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Wash Delicates by Hand

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We all have those dreaded clothes which require washing on the delicate cycle, but you might consider washing these items by hand to help out the environment.

Last month, an article was published about washing clothes on delicate cycles versus regular cycles, and scientists concluded that washing clothes on delicate cycles releases plastic microfibers from clothing.  The delicate setting on the washing machine releases 800,000 more fibers than the standard setting, which may not seem like a big deal, but these plastic microfibers are making their way into washing machine wastewater, which makes its way into our oceans.

The reason the delicate cycle causes more fibers to separate from clothing is due to the volume of water on the delicate cycle.  The delicate cycle uses much more water than a standard setting, and the water permeates the clothing and removes fibers from the clothes, especially in polyester fabrics.

Some washing machines contain filters to remove microplastics from wastewater.  However, chances are, it’s unlikely your current washing machine has a filter unless you have specifically looked at this as a function before buying a washer.

Microplastics have been found in marine environments and affect marine animals and ocean ecosystems.  A few ways you can avoid releasing microfibers in your washing machine’s wastewater include not using the delicate cycle, and also avoiding washing clothes with only half a load of clothes (because that, too, will make the water volume much higher).


  1. Kelly, Max R., et al. “Importance of Water-Volume on the Release of Microplastic Fibers from Laundry.” Environ. Sci. Technol., vol. 53, no. 20, 28 Aug. 2019, doi:https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.9b03022.


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