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Machine Washing and Microfibres

One of the big questions we get asked regularly regards the washing of our products and the potential shedding of microfibres during washing. As a company intent on having a positive impact on the environment this is an issue we take very seriously.

What are microfibres?

One of the many disadvantages of plastic in clothing and textile products is the release of tiny strands of synthetic fabric known as 'microfibres'. These microscopic plastic fibers are shed in their hundreds of thousands during a machine wash and end up being flushed down the drain to join rivers and water ways that eventually end up in the ocean. Too small to distinguish, the strands of plastic are swallowed by fish and other sea life and travel up the food chain right on to our dinner plates. 

Check out the brilliant video from The Story of Stuff Project that really highlights the importance of tackling this issue head on. 

So, what can we do about it?

Fast fashion is one of the leading contributors to the microfibre problem and although tiny, recent reports suggest these strands of man-made material now account for up to 30% of marine plastic pollution. At Weaver Green we are acutely aware that there is the potential for our products to contribute to this scary issue. 

Along with being more mindful about the quality and contents of the products we buy, there are a number of other ways in which we can all minimise the impact we have on this particular part of the plastic problem. 

While what follows relates specifically to our own products, these tips and suggestions  should be applied to the washing of all items that contains polyester or other synthetics.

Filters and accessories

As awareness of microfiber shedding grows, a number of very clever people are coming up with really effective ways of minimising the problem. Two of our favourites are the Cora Washing Ball and the GuppyFriend Washing Bag. 

Inspired by the way coral filters the ocean, Cora Balls swoosh around a washing machine, gathering up microfibres up into a 'fuzz' that can easily be removed! Similarly, the GuppyFriend Washing Bag prevents microfibres entering the water supply by collecting the fibres in a self-cleaning micro-filter bag which protects your washing at the same time. 

Tips for washing synthetic textiles

Aside from using filters, there are several ways in which you can reduce the impact your washes have on the microfibre problem. 

  • Use a liquid detergent. Powder granules rub against materials making fibres breakaway.

  • Wash synthetics on colder cycle. Higher temperatures result in more shedding.

  • Run full loads. A full wash reduces movement and friction, causing less shedding.

  • Use shorter cycles. Less time in the machine means less rubbing and less fibres.

  • Turn off the spin dry. Intense spin cycles cause lots of fibres to break loose.

And what about our products?

To limit potential microfibre shedding, we've worked hard on ensuring that all of our textiles are made from yarn that reaches the highest possible tensile stability and strength.  

We avoid using any toxic dyes and use a closed water system in all of our yarn production. This means all of our products are washed and dyed with the same refiltered water rather than using new water supplies and releasing unfiltered water into the sewerage system. We even heat our dye baths by burning recycled wheat and rice husks in a low emission boiler. 

In our first three years we've already recycled over 65 million bottles, 40% of those recovered from waterways destined for the ocean. On that basis alone, we believe that the overall impact of our work is positive. 

In reality, unlike clothing, our products gets washed very infrequently, it's just nice to know they can be machine washed should the need arise. For the best part a simple wipe down in the garden will suffice. By combining our best practice tips above with a microfibre filter or Cora Washing Ball, we can all help reduce the huge number of microfibres that are flushed down the drain.

We work with both Plastic Oceans UK (who produced and released the groundbreaking ‘A Plastic Ocean’ documentary highlighted by David Attenborough in 2017 to international acclaim) and have featured as part of the plastic solution in Greenpeace Head of Oceans, Will McCallums’, book ‘How to give up Plastic’.

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