We’ve all heard of the negative impact of fast fashion on the environment, workers’ rights, and your wallet. But when the clothes we buy break down after just a few washes, what else do we have to do? The real answer was in our laundry room.
Researchers at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom have just published a study that actually delves into microfibers. When we wash the fabric, the small fabric fibers will separate in both the washing and drying cycles – that’s what’s shown in your lint catcher and why your T-shirt is getting thinner and translucent. Microfibers also enter the water supply, where they can take years to decompose, affecting animals and ecosystems in the process.
The team at Leeds, along with experts from renowned manufacturer Procter &Gamble, came to the fairly clear conclusion that the simple act of using a shorter washing cycle with colder water “can significantly extend the life of clothing and reduce the number of dyes and microfibers released into the environment.” According to a press release. It’s also good for your energy bill: “[W]ashing clothes at 20°C [80 degrees Fahrenheit] instead of 40°C [104 degrees Fahrenheit]” in about 30 minutes, instead of 85 minutes, “saves about 66% of the energy used on each load.”
And for the biggest question: Yes, none of this doesn’t take into account the actual cleanliness of your clothes. Look for detergents made specifically for cold washing, or containing enzymes and saving with your next wash.