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While most of the focus has always been centered around the negative effects of washing, now researchers are finding that drying is just as bad. Washing our clothes uses a significant amount of energy, releases carbon dioxide, uses a lot of water, and wears down our clothes which makes them deteriorate faster.
The average household in the United States does, on average, 300 loads of laundry every year. A washing machine uses about 41 gallons of water per load and emits 179 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, and many detergents emit compounds that have even been classified as carcinogens.
Now, a new study published in the journal, PLOS ONE, suggests that a drying cycle releases the same amount of harmful microfibers into the air as a wash load releases into the water system. The team of scientists at Northumbria University and scientists at P&G found that fabric softeners and dryer sheets release microfibers during tumble drying. They measured the output of microfibers in both European and American products in loads with 1,200 garments and found that if dryer filters had smaller holes, they could trap the microfibers better.
Dr. Kelly Sheridan, an expert in textile fibers at Northumbria University, said, “It is critical to our understanding of the impact of microfibres on human health and the environment that all the potential pathways for microfibre release, including air, are assessed. Airborne fibres are just as concerning as those present in wastewater.”
The researchers are calling for the appliance industry to improve the efficiency of filtration systems in dryers. There are also filtration systems that you can purchase for your washing machine to help catch the microfibers from the water. It is important to use cold water to do laundry as it is much better for the planet. Use eco-friendly detergents whenever possible and hang clothes on a drying rack or outside whenever you can.
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- How to Do the Laundry with a Smaller Footprint
- Unilever Debuts Paper-Based Laundry Detergent Bottle
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- Do What You Can: Reduce waste, plant trees, eat local, travel responsibly, reuse stuff, say no to single-use plastics, recycle, vote smart, switch to cold water laundry, divest from fossil fuels, save water, shop wisely, Donate if you can, grow your own food, volunteer, conserve energy, compost, and don’t forget about the microplastics and microbeads lurking in common household and personal care products!