Over 1/3 of primary ocean microplastics come from washing textiles.

A quick glance at your clothing label will soon reveal that whether you’re wearing a t-shirt, dress, fleece or pair of cycling shorts, our clothes are increasingly made from synthetic materials like polyester, nylon and acrylic. These are actually plastic-based fabrics. 

Due to friction, when these fabrics are worn down and washed, they shed tiny strands of plastic less than 5mm long, called plastic microfibres. Like microbeads, they are a type of microplastic pollution which flow to rivers and oceans, may be eaten by marine life and can end up on our plates. Studies have found these fibres in our food, from mussels and table salt to honey and beer, and microplastics have even found in human stools.

An estimated that half a million tonnes of plastic microfibres a year contribute to ocean pollution – the largest single source of ocean primary microplastics and 16 times more plastic pollution than microbeads from cosmetics (Ellen MacArthur Foundation).

Care for your clothes with #WhatsInMyWash

Research is in its early stages, but findings so far indicate that taking better care of our clothes and preventing them from wearing out can reduce the likelihood of microfibres shedding and entering our oceans. Join the #WhatsInMyWash campaign and pledge to take care of your clothes:

  1. Choose clothes you really love and which are more durable, so you can get more wears from them.
  2. Look at your clothing labels. Be aware of the care instructions and what your clothes are made out of. Share a picture of your label with #WhatsInMyWash to show your support.
  3. Wash clothes only when needed. Microfibres are released in the wash so if you can get another wear out of something, let it air instead.
  4. Wash clothes at a lower temperature (30degC) and on gentler cycles. Not only does this save energy, research suggests it can limit microfibre shedding as cooler water doesn’t wear your clothes as much as hotter ones.
  5. Air dry your clothes. Tumble dryers may wear your clothes out increasing the likelihood of microfibre release on the next wash. Your clothes will stay in shape for longer too! If you have a condenser tumble dryer, the liquid collected may contain plastic microfibres – empty it into the bin rather than your sink. 

Pledge your support for more research and industry action on the issue, visit www.whatsinmywash.org.uk.

Spread the word

Find out more, visit the #WhatsInMyWash campaign website.

With thanks to Campaign for Wool for supporting the #WhatsInMyWash campaign.


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