Microfiber is a synthetic fiber less than 1 denier wide. It can be made of polyester, rayon, nylon or from almost any other synthetic material – but most often, it is made from polyester.
What’s a denier? Denier is a way of quantifying a fiber’s mass. A fiber’s denier number is equal to the weight of 9000 meters of said fiber. The lower the denier number, the smaller the denier number.
For comparison: silk is approximately 1 denier, which means 9000 meters of silk filament weighs about a gram. 9000 meters of any microfiber would weigh even less. There is no standard width for microfiber – fibers are spun as needed for their final purpose.
Microfibers are very versatile and can be used in fashion, medicine, heavy and light industries, depending on their composition and how the yarn is woven or knitted.
A microfiber cloth can be made which absorbs a huge amount of water, relative to its own volume – thus making it a mainstay of late night informercials and auto detailers. Microfiber fashion textiles are compatible with a variety of surface treatments and finishes – there are some gorgeous “liquid” metallic lamés out there made with microfibers. Microfibers can be used in sportswear to create garments that are lightweight but still effective at wicking away sweat. Tactel is a brand name for a microfiber yarn used in athletic wear. Microfibers can even be made to create pleather.
Microfibers blend well with natural fibers, helping to enhance the advantages and reducing the disadvantages of that natural fiber. Such blended yarns are also cheaper than pure microfiber materials, as microfiber is a lot of things, but it’s not yet all that cheap – relatively speaking.
Microfiber fabrics are easy to care for – they’re typically machine-washable – relatively resistant to creasing and immune to attack by insects. Several of the textile books on my shelves are quite firm that microfibers are the biggest deal in textile development since the creation of polyester.
You’re not going to find microfibers in your local fabric store just yet, but it’s only a matter of time before they reach a price point where they’re affordable for home users.