How You Can Stop Microfiber Pollution!

How You Can Stop Microfiber Pollution!

Microfiber gives new meaning to the expression "It all comes out in the wash!"

[ultimate_heading]

Have you read about how our clothes can be a source of deforestation? On top of that, clothes are a major source of microfiber pollution in our rivers, lakes, oceans and soils. Follow the links in this post to more in-depth information. But good news, we don’t need to all become nudists! There are actions we can take to prevent microfiber pollution, and that’s what we focus on here!

Besides energy and water use, I didn’t think too much about what happens when I toss my clothes into the washer until recently. Then I heard a Green Dreamer podcast interview with Rachael Miller of the Rozalia Project. You might say it was a watershed moment.

It’s not just dirt and grime that get removed in the wash; our clothes break down too. Thousands of microscopic plastic and fiber particles break off and flow out the drain, through the water treatment system, and into our soils, rivers, lakes and oceans. These microparticles can attract and hold onto pollutants, and everything eats them, from plankton to whales. You and I ingest microfibers too when we drink water or beer or eat fish, table salt and many other things.

Okay, we're not going to stop washing our clothes. So what can we do to help stop microfiber pollution?

Fortunately, there are a lot of good options when it comes to choosing and caring for our clothes. And, there are physical filters we can use in the washer. Here are ways you can take positive action!

Choosing and caring for clothes:

Physical filters for washing clothes:

๐ŸŒฑ CHOOSE NATURAL FIBERS WHEN YOU CAN

Polyester, rayon, nylon and acrylic shed plastic fibers that remain in ecosystems for millennia. Cotton, hemp, silk and linen can also shed fibers, but those fibers are biodegradable.

๐ŸŒฑ AVOID FAST FASHION

Cheaply made clothes don’t last. They fall apart fast, wasting money and materials and taking a heavy toll on the planet.

๐ŸŒฑ WASH CLOTHES ONLY AS OFTEN AS REALLY NEEDED

Although clothes can shed fibers while you’re wearing them, washing them kicks shedding into high gear. Your clothes will last longer and pollute less if you only wash them when they’re really dirty.

๐ŸŒฑ WAIT TO WASH UNTIL YOU HAVE A FULL LOAD OF LAUNDRY

Filling the washer helps reduce friction between clothes. It’s the friction from clothes rubbing against each other that causes fibers to break off.

๐ŸŒฑ USE LIQUID DETERGENT OR DISSOLVE POWDERED DETERGENT BEFORE USE

Powdered detergent can be abrasive to clothes, which can lead to more microfiber particles breaking loose. To avoid buying detergent in a plastic container, use laundry pods or dissolve powdered detergent before you add it to the machine.

๐ŸŒฑ USE A FRONT LOADER

One study found that clothes shed 7x more fibers in top-load washers compared to front loaders.

๐ŸŒฑ WASH AT LOW TEMPERATURE

Hot water can cause clothes to break down more quickly than cold or warm water, and it takes more energy to heat water to high temperatures.

๐ŸŒฑ WASH HEAVY & LIGHT CLOTHES SEPARATELY

Mixing heavy & light clothes in the washer leads to more abrasion of the lighter clothes. Minimizing abrasion helps reduce the amount of fibers shed from clothes.

๐ŸŒฑ CHOOSE SHORTER WASHING CYCLES

Since microfibers are shed during the wash process, shortening the wash time reduces the quantity of fibers shed.

๐ŸŒฑ USE ONE OR MORE OF THE MICROFIBER FILTERS DESCRIBED IN THE COLUMN TO THE RIGHT

Filter technologies vary in price and effectiveness, but all of them help reduce the amount of microfiber that goes down the drain.

๐ŸŒฑ DISPOSE OF DRYER LINT IN THE TRASH

Don’t wash lint down the drain or sink, and don’t put it out with the compost or for the birds. Microparticles in lint will find their way into the soil and water, where plastic does nobody any good.

[Sources: oceancleanwash.org, plasticpollutioncoalition.org, beachapedia.org]

๐ŸŒฑ POP YOUR CLOTHES INTO A GUPPYFRIEND WASHING BAG (~$29.75)

Guppyfriend Washing Bags reduce the amount of friction experienced by clothes in the washer, and they reduce microfiber shedding by close to 90%. This is according to testing done by the Fraunhofer Institute. Microfibers that do get released are trapped inside the bag along the seams. These fibers should be disposed of in the trash, not down a sink. You might have seen other washing bags available for protecting laundry. I believe the mesh size of the Guppyfriend is significantly smaller (~15 ยตm), which is why it’s effective at trapping released fibers.

microfiber, microplastic, microfiber pollution, wash filter, clothes, clothes and microfiber pollution, Guppyfriend

Guppyfriend

๐ŸŒฑ TOSS A CORA BALL INTO THE WASHER! (~$30)

Cora Balls were developed by Rachael Miller and the Rozalia Project. They’re made from recycled soft plastic. The coral-shaped ball traps microfibers, which you pinch off and dispose of in the trash. Cora Balls are supposed to last for years. The same study mentioned above found they remove about 26% of microfibers.

microfiber, microplastic, microfiber pollution, wash filter, clothes, clothes and microfiber pollution, cora ball

Cora Ball

๐ŸŒฑ IF YOUR WASHER DRAINS INTO A SINK OR UTILITY TUB, TRY A LINT TRAPPER (~$8)

These Lint Trappers are made in the USA of “high impact polystyrene” are are supposed to last for years. Like the other devices above, they need to be cleaned from time to time. The Lint Trapper is available at Ace Hardware, Home Depot and elsewhere.

microfiber, microplastic, microfiber pollution, wash filter, clothes, clothes and microfiber pollution

Lint Trapper

๐ŸŒฑ INSTALL A LINT LUV-R Washing Machine Discharge Filter ($140)

This filter gets installed on the discharge line of the washing machine. The kit comes with all parts needed for the install. You clean the stainless-steel filter as needed and dispose of all microfibers in the trash (not down the drain!). The filter is not disposable and the unit has a 5-year warranty. A scientific study found the Lint Luv-R removes 87% of microfibers from washwater.

microfiber, microplastic, microfiber pollution, wash filter, clothes, clothes and microfiber pollution

Lint Luv-R

๐ŸŒฑ INSTALL A FILTROL 160 LINT FIILTER ($140)

This looks like it’s similar to the Lint Luv-R. It gets installed on the washer discharge line. One difference is that the Filtrol 160 uses replaceable filter bags. I didn’t write “disposable” because it sounds like you can clean them a number of times before they wear out. Replacement filters cost about $25 each.

Have you tried any of these methods? Do you have other ideas about how to reduce microfiber pollution? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Share this

2 Comments

  • Lisa Posted February 18, 2022 12:25 am

    How about simply banning production of toxic fabrics? Can we get a petition going? How important is fashion vs. the health of our entire planet?

    • Anne Altor Posted February 21, 2022 10:58 am

      Thanks for your comment Lisa, and for caring! I think raising awareness is the first step. I also agree that legislation related to protecting the planet is needed. Do you think a good place to start would be for people to take a pledge not not buy new clothes made from microfibers? Thrifting at least focuses on items that are already produced rather than feeding into the demand for continued production. Stay in touch with any ideas you have about this!

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *