Microfiber Cloths Excel Over Cotton

With 80 percent of infections being transmitted through direct contact, it’s no wonder that proper cleaning is as vital as good personal hygiene. In addition to identifying key areas that harbor infectious bacteria, custodial managers are charged with implementing best practices for the removal of these microorganisms. This includes providing custodians with appropriate cleaning tools to mitigate the spread of germs.

Cleaning cloths are an important component of any custodial program, but often facilities settle for cheap rags in place of quality products that facilitate cleaning and disinfection.

“We’ll spend $150,000 on a UV robot housekeeper, but we’ll nickel and dime the cleaning cloths,” says Mark Heller, president of Hygiene Performance Solutions in Toronto. “So we might use a torn-up, discarded towel rather than a finished, engineered product.”

Yet, given the right tools, Heller believes custodians aspire to meet the standards set forth by housekeeping to achieve and maintain a clean, healthy environment.

Increase Your Fiber

When choosing an appropriate cloth engineered to remove soil and bacteria, there’s no substitute for microfiber, say consultants.

“Microfiber cloths are synthetic and have grooves built into the fibers themselves, so they’re very absorbent and trap soils,” explains Steve Tinker, chemist and past president of the American Reusable Textile Association (ARTA), Shawnee Mission, Kansas. “As a result, soils can be picked up very quickly and held in the fibers very efficiently.”

Although cotton is also highly absorbent, it is not as effective as microfiber at grabbing and holding onto soil.

“The pros of cotton are that it’s readily available and fairly cheap, but it doesn’t do a very good job of soil collection,” says Darrel Hicks, author of Infection Prevention for Dummies. “When it comes to infection prevention, our number-one job is to remove the soil from the surface so that the disinfectant has a better chance to work.”

Another disadvantage of cotton cloths is the problem of quat binding, which occurs when fabrics have a strong attraction for the active ingredients in quat-based disinfectants, thereby reducing their efficacy. For this reason, Hicks is seeing an increasing number of facilities switching from cotton to microfiber cloths.

University of Minnesota Medical Center — Fairview in Minneapolis, switched from cotton to microfiber cloths several years ago after testing the efficacy of both materials.

“We found microfiber will pick up the spores and microorganisms, even without the use of disinfectant, whereas cotton will just wipe them around,” says Amanda Guspiel, environmental infection preventionist. “We use quat-based disinfectants with the microfiber, and we haven’t had any issues with the quat binding that occurs with cotton.”

Guspiel has seen a reduction in the number of hospital acquired infections since switching to microfiber cloths.

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