How to Wash a Microfiber Cloth

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How to Clean a Microfiber Cloth

I have already confessed to my slight (ahem) addiction to high-quality microfiber products in my previous article Cleaning with Water and Microfiber and shared more about two companies who produce this high-quality microfiber in my post: E-Cloth vs. Norwex: Which Microfiber Cloth is Better?

Maybe you already own a microfiber cloth or product. Or maybe you are considering giving it a try. Here are some tips on how to clean microfiber cloths between laundering, basic care for your microfiber (specifically how to wash a microfiber cloth correctly, with dos and don’ts), or problem-solving if you are experiencing any issues.

How to Wash a Microfiber Cloth: Basic Care Instructions

DO NOT be intimidated by this list. Honestly, they are just cloths. As with anything in life, the more you know and use, the more it will become second nature, including how to wash a microfiber cloth.

How to Clean Microfiber Cloths Between Laundering

Rinse in warm to hot water and rub the cloth against itself during or after each use.

The warm to hot water causes the microfibers to swell which releases any trapped particles. Rubbing the cloth together also helps to release particles that are trapped within the microfiber.

If doing a cleaning job and you need to rinse the cloth before continuing to use, after rinsing and rubbing in the hot water, rinse the cloth briefly under cool water to help the fibers constrict or just let it cool before folding as you walk to your cleaning job, this will help it pick up and hold whatever is being cleaned up better.

Here is a short demonstration of a very dirty cloth. For general use, it would be a quicker rub and rinse in the sink before hanging to dry.

Hang to dry from the tag between uses.

The little tag loop that is sewn onto the cloth is there for the functional purpose of hanging the cloth to dry.

Wash in the laundery with lint-free items, or with just microfiber items.

Microfiber cloths can be washed in regular loads of laundry, however, you should try to do it with a lint-free or lower lint load as the lint can get stuck in the cloth. Avoid washing with towels and typical cotton cloths for this reason.

One time I pulled a microfiber cloth out of the dryer that had a string from another item on it. I tried to pull it off but the end of the string was stuck so deep into the microfibers that it was a challenge to get it out. It is through experiences like this that I realize how much these cloths are able to pull into themselves and trap.

Another option is to just wash all your microfiber items together in one small load, instead of tossing them in with other laundry loads.

Do not use bleach.

Using bleach can cause the fibers within the microfiber to deteriorate and cause it to be ineffective.

Do not use fabric softener or dryer sheets.

Fabric softener or dryer sheets contain residues that will coat the fibers in the microfiber cloth and prevent the cloth from fully working as intended. If you do this, just wash the cloth again without the fabric softener or dryer sheet before using it.

If this does not seem to work or there is a noticeable issue with the cloth not working correctly try deep cleaning the cloth by putting it into a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes to deep clean the microfibers.

Try using wool dryer balls when drying your microfiber cloths to help them get fluffed and tossed around in the dryer for a quicker dry time and to naturally soften the cloths.

Related: 6 Benefits of Wool Dryer Balls

A few times a year, deep clean your microfiber by placing it in boiling water for 10 minutes.

The boiling water causes the microfibers to completely swell, causing them to release whatever has been caught deep within the cloth (do not be surprised if the water looks gross and dirty at the end of this process). Only plan to do this a few times a year as it is rough on the fibers and can cause them to deteriorate quicker than they would otherwise.

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Additional Microfiber Care Suggestions

1. After you find products that you use on a routine basis or cannot be without buy at least one or two more.

It is great to have a spare cloth or two of the specific microfiber product you like to use for a particular cleaning job. That way you always have one ready to go when you need to switch out (I still get skeeved out by chicken juice on my counters and after wiping tend to get a new cloth…even though I “know” I won’t cross-contaminate surfaces it is still something that I mentally struggle getting past).

2. Use a permanent marker to write the month and year on the tag of the cloth.

As you begin to invest in more cloths in the future, especially if they are the same color, knowing the date you purchased will help you know which cloths are older. When you only have a few cloths it is not too hard to keep track but as your collection grows it becomes challenging. When it gets to the point to replace years later you will know which ones to start to phase out.

If I have an especially messy cleaning job that might stain the cloth, I will use an older cloth. Or if for some reason, the cloth has not held up as expected with normal wear and tear so you want to go back to the company because of their guarantee you will know which order the product came from to be able to reference when making a claim.

3. After your initial experience with the products and you order more, have a loose plan or routine.

For example, I have two microfiber green cloths that I use for cleaning my bathrooms. I start with my mirrors, then facets, counter, sink basin, and cabinets in all the bathrooms I plan to clean that day. If I decide to use this cloth for the bathtubs and showers I will clean them next (I have a bathroom microfiber cleaning mitt that I like to use for these jobs because it is larger for the larger cleaning surface). Then I will clean all the toilets. Once I use a cloth on toilets I am done using that cloth and it goes to the laundry room for my next microfiber load.

Sometimes, I will use a cloth that has previously been used to clean toilets again, but nothing else. Again, just mental. Oh, I realize that moving from bathroom to bathroom in itself is not the most efficient way to clean but helps me feel better about using the same cloth. If your read my previous posts you understand how it was a tough transition for me to let go of the “chemical clean”.

I use a blue cloth and yellow cloth for general cleaning around the house. Cleaning jobs such as spots from couches, carpets, walls, doorknobs, light switches, chairs, doors, cabinets, floors, wood steps, car upholstery, dashboards, window cleaning in the house, and car (followed by drying with a window cloth). These get used sporadically around the house as needed and get rotated.

In the kitchen, I use primarily use red kitchen cloths. These have a different fabric pile and do different jobs better for me than the main microfiber cloth. My red kitchen cloths are great for picking up crumbs, besides just scrubbing the grime and smears from things, and seem to dry quicker than the general purpose cloths.

4. Find convenient places to hang your microfiber so it can dry.

I currently hang my kitchen microfiber products from the end of the bars on my ovens. Some cloths are hung from towel hooks in my bathrooms. And the rest are hung in my laundry room from a paper towel rod that is over a sink (since I do not use paper towels too often it was easy to repurpose). In the past, I have hung cloths from my cabinet doorknobs.

If I did not have places to hang these cloths already I would have put those screw-in hooks in my laundry room. Or you can use some Command hooks to be able to place exactly where you need one. Some people use the Command hooks on their refrigerator that is near their kitchen sink to hang the cloths.

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5. Wash all your microfiber in one load together.

This is definitely not a must, but I like doing a load of all my microfiber on the heavy load setting with hot water using a natural laundry detergent. Specifically, it is best to find a laundry detergent without fillers that can coat the fibers. Try looking for a detergent that is safe for cloth diapers, these tend to be made with ingredients that will not coat fabric but also clean well.

Also, stay away from any detergents that have fabric softeners added, and do not add any of your own to the washing machine or the dryer as these coat the fibers and prevent them from their full absorption capability as mentioned above.

6. Get into a routine of when you wash your microfiber.

Whether that is 1 time per week, every other week, once a month, or whatever works for you. This is another reason I suggest having multiple microfiber products that you like to use.

I let my microfiber pile collect in the laundry room and when I am on the last cloth for a specific area, usually in the kitchen or bathroom, I will collect everything that is out in the house and what is in the laundry room and do my microfiber load. I usually end up washing my microfiber pile every 1-2 weeks.

7. Use the microfiber for the intended purpose of cleaning.

These microfiber products are made for cleaning and are not like traditional cotton cloths or towels. Do not use microfiber cloths or towels to remove a hot item from the oven, as it can cause the fibers to melt together and ruin the effectiveness of the item.

8. Recognize that these cloths are powerful little scrubbers.

When moving a year and a half ago I spent HOURS cleaning at both houses, to the point that my fingertips became raw and cracked. These cloths are no joke when it comes to their scrubbing ability, even though they seem like a soft little cloth.

Please realize that under normal use conditions you should not experience this type of result, but I wanted to share because it has been surprising to me how well the cloths really work to scrub when I spent so much time excessively cleaning.

9. Schedule your deep cleaning for your cloths.

As mentioned above, it is a good practice to deep clean your cloths a few times a year. I tend to boil my more frequently used cloths more often, around 3 times a year. Typically it is my kitchen cloths that need the deep cleaning the most since they are used more frequently than my other cloths, this is even with rotating 3 cloths during a 1-2 week cycle.

My other cloths are only deep cleaned around 2 times a year because they are not used as frequently and do not need it to be done as often.

When I do the deep cleaning I make a note on my calendar either 4 or 6 months out that I should plan to deep clean my microfiber that month. Otherwise, I would not remember and would lose track of what I did and when.

You can also fill the sink with hot tap water, with or without some laundry detergent, and soak your cloths overnight to help to clean them out if you do not want to boil the cloths.

I did this the other night with a kitchen cloth after using it to clean up the melted water from frozen onions and peppers that leaked all over my counter as it thawed. The cloth stunk, even after rinsing it out thoroughly and even after running through the washing machine in a regular load of laundry. After doing the soak overnight method with a little bit of the Norwex laundry detergent there was absolutely no odor remaining.

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Trouble Shooting…a Smelly Cloth

One of the benefits of using a high-quality microfiber cloth is the ability to easily and effectively rinse debris, bacteria, mold, and mildew down the drain when rinsing the cloth after use. If you have a Norwex microfiber cloth with their BacLock technology, the silver will help to prohibit a smelly cloth from bacteria, mold, and mildew growth.

But, even with the best of things there can be situations when things do not seem to work out as expected. Sometimes, there is just a stinky mess that gets cleaned up with a microfiber cloth that just lingers, such as my smelly onion and pepper incident above. But other times it can be difficult to understand why a cloth stinks.

Properly Hang To Dry

These cloths need to be hung to dry after use. Many times people will toss on the facet or over the bar on the front of most ovens. However, the cloth is designed to dry by hanging from the little loop tag that has been stitched into one of the corners of the cloth. This simple adjustment has solved the smelly cloth issue for many.

Rinsing & Rubbing

Really take the time to clean out the cloth after each use, do not just hang up after using or do a quick rinse. Rinse the cloth under warm or hot water AND rub the cloth against itself to help the fibers to release whatever it has picked up and trapped within the cloth. If everything that has been picked up by the cloth when cleaning has been rinsed down the drain, then there will not be particles sitting in and on the cloth to develop smelly bacteria.

Time to Fully Dry

Does your cloth have a chance to fully dry out? For some people, this might not ever be an issue due to being outside the home on a regular basis. But for others of us who are home most days, it might be used too frequently to completely dry out, especially if you have messy little ones and your kitchen seems to be like a revolving door all day long.

For the Norwex products, for their BacLock to fully work the cloth needs a chance to dry out. In my home, the kitchen cloths tend to be used the most frequently and these are woven to allow for an even quicker drying time than the general cleaning cloths. But even still, during the day when we are home they never fully dry out, but they do dry out overnight.

I have not noticed any issues with a smelly kitchen cloth for this reason, but if I did I would try rotating two kitchen cloths throughout the day to increase the time that each can hang and dry. Or have 2 kitchen cloths out but rotate daily.

Milk & Dairy

For some reason, if you tend to use the microfiber cloth to clean up lots of messes that contain milk or other dairy products they tend to have an odor. One common example of this is the toddler who is feeding himself yogurt with all the smears on the table and chairs that goes along with that process. Microfiber is great at cleaning this up, even what has dried on but sometimes the cloth will begin to smell. It could be because the microfiber pores are getting clogged and it just is not able to fully release the dairy particles when rinsing after use.

If you tend to clean up a ton of these kinds of messes, you might need to launder your cloths more often. This is not to say that if you clean up dairy your cloth will smell. I have cleaned up plenty of dairy messes and have never had an issue with my cloth smelling bad. But there are a few times that I have been able to attribute a smelly cloth to a day the kids had lots of dairy products.

Besides washing your cloths in a washing machine frequently, another tip is to keep some dry laundry detergent in a salt shaker, that is properly labeled to avoid confusion, that you sprinkle on the cloth when rinsing and rubbing in warm to hot water. This can make a huge difference in keeping cloths fresh and stink-free.

Hard Water

Unfortunately, if you have hard water, especially if your mineral content is on the higher side, there could be a chance it will clog up the cloth to some extent. This could result in a smelly cloth.

This might mean you will need to launder your cloths more frequently or need to do the boiled water deep clean more often. If you have purchased or self filtered water you can use it to rinse the cloth in between uses or use it when doing the boiling deep cleaning method. And using a little bit of laundry detergent when rinsing and rubbing like the example above, might help too.

Laundry Detergents with Fillers

If you are still dealing with a microfiber cloth that smells and none of the reasons above seem to be the culprit. Take a look at the laundry detergent that you are using for washing your microfiber. Even if it is listed as Free & Clear it might still have some unwanted fillers that are coating the fibers. Also, some homemade laundry detergent is more soap-based and could coat the fibers as well.

As mentioned above, try the Norwex Ultra Power Plus laundry detergent or another filler-free laundry detergent. Or a laundry detergent marketed towards cloth diapers to see if that helps. Keep in mind you could just use this detergent for the laundry loads that have your microfiber products included or even use it to hand wash your microfiber products.

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Related: The Best Chemical-Free Laundry Detergents

Final Thoughts on How to Wash a Microfiber Cloth

Caring for your high-quality microfiber cleaning products is not challenging when you know how to do it and quickly becomes second nature. There are basic steps in how to clean microfiber cloths during use and between laundering.

Now you know how to wash a microfiber cloth, tips on caring for these products, and the few dos and don’ts you can feel confident in using these amazing products for all your household cleaning needs without the use of cleaning products that often contain harmful chemicals for you and your family.