Are Microfiber Cloths Bad for the Environment?

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: September 17, 2021
  • Time to read: 4 min.

Clothing is an essential element in a person’s lifestyle. 

An individual’s choice of clothes can indicate their persona and preferences. 

Unfortunately, many people aren’t aware that some of their choices have negative impacts on their surroundings. 

However, our daily lifestyle can influence the environment both positively and negatively. 

In this article, we will mainly discuss microfiber clothes and their effects on our environment.

What Is Microfiber Pollution?

First, before we discuss the effects of microfiber clothes on the environment, let’s understand the concept of microfiber pollution. 

This pollution refers to plastic pieces known as microplastics which are released materials, especially while washing. 

The release of these particles in freshwater environments and marine sea causes pollution, hence endangering water animals and wildlife.

Since microfibers don’t only escape through laundering, we should be concerned about the general environment. 

This is because these elements attach themselves to dust, and they eventually float around, making us exposed to them.  

What are Microfibers and Synthetic Clothing?

Microfiber refers to synthetic fibers gotten from petroleum. 

Since these synthetic fibers are too small, a person cannot see them sing using their bare eyes. 

However, there is a difference between microfiber from clothing and microsuede fabric. 

Microsuede fabric is a microfiber fabric used for removing makeup, absorbing liquids, and picking up dirt. 

Although microsuede also emits microfibers when washed, we will only focus on microfibers released from the clothes you wear daily.

Synthetic clothing is clothing partly or wholly made using synthetic materials like polyester, spandex, or polyester. 

These clothes may include fleeces, trousers, socks, blouses, and even yoga pants. 

Moreover, approximately sixty percent of global clothing includes synthetic materials.

According to an Environmental Science & Technology journal study that the BBC covered, one piece of clothing can generate over 1,900 microfibers in just a single wash. 

Therefore, people around the world continue to release microfibers into the rivers and oceans daily.

Since microfibers are too tiny, waste treatment plants cannot filter them out. 

Therefore, they end up in water bodies, hence endangering marine lives. 

Unfortunately, despite these microfibers’ dangers to marine life, humans consume these elements by drinking contaminated water or eating exposed fish.

For example, plastic fibers have been detected in shellfish and fish sold in Indonesia and California for human consumption. 

Besides, research also indicates that microfibers are responsible for about 85% of shoreline pollution worldwide.

Are Microfiber Clothing Eco-Friendly?

As seen above, microfibers pose dangers to the environment. 

Although this is quite complicated when it comes to many sustainability scenarios, typically, the breakdown and manufacture of microfibers are not eco-friendly.

 Irrespective of the type of clothing, all microfiber elements cause the same risks. 

When you wash clothes made using microfiber materials, they emit microplastics that eventually make their way into the environment. 

This causes pollution, endangers animals, and also leaks hazardous chemicals.

Besides, it is also essential to note that other textiles made using microfiber materials such as carpets and rugs also release microfibers. 

Although some people argue that the reuse of microfiber items is somehow sustainable since it reduces the usage of a single-use paper item, what if the paper material is made of fossil fuels? This may still cause challenges to our environment, since the paper also contains microplastics that are hard to break down.

However, there are ways you can use to reduce the negative impact of microfibers on your surroundings. They include:

  • Lander synthetic clothing less often and for a shorter period
  • Ensure your washing mashing is full. A machine filled with clothes enables them to experience less friction, hence releasing less fiber.
  • Opt for liquid washing detergent instead of the washing powder because the powder scrubs and releases more microfibers.
  • Avoid using warm or hot water for laundry. High temperatures may damage your clothing and facilitate the release of more microfibers.
  • Dry your spinning clothes at low revolutions. High revs increase the friction between clothing.
  • It would help if you placed the lint on your trash rather than washing it down the drain after cleaning out the dryer.

Why do Many People Prefer Microfiber Cloths for Cleaning?

When you observe a microfiber cloth using a magnifying lens, a single microfiber contains a spoke-like or split appearance. 

The part between the spokes has a bigger surface on the fiber itself. 

Therefore, the joining of the single fibers together into thread, hence making a cloth, creates an effective product for picking up trapped dirt. 

These products have superior scrubbing power and absorbency.

On the other hand, traditional fibers like cotton are usually smooth and large.

Therefore, materials made of conventional fibers need cleaning agents such as chemical cleaners, soaps, or detergents to dissolve the dirt and remove it from the surface by absorbing it into the cleaning material.

So, if you cannot dissolve the dirt easily, you may experience challenges during the cleaning up, since it may be hard to pick up the dirt. 

Although the split fibers of the microfiber clothing can pick and grasp dust, traditional fiber usually push moisture and dirt around a surface.

Although you may prefer using microfiber clothing for cleaning due to their effectiveness, you should not overlook their negative impact on the environment.

Bottom Line

Microfiber clothing is not suitable for the environment since it releases microplastics which endanger wild animals, marine life, and even human beings. 

Therefore, since it is our utmost responsibility to take care of our environment, we should adopt ways to minimize the release of these microplastics to the environment.

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