Originally Posted by waijai
taken from autopia.org
WHAT IS MICROFIBER?
Microfiber is the terminology used to describe ultra-fine manufactured fibers and the name given to the technology of developing these fibers. Fibers made using microfiber technology, produce fibers which weigh less than 0.1 denier. The fabrics made from these extra-fine fibers provide a superior hand, a gentle drape and incredible softness.
Comparatively, microfibers are two times finer than silk, three times finer than cotton, eight times finer than wool, and one hundred times finer than a human hair. Currently, there are four types of synthetic microfibers being produced. These include acrylic, nylon, polyester and rayon. In this article, I will be discussing the most common blend of microfiber material used in automotive detailing applications; nylon and polyester.
Automotive microfiber is created by combining two DuPont fiber inventions: polyester and polyamide (nylon). The polyamide is used as the core of the hybrid fiber (generally 20 to 30% of the content) and the polyester is the outer skin (70 to 80%). Each fiber has specific qualities that, when properly blended, can be used to weave functionally specific fabrics. For the purposes of this discussion, I'm specifically referring to toweling and other automotive detailing products.
The superior cleaning and water absorbing ability offered by many microfiber fabrics happened quite by accident. Microfiber yarn development in the 1980s and early 1990s was specifically intended to stimulate competition for natural yarn materials, like cotton and silk. One of the early adopters of microfiber yarn was Olsson Cleaning Technology, Sweden, who discovered that splitting the fibers made the fibers “grab” and improved the performance of cleaning towels. By 1994, the semiconductor industry was introduced to microfiber cleaning cloths, which could be used to wipe down the clean rooms used to produce memory, computer processors and other microchips. The benefit was huge because it was no longer necessary to use cleaning chemicals and the microfiber was nearly lint-free.
The best way to understand microfiber engineered for cleaning is to look at a cross section of the fiber itself. As you can see in the diagram below, the fiber is sliced into wedges (polyester) and attached to spokes (polyamide). Changing the fiber design allows cloth to be woven that scrubs, polishes or absorbs (e.g., functionally specific fabric). This was not previously possible. In the design pictured, the polyester wedges have the ability to scrape away microscopic bits of dirt while the polyamide spokes create a wicking action that pulls liquid into the fiber. Many microfiber yarn manufactures claim their microfiber yarn will absorb seven to eight times its weight in water, nearly double the capacity of cotton.
This highly magnified cross section view of a microfiber thread shows why microfiber towels are thirsty and clean so well. A recent study suggests that microfiber towels are potentially effective in removing bacteria from smooth surfaces. This is one of many patterns that yarn makers can cut into polyester/polyamide fibers.
The cross section diagram above is a standard microfiber thread. It's approximately ten microns in diameter. To contrast, the average human hair is about 250 microns in diameter. If that isn't descriptive enough, imagine a cloth with 90,000 to 200,000 fiber strands in a square inch of fabric. This stuff is tiny. To the human eye this thread would be all but unnoticeable. When woven into cloth it has a soft feel, like cashmere or silk. The micro-replication design in the fiber shown creates a capillary action with quick, strong absorbency. This is what enables good automotive microfiber towels to clean and polish at the same time.
AUTOMOTIVE MICROFIBER PRODUCTS
There is a diverse offering of microfiber products for automotive detailing, including towels, applicators, gloves, dusters and wash mitts. In the towels category alone, you will find dozens of different weaves, material weights, fabric blends, colors and sizes. It's almost dizzying when you look at the different products side-by-side. Here's how I categorize microfiber towels for my own use:
1. General Purpose - This is typically a microfiber towel (16" by 16") with a standard terry cloth weave and an 80/20 blend of polyester and polyamide. The towel has no specific purpose, and will be equally adept wiping paint, glass, vinyl, plastic and leather. This towel will have a medium thickness (plush-ness) nap. If you do a lot of quick detailing on your car, this will be the towel you use most frequently.
Made in China from an 80/20 blend of polyester and polyamide, this is a general purpose detailing towel with a short terry nap on one side and a medium plush-ness nap on the other side. The towel can be used for cleaning, polishing and quick detailing.
2. Glass & Polishing - Microfiber cloths that work well for polishing and glass cleaning seem to have the same basic characteristics. First, the towel should be 100% lint free. In most cases, this means the weave is going to have a shorter nap than a general purpose towel. Many people believe that a good glass towel will leave as little water as possible so the droplets will evaporate without leaving a spot. A good glass towel needs scrubbing power to successfully remove the residues that cause streaking. It's the same characteristic that makes a good polishing cloth.
[i]The towel on the left is marketed specifically for cleaning glass. The towel on the right is a new product from Sonus called the Sonus Der Wunder Polishing Towel. This new generation of "edgeless" microfiber towels reduces the possibility of scratching by removing the binding.[/img]
3. Drying - There are two different microfiber toweling weaves that make good drying towels: terry cloth and waffle (Piqué) weave. I have found that a short terry loop or one of the offset (longer on one side than the other) terry loops work well for drying. If you choose a microfiber terry cloth with a heavy, plush nap, you won't be able to wring it out when it gets wet. My favorite drying towel material is the Piqué fabric that mimics a waffle pattern. It has the ability to wick up water like nothing else I've found or tested. According to Leo Cerruti, a manufacturer of natural microfiber products, "[Piqué fabric] isn't more absorbent than terry but the ridges act as hundreds of little squeegees which push the water up into the cups giving the fabric time to absorb." As with the terry material, it's best to find a fabric that's not too heavy, or you won't be able to wring it out when it gets saturated.
Microfiber "waffle weave" drying towels come in a range of colors and fabric weights. The fabric weight and differences in the weave dramatically change how the towels feel and perform. The highest quality drying towels offer satin bound edging, as seen on our Sonus Der Wunder Drying Towel below.
4. Cleaning - There are a few microfiber weaves that are marketed specifically as "cleaning towels". The nap is very tight and course, and the microfiber strands are not split. These towels have very little absorbency. The intended purpose of these towels is janitorial work, not car detailing. What I have found works best for me are hand towel size waffle weave towels and polishing towels.
These Detailing Towels are an excellent solution for interior cleaning, window cleaning and wiping down door jambs.
5. Final Buffing - A couple years ago microfiber "suede" fabrics hit the clothing market. These fabrics crossed over into the automobile detailing arena as final wipe towels and final buffing bonnets. I have not been overly impressed with the fabric for automotive use. It is soft, but it does not seem to perform any better on paint (for final buffing) than a general purpose towel.
You may have seen microfiber towels labeled for other uses, but I have not found anything to date that does not fit into the five categories I listed above.
After buying and using microfiber products for more than five years now, I have made some interesting observations:
1. Look and feel is deceptive. You cannot judge how a microfiber product will perform by its look or feel alone. You must test. Some towels that look and feel very soft and plush may, in reality, leave micro marring on a delicate paint finish.
2. Color makes a significant difference. Dark colors will not feel as soft as light colors. You can take towels of the exact same fabric that are dyed different colors and the darker towel will not feel as plush or soft.
3. Edge binding makes the most significant difference in towel safety (as a detailing towel). Towels surge bound with heavy polyester thread or improperly cut by a hot wire are more likely to cause micro marring on your paintwork.
4. The weave determines the best function of the towel, not the material blend or weight. While it's true that polyamide is more absorbent than polyester, a towel made from a blend of 70% polyester and 30% polyamide is not necessarily a better drying towel than an 80/20 blend (respectively). The x and fiber treatment (splitting) will determine the wicking ability of the towel as much or more than the material blend.