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Picture this: You’re about to watch a movie, probably at your parents’ house, and you get all comfy on the couch. You grab the blanket that’s closest to you, and that’s when you feel it: the stubby polyester fibers riddled with lint. The rough, dry, flaky feeling all of a sudden coating your hands. The disappointing weight of a material that wouldn’t even keep a dog warm. It’s microfiber, and it’s disgusting.
(But wait, your mom told you that was microfleece? Let’s pause and talk about the difference between the two. Microfleece is a microfiber in the way that a square is a rectangle. Microfiber is usually made from a mix of polyester, nylon, and rayon, and, according to this explainer on cloth diapers, it’s water-absorbent. Microfleece, on the other hand, is usually 100 percent polyester and a bit more water-repellent, and it usually has more of a pile to it because it’s trying to fool you that it’s flannel. Straight-up microfiber wouldn’t dare. In conclusion, they’re fruit from the same poisonous tree. And they both make me want to vom.)
There are no materials more vile to the touch than microfiber and, I would argue, microfleece. A blanket, a jacket, the scrap of fabric you use to clean your glasses, those yellow cleaning cloths — the slightest contact is enough to send chills down my spine. And I’m not alone.
There’s a reason why you most often encounter microfiber at your parents’ house. Costco, Target, and Walmart sell it in spades. But where did it come from, and more importantly, why? A maintenance supply store in Syracuse, New York, which has a blog and a pretty good one at that, says its origins are unclear, but one theory is that it was first developed in Japan in the mid-’70s: “According to this version of the facts, these scientists were looking for a new fabric for women’s sports apparel, especially for swimwear. They wanted to develop a lightweight fabric that attractively conformed to the body.”
Swimwear?!?!? Can you even imagine climbing out of a pool to dry off, only to have your entire body be physically adhered to a swath of wet hell so awful it’s regularly used to clean stove-top grates? I would die. Fortunately, microfiber swimsuits were a “spectacular failure,” and “although the fabric did conform well to the body, the discomfort of wearing it made the suits essentially unusable.” No shit.
But you win some, you lose some. We might not have microfiber bikinis (omg I’m still vomiting), but we have plenty of pajamas. Why would any human being voluntarily wear this material, let alone while you’re sleeping, which is the best part of the day? I cannot think of a more unfortunate situation than coming home and taking off real pants and reaching for a pair that feels so much worse. You’re better off sleeping in denim.
Of course, microfiber when it’s dry isn’t nearly as bad as when it’s wet. Then, it has all the bad qualities of a sponge (gross dampness, moldy smell) but none of the good (porousness and an easy-to-grip shape). A wet microfiber rag is lifeless — it’s like slop in your hands, like a wet dog but worse. I’d rather be scratched by a stranger’s fingernails on the subway than ever touch this fabric while wet.
But look, I get it. Microfiber blankets are affordable! They’re washable! Who am I to judge what your mom curls up with to watch The Voice? Though I’ll tell you this: A nice thing you could do is buy her a new blanket. This one’s on sale for $15.