The Problem of Micro Plastics in Your Clothes: 9 Eco-Friendly Laundry Tips

laundry basket

Since we have recently learnt a lot about the environmentally damaging aspects of fast fashion (not to mention all the unethical production process), I know a lot of people try to make conscious purchase decisions when it comes to fashion choices. We all know that the fashion industry desperately needs to be reformed. Currently, fast fashion is responsible for about 8% of all the CO2 emissions, which means that the carbon footprint of the industry is BIGGER than airline industry’s. The fast fashion products are being manufactured in large quantities of non renewable resources, and more than half of them are being thrown away within a year.

But this is not all. Further problem with the apparel produced as cheaply as possible and unethically, that these garments are often far from being organic: there’s a lot of plastic involved, in fact. Polyester, nylon, acrylic and polyamide. And here’s the problem: every time we wash these materials they shed millions of plastic microfibres. These microfibres are then travelling back to the waters, leaching into the environment just by washing these clothes. In the end, they’re adding to the micro plastic pollution that’s accumulating in the food chain and being ingested by all sorts of marine wildlife, and eventually by humans. 

But, of course throwing them away and start a whole new wardrobe with organic cotton garments is both impossibly expensive for many of us and also useless. By throwing them away, we will only send them to landfill. This is a dilemma, seems to be a catch 22. But what can we do?

Well, for a start, let’s avoid buying new garments containing plastic. Buy bamboo, organic cotton and other natural fibres. Secondly, let’s make sure that the way we wash our clothes are having as little as possible impact environmentally. The good news is, there are a few things we can do.

I thought, I will put some ideas together how to do this.

The Problem of Micro Plastics in Your Clothes: 9 Eco-Friendly Laundry Tips

1 Wash at low temperature

The higher the temperature, the more fibres tend to break off or gets damaged therefore breaks off easier.

2 Use short cycles

The shorter the cycle, the less the fabrics rub at each other, therefore reducing break offs.

3 Wash the clothes inside out

It’s not a new trick, my mum always do this. It helps reduce fading and the fabric wearing out.

4 Maximise the washing machine’s capacity

Packing tightly causes less friction between the garments, so less break offs.

laundry basket

5 Avoid using dryer

Dry clothes on a drying rack or outside on a cloth line if you can. The high temperature of the dryer damages the fibre and they are more likely to break off. (It’s altogether better for the environment anyway as dryers use a lot of energy…)

6 Spin clothes on a lower speed

Again, this helps to avoid loosening and damaging of the fibres.

7 Avoid heavy chemicals

These are damaging both the fibres and your health. (Use eco-friendly laundry detergents or even better, make your own! Phosphates in conventional laundry soaps can cause algal blooms that negatively effect ecosystems and marine life.)

8 Ditch the bleach

Bleach is not only damaging for the fibres but it’s also toxic. Try using more natural stain removers like the mixture of lemon, peroxide, vinegar and the power of the sun.

9 And most importantly, wash less frequently

Yup. Ultimately, this has the biggest impact. Well, if you think it’s something you could not do, please give it another thought. Of course it means that you and your family wear things more than once. Or twice. Which isn’t as easy as it sounds given that grown ups sweat and children are messy. And of course this cannot be applied to every garment either. 

child covered in paint

How to wash less frequently

Here’s what I do: underwear and sports wear is being washed after every wear. Pyjamas are being worn on average 3-4 times. The children wear their clothes at leat 2-3 times unless they stain them. Jeans, trousers and jumpers I wear 2-3 times. If I (or my children) put a little food stain on my jeans for example, I quickly give it a rub with soapy water and sponge and wear them again instead of throwing them into the laundry basket. Jeans can go several wears for me. T-shirts are good for 1-2 wears. The general rule is for me, if it’s not sweaty or stained, it can be worn again.

I’ve also consulted with some of my family blogger friends to find out, what are they doing to reduce laundry and wash less frequently. I thought, it’s always good to know what other families are doing, there’s always some good tips and tricks we can learn form each other.

“I was reading the other day that you should never wash your jeans. You should blot them clean then put them in the freezer to get rid of the smells! I must admit I only wash jeans once a month. I think washing ruins the shape, plus it’s saving water washing less.” – Rachel from Rachel Bustin

“If things aren’t dirty or smelly you don’t really need to wash in my opinion. If they do need just a bit freshening up spray a bit of fabric fabreeze on it and just hang it on the washing line” – Kristy from The Money Saving Mum

“I try to use things more than once if I can and keep anything that’s been worn separate from the other clean clothes
Pjs we all wear for 2 nights if possible, leggings and skirts I usually wear a few times. I also only use the drier for emergencies and try to dry the clothes on the line or on the clothes horse to save energy.” – Nicola from The Merralls Home

“Jeans probably once a month. Gym shirts/running gear can get pretty sweaty so that tends to go in every other wear. Other stuff like t shirts go into the wash as and when they need. Depends how mucky they get etc. I try to only wash things when necessary as there’s five is us and we could be washing all the time otherwise. We air dry everything too so the less washing we have the better.” – Sarah from Let Them Be Small

jeans drying rack laundry

“We rarely wash jeans and when we do, it’s on the quickest wash. They are not worn for long really and we read something a few months back that jeans shouldn’t be washed only spot cleaned.” – Jamie from The Mum Diaries

“Things with stains, I hang on the line to bleach in the sun instead of washing multiple times (baby vests with poop stains, a cashmere jumper I split hot sauce on and weaning stains on t-shirts are a few things I’ve managed to get stains out of without washing)
I only put things in the wash if it has food down it or muddy. Baby clothes I especially don’t wash as he’s normally only in them for a few hours a day. I can get another few wears out of a sleep suit as he isn’t sweaty.
I get the baby undressed for food as he is on baby lead weaning so don’t have to wash multiple bibs / vests. (Eating three times a day could result in at least 3 outfit changes a day otherwise!) 
Getting changed into ‘home clothes’ as soon as you come in (totally the norm in France, you’d never be seen wearing your jeans indoors!) means you can hang your outdoor clothes back up and less likely to get mucky and need a wash.” – Nicola from Mummy to Dex

“I tend to get 3 wears out of jeans and 2 out of tops. My husband on the other hand insists everything has to be washed after 1 wear. What he doesn’t know is I sneak his stuff out of the laundry basket, Febreeze it and hang it back up.” – Tina from Mum Founded

“I try and wear things twice. Jeans maybe 3 times and air in between. I dig my son’s clean stuff back out of his wash basket, as he can get 3 days out of school shorts and sometimes t-shirts (trousers get muckier quicker) but doesn’t check them first. I wash everything of mine and my son’s on 30 and wash ours together on an eco wash if not a really full load.” – Emma from Bubba Blue and Me

I have started hand washing a few very lightly soiled items to save water and free up space on the washing machine for the very dirty ones.” – Victoria from The Growing Mum

“Kids clothes only get washed if they are mucky as kids don’t smell they can easily get away with several wears out of things. I do a cloth nappy wash around two to three times a week and then just keep on top of our stuff as and when is needed. I don’t think it’s necessary to wash items after every wear, if they don’t smell just air them a bit and go again.” – Emma from Emma Reed

“We wear our jeans at least twice before we put them in the laundry bin. As for our tops, if the weather is cold and we wear jackets, shawls or sweaters, we wear our tops twice also.” -Veronica from My Parenting Journey

And Becky has some top tips here on how to do your laundry in winter.

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Sabina Green August 12, 2019 - 11:45 am

Thanks for all of these tips. I usually use the 30 minute cycle and 30 degree wash and I also try and pack it quite tightly. I will start washing the clothes inside out too.

Emma August 12, 2019 - 1:30 pm

Some really useful tips here. Thanks for sharing x

Rebecca Smith August 12, 2019 - 3:44 pm

I will definitely be giving some of these tips a go. I already do a few such as maximise capacity, low temperatures and low speed.

oddhogg August 12, 2019 - 8:34 pm

I’m good at wearing my jeans for quite a while without washing them. Same with jumpers. My tshirts i do tend to wash every time but maybe I should think about getting a second wear out of them!

Lyndsey O'Halloran August 12, 2019 - 9:32 pm

We always knock our temperature down and shorten our main cycle by half. We’ve been doing this for a while now.

Jenni August 14, 2019 - 7:07 am

I had no idea about micoplastics in clothes, so these are useful tips. We already wash clothes on low temp and inside out, and we don’t own a dryer, but there’s more we could do.


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