Being an eco-friendly, sustainable Mama means learning what is good for your baby and what isn't. In this article we talk about what microfibres are, why they are a global issue, and what you can do to avoid them.
What are microfibres?
Microfibres come from plastic based synthetic clothing (being polyester, nylon, rayon and acrylic). You'll find them in activewear, polar fleeces, and in a lot of your bedding, clothes, underwear and pyjama's, but did you know that these fibres are made from refined crude oil and when consumed can be damaging to our health? ☠️ Actually, there are hundreds of toxic chemicals that go into the manufacturing synthetic clothing, but the public is only privy to about 11 of them so if you want to read the top 5, click here.
Microfibres or microplastics are little tiny bits of plastic less than 5mm in length and are the remnants of fabrics and materials containing plastic. Even clothes made from recycled plastic bottles end up breaking down into microfibres and ending up in the ocean.
Why are microplastics a global issue?
When synthetic clothing is washed it releases little tiny balls of plastics into the oceans and unfortunately fish mistake these fibres for plankton, swallow them and then they end up in our food chain For pregnant mothers, this can be concerning as microplastics have also been found in the placenta and in newborn babies faeces.
Scientist Karen Burke Da Silva and a team from Flinders University also found “Low to medium levels of microplastics less than 5mm in size) measured in the common blue mussel (Mytilus spp.) across beaches in South Australia. 🤮 So, as each country gathers their evidence that that there are microplastics in the oceans, and as we become aware of this problem, we can find solutions to it.
Watch this Youtube Video that shows how toxic microfibres are, and how they end up in the ocean.
Aside from the ingestion of microfibres through the food we eat, there is also the danger of ingesting them from our actual clothes and bedding. Shockingly, researchers found that babies have 10 x more microfibres in their bodies than adults do which would be due to their very sensitive, thin skin and them exploring everything with their mouth Read more about why your baby's skin is more absorbent than yours if you want to take care of it the best way possible.
Fortunately, with awareness of the problem, many people around the world are coming up with solutions to the microfibre problem. Take a look at The Ocean Clean Up and what they are doing to remove plastics from the oceans.👏
What can you do?
Although there are global efforts to clean up plastics and microfibres in oceans, it's prudent to think about other alternatives to using plastic in the first place. Here are a few things you can do to reduce the shedding of microfibres.
1. Wash at low temperatures
A lower-temperature wash is not as harsh and therefore less likely to shake out plastic fibres.
2. Put your washing in a special bag
Use a Wash Bag when washing your clothes as it helps collect the microfibres that shed from your clothes during washing.
3. Opt for liquid laundry detergent instead of laundry power.
It is softer on your clothes and doesn't scrub your fabrics as much.
4. Fill the washing machine
A full washing machine reduces friction so your clothes won't rub against each other as much.
5. Reduce spin speeds
If you spin your clothes at a slower speed, it can lessen the risk of more microfibres shedding.
6. Air dry rather than tumble dry
Air dry your clothes outside on the washing line. It is less aggressive on the fabrics and keeps them in optimal condition.
7. Use a front-loading washing machine
Tests show that top-loading washing machines release more plastic fibres.
8. Buy less fleeces
Polyester fleece could well be one of the biggest culprits of microfibres. Consider buying woollen fleeces instead, and blankets made from natural fibres.
9. Keep your clothes for longer
Your clothes are likely to release more plastic in the first few washes – so frequently changing your wardrobe will probably increase the amount of plastic you're sending into the environment. Buy higher quality clothes that last.
Look at the labels! Read what fabrics are included in them and try and avoid cheaply made, mass produced, plastic clothing that is designed to break down. Try opting for organic clothing AND if you do wear synthetics, then wash them when you have a full load with laundry bags so that the clothes are not rubbing together - and use laundry liquid instead of powder so it doesn't scrub the fabric. Better yet, only wash when needed and spot clean as you go about your day. Try to reuse and reinvent the clothes you already have.
If you can, buy a washing machine filter that stops 90% of microfibres from entering the waterways.
Until now, there wasn't much evidence to show how damaging microfibres are to us and our planet. But now that there is more information about the detrimental effects of using petroleum-based/plastic/synthetic clothes, you can make better choices about how you want the future to look like.