Shorter and cooler washes could prevent micro fibre pollution

Cooler clothes washes release fewer microfibres into the water stream and also make clothes last longer, according to research conducted by academics at the University of Leeds and specialists from Proctor & Gamble. 

Every clothes wash releases hundreds of thousands of microfibres into the environment, many of which reach beaches and oceans where they can remain for many years and be swallowed by marine animals.

Researchers from the University of Leeds and Proctor & Gamble, who owns 13 different washing detergent companies, conducted an experiment to test whether cycle time and water temperature affected the number of microfibres released into the environment.

They found that washing clothes with a quicker and cooler cycle reduced the number of microfibres released by up to 52%, and also significantly extended the life of the garments.

Lead author of the report Lucy Cotton, from the University of Leeds School of Design, said: ‘We are increasingly familiar with the environmental threat posed by throwaway fast fashion, but we also know that consumers claim their clothes can lose their fit, softness and colour after fewer than five washes – this means it’s more likely they will ditch them long before they are worn out.

‘Using shorter, cooler washes is a simple way everyone can make their clothes last longer and keep them out of the landfill.

Dr Lant, a Proctor & Gamble research fellow, added: ‘Advances in detergent technology, especially in sustainable ingredients such as enzymes, are allowing consumers to get excellent cleaning results in colder and quicker washes.

‘It’s well known that these cycles reduce our energy bills and our carbon footprint, but our partnership with the University of Leeds is helping us to understand how cycles also slow down the ageing of clothes, keeping us looking smart, saving us money replacing garments and helping the environment. It’s a real win-win.’

In related news, research published in the Environmental Science and Technology journal last year (2019) revealed that the higher the volume of water in a washing machine cycle, the more plastic micro-fibres are released, regardless of the speed and force of the washing machine.

Photo Credit – Pixabay

Pippa Neill

Pippa Neill

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