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Microfibres in clothing: Alternatives to delicate wash cycles

As research claims that delicate wash cycles could cause more plastic pollution than regular wash loads, discover how you can take care of your delicate fabrics in a more eco-friendly way.


By Cleanipedia Team

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Cleaning tricky items such as woollen jumpers and lingerie by throwing them into a delicate wash is not only convenient but also helps keeps your clothes in good condition.

However, a study conducted by Newcastle University has found delicate washes release more plastic microfibres than a standard cycle, causing some concern over whether these cycles should be used. 

The study claims that as delicate washes use twice as much water than regular washes, the microfibres are easily dislodged. The majority of fibres lost are captured in the wastewater treatment stage - however, studies have found they are also ending up in the ocean.

Washing machine manufacturers are looking into implementing filters which will catch the microfibres, and the textile industry is working on reducing fibre shredding from fabrics - but what can you do in the meantime?

How to hand wash clothes

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When it comes to delicate items, hand washing clothes is usually your best bet as the process isn’t as harsh as using a washing machine. Follow these simple steps to hand wash your clothes effectively:

  • Gather your items into a bowl of lukewarm water. Try and keep the same material items together to avoid damaging them.

  • Add a mild detergent, such as Persil Non-Bio, which will be gentle on your clothes and skin.

  • Swirl the garments around, paying more attention to stains.

  • Gently wring out excess water and leave to air dry.

You can also read our guide to hand washing clothes for more tips.

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Washing delicate clothes: alternative options

Sometimes, hand washing isn’t the easiest option when it comes to washing items. There are some tips you can follow as alternatives to delicate washes while still being more eco-friendly:

  • Avoid half loads so you don’t use more water than necessary.

  • Air dry rather than tumble dry to avoiding shedding more fibres.

  • Avoid frequently changing your wardrobe as newer clothes are more likely to shed.

  • Follow garment care labels to help your clothes last longer.

  • Don’t wash unless necessary – refresh your clothes instead with a dry wash spray such as Day 2.

By making a few small changes, your actions can have a big impact and help reduce plastic pollution.

Originally published