15 Ways to Stop Microfiber Pollution Now

Think about all your clothing made of acrylic, nylon, and polyester. Yes, that means fleece, trousers, blouses, socks, and even your beloved yoga pants. Did you know? Every time you wash these synthetic fabrics, millions of microfibers are released into the water. Microfibers are too small to be filtered out by waste treatment plants, so they end up in our waterways and oceans, where they wreak havoc on marine animals and the environment.

Plastic fibers are now showing up in fish and shellfish sold in in California and Indonesia for human consumption. And one paper showed that microfibers are responsible for 85 percent of shoreline pollution across the globe. How can we stop this pollution?

15. Watch The Story of Stuff’s microfiber movie to learn about the issue.

14. Wash synthetic clothes less frequently and for a shorter duration.

13. Fill up your washing machine. Washing a full load results in less friction between the clothes and fewer fibers released.

12. Consider switching to a liquid laundry soap. Laundry powder “scrubs” and loosens more microfibers.

11. Use a colder wash setting. Higher temperature can damage clothes and release more fibers.

10. Dry spin clothes at low revs. Higher revolutions increase the friction between the clothes.

9. When you clean out your dryer, place lint in the trash instead of washing it down the drain.

8. Consider purchasing a Guppy Friend wash bag. In tests, the bag captured 99 percent of fibers released in the washing process. The bags will soon be available for purchase at Patagonia for $20-30.

7. Purchase a washing machine lint filter. These filters require more of an investment, but they will benefit your septic system and the environment. Check out this one or this one.

6. Speak up and tell clothing designers to choose natural fabrics that aren’t prone to shedding. Sign the petition here!

5. Join Plastic Pollution Coalition to read the latest news and help us get the word out.

4. Tell your friends and family about microfiber pollution.

3. Avoid purchasing cheaply-made, “fast fashion” clothes, whenever possible. 

2. Buy clothes made from natural fibers such as cotton, linen, and wool. Natural fibers will eventually break down in the environment. Plastic fibers will never go away. 

1. Share this article to spread the #StopTheMicrofiber message. We all can do something to help. 

Take the Pledge to Refuse Single-Use Plastic.

Join our global Coalition.

61 responses to “15 Ways to Stop Microfiber Pollution Now”

  1. Jules says:

    Cheap chinese fleecy pants and sweat shirts are adding plastic fibres to our oceans… go natural fabrics

  2. LK says:

    Using liquid detergent means more plastic bottles in the environment while powder detergent comes in cardboard boxes. It’s hard to decide which is worse, microfibres or stacks of plastic bottles…

  3. Mimi says:

    Learn to sew and make your own long lasting durable garments from natural fibers. Pro tip: can pre shrink the fabric before you sew it for clothes that will happily survive accidental hot water washes.
    Pro tip 2: can add really big pockets on dresses, trousers, whatever!

  4. execadmin@plasticpollutioncoalition.org says:

    Good point. Some bulk stores carry liquid detergent but that might not be an option for everyone.

  5. Vicky says:

    Some Natural health food shops have bulk organic detergents for sale so you can refill your empty plastic bottles.❤️

  6. BeeBeBee says:

    Plastic laundry detergent bottles are recyclable. Here’s a recipe for homemade detergent. It’s super easy and really economical. I use it and love it. Costs about $2.00 for 5 gallons. Seriously.
    http://beckyshomestead.com/homemade-laundry-soap-recipe/

  7. EJ says:

    Some "eco-stores" around here offer refills. You can take your old empty bottle with you instead of always buying a new one. Goes for eco-friendly liquid detergent, dishwashing liquid, some soaps etc. Wonderful system. Unfortunately, availability depends on country/region.

  8. Jane says:

    Plastic bottles are recyclable, though

  9. honeybee9689@hotmail.com says:

    Ok, I’ve been trying these things. But what I’d really like to know is what is out there as alternatives, especially natural fibre ones, to specialty sport/lightweight/outdoor clothing? Wool is warm but heavy, cotton light but cold when wet, and wears out quickly. Thermals often have elastine & polypropeline in them, even if merino-based, so not exactly compostable or plastic-free. Is there such thing as hemp fleece or something out there? Leather & plastic-free tramping & running shoes? And how harmful are clothing dyes, so could a pure merino item go in the compost when worn out?

    Synthetic vs animal is also a dilemma for me as a vegan trying to avoid animal products. But I lean towards merino rather than synthetic when I have a choice for the item on the occasions I get something new, because of the microfibre issue. Definitely no leather though.

  10. KW says:

    Natural Fibers are still prone to shedding – they have the ability to biodegrade unlike synthetic fibers which make them a less pressing subset of the issue!

  11. GemmaHayley says:

    Bamboo is a great alternative when looking for sports clothing. It isn’t perfect for the environment because of the chemicals used to make it into fabric but I feel it’s slightly offset when looking at the benefits compared with plastic clothing. I have some running/yoga gear from http://www.bambooclothing.co.uk and it’s great quality and perfect price if you can get it in the sale!

  12. Flora says:

    It’s more nuanced. One major change is just buy less, repair what you have. People used to own less. Wash your clothes less, they’ll last longer and release less detergents and micro fibers.Yes, natural fibers can break down, but then they release the toxins that they were treated with. Recycling natural fibers can only be down-cycled to lower and lower quality fibers. Polyester, however can be close loop recycled or even upcycled because it is strong and melt able. It can be made into the same thing again- like Patagonia fleece.

  13. Why use a regular (powder or liquid) laundry detergent, when you can use an eco laundry ball? It releases no chemicals as it cleans with ionizing the water which raises the pH level to optimal. You can use one eco ball for up to a year, and then which the balls inside. No plastic waste (bottles), seriously cheaper than regular detergents, and totally eco friendly. Better for the nature and allergic people.

  14. blackbirdandthehun@gmail.com says:

    You can get light weight merino wool knit fabric I have short sleeve summer tshirts I wear in Australia. As well as long sleeve thicker will which I layer in winter. Plus natural fibers wont keep the sweat smell in the fibers like polyester. Polyester is notorious for keeping sweat smell in it and when you wash it it can then transfer that smell to other clothes! Hubby is a tradie and their work uniform is polyester and the sweat smell is horrendous and has gone into other clothes washed with it like cotton tracksuit pants undies etc… hope this may give you some options

  15. farmer.jeff24@gmail.com says:

    One of my favorite companies is Ibex which offers a wide variety of wool sports clothing with choices of "weights". Unlike most synthetic athletic wear, wool doesn’t stink. And, a huge plus, most of Ibex products are made in the US and Canada!

  16. These suggestions are actionable and don’t intimidate – thank you! I’m grateful to realize I’m already doing some of them, and it’s good to know there’s more to do.

  17. reneebonney@gmail.com says:

    True and you can get bamboo wadding for things like quilted jackets. I had a look into alternatives for polyfill for my sewing

  18. lauraburd44@hotmail.com says:

    I appreciate the tips, but instead of relying on individuals to filter their lint, why can’t the water treatment plants filter it before they release the treated water?

  19. rcarson87@yahoo.com says:

    This information needs to get in the hands of cloth diapering families and cloth diaper manufacturers! Many cloth diapers are made from microfiber, and these diapers are washed rigorously, often several times a week. Terribly sad, especially for a product touted for being environmental friendly. :(

  20. designwithnature@hotmail.co.uk says:

    Apart from clothes microfiber is everywhere else as well. Cleaning towels, mops, fleece blankets, soft toys. The list is endless.

  21. Thanks for writing about Microfiber and how it pollutes our water.  I found the whole list of suggestions to be realistic ones which people can do. I am part of the number 6 on the list. No need to contact me. I have similar ideas to you. I believer people need to reduce the amount of polyester in their clothing. I have spent 3 years figuring out the right formula for a polyester free, moisture wicking outdoor pant. People like what polyester has to offer and without an alternative they will not stop buying it.  

    So, I created a better outdoor pant for hiking, biking and everyday casual wear.  Less is more, let’s let our clothes be more versatile and less harmful.   My fabric will be 96% cotton and 4% Lycra.  The technology I am using to create our signature fabric has been 100% certified by Oeko-Tex® Standard 100, a rigorous testing, auditing, and certification system for environmentally friendly textiles.   I am the only company with this exact material.  

    We are officially launching this fall with a Kickstarter campaign.  We would love your support since this would be the first step in reducing the excess amount of polyester in our wardrobes.

    Thanks again
    Stuart
    http://www.bluezippercool.com

  22. amy_xh_goh@icloud.com says:

    OMG! This is a wake up call! A lot of wellness bloggers love to recommend micrbofiber cloth for cleaning like Wellessmama!

  23. OK! I’m in!

    No more synthetics, Guppy bag for what I own, filters, less washing, petition, and avoiding purchasing!

    Exciting! Thankis.

  24. tjwolf@gmail.com says:

    Anybody know whether any carafe type water filters can filter out micro fibers from the tap water?

  25. will@kindleman.co.uk says:

    i need a new pair of running shorts. what should i buy to avoid adding plastic to the world?

  26. libertychick123@gmail.com says:

    I hope this inspires manufacturers to return to 100% cotton – something harder and harder to find in sweats, but more comfy than any blend!

    I don’t agree with the liquid detergent recommendation: I try to avoid buying disposable plastics, so I buy my detergent in paper boxes (drinks in cans or bottles, butter and soap bars in paper wrapping, etc.). While many plastics claim to be "recyclable", that is only so if they get recycled, and look into any garbage can you pass and you’ll see them full of plastic drink bottles, Styrofoam cups, plastic food containers, etc. Many people don’t recycle at home either. And anything made with recycled plastics specifies it on the container: I’ve yet to see a plastic drink bottle or food container stating it. So what’s it being "recycled" into? Every purchase of disposable plastics adds to the problem just by encouraging more production. When I go into a restaurant and they have plastic containers/cups/utensils I walk out, but first I tell them why I am not supporting them – do to their plastics.

    Tropicana is my favorite orange juice brand, but haven’t bought it in years since they moved from the paper boxes to the plastic bottles. Use your buying power to send a message to stores and manufactures! And if possible, let them know why they are loosing your business.

  27. joel@svedlund.info says:

    PLEASE change no. 6: "Speak up and tell clothing designers to choose natural fabrics that aren’t prone to shedding."
    This is an incorrect statement, as most natural fibres are MORE prone to shedding (lower abrasion resistance) than synthetic fibres. But they are considered "natural" and possibly "biodegradable" which may be true as long as they don’t have toxic dyestuff or chemical treatments added to them, i.e. certified organic, Cradle to Cradle Certified or similar controlled production of natural fibres, where the actual biodegradability is a goal in itself.
    A pair of cheap jeans or a T-shirt with Azo dyes and Nonylfenols will shed fibres that are carriers of these chemicals into the waterways. When the cotton degrades, the chemicals spread in the water.

  28. ksmtaylor@gmail.com says:

    Check out the environmental impact of cotton…it’s terrible! I think the best solution for now is buy less but quality clothes, make your clothes last longer by loving them and repairing them (funky patches are cool), catch your microfibres in a special Guppy Friend bag, and all the other suggestions about except buying more cotton. Campaign for sustainable Tencel clothes made from eucalyptus trees: less land , less water, less polluting (not perfect as more energy!)

  29. sumer@gmail.com says:

    Smartwool has some with good reviews: https://www.smartwool.com/shop/en/swl-us/mens-phd-7in-2-in-1-shorts-sw:016009:001:xl::1:?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=&utm_campaign=G_Smartwool_Shopping+Brand_General&utm_content=SmartWool&cid=ps:GOOGLE:G_Smartwool_Shopping+Brand_General:Shorts+&+Skirts:&rmatt=tsid:1013526|cid:374183318|agid:28028416238|tid:pla-58089878786|crid:105216903038|nw:g|rnd:15774699569815452699|dvc:c|adp:1o3

  30. redmonk33@gmail.com says:

    I just read that as our car tyres wear, they contribute a fair amount. I feel that the most effective solution would be to filter micr-plastics out of our effluent at the water treatment works. And of course reduce what we produce.

  31. Julieaj@blueyonder.co.uk says:

    It is always better to remove pollution at source rather than try to clear it up later. Depending on where you live not all the wastewater gets to the sewage plant. There are storm overflows to divert excess flow during storms to rivers to prevent houses from flooding.
    Your lint filter at home actually uses the shed fibres to make the process more effective. The fibres mesh together and help to filter out the microfibres. To try and do that on a wastewater plant before discharge, with millions of gallons of water would require high pressure micro filtration processes and use a lot of energy.

  32. julieaj@blueyonder.co.uk says:

    Unless you live in Flint you shouldn’t have to worry about micro fibres in your tap water. The treatment plants measure water clarity in NTUs – the instruments use light to measure the number of micro particles and get it down to negligible concentrations. This is not only so that it looks clear but also to help in disinfection to make it safe to drink.

  33. cleeyoung@yahoo.com says:

    Curios how a "guppy bag" can collect the microfibres but not highly sofisticated water treatment facilities. Maybe they need to use a guppy bag too.

  34. sarawakbernie@yahoo.ca says:

    Koala bears feed on eucalyptus and I understand that at the moment there are fewer eucalyptus for KBs because of habitat destruction i.e. so called western style development.

  35. sarawakbernie@yahoo.ca says:

    What about hemp; does anyone on this forum have experience with hemp?
    I know a store not in NA but in Asia that sells only clothing made from hemp.

  36. Would like to point out that powder really is t more abrasive in the washing machine it dissolves withing fifteen mins in the wash. Used as an oven cleaner In dry form then yes. It’s abrassive.
    And at least powder detergent has the option of being transported in a non plastic solution to the home. We need to go back to more powder based cleaning and even solid bars of soap to eliminate so much wasted plastic altogether. Washing machine manufacturers are improving filtration systems so just remember to put residues from filters in the bin not down the toilet. And cut back on plastic use. ?
    As a second very important point there are zero hospital admissions with accidents from laundry powder compared to liquids and tabs.

  37. Faith_at_Large@yahoo.ca says:

    Because there are municipalities that consider it too expensive to properly treat their waste before releasing into the waterways. It is shocking that any city or county would consider releasing untreated sewage into the ocean or rivers, but some do.

  38. A lot of great suggestions and I really appreciate all the thoughtful ideas in the comments. Living in Asia, my clothes are washed in cold water and hung to dry. I find that liquid laundry detergent dissolves and cleans much more effectively than powders but I’m aware that the plastic container and its weight are both problematic. I’ve also found that my synthetic clothes last for MUCH longer than the clothes made with most natural fibres, except for socks (always wool). Smartwool longjohns were super expensive and shredded in a few months. I have clothes that were tailored for me 8-9 years ago that I can still wear weekly, in good condition. Fleece sheds a lot but smooth fabrics seem to be extremely durable. I think it’s useful to weight a number of factors when deciding how to shop. As others have said, most cotton sold these days involves a whole lot of chemicals and water, in order to get to market.

  39. aebbackup@gmail.com says:

    Please don’t buy wool. The industry is incredibly cruel, not to mention that enviro impact from raising livestock (feed and water). https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-clothing/wool-industry/

  40. Jane says:

    We have Coraballs — https://coraball.com — for our washing machines, and also use fine mesh laundry bags that you can order online from a number of sources. IKEA has them, too.

  41. verbosity9@zoho.com says:

    In the interest of this article being ethical, it would be great if you did not promote the usage of wool. While plastic is very much a major issue, animal exploitation is another, your promotion of such stops me from sharing this otherwise very useful article.

  42. ftink181@gmail.com says:

    Second hand natural fabrics such as those from boot sales and charity shops are a bonus!;)

  43. andyelliott@sbcglobal.net says:

    I make my own soap. I have not tried to make laundry soap yet, but I have made many bath/shower bars. I think the ingredients (lye+water+oil) to make my bath bars are the same for laundry soap. My lye comes in a plastic bottle as well as my oil. The water should be distilled which also comes in a plastic bottle (but my last two batches I used rain water from my backyard and it worked great). Long story short, make your own soap and you can get a non-powder soap and use less plastic than buying liquid soap at the store. If I make my own lye, which I want to do, I could eliminate more plastic. And of course the plastics are still recyclable, although the one used to hold the oil is more cumbersome to recycle as you have to wash it thoroughly first.

  44. Ejrosenau@gmail.com says:

    Most liquid laundry detergents come in a plastic bottle, so suggesting liquid laundry detergent is a bit counterproductive if the overall goal is to reduce plastic consumption. Check out how to make your own laundry detergent on the “Queen of Green” websites, which are affiliated with the David Suzuki Foundation. Also, consider using soap nuts, which are also known as soap berries. I find them to be a wonderful alternative for my laundry.

  45. rhona dunbar says:

    I was given liquid soap with scrub bits in it a while back as a gift, I know that they contain microplastics, is there a way of filterning the soap so that I can safely dispose of the microplastics or is there a safe way to dispose of it? thanks

  46. janwy62@gmail.com says:

    Many “health food shops” now sell laundry liquids etc as refills so you can re use your containers

  47. robyn.davidson@gmail.com says:

    Standard wastewater treatment processes don’t contain any filtration steps that would capture tiny particles like that. The physical filters are meant to remove solids and grit and other particles, but they don’t capture microfibers which are much smaller. Yes these facilities are sophisticated but they were designed based on the known pollutants at the time (and many are dated and require capital improvements just to meet increasing EPA standards on nitrogen/etc removal much less building additional processes into primary or secondary treatment to remove these micro particles). Awareness around these particles is only recent so no, wastewater facilities do not filter these. This is akin to the havok bathroom wipes are making as well – an issue that the system wasn’t built for. This is a brief high level overview on the wastewater treatment process if you’re interested
    https://www3.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/bastre.pdf.

  48. mattgrayca@gmail.com says:

    While I appreciate the effort to educate on this matter, we need to be honest with ourselves that microfibers are too small to be caught by a laundry bag or other consumer based filters / bags. While a microplastic is smaller than 5mm, a microfiber is 1/5 the size (or 14 microns) of the thickness of a human hair (70 microns). Something that small will pass right through any filter you use with your washer machine. The important takeaway here is to avoid purchasing and washing any petroleum based synthetic clothing (yoga pants, fake furs, workout attire, etc.) One load of wash for synthetic materials yields approximately 14.3 grams of microfibers, or 1 tablespoon of materials. The United States washes 660 million loads of wash per week, or 34.23 billion loads of wash per year.

  49. stopit@gmail.com says:

    shane — sheep need to be sheered or they will overheat and die. it’s as beneficial as the symbiotic relationship between humans and bees.

  50. wouter.roosen@gmail.com says:

    I am trying to understand the issue better, so please excuse these questions if they seem ignorant.
    Microfibers showing up in oceans and ultimately in shellfish and in fish seems bad.
    What are the odds of humans ingesting them? Do the fibers show up in fish meat, or do they remain in the digestive system of fish (which we typically don’t eat).
    What are the health repercussions of humans eating micro fibers? Is that known?

  51. aliceharris@hotmail.com says:

    I have a guppy friend bag but instead of putting the clothes in it I use it over the end of my portable washer’s drain to collect fibres. Pretty shocking when you see how much stuff accumulates.

  52. Dropps (https://www.dropps.com/pages/onefamilyonefuture) is a company that makes dissolvable pods of both dishwasher and clothes detergent. It feels great to never buy plastic bottles of either.

  53. Thanks, this mostly sounds great, but don’t forget about carbon emissions. To avoid these, line dry clothing. Use cold water washes to avoid getting the water heater going. Not only buy less clothing, but buy clothing secondhand when you can.

  54. Tayaluv1@gmail.com says:

    what about hand washing? do micro fibers still get released?

  55. There are three solutions : Major legislation that sues or lays a penalty fee on all corporations producing plastic products including "plastic clothes", and plastic clothes producers, and, finally proactive legislation that sponsors the development of plastic replacements, and a return to 19th century and earlier solutions.

    Dr. Alexis Post, CEO
    Clean Ship Fuels

  56. Take the Pledge to REFUSE TO USE PLASTICS – ONE EXAMPLE: TAKE A REAL CLOTH SHOPPING BAG TO your FARMERS MARKET. WATCH YOUR BUYING: IS IT PLASTIC?

    DEVELOP AND SUSTAIN PRESSURES ON ALL YOUR LOCAL AND NATIONAL GOVERNMENTS TO CURB THE PACKAGING, CLOTHING, COMMERCIAL and AGRI- INDUSTRIES , AND HOME PLASTIC BROADCASTERS SUCH AS ELECTROLUX/MIELE CLOTHES DRYERS AND HOOVER /DYSON VACUUM “CLEANERS” ……. IN THE HOME!

    THE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE MUST RETALIATE WITH ACUTE PUBLIC DISCLOSURE, FINES AND OUTRIGHT EMBARGOES ON PLASTIC PRODUCT SALES. WORSE: PLASTICS COMBINED WITH OTHER WRAPPING MATERIALS THAT DON’T RECYCLE.

    LUNG, LIVER AND KIDNEY DOCTORS MUST BE AGGREGATED BY MEDICAL DISASTER ALERT.

    WHY: POISON BY PLASTIC IS NOT SELECTIVE: IT IS HITTING EVERY BIRD, EVERY FISH, EVERY OYSTER AND OTHER BENTHIC CREATURE, EVERY HORSE, COW……….AND EVERY BABY, CHILD AND PARENT.

    THE ALBATROSS – MISTAKING PLASTICS FOR CHICK FOOD

    BLUE PLASTIC FILAMENTS EMBEDDED
    IN AN OYSTER SHELL FROM INGESTED WATER

    WE ARE NOT ONLY KILLING THE PLANET. WE ARE KILLING OURSELVES MORE, EVERY DAY.

  57. Elizabeth K Quinn says:

    Great stuff. Also, stop making babies. Humans’ impact on the environment would not overwhelm the ability of the environment to recover if there weren’t so many of us.

  58. dtreptow@scad.edu says:

    not as much, but yes they do. any form of friction causes fiber shed.

  59. MekkelRichards@gmail.com says:

    This will never be solved without international hardcore legislation. Stop electing Republicans and stop electing neoliberal Democrats. We need real Progressives.

  60. Lucy Flanagan says:

    What do you do with the microfiber that collects in the guppy bag?

  61. Plastic Pollution Coalition says:

    There’s no good way to dispose of plastic microfibers. However, hypothetically catching them whilst in your washing machine is a good way to capture a lot of microfibers at once to prevent them from discharging into your wastewater stream. Best of all is to avoid plastic clothing. Learn more about living plastic-free on our guides and website, here.

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