Can microfibre actually spread dirt?

3rd of October 2022 Article by John Griep
Can microfibre actually spread dirt?

John Griep at VSR, our reporter in the Netherlands, gives us new insight into the microfibre cloth.

Can microfibre cloths cause dirt to spread? An odd question perhaps. After all, microfibre cloths are cleaning cloths and their purpose is to clean surfaces, not to make them dirtier. But, it is true. Microfibre cloths can indeed spread dirt. The microfibre cloth contaminates itself, so to speak, when the cloth is folded. This is clear from research conducted on our behalf.

In 2009, international research showed that  cross-contamination occurred due to the folding of the microfibre cloth. However, only surgical covers were examined at that time, with just one type of microfibre cloth, and that is not representative of the surfaces to be cleaned within professional cleaning.

The Technology Committee of the Cleaning Research Association, therefore, examined situations which are more similar to the practical situation. Do microorganisms spread when applying the folding method? And does the type of microfibre cloth play a role in this?

Three phases

The VSR study was conducted in a laboratory, on three different surfaces (plastic, metal, porcelain), with three different types of microfibre cloths (non-woven fine split, non-woven normal split, and knitted). The distribution of three types of microorganisms (Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus faecalis, Bacillus cereus) was determined from each combination. In addition, the contact points on the researcher’s hand, and the contamination of the cloth itself were examined.

The study consisted of three phases: the application of microorganisms to the first surface; the cleaning of the first soiled surface and the 15 consecutive sterile surfaces with the folded microfibre cloth (which had a ‘clean’ side 16 times due to folding); and the microbiological examination.
What were the results?

• There was a substantial reduction of microorganisms by cleaning with damp microfibre cloths, but at the same time microorganisms were spread from a dirty surface to clean surfaces when the folding method was applied.

• When cleaning a dirty surface with a knitted microfibre cloth, more microorganisms remained than when cleaning with non-woven cloths. However: when using the folded non-woven cloth with a normal split, more microorganisms were spread (than with a knitted one).

• The type of surface appears to influence the spread of microorganisms. More microorganisms were found on porcelain than on plastics and metal surfaces.

• The microfibre cloth itself was the main source of transmission. It is plausible that microorganisms move through the different layers in the folded cloth. Contamination via the hand seemed to have less of an impact.

Now, you might think that these are undesirable results. After all, you don’t want to spread dirt while carrying out a professional cleaning job with professional equipment. But in independent research, there is no desired outcome. It is what it is. And I am proud that VSR has again succeeded in providing greater insights into the performance of a cleaning task.

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