Its longevity is largely dependent upon how well it’s maintained. If you purchase a quality microfiber towel and care for it with the proper washing strategy, it should last you up to three solid years, or 150 washes.

How will I know when to replace my microfiber towel?

In a nutshell, when your home doesn’t have that clean sparkle after a dusting session, it’s time to buy a new microfiber cloth. Stains, a rougher texture, and fraying edges are all telltale signs that your microfiber cloth is wearing out and should be replaced soon.

Can you dry microfiber cloths in the dryer?

Yes, but not often. Frequent drying will loosen fabric strands and make them prone to fabric pilling. If you do machine dry, use a low heat setting and skip dryer sheets.

What is the best detergent for microfiber towels?

Microfiber is a hardy material and can tolerate over 100 washes, but you can extend its shelf life by using a mild, fragrance-free detergent. There are detergents created specifically for microfiber, like Chemical Guys Microfiber Wash Cleaning Detergent, but a gentle soap without chemicals or harsh ingredients, like Seventh Generation’s Free & Clear Laundry Detergent or one of these detergents for sensitive skin, will get the job done just as effectively.

How much detergent to use per wash is also key. Be conservative; less is definitely more when it comes to microfiber. Two teaspoons—tops—should be plenty.

What temperature should you wash microfiber cloths in?

Lukewarm water is best, and hot water should be avoided at all costs, as it can literally melt the fibers.

Is learning how to wash microfiber towels worth the bother?

Absolutely. If you take care of your microfiber towels, they will take care of you by keeping your home clean, environmentally friendly, and cost-effective for years to come.

Now that you know how to take care of microfiber towels, learn how to wash a down comforter the right way.

Sources:

  • Jennifer Druckamiller, director of product experience at microfiber company Norwex
  • Microfiber Wholesale: “How Microfiber Works & Why It’s Good for Cleaning”

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Kaitlin Clark
Kaitlin is a beauty and wellness writer for RD.com with more than 10 years experience covering everything from the link between hair care and mental health to innovations in medical aesthetics to the safety of sunscreen. When she's not playing with words, you can find her training for her next marathon or planning her next weekend escape.