How to Care for Microfiber Towels So They Last as Long as Possible
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How to Care for Microfiber Towels So They Last as Long as Possible

Microfiber towels are like God’s special gift to the cleaning and detailing world, whether it’s for your car, your phone screen, or just general purpose cleaning. But when it comes time to wash them, they’re extremely easy to ruin. Here’s how to take care of them.

What Makes Microfiber So Special?

Microfiber is a type of synthetic fiber that’s commonly made up of polyester and a polyamide, usually nylon. The blend is typically 80% polyester and 20% polyamide, but sometimes you’ll find it in a 70/30 blend. There is very little practical difference between the blends.

The difference between microfiber and cotton.
Cross section of microfiber (top) and cotton (bottom) threads. Image from Vassia Atanassova/Wikimedia Commons

The strands in microfiber are incredibly tiny, and structured in a way that allows dirt to get trapped within the fibers, rather than just on the surface, as with cotton. This prevents dirt from simply sliding across the surface you’re trying to clean, risking scratches and other damage. This is why the instructions that come with glasses, screens, and other delicate surfaces demand the use of a microfiber cloth for cleaning.

There’s also another benefit from the structure of these fibers: microfiber towels are much more absorbent than regular cotton or wool fibers, allowing you to use the same towel for longer when cleaning up spills or drying a surface.

All of this comes at a price, though, in the form of extra care you need to take whenever you wash your microfiber towels. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Keep Them Away from High Heat

If there’s one thing you should know about washing microfiber towels, it’s that you should never subject them to high heat, which will essentially melt the fibers and ruin all of the qualities that make microfiber so great at cleaning. So when you toss your towels into the washer, it’s okay to use a warm water setting, but don’t go any hotter.

Likewise, when you transfer them to the dryer, keep the heat level as low as possible. I tend to err on the side of extreme caution and use no heat at all. This usually results in the towels not drying very quickly, so after an initial session in the dryer, I’ll hang them up on a drying rack to finish them off.

Do Not Use Bleach or Fabric Softener

Microfiber towels
Photo by Marco Verch/Flickr

Using whatever liquid laundry detergent you prefer is completely fine, although stay away from detergents with fragrances and other added nonsense, as it can leave residue on your towels and reduce their effectiveness. Most importantly, though, keep your microfiber towels away from bleach and fabric softeners—this includes dryer sheets.

Why? Bleach and fabric softeners can wipe out the electric charge that makes microfiber towels so great at picking up every last spec of dust and dirt. Keep it simple and just use basic liquid laundry detergent.

Do Not Wash Them with Other Clothes

Microfiber towels
Photo by B&M Stores/Flickr

Depending on how often you use microfiber towels, you might have enough to run a dedicated full load in the washer and dryer. But if not, I’d advise still doing a separate load and keeping them away from other fabrics. Aside from the different washing requirements clothes have, the staticity of microfiber towels will attract every last bit of lint from your pants and shirts, and that lint will cling onto the microfiber for dear life. If your microfiber towels aren’t terribly dirty, you can hand-wash them if you want to save water and electricity.

If you’re super paranoid, you can take it a step further and wash certain microfiber towels separately in different loads. For instance, you can get away with washing your cleaning towels with your buffing towels together, but you risk subjecting your buffing towels to the dirt and grime particles that were picked up by your cleaning towels.

That’s sort of going overboard, but if you do end up with a handful of extremely dirty towels every now and then, take the time to wash them separately to prevent cross-contamination. It also doesn’t hurt to use a washing bag to prevent any stray microfibers from entering rivers and oceans after washing.

Title photo by B&M Stores/Flickr