Microfibre cloths — soft, absorbent, economical — are often a preferable alternative to using and throwing away a heap of paper towels. But not every time. Here’s how should you decide which to reach for when you have a mess to clean up.
When to use microfibre cloths
According to the University of Washington, microfibre cloths are made of polyester and nylon; their combined polyamide fibre is split over and over until it’s thinner than a human hair. That accounts for the softness of the cloths, as well as their ability to slide into cracks and crevices that cotton rags or paper towels can’t penetrate.
Here’s when you should use a microfibre cloth:
- Use microfibre when you want to conserve water or don’t want to get the surface you are cleaning too wet. Research done at the University of California Davis Medical Centre showed that microfibre needs way less water or chemicals than cotton to clean and saturate a surface.
- Use microfibre when you want to pick up dust or other particles, as all those little fibres carry a positive electrical charge that attracts them. Even dry, they can pick up dust and dirt far more effectively than paper towels.
- Use microfibre cloths to clean big spills, as they absorb about six times their weight in liquid — and won’t get weaker or tear as a result.
- Use microfibre cloths when cleaning something delicate, like a laptop or television screen. Even if they feel soft, the tiny fibres in paper towels can actually scratch these surfaces.
When to use paper towels
There are a few instances when a paper towel is a better option than a microfibre cloth. While microfibre is known for its ability to yank microbes off a surface, the bacteria stays on the cloth. If bacteria is present or you’re concerned about germs or other health hazards, a paper towel that you throw away instantly (after using it in conjunction with a disinfectant) is likely the better option.
If you’re cooking and touching raw foods, you may also want to use a paper towel to dry your hands in between touches and washes, too, as it’s better to dispose of cross-contaminants than keep wiping your hands in them.
Finally, opt for a paper towel if you’re cleaning something flammable, even oil. It’s just better to avoid putting anything combustible in your dryer or keeping it around the house at all.
If you want to cut down on your paper towel use, it’s smart to have microfibre cloths on hand.
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