Happy summer! Long days, backyard barbecues, kids playing in the yard, time spent in the garden – let’s talk about laundry.
For a small, empty nester household, I do a lot of laundry. My husband has continued to see patients throughout SiP and I launder his clothes as soon as he walks into the door at home. Additionally, I recently had a very elderly parent living in my home and he managed to generate a fair amount of laundry as well. LOL. I am grateful that I have a High Efficiency washing machine that can sense load size and only uses the amount of water necessary.
One of the big environmental challenges with doing laundry is that so many of our clothes today contain the same synthetic materials as plastic. Thus, when we wash our clothing, we put microfibers into the water system. These fibers are so small that they usually make it through water purification systems and end up in our oceans and rivers. Once there, they are eaten by microplanktons, which are then eaten by larger marine life, which are the eaten by fish, which are then eaten by larger fish…until eventually they wind up in our diet too. Additionally, as water evaporates and becomes rain, sleet, snow, etc., these micro-particles literally rain down upon the world. As I have mentioned in a previous blog, they are ubiquitous: from the top of the Pyrenees to the bottom of the ocean. It is estimated that we eat the equivalent of a credit card per week – not to mention what we breathe into our lungs.
What can we do to help?
Washing your clothes with liquid detergent releases fewer microfibers than using a powdered detergent does. That being said, it is often easier to find powdered detergents that are environmentally friendly in other ways (for example, no plastic bottles or jugs). It feels a little bit like, “Pick your poison,” right? That being said, you can find somewhat better liquid options on the Grove website
You can also check out some of the following products (I haven’t tried these yet, but some of my friends swear by them!):
This detergent is a powder – but it is completely plastic free and uses only environmentally friendly ingredients:
None of the above products, however, will entirely keep your laundry from shedding microfibers. The best way to protect against microfibers entering our water system is with a Guppybag, or a Coraball. A Guppybag is a bag in which you put your clothes before they go into the washer. The bag is designed to catch microfibers, so they can’t get into the water. When you clean the caught fibersout of the bag, do not rinse them out! That just puts them back into the water. You will need to carefully gather them and throw them away.
(Note: I have a friend who has found that fibers can collect on both sides of the bag. I have not had this problem, but I can imagine that it is difficult to wipe down the bag when this occurs.)
The Coraball was invented by a marine scientist who used marine coral as her model. Just as coral in the ocean catches microparticles, so too the Coraball catches those particles in your washer. The nice thing about the Coraball is the ease of cleaning it. The down side is that you cannot use it with things with tabs, drawstrings, etc. I now put those things into lingerie bags and wash with the Coraball. So far, this method seems to do the trick!
One important note: we are talking about micro particles. You won’t see them building up in your bag or on your Coraball for quite some time! That doesn’t mean that these tools aren’t working – I have been using mine for months and I needed to clean my Coraball for the first time this week.
What you put into your dryer matters too – but that’s blog for another time.
Stay safe and healthy – and wear your mask, please!