Compared to cotton, microfiber is quick drying, super absorbent and lightweight. There is a growing variety of microfiber towel in the market and their characteristics may be different. The price also varies greatly with a higher end towel costing three to four times greater than a lower end towel. What makes this price difference and how do you select the best for your intended usage? There are three major consideration when it comes to the characteristics and cost of the microfiber towel. They are, its composition, fabric type and weight.
Microfibers are technically fibers has diameter in the tenth to hundredth of millimeters. Any material that can be stretched to that small diameter can be called microfibers. For microfiber towel, the most commonly used materials are polyester and polyamide (Nylon). Polyester weigh less than polyamide, is less absorbent and have a more synthetic touch to it. However, polyamide dries slower than polyester as it has a greater water retention characteristic. For towel, the microfibers used are usually made out of 100% polyester or a mixture of polyamide and polyester. The table below gives a summary of their characteristic
|Synthetic touch||Soft touch|
|Poor water absorption||Good water absorption|
|Dry quickly||Dry slower|
|Wipes easily on skin||Tends to "stick" to skin|
|Less expensive||More expensive|
While the composition of the microfiber has a significant influence on its properties, another contributing factor is the fabric type which is typically either suede or terry cloth. Terry cloth is similar to cotton in terms of touch which makes it more comfortable compared to suede. However, it dries slower than suede as it is generally heavier and the fiber piles that gives it volume. Compared to cotton or equivalent weight, microfiber terry cloth generally dries faster. Suede and terry cloth have their unique characteristics and whether one is better than the other depends on what you are looking for.
Terry microfiber cloth
Suede microfiber cloth
|Fast water absorption||Slower water absorption|
|Slower drying||Quick drying|
|Soft touch||Leathery feel|
|Sticks less to wet skin||Sticks to wet skin|
|Water absorption rate between terry towel and suede towel|
The weight of the towel will affect its performance. In general, a heavier towel will absorb more water than a lighter towel. A terry towel may be smaller in size than a suede towel but may absorb more water since it packs more material in a smaller area. For terry towel, the touch of a heavier towel has a more luxurious feel than a lighter towel on top of its better water absorbency. However, a heavier towel is not always better since it also dries slower.
|Absorbs more water||Absorbs less water|
|Nice touch||"Cheap" touch|
|Dries slower||Dries faster|
|Higher cost||Lower cost|
Given all these considerations, how do we choose one that is best suited for our purpose? While you will have your preference, below is my mine,
|Outdoors and Travel||Important.
Lightweight, quick drying, occupies small space, relatively good water absorbency
Nice touch, stretchability
|Suede, polyester/polyamide blend, light to medium weight.|
|Gym or sports towel||Important.
Nice touch, good water absorbency, stretchable
Lightweight, occupies small space, quick drying
|Terry cloth, polyester/polyamide, medium to heavy weight.|
How about other added on features like anti-bacterial or anti-odour treatment? Most of these properties come from added silver ions or particles. Silver ions will have anti-bacterial effect however, as with most treatments, the silver ions will gradually be lost with each washing and so is its effect. Further, silver ions will not get rid of any dirt or skin flakes that the microfiber picks from the bench or from your body. Therefore, it is still advisable to wash your towel for hygiene purpose.