Microfibers are used in a variety of fabrics, but most commonly in dress and blouse weight garments. They are very fine fibers, compared to more conventional forms − half the diameter of a fine silk fiber, one-third the diameter of cotton, one-quarter the diameter of fine wool, and one hundred times finer than human hair!
Although fine and lightweight, microfiber is anything but flimsy.
What is Microfiber?
In order to be classified “microfiber”, the fiber must be less than one denier. A denier is the weight, in grams, of a 9000-meter length of fiber or yarn. The higher the number − the thicker the fiber.
The many tiny fibers of microfiber are able to slide back and forth and maneuver around within the yarns of the fabric, allowing the fabric to flow and drape freely, yet still possess body and shape. Microfiber fabrics are generally lightweight, resilient or resistant to wrinkling and have a luxurious drape and body, retain shape and resist pilling. They are also relatively strong and durable in relation to other fabrics of similar weight.
How Microfibers are Manufactured
Man-made fibers are formed by forcing a liquid through tiny holes in a device, called a spinneret. In microfiber, the holes are finer than with conventional fibers. Potentially any man-made fiber can be made into a microfiber, but are most commonly found in polyester and nylon. Micros can be used alone, blended with conventional denier man-made fibers, or natural fibers such as cotton, wool and silk.
Benefits of Microfiber
Since these fine yarns can be packed tightly together, microfibers are especially useful in garments that require water repellency and wind resistance. Yet, the spaces between the yarns are porous enough to breathe and wick moisture away from the body. Microfibers seem less “clammy” to wear, and is the perfect choice for warm weather and athletic clothing.
Caring For Microfibers
Garments made of microfiber can usually be cared for similar to garments made of conventional fabrics. Fabrics made from regular polyester and nylon fibers can be machine-washed and tumble dried. Use of paper dryer sheets is not recommended because temporary spotting from the heat of the dryer may occur. Liquid fabric softener use is not a problem.
Viscose rayons perform best when dry-cleaned, however. As a general rule, fiber properties, not the fineness of the fiber, usually dictate recommended care. It is important that one follow the care instructions on a particular garment.
A few precautions should be observed when caring for microfibers. Because the fibers are so fine, heat penetrates the fabric more quickly than conventional fabric. As a result, glazing, melting or scorching can occur quickly. If pressing is necessary, use only a cool iron and do not leave the iron on the fabric too long.
As with any fine garments, avoid use of jagged jewelry that may cause pulls, snags or creates general abrasion.
The Future of Microfiber Garments
The strength of microfibers make them particularly adaptable to suede or sandwashed finishes, such as polyester and nylon, because of their extensive fiber surfaces and use of strong fibers. As such, suit jackets and bottom weights are becoming increasingly available in microfiber. Micros are becoming increasingly the fabric of choice in clothing such as lingerie, rainwear, outdoor fleeces, wind-resistant sportswear, track and jogging suits. Many microfibers simulate the appearance of sandwashed silk and are excellent for use in utility fabrics for use in tents and sleeping bags.
Microfiber garments are generally durable and provide long-lasting wear, despite their fine silk-like feel. Enjoy microfiber garments in your wardrobe!