By Beth Terry
In March, I wrote about microfiber laundry pollution from synthetic clothing and mentioned that soon there would be a special bag available called Guppy Friend to catch those microfibers before they are rinsed down the drain. Well, the bag is now available and the company sent me one to test out.
Guppy Friend is a product developed by the campaign STOP! MICRO WASTE, a German non-profit founded by a group of surfers and nature lovers to find solutions to the microfiber pollution problem. Guppy Friend is just one of their projects, as they recognize that it is only one small part of the solution to a huge problem that will require systemic change on a massive scale, not just a few people conscientiously washing their polyester fleece in a special bag. But for those of you conscientious folk out there who do wear synthetic clothing and want to prevent the fibers from escaping into our waterways, here is one small solution.
Guppy Friend is a synthetic bag (yes, a plastic bag meant to catch plastic fibers) that you fill with synthetic clothing (polyester, acrylic, spandex, lycra, etc.) to wash in the washing machine. When it arrived in plastic packaging, I just sighed. After all these years, people are still packaging products meant to combat plastic pollution in more plastic. It’s just so ingrained in our society that everything must be protected with plastic — even things already made out of plastic!
CATS LOVE GUPPY FRIEND
I freed Guppy Friend from its bag and laid it out on the floor. Immediately, my cats went to work sniffing and scratching at it. But don’t forget — my cats LOVE to eat plastic! This is one item I will have to keep away from them.
Without reading the instructions, I packed the bag full of polyester fleece clothing. No, not MY polyester fleece. I don’t wear that stuff anymore (and honestly, I think the best solution is just to avoid it.) But I live with someone who does wear it, so there was plenty to experiment with.
NOTE: This is NOT the correct way to fill the bag! Only after stuffing the bag full and finding that the first load did not get clean did I actually read the instructions.
But before that, Soots and Arya went to town on it.
CORRECT WAY TO FILL GUPPY FRIEND: No more than HALF FULL
Removing half the clothing, I placed Guppy Friend in the washer and did a second wash.
I made sure to add other (non-synthetic) clothing to balance out the load.
USE LIQUID SOAP
As per the recommendations on the Guppy Friend site, I used liquid laundry soap rather than powdered in the wash.
What is the brown liquid, you ask? It is my homemade soap nuts laundry liquid, which we’ve been using with great success for several years. In addition to using soap nuts to clean clothes, we use white vinegar in the rinse cycle to make sure clothes rinse clean and to keep the washing machine from developing soap buildup. You can read more about our plastic-free laundry procedures here.
Okay, so laundry cycle completed, I removed the Guppy Friend bag from the machine, took out the clothes, and examined the bag to see if it had caught any fibers. Yep. it did.
There wasn’t a ton of microfiber shedding, but per the Guppy Friend website, that’s to be expected. According to co-founder Alexander Nolte, Gupppy Friend can actually extend the life of your clothing.
It is important to point out that the bag not only captures the broken microfibers, but reduces the mechanical forces that cause the breaking significantly. As a consequence the textiles washed inside Guppyfriend lose a lot less fibers, thus have an extended lifespan.
Most of the fibers collected in a corner of the bag, which was also expected.
DO NOT RINSE!
IMPORTANT: Once your Guppy Friend has collected microfibers, do not rinse it out! That will defeat the entire purpose of using the bag in the first place. (Maybe it doesn’t need to be said, but I have a feeling there are folks out there who would rinse it automatically without thinking it through.) Just collect the fuzz with your hands and put it in the trash.
If you have more questions about how to use Guppy Friend, refer the instructions on their website.
PURCHASE GUPPY FRIEND
In Europe, you can purchase Guppy Friend here. In the United States, you can purchase Guppy Friend from Patagonia. Alexander Nolte says that other retailers will follow.
To learn more about what you can do to combat microfiber pollution on a larger scale, read my original post and sign The Story of Stuff’s petition to stop microfiber plastic pollution.
Beth Terry blogs at My Plastic Free Life and is the author of the book Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too (Skyhorse), a practical guide to ridding your life of plastic. Terry is a PPC founding advisor.
See also: 15 Ways to Stop Microfiber Pollution Now