Microfibers are very small strands of synthetic fibers that are knitted, woven together or used to create non-woven fabrics. Microfiber fabrics are highly versatile and popular for a wide variety of uses.
The strands that make up microfiber fabric measure less than 1 denier, or about half as thick as a strand of silk. Some microfiber fabrics use strands that are only 10 microns in diameter, or about one-tenth as thick as a human hair.
Most microfiber fabrics are made from synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon and polyamides. These are often combined with various other materials such as polypropylene.
Microfiber fabric is prevalent in cleaning cloths, as well as in sports clothing, sleeping bag insulation, tablecloths, furniture covers and cloth diapers. They are particularly valued for durability and stain-resistance in upholstery, curtains, duvet covers and pillow shams.
Microfiber fabric is lightweight, highly absorbent and does not stain or wrinkle easily. Microfiber fabrics that are electrostatically charged can pick up small particles such as dust without the use of cleaning solvents, while leaving no lint behind.
Microfiber fabrics last longer when washed in detergent that is free of oils, soaps and fabric softeners. The fabric potentially soaks up these additives, causing it to retain odors. Environmentalists express concerns that microfiber is made from nonrenewable resources and is not biodegradable.
Synthetic microfiber fabrics were invented by Dr. Miyoshi Okamoto in the early 1970s. Dr. Toyohiko Hikota developed Ultrasuede, the first major commercially available microfiber fabric.