Thursday, 16 September 2010

Micro fibre - the CliffNotes® Version

Micro fibre (Microfiber US spelling)

By definition [: very small; involving minute quantities or variations] it is not a fabric; but a yarn, that’s spun into thread, which is then used to weave a terry fabric. These ultra-fine yarns (twice as fine as silk and is 100 times finer than a human hair) are made from various sources, they can be made from many different materials, such as a 70% polyester/30% polyamide (or 80/20%) or a natural material such as cellulose, a plant carbohydrate. Potentially any fibre could be made into a micro fibre.

Micro fibre came about by combining two DuPont inventions: Polyester (a scrubbing fibre) and Polyamide (an absorbing fibre) this nylon hybrid is created during weaving to create microscopic loops, which form a network of tiny hooks, scrubbing away dirt and grime. The nature of this yarn is that it is an absorbent; the reason polyester appears to absorb liquids is the many thousands of micro fibres that collectively encapsulate liquids. The polyamide is used as the core of the hybrid fibre and the polyester is the outer skin. Each fibre has specific qualities that, when properly blended, can be used to weave functionally specific fabrics

Things to look for in a micro fibre towel

How many times the fibres are split - a higher split ensues you get a more effective cleaning towel. Splitting the fibres creates millions of edges that trap dirt and dust that bonds to the fibres and is not released until the towel is washed in hot water. Therefore, the dirt is not re-deposited on the paint surface.

Denier [: weight per unit length (linear density) measure of a continuous filament or yarn, used traditionally in textile industry]. The higher the number, the thicker the fibre

Density of fibre - bear in mind that less density of fibre, translate into less cleaning power and far less durability. - is a measure of fibres per square inch of fabric. The range for quality micro fibre is 90,000 to 225,000 fibres per square inch. The higher the fibre count the more absorbent. The less dense cloths are also more abrasive to delicate surfaces. Look for at least 200,000 fibres per square inch of fabric.

Ratio - of polyester (a scrubbing fibre) and polyamide (the absorbing and quick drying fibre) blend; an 80% polyester and 20% polyamide is typical (80/20) a 70/30 blend will absorb water faster. As polyamide is much more expensive than polyester, you can expect to pay more for a 70/30 blend.

Quality - lesser quality versions can use a weave that is too wide or a pile that is too long, which causes the fibres’ to shed during use, leaving a lint trail.

Construction - towel boarders, one of the of the advantages of a silk/satin edging is that they won't unravel when washed several times like a non edged towel nor will they cause marring of the paint surface, it also means that they will not snag.

Weave -the weave on micro fibre towels can be adjusted to meet specific requirements; a terry-loop, cut, hooked feathered, zigzag or Piqué waffle weaves.

Size - available in various sizes 16 -inch x 16 / 18 / 24 -inch, drying towels 25 -inch x 16 -inch being a usable size

Thickness - some manufacturers are rating the thickness of their towels by weight; expressed in grams per square meter or g/m2. The ratio of polyester and polyamide usually remains the same.

When choosing micro fibre quality is very important, as a lack of quality inspection will result in variable results i.e. towels that will cause surface scratches, leave a trail of lint, etc. Many of the Micro fibre products being offered on the market are made from non-split (non-absorbent and ineffective) yarn. The manufacturer forgoes the expensive splitting procedure to save money, and the result is a failing product. Not only does the blend lose over half of its absorbing and cleaning ability but it weakens with use, greatly reducing the life of the product. Some micro fibre products from China and Korea have less density and a denier (length of measure) of 0.5 or higher, which is 50x’s larger than the preferred quality denier of 0.02 or smaller.

A good quality towel may cost more, but it will last longer. The most important thing to remember is that a good quality micro fibre towel will provide better cleaning results and is less likely to cause surface scratches than lesser quality towels Micro fibre quality is very often reflected in the purchase price, best advice; use only high quality micro fibre towels from a reputable source. Pakshak Micropak

As with most things, you'll get what you pay for; as Henry Royce once commented [the quality tends to be remembered long after the price has been forgotten]

Testing Micro fibre

A couple of ‘non-scientific test’ you could use to assimilate wither or not a towel (or any other cloth you'd use on a paint surface) will cause scratches, they are not at all scientific nor 100% accurate, they are only indicative of what the towel may do to your paint surface, but then which is preferable to scratch a CD or your paint surface? Ensure the towels have been washed before carrying out these ‘tests’, and test them using the same criteria you’d use then; damp and remember, even the softest towels will scratch if too much pressure is used,

If the towel does scratch the CD’s surface that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will scratch the vehicles paint, a CD has a much softer surface than automobile paint so use caution, initially trying an inconspicuous area of the paint surface

CD Scratch Test

Take a damp micro fibre cloth and use medium to heavy pressure rub the data surface of a CD. If no scratching is evident then it probably won’t scratch the vehicles paint surface, be aware that the bindings can also cause scratching. Ensure you wash before you use a micro fibre towel for the first time and use it on an inconspicuous area first.

Burn Test

But not all microfibers are polyester. There are microfibers made from cotton, rayon, acrylic and nylon. Most of the time, though, the fibre is polyester a simple burn test will tell you which fibre the product contains A very easy test is to take a butane lighter and put the fibre close to the flame, but not in the flame. If the fibre pulls away from the flame, you have a synthetic fibre (nylon or polyester, most likely).This means you can easily clean the fabric with typical aggression. If the fibre does not pull away, burn it. If the resulting ash is crumbly and gives you a "dirty finger" when you crush it, you no doubt have a natural fibre

An excerpt from one of a series of 135 technical papers “The Art &Science of Detailing”

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