Washing synthetic clothing made out of polyester, acrylic, nylon or recycled polyesters release invisible microplastics in the water. Because the washing machine filters don't catch the microfibers, they eventually end up in the ocean.
A scientific report from April 2019 states that microfibres have been found in the Pacific Ocean, even in the deep sea sediments of the Arctic. “Textile fibres were also found in fish and shellfish on sale for human consumption, sampled from markets in Makassar, Indonesia, and from California, USA.”
That means that if you are eating fish, you are literally eating your microplastic waste. It might be surprising but microplastics released through the washing machine are considered the primary cause of microplastic pollution in the ocean. Learn more about the serious consequences of our plastic waste for the planet in one of our previous articles!
If you want to minimise your impact on the environment when you’re doing the laundry, start with these tips:
- Wash synthetic clothes less frequently if possible and with a shorter wash cycle. Consider using a delicate washing cycle for everyday laundering.
- Use a colder wash setting since higher temperatures can release more microfibers.
- Dry spin clothes at low revolutions or, even better, air dry them.
- Another option is to wash your garments by hand and reuse the wastewater for your garden.
- Consider using a special ‘monofilament’ laundry bag' that holds back microfibers.
- Only wash full loads because less friction releases less microfibers.
- Use liquid laundry soap instead of laundry powder as it “scrubs” which loosens more microfibers.
- Use an eco-friendly delicate detergent which is made out of ingredients that degrade very quickly. And check that your eco-friendly detergent is free of optical brighteners, phosphates, chlorine bleach and dyes.
Telling friends and family about the microplastic problem and what they can do about it is probably number 9. I discovered an immense power in spreading awareness. Please let us know if you have any additional tips!