Folded microfibre still effective

14th of December 2023 Article by John Griep
Folded microfibre still effective

VSR has been researching cross-contamination from folding microfibre cloths, writes John Griep from the Netherlands.

VSR has been researching cross-contamination from folding microfibre cloths for some time. I wrote about this last year after it was found that micro-organisms spread from a dirty surface to clean surfaces by the folding method. The microfibre cloth thus contaminates itself when the cloth is folded. Is that bad?

Despite the contamination, there remained a substantial reduction in micro-organisms by cleaning with clammy microfibre cloths. So the cloths do clean things. In fact, for cleaning, the microfibre cloth is extremely effective. Because by using it correctly, microfibres remove dirt more thoroughly than other cloths.

How does that work? Firstly, microfibres hold onto dirt better compared to traditional materials, and the cleaned surface is left virtually dry. Alongside that, the use of water and detergent is mainly unnecessary.

Secondly - and this may seem contradictory - the folding method also means there is actually less spread of dirt and micro-organisms. Because if a (clammy) microfibre cloth is folded two or three times, creating eight or sixteen sides, a clean part of the cloth can be used for cleaning each time. When all the sides have been used, the cloth is replaced with a clean cloth.

For the fanatics among us, the pattern of cross-contamination is important here in identifying the cause. The transmission is uneven. More micro-organisms are found on some surfaces after cleaning than on others. Significantly more micro-organisms were found on surface 12 than on all other surfaces except the soiled surface (surface 1).

Side 12 is the back of side 1, which could mean that micro-organisms are squeezed through the different layers by the pressure of the hand. This may also explain the relatively higher numbers of micro-organisms on surfaces 15 and 6. These sides of the folded cloth follow side 12. On sides 2, 5, 8, 11, 13 and 16, the lowest numbers of micro-organisms were found.

Proper use of microfibre cloths is not just about folding. Because the cloths are no longer rinsed out in a bucket of water, dirt and micro-organisms remain in the cloth. This means they are no longer moved through the rinse water to other surfaces. Also important: working from clean to dirty. Even type of surface appears to influence the spread of micro-organisms. More micro-organisms are found on porcelain than on plastic and metal surfaces.

Conclusion: concern about cross-contamination from folding microfibre cloths is unnecessary, in our opinion. It is important to distinguish between cleaning, disinfecting and sterilising. When cleaning is required, the microfibre cloth (including folding technique) is extremely effective. In the study using humidification with demineralised water, we observed a 99.99 per cent reduction in microbial contamination in a single working pass.

So the effectiveness of the microfibre cloth remains impressive at this point. The digital research report ‘Cross-contamination when using folded microfibre cloths’ can be ordered through the VSR office.

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