How to Clean and Disinfect Microfiber Cloths (Step-by-Step)

how to clean and disinfect microfiber cloths

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If you search the internet for “how to clean and disinfect microfiber cloths”, you’ll quickly realize that there are many differing opinions on the topic. 

Some websites say to avoid detergent and heat while others say you need to wash them at a very specific temperature with special microfiber detergent. 

To get to the bottom of it, I conducted over 15 hours of research, talked to 5 different professional cleaning companies, and connected with 2 major microfiber brands.

Based on what I learned from my research coupled with my own experience, I put this article together to explain, step-by-step, the best way to clean and disinfect microfiber cloths.

To be crystal clear, this article is NOT about how to clean something with microfiber cloths, it’s about how to clean and disinfect microfiber cloths themselves after cleaning your house with them.

If you only have a minute, here are the basic steps you need to take to clean and disinfect microfiber cloths. 

  • Step 1: Rinse them out with warm water for about 30 seconds to remove the loose dirt and debris.
  • Step 2: Separate the bathroom and kitchen cloths from those used for lighter cleaning to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Step 3: Pre-soak the dirty cloths in a bucket with detergent. If certain cloths are especially contaminated, submerge them in boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes before soaking to kill the bacteria. 
  • Step 4: Wash the cloths in a washing machine with warm water (140 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal) and detergent. Avoid fabric softener.
  • Step 5: Hang to dry or tumble dry with no heat. Do not use dryer sheets.

Now that you have a general sense of how to clean and disinfect microfiber cloths, let’s dive deeper into each step.

The information in these next sections provides you with everything you need to know to keep your microfiber cloths clean, disinfected, and in good condition. If properly cared for, a microfiber cloth can last for several years.

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How to Clean Microfiber Cloths: 5 Simple Steps

Follow these simple steps to clean your microfiber cloths once you’re finished cleaning your house.

Step One: Rinse With Warm Water for About 30 Seconds

When you’re done cleaning with your microfiber cloth, rinse it out for about 30 seconds until the water washes away the dirt, debris, and cleaner.

Getting rid of the dirt and debris will result in an even cleaner cloth and help keep your washing machine clean as well.

Although most experts recommend only using water when you clean with microfiber cloths, if you decide to use a mild cleaning solution, this step is particularly important. If you do not completely rinse the cleaning solution from the cloth, it can cause the fibers to get gummed up. 

After rinsing, hang the cloth up somewhere to dry until you are ready to wash it. I recommend draping the cloth over the edge of your soaking bucket. Once it is dry, you can toss it in the bucket until you have enough cloths to soak them.

Step Two: Separate the Bathroom and Kitchen Microfiber Cloths From Those Used for Lighter Cleaning

When you think of the germiest place in your home, your first thought is probably your bathroom. However, the National Sanitation Foundation found that the kitchen is actually the germiest location inside the home. Surprisingly, the bathroom came in second.

The cloths you use in the kitchen and bathroom are more likely to be contaminated with germs than those used in other areas of your home. By keeping them separate, you will avoid contaminating perfectly germ-free cloths.

TIP: Many people buy different colored cloths for specific jobs to make separating them easier and to avoid any mix-ups.

Step Three: Pre-Soak the Dirty Cloths in a Bucket With Detergent

Fill two buckets with warm water and a small amount of detergent. Place the kitchen and bathroom cloths in one bucket and the rest of the dirty cloths in the other. Allow them to soak for at least thirty minutes.

Some washing machines have a presoak option that allows you to soak right in the machine. Check with your washing machine’s owner’s manual for instructions.

TIP: If you suspect a particular cloth has a significant presence of bacteria and germs, boil it for 5 to 10 minutes before soaking. More details on this process in the next section (skip to that section).

Step Four: Wash the Cloths in a Washing Machine With Warm Water

Load the cloths into your washing machine as you would normally.

Use the same amount of detergent that you normally would for a regular load of laundry. Regular detergent works fine as long as it doesn’t contain bleach or fabric softeners. 

Set the machine on a gentle cycle and at a temperature as close to 140 degrees Fahrenheit as possible. Every washer is different so check the manufacturer’s manual to find out what setting will get you closest to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Run the machine.

TIP: Wash microfiber cloths together without any other towels or clothes. The lint from cotton and other materials can get stuck and damage the microfibers.

Step Five: Hang Cloths to Air Dry or Tumble Dry With No Heat

Drape the microfiber cloths over a drying rack or clothesline to air dry.

Alternatively, you can dry them in your dryer. Clean any lint out of your dryer first. Load the machine and tumble the cloths with no heat until they are dry.

If you use the low heat setting on your dryer, which I do not advise, be sure to take out the cloths as soon as they are dry. They dry rapidly.

Fold, and you’re done!

Alternative Method: Wash By Hand

You can handwash microfiber cloths, but it’s less effective and more labor-intensive than using your washing machine. On the positive, you’ll save a little bit on your water.

Related Post: If saving money on your water bill is a priority, check out our recent article outlining How to Lower Your Water and Sewer Bill.

Here’s how it’s done:

  • Step One: Rinse out the microfiber cloth as instructed above.
  • Step Two: Allow it to soak in a bucket with warm water and detergent.
  • Step Three: Instead of washing in your washing machine, agitate the cloth with your hand for several minutes.
  • Step Four: Rinse well.
  • Step Five: Hang to dry.

How to Disinfect Filthy Microfiber Cloths

So far I’ve covered how to clean microfibers cloths in general, but let’s say you just wiped down your toilet or cleaned juices from raw meats off your kitchen counter.

Microfiber cloth after cleaning raw meat juices

What’s the best way to completely disinfect your microfiber cloths before using them again?

When most people think about disinfecting something, the first thing they think of is bleach. While bleach is great for disinfecting most items, it damages the microfibers and will shorten the lifespan of your cloths.

Fortunately, disinfecting microfiber cloths doesn’t require extra steps beyond rinsing, soaking, and washing (see steps 1 through 5).

As long as you set the temperature of your washing machine to right around 140 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll destroy nearly all the bacteria and germs that get stuck in your cloths.

If you have any reservations, rest assured knowing that 140 degrees Fahrenheit is also the recommended temperature for washing hospital scrubs.

If you’re really concerned about a particularly contaminated cloth, and pre-soaking and washing just aren’t cutting it, it is time to take more drastic measures.

Norwex, a well-known microfiber cloth brand, recommends boiling your cloths for ten minutes. E-cloth, another popular microfiber cloth brand, seconds Norwex advice to boil cloths that are just too stinky and grimy for standard cleaning methods.

Boiling causes the fibers to swell and release any gunk they may have accumulated. Plus, at around 212 degrees Fahrenheit, bacteria, viruses, and microorganisms simply cannot survive the high temperatures of boiling water.

Disinfect microfiber cloth by boiling
Disinfect microfiber cloths by boiling them for 5 to 10 minutes

Here’s how to do it:

  • Step One: Bring a large pot of water to a boil on your stovetop.
  • Step Two: Drop the cloths into the boiling water. Be careful not to splash yourself.
  • Step Three: Allow them to boil for ten minutes. Be sure it does not boil over. Don’t let the cloth sit in boiling water for more than 10 minutes. Prolonged exposure to high temperatures will ruin the microfibers.
  • Step Four: Use tongs to remove the hot microfiber cloths from the pot. Place them in a bucket and immediately wash them as usual.

TIP: One helpful suggestion E-Cloth makes that Norwex doesn’t is to add about a ¼ cup of baking soda to the water before bringing it to a boil. The baking soda will help deodorize the cloth. Be careful though, it will also cause the water to bubble over quickly.

What to Avoid While Cleaning Microfiber Cloths

Microfiber is a synthetic fabric made up of ultra-fine fibers. These fibers slip into tiny cracks, and instead of just pushing grime around, they pick it up and trap it between its fibers.

The tiny fibers are the reason that microfiber cloths are such powerful cleaning tools, but they are also the reason you need to be careful when you go to clean the cloth itself. There are several factors in the cleaning process that could damage the fibers.

Here’s what you need to know.

Avoid Bleach

Do not use bleach with your microfiber cloths. Over time, bleach will destroy the fibers in the cloth.

Avoid Extremely High Heat

High temperatures damage the fibers in the microfiber cloth. You need to be certain to set your washer to the proper temperature. E-Cloth, one of the most well-known sellers of microfiber cloths, recommends washing them in temperatures up to 140 Fahrenheit. This is an appropriate temperature for disinfecting.

Unfortunately, washer settings vary from machine to machine. You need to check your washing machine’s manual to find out which setting would get you close to this temperature.

The heat from your dryer poses a serious danger to your microfiber cloth. Hang your microfiber towels to dry or tumble dry on a no heat setting. It will not take them long to dry.

Avoid Lint

Lint from other fabrics can get stuck in the fibers of your cloths the same way that dirt would, but lint is difficult to wash away. Be sure to wash your microfiber cloths together, and without any other towels are clothes.

Avoid Powdered Detergent, Fabric Softener, and Dryer Sheets

Do not use powdered detergent as undissolved granules of soap can get stuck in the fiber.

Do not use fabric softeners or dryer sheets because they coat the minuscule fibers of the cloth which reduces their ability to trap dirt.

Finally, do not use too much detergent. If soap residue remains on the fibers, it will cause them to be less effective. Follow the instructions on your detergent as to how much to use.

FAQs About Cleaning and Disinfecting Microfiber Cloths

Now that you understand how to clean and disinfect microfiber cloths, let’s dive deeper into some of the most common questions people ask on the topic.

How often should I wash my microfiber cloths?

There is no hard and fast rule about this and it really depends on how dirty they are.

I recommend rinsing them after each use by hand and allowing them to dry so they don’t get moldy. If rinsing them doesn’t get rid of the dirt, stains, or odor, you know its time for a full cleaning in the washing machine.

As a rule of thumb, fully wash your microfiber cloths after cleaning your bathroom or kitchen. But, if you’re just using them to dust hard surfaces in other rooms, you can go 3 to 5 uses without a full cleaning.

What if I used fabric softener or dryer sheets with my microfiber cloths?

Don’t panic! Wash them again without fabric softener, and they should be just fine.

How do I get stains out of my microfiber cloth?

Most stains will fade over time and many washes. They do not make the microfiber cloth less effective. If stains drive you crazy and believe me, I understand, purchase your microfiber cloths in darker colors. Unfortunately, with cleaning up household messes, stains are inevitable.

Can I disinfect my microfiber cloth in the microwave like a sponge?

This is not advisable as the uneven heating method used by microwaves is not the most effective way of killing bacteria.

In addition, it is difficult to know what temperature your microwave reaches and if it will cause damage to your cloth or if it is getting hot enough to kill bacteria.

Do I need to use special microfiber detergent to wash my cloths?

There are special microfiber detergents available (like this one on Amazon), but any detergent free of bleach and fabric softener will clean your microfiber cloth without damaging it.

How long do microfiber cloths last?

If you follow the proper use and care instructions, microfiber cloths should last for several years.

There are so many variables that factor into how long microfibers will last. How often you use them, how well you take care of them, what you use them for etc.

If you’re a professional housekeeper and use your cloths every day, they’ll wear out faster. But, if your a regular homeowner performing routine house cleaning, they’ll last much longer.

E-cloth guarantees that their microfiber cloths will last at least 300 washes which equates to about 6 years on average. Norwex microfiber cloths come with a 2-year warranty but many customers report that they last much longer—5,7, and even 10 years.

How do you know when it’s time to replace a microfiber cloth?

After hundreds of uses and trips through the washing machine, the microfibers will start to wear out and lose their effectiveness.

When you notice your cloths are no longer picking up dust and dirt effectively, it’s time to bid them farewell and invest in a new batch.

Also, if you clean something particularly nasty and can’t seem to get the stains or odor out of your cloths no matter how many times you wash them, it’s probably time to let them go.

Fortunately, microfiber cloths are very inexpensive considering how much use you’ll get out of them. If you want to guarantee high quality, you can opt for a brand like Norwex (available on Amazon) or E-Cloth (available on Amazon). Both brands are very similar but they have important differences that we explain in detail in our recent article: E-Cloth vs. Norwex: What Are the Differences?

If Norwex and E-Cloth are too expensive, you can’t go wrong with this AmazonBasics set which is more affordable and gets excellent reviews.

Final Thoughts

Cleaning and disinfecting microfiber cloths is a pretty simple task—as long as you follow the right steps.

If you’re new to cleaning with microfiber cloths, keep these tips in mind:

  • You do not need to use a new cloth after every swipe as you would with paper towels. Rinse and reuse as long as you aren’t cleaning your toilet or raw meat juices.
  • Not all microfiber cloths are the same. High-quality cloths like E-Cloth’s premium microfiber cloths (see on Amazon) have 3.1 million fibers per square inch. They may cost more, but they will last longer and work better.
  • Keep a basket filled with microfiber cloths in locations around your home where you commonly need to clean up or where things are frequently spilled.
  • When cleaning microfiber cloths, avoid bleach, extremely high temperatures (with the exception of boiling for 10 minutes), lint, and fabric softeners.

Do You Have Any Tips and Tricks for Cleaning and Disinfecting Microfiber Cloths?

I always love hearing from others about their experience with products like microfiber cloths. What’s your go-to method for cleaning and disinfecting them? Have you tried the methods in this post? If yes, did they work for you or have you found something more effective?

Let me know in the comments below!

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