Still the Best Fabric for Making Activewear
Before we discuss microplastics, let’s what is recycled polyester good for. Polyester fabrics (both virgin and recycled) are still the fabrics with the best moisture-wicking properties. We know that from our own private label experience as well as from knowing the science behind the claim. The fibre structure and chemical properties of polyester yarn allow for a fast transition of sweat from liquid into vapour. All that without dampening the clothes along the way.
That’s why you’ll find them in a vast majority of sportswear. When a brand uses recycled polyester, they do make an ecological contribution. One recycled polyester t-shirt will remove 8 water bottles from the sea or a water stream or a landfill.
So Where’s the Problem?
Even though it reuses the plastic, that same t-shirt will shed after each wash. And that results in microplastics ending up in the drainage systems and later on in rivers and seas. Microplastics are becoming a greater concern the more we learn about them. The jury is still out on whether or not microplastics actually cause harm to our health, as there isn’t enough data to have a claim in either direction. But it is worrying enough that plastic has become a part of our diet, whether we like it or not.
So until governments start banning plastics altogether or until washing machine companies start investing in filters that will keep the microplastics out of our water streams, we can only rely on what we as individuals can do.
Here are the 6 things you can do to reduce your microplastics contributions:
- 1. If you have a dog, you probably have a dog shedding brush. If not, definitely get one (the brush, not a dog). The dog shedding brush can remove a lot of loose fibres from your clothes before you put them in the washer.
- 2. Opt for cooler and shorter washing cycles (ideally 30 °C). At these temperatures, clohtes won’t shed as much. A research conducted by the University of Leeds details the reasons behind it perfectly.
Now, if you’re concerned about the odour not going away at 30 °C, there’s a workaround. Put your recycled polyester clothes and some activated charcoal in a plastic container, close it tight, and leave overnight. Activated charcoal will absorb a lot of that odour and ensure your clothes smell nicely at 30 °C.
- 3. For the love of God, don’t use a drier! There are 2 perfect natural driers readily available at your local Earth – air and sunshine, use them. You’ll reduce your carbon footprint along the way.
- 4. Add a cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle. It will strengthen the fibres and reduce shedding. There’s one caveat, though. It may eat through seals and rubber hoses of your washer, so take this one with a pinch of salt. Using liquid detergent is also advised to reduce friction to a minimum.
- 5. Get your hands on fibre collectors. With the growing concern on the topic of microplastics, some companies like Guppyfriend and Cora Ball started addressing the issue at its source – the washing machine.
- 6. Spray your polyester pieces with spray starch. Stiffer fibers = less shedding.
Clothing Brands Can Help Drive Change Concerning Microplastics
These 6 steps should be enough to have some positive effect on this issue. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of us doing this to start making the difference. But there is something the clothing industry can do to help this become a regular practice. Clothing brands can find a way to condense this information into a format that can fit a label. Just as there’s a way to provide the washing information, there can be a way to provide anti-shedding tips.