14 Ways You Can Stop Creating Microfibers

A Guppyfriend catches microfibers that break off from your clothes when you wash them. It’s a simple step that cuts down on the microfibers you create with every wash cycle. PHOTO:  TEN TREE

A Guppyfriend catches microfibers that break off from your clothes when you wash them. It’s a simple step that cuts down on the microfibers you create with every wash cycle. PHOTO: TEN TREE

Microfibers are a massive problem, but there are simple ways we can all be a part of the solution!

Here’s what you can do immediately to be a part of the solution and not part of the problem.

A quick recap if you don’t know what microfibers are: Microfibers are tiny fibers that break off our clothes as we use them and wash them. The research is still new, but when you use or wash synthetic fiber (acrylic, nylon, polyester and more) and recycled fiber clothes, those little fibers break off and enter the water supply when the washing machine empties. And they never biodegrade.

Our current water filtration systems have no way to capture them because they are so small – and they are filling up the oceans and the waterways and killing small aquatic life. It has the potential to create a negative impact all the way up the food chain as larger fish eat the smaller fish, etc. It will eventually impact the whole ocean. But it could also impact us as microfibers are now in the water, air, and ground.

Microfibers are being called “the biggest environmental problem you’ve never heard of.” You can read more here.

You can’t do all of these. But you can keep adding them on one at a time. As you read through the list, what seems easy to you? What seems easy to you won’t be what seems easy to someone else! Every little switch counts. And, as always, don’t focus on what you can’t do. Focus on what you CAN do!

1. SIMPLY DON’T BUY SYNTHETIC!

This is the easiest impact you can immediately make.

When you stop buying synthetic clothes (clothes made from man-made fibers polyester, acrylic, nylon, rayon, spandex, etc,) then 1) you aren’t washing clothes that create microfibers and 2) you’re sending a message to the companies creating the clothes that you want more environmentally conscious options. 3) You are putting healthier fabrics on your body that won’t create an extra chemical burden on your body.

Here’s the tricky part: many major company are rolling out “feel-good” lines of clothing and shoes made from recycled plastic water bottles and recycled fibers. Most companies know these clothes create the most microfibers (the scientist who discovered microfibers has had meetings with a lot of them), but they also know you’ll buy them to feel good about your purchase. It’s consumer manipulation at its finest. I’m personally going to opt out and stop purchase them all together.  These types of clothes are causing more harm than good!


2. STOP USING MICROFIBER CLEANING CLOTHS

Um, yeah, right as I was about to get on the microcloth cleaning cloth train (they do help you use less cleaner and less water) I realized that just like microfiber jackets, these are major contributors of microfibers.  Your most environmentally friendly option is to use old t-shirts and cotton clothes that you would otherwise discard as cleaning clothes. It keeps them out of landfills and respects all the planet’s resources used to make the t-shirt in the first place. We all have plenty of free cleaning cloths floating around our houses. No purchase required : )  


3. WASH COLDER!

Studies show hot water weakens the fibers in clothes and makes them break even more.


4. WASH LESS!

You can wash out some stains by hand. Take advantage of that! The less we wash our clothes the better.  


5. WASH FULL LOADS

Studies show that when you wash a full load, there is less friction on the clothes, which cuts down on microfibers.


6. SKIP THE SPIN CYCLE OR SLOW IT DOWN!

The spin cycle creates a lot of friction. Since synthetic textiles dry faster, it’s less inconvenient to skip the spin cycle for them.


7. DON’T MIX CLOTHES AND SOLIDS!

My husband loves to wash his shoes with his clothes. He’s not alone. But when you put solids like shoes and sports equipment in with your clothes the added friction makes significantly more fibers break off.

This includes clothing material too. If possible, avoid washing hard materials like jeans with soft materials like fleece items.


8. AVOID TUMBLE DRYING SYNTHETIC CLOTHES!

Tumble drying clothes is a perfect storm of heat and friction. Whenever possible, air dry your clothes to avoid breaking off microfibers and weakening the material so it keeps creating more microfibers in the future.


9. SHORTEN THE WASH!

The longer you wash, the more fibers can break off from the prolonged friction. Most washing machines have a short washing program – just spot wash heavy stains and spots if you’re concerned they wont come out.


10. USE LESS DETERGENT / BETTER DETERGENT!

Switch to a liquid washing machine detergent if you can, rather than powder. Studies show powder is more abrasive. Also, skip the bleach when possible – it breaks down the fibers faster.  One study showed special detergents for delicate fabrics and synthetic fabrics reduced microfibers.


11. USE A FILTER AND THE GUPPYFRIEND WASHING BAG!

Filter your washing machine’s wastewater. You can buy filters for washing machines like the one from Planet Care (which has to be replaced a lot) and this wall unit from Septic Safe (which has a filter that last 1-2 years). Honestly, I get really overwhelmed looking into solutions for washing machines. It makes me want to simply not have synthetic clothes in my life.

In addition to filters, you can use the Guppyfriend washing bag. Ten Tree is one of just a few companies that sell it. It prevents microfibers from entering oceans because you wash your synthetic clothes inside of it and while water can come in to wash the clothes, the microfibers get trapped from flowing out.  You can also get a Cora Ball, a microfiber-catching laundry ball, but it only catches 25% of fibers. Still, something is better than nothing!


12. COMMIT TO THE FIRST WASH

With your Guppyfriend, concentrate on that FIRST WASH of clothes. Research shows that the first wash releases the most microfibers, so if you can commit to doing that first wash in a Guppyfriend, you’ll be mitigating the worst damage.


13. DO YOUR RESEARCH

Learn more about the problem! There will always be new solutions coming out.

Check out the Plastic Pollution Coalition. It has information on microfibers and how you can tackle plastic consumption in general.  

Watch the Story of Stuff’s Microfiber movie.


14. TELL A FRIEND

You might not be able to take action on this information right now, but maybe a friend can!

Spreading awareness is an incredibly powerful act to help more people cut down on microfibers and be a part of the solution.

Remember, you can’t do all of these. But you can keep adding them on one at a time. As you read through the list, what seems easy to you. What seems easy to you won’t be what seems easy to someone else! Every little switch counts.

And, as always, don’t focus on what you can’t do.

Focus on what you CAN do!