Why are my microfiber cloths unravelling?

China has been the main source of microfiber cloths over the last ten years and as a country has a completely vertical manufacturing process. That being said, the labor rates from 2005 to 2016 have tripled in China and are now higher than most every major Latin country. In addition to increased wages, Blue Sky laws in China enforced by the Ministry of Environmental Protection have implemented greater restrictions on dye houses in China forcing increased pressure on pricing.

As market pressures are pushing pricing higher, manufactures who are selling microfiber on a large scale have automated their highest labor component of microfiber cloths, assembly. Automatic stitching machines like the one seen in this video eliminate the need for sewing operators and help suppress cost increases.

Here’s the problem, the automated machines cut the hem threads with a cutting tool (essentially a knife) leaving the threads cut short against the cloth (see video on right). The edges are then left exposed and susceptible to fraying. In a household setting this might not be important. In a commercial setting, it’s a “budget buster”. The concept of washing cloths hundreds of times is gone because the hems on these cloths will fall apart rendering the obsolete.

Heat sealing the edges of microfiber cloths has always been done by hand. Essentially a department in a microfiber factory has workers touching the sewn edges to a hot wire which melts the hem starting a stopping point together (see video on right). This creates a seal that locks the stitching together, allowing the cloths to withstand hundreds of washes without falling apart. The process is remedial but critical to create a cloth that doesn’t fall apart!

You can easily tell if the microfiber cloths you are about to purchase are sealed correctly by looking at the edges. Side by side you see the difference:

Close-up of microfiber edge as a result of an automated machine
Close-up of microfiber edge as a result of hand sealed

There is a difference in price. Automated machines have helped maintain lower costs on cloths and have been accepted as a common wiping tool in household settings. Automating the sewing of microfiber cloths have certainly aiding in maintaining retail friendly price points for cloths. Commercial users are accustomed to edges that last for up to 500 washes.

If you are using a household grade cloth in a commercial setting, you’ll see cloth edges falling apart after just a couple uses. The additional 4-8% upfront cost for a  heat sealed edge is inconsequential if the the cloths last 20-30 times longer. If you’re not getting the life expectancy out of your cloths, check the stitching first and look for a commercially heat sealed product.

Author: Hal Kanefsky
Title: President, Monarch Brands
Contact: [email protected]


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