Microfiber is an outstanding cleaning technology when used to best advantage. The micro-fine "hooks" formed in the construction process can latch onto particles on surfaces that cotton just slides over. On the microscopic level, a look at even a hard surface such as porcelain reveals a very uneven, alien surface full of potholes, nooks and crannies. Most "hard surfaces" look more like an English muffin when viewed through a scanning electron microscope.
Here are a few tips for using microfiber cloths, most of which pertain to mops and other forms of this "modern cleaning miracle" as well:
Apply even pressure - A cleaning trowel (with strips that attach to the cloth) used with microfiber cloths or pads made for the trowel, provides even pressure across the exposed working surface. Used with your hand, microfiber cloths will pick up the most debris and soil where your hand pressed the hardest. Sometimes you will find your handprint showing on the face of the cloth. The trowel allows you to apply even pressure and to bear down, significantly increasing the area you can clean.
Keep a rotation - Microfiber picks up so much so quickly that you can end up redistributing soils, particularly greasy ones, if you do not rotate. Fold your cloth from a size of about 16 inches square in half, and then in half the long way again. This gives you a palm-sized working face. Once you notice build up, or your results deteriorate, flip to the other side. Next, open at the last fold and bend the opposite way, exposing two more surfaces that have not been used. Next unfold down to the full cloth and refold, this time using the other side. Once you get use to this, you can do it in your sleep. (And that is when productivity really increases, because you can clean 24/7!)
Damp dusting works smarter - Use a spray bottle on fine adjustment to apply a modest amount of moisture (or cleaner, polisher or dust-attracting agent) to the face of the cloth's working surface. Microfiber attracts best when damp. Dry dusting can "redistribute" much of what is being moved, settling a few hours later to be handled over and over. Take care to not make the cloth wet, however, or you may harm wood finishes. Microfiber also tends to release soils when wet. That's part of the beauty of how it works. It collects when you are using it dry or damp, and releases when fully wet in the laundry.
Damp mopping - For the reasons above, make sure you wring your microfiber mop out well. Break yourself of the habit of slinging water around the way cotton mops have often been used.
Use a bigger stack for greasy soils - When removing grease, microfiber takes in much more than organic fibers. Therefore it removes more and fills more quickly. Once filled, you are no longer removing. So keep a taller fresh stack of cloths when working on greasy soils.
Washing is important:
Do not launder microfiber with other cloths.
Your microfiber will fill up with strands from other materials, particularly cotton, and that space will then not be available for soil. The polyamide and polyester hooks microfiber is formed from are able to release from each other without taking off small bits as they do when they come in contact with organic materials that break apart easily. If you want to see the difference, look at the dryer filter after a load of cotton cloths. Then clean and compare again after the same size load of microfiber cloths. The first load will produce much more lint.
Launder at a low temperature.
High temperature and microfiber are not good bedfellows. The hooks are destroyed over time by high temperature.
Avoid fabric softener.
Liquid fabric softeners deform the hooks in microfiber. Ever try fishing with an un-bent hook? You didn't catch much, did you?
Tumble dry at the low temperature setting.
It's all about keeping those invisible hooks in good shape.
Watch for "self-sticking."
Although it sounds odd, when the microfiber begins to stick to itself, the hooks are becoming worn or deformed. Microfiber cloths have to be replaced after so many miles, just like tires. The way the hooks work is to create little pockets on the finest parts of each strand, and it is the pockets which pick up micro-fine particles other cloths leave behind. When those get deformed, they stick out at crazy angles and work like hook-and-loop fasteners attaching to each other rather than storing soils.
Watch for tags and "welded stitching."
These two features can cause scratching of plastic and softer surfaces. Welded stitching is heat-sealed by the final manufacturer. In the process the original cloth from the microfiber manufacturer becomes deformed and can create jagged ridges along seams. Tags may do the same, although some manufacturers use tags for color coding. Just be aware that the tags are made from materials other than microfiber and the difference can lead to streaking.
Use your peepers.
A final inspection after laundering will tell you if there are clumps of other materials left on your cloths either from use or from a prior wash load. Every spot where lint or debris is left is a spot that is not doing its job and leaving an unclean swath ultimately causing you extra work. Who wants to do extra work?
Why is all this worth your time? Cared for following best practices, microfiber can save effort while increasing cleaning efficiency. A microfiber cloth in good condition can work so well, it even acts like a sanitizer on a hard porcelain surface. The polyamide/polyester hooks can actually grab and remove germs and other microorganisms from the tiny pockets they hide in, whereas that cotton terry towel you used last week just bumped a few of them on their heads. When you save a lot of time in the long run, do a much better, more sanitary, and more odor-fighting job, isn't that worth some care and preparation?