‘Bad’ laundry methods affect sea pollution more, says research

Researchers at Newcastle University in England have found conclusive evidence that water volume is the higher determining factor in sea pollution, when it comes to laundry and washing machine use.

Whenever we use washing machines to do laundry, a good part of the material cleansed away from our clothes are the very tiny, microscopic particles that make them up. Add the sheer number of clothes regularly washed by billions of people around the world every single day, and that adds up to a lot of potential microfiber plastic particles introduced in our water systems. This then could ultimately lead to sea pollution, when this massive volume of washed away bits is released into our oceans.

However, more than the spinning action of the washing machine itself, it is actually the volume of water that actually affects the rate of microfiber particles being released. At least, according to what the research has found out.

Collaborating with Procter & Gamble, Newcastle University researchers were able to reach this conclusion by testing a wide variety of different laundry, test washing them to see and measure the amount of microfiber released. What they discovered, is that regardless of the rough spinning of the machine, regardless of the abrasive forces directed onto the pile of clothes, at least 800,000 particles are still released with each single wash cycle.

In fact, when the researchers attempted to use more delicate machine washing settings and methods, more particles were even released, much to the counterintuition of the researchers involved.

So if the particles released did not change regardless of the physical configurations tested, the remaining hypothesis is to assume that the next variable, in this case, water volume, is the determining factor.

Microfibers from washed clothes have long been known as a contributor to plastic pollution in the sea. However, this new research data gives light on the actual factors that go along with this generalized observation. The researchers concluded, that in order to lessen the overall amount of water used per wash cycle, users should at least follow these two steps:

  • Wash the most amount of clothing in one go.
  • Avoid delicate wash cycles as much as possible.

The researchers have also voiced their concerns that the laundry and clothing industries at large should also adapt to this new discovery. Both by designing clothes that are more resistant to fiber shedding, and by building more efficient washing machines that require a lot less water to operate.

Featured Imaged credit: Karl Baron via Flickr

1 Comment on "‘Bad’ laundry methods affect sea pollution more, says research"

  1. Can’t some kind of filter be made and installed on the outlet of the washing machine to filter the microfibers out of the water?

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