MicroPlastics: a washing dilemma!

Jan 13, 2020 Cleaning

Author: Hannah Barnes

I bought reusable microfibre cleaning cloths 4 years ago before finding out about micro-plastics escaping into water systems from washing machines. ‘For an average wash load of 6 kg, over 700,000 fibres could be released per wash’ (Napper, 2016).

Microplastics in marine environment

On learning the facts I felt unsure of how to approach the problem as I was keen to keep the microfibre cloths away from landfill or incineration, and sending them to be recycled didn’t solve the issue either. I looked into alternative solutions and found Cora Ball (a washing ball that captures microplastics) but on further inspection I realised it only catches about 30% of the microplastics. I tried a Guppyfriend (a bag that traps the microplastics) it’s suitable for jumpers but it is a faff to remove the microplastic fibres. And I refuse to use Guppyfriend to wash my microfibre cleaning cloths as it seems unhygienic. It is tricky to know what to do until fancy filter attachments exist that can fit our UK washing machine! On my search for solutions the advice I liked the best was to collect all the acrylic and polyester clothes and cloths and make a couple of cushions with them so they are usefully stored until filters are available. I have a few jumpers with some polyester content and I’m still wearing them because I LIKE them. And the microfibre cloths, they work better than my homemade cotton ones so I haven’t been able to bring myself to part with them either! That said, from writing this post I feel motivated to step it up a notch. I’m going to set a goal that by the end of the year my microfibre cloths are made into a time-capsule cushion, and that from now on the few jumpers I have with some polyester content I religiously use the Guppyfriend for EVERY time I wash them.

Imogen E. Napper, Richard C. Thompson. Release of synthetic microplastic plastic fibres from domestic washing machines: Effects of fabric type and washing conditions. Marine Pollution Bulletin. Volume 112, Issues 1–2. 2016. Pages 39-45.

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/sep/27/washing-clothes-releases-water-polluting-fibres-study-findsTiny plastic particles released by synthetic fabrics can cause harm to marine life when they enter rivers and oceans

By Hannah