Reducing Microplastic Shed from Clothes

Reducing Microplastic Shed from Clothes: A Comprehensive Guide

Posted by Brent Ferguson on

As we strive for a more sustainable lifestyle, one area often overlooked is the laundry room. Our laundry habits, particularly when washing synthetic clothes, contribute significantly to the global microplastic pollution problem. In this article, we delve into the issue of microplastics, their source, impacts, and how you can minimize their release from your laundry.

Understanding the Microplastic Shed on Clothes

Microplastics, as their name suggests, are tiny fragments of plastic, typically less than 5mm in size. These miniature plastic particles are ubiquitous, found from the peaks of Mount Everest to the depths of the ocean. Alarmingly, our laundry is responsible for about 35% of the microplastics found in the ocean.

Synthetic fabrics, such as nylon, polyester, acrylic, viscose, elastane, and others, shed these microplastics during washing. These particles are so minute that they pass through water treatment plants and eventually enter our ecosystems.

Impacts of Microplastic Pollution

Microplastic pollution has far-reaching environmental and health implications. These particles absorb and release harmful chemicals, posing a significant risk to marine life, which often mistake them for food.

Effects on Marine Life

Microplastics can cause a range of issues in animals, from blocked digestive tracts to decreased energy, stunted growth, and reduced reproductive capabilities. They also carry toxic chemicals like pesticides and heavy metals into the bodies of plankton, fish, sea birds, and other wildlife, causing further damage.

Effects on Human Health

Microplastics also pose potential risks to human health. They've been found in various food items, from seafood to table salt, as well as in drinking water. Although the long-term effects of microplastics on human health are not yet fully understood, their presence in our diet is concerning.

How to Reduce Microplastic Shed from Clothes

There are several effective strategies to minimize microplastic shedding from your laundry, ranging from adjustments in washing practices to the use of specialized laundry tools.

1. Segment Your Laundry

Segregating your laundry not just by color but also by material can help reduce microplastic shedding. Washing rough clothes separately from soft synthetic garments reduces friction, thus minimizing fiber breakage.

2. Optimize Your Washing Settings

Altering your washing settings can significantly reduce microplastic release. Opt for cold water instead of hot, as heat weakens fibers, making them more prone to breakage. Additionally, running short cycles and reducing the speed of the spin cycle can minimize fiber breakdown.

However, contrary to common belief, avoid using the delicate cycle, as it uses more water than other washing modes, increasing fiber shedding.

3. Reconsider Your Drying Practices

Skip the dryer and opt for air-drying instead. The heat from the dryer can damage synthetic fibers, making them more likely to shed microplastics in the next wash. Plus, air-drying is more energy-efficient and can save you money.

4. Reduce Laundry Loads

Limiting the frequency of your laundry can help reduce microplastic shedding. Many items don't need to be washed after every use, so consider re-wearing items that aren't visibly dirty or smelly.

5. Use Special Laundry Tools

Several products on the market can help capture microplastics during washing. For instance, the Guppyfriend laundry bag is designed to capture broken fibers and microplastic waste, reducing the amount released into the environment. Likewise, a lint filter that attaches to your washing machine's discharge hose can reduce microplastics by up to 80%.

6. Choose Environmentally Friendly Detergents

Many popular detergents contain plastic, which breaks down into microplastic particles during washing. Opt for eco-friendly alternatives or consider making your own detergent.

Opting for Natural Fibers

Choosing clothes made from natural fibers instead of synthetic materials can significantly reduce your contribution to microplastic pollution. Fabrics like cotton and wool are better alternatives, but ensure they are ethically sourced considering the environmental footprint of their production.

Buying Second-Hand Clothes

Buying second-hand clothes can also help. Studies show that microplastic shedding plateaus over time, meaning older clothes release fewer microplastics than new ones.

The Future of Laundry

In the face of the microplastic pollution crisis, some countries are taking necessary steps. France, for instance, has mandated filters on all washing machines by 2025 to tackle microplastic pollution.

Microplastic pollution is a complex issue, but it's not unsolvable. By adopting more sustainable laundry practices, we can all contribute to a cleaner and healthier environment.

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