Washing Clothes May Release Hundreds of Thousands of Microfibers into Wastewater
A number of environmental activists have been misleading the public about the detriment to the environment by sending your garments and other items to be cleaned professionally. A number of scientific studies have shown that not only is this not true, but the reverse is that the use of home washers has contributed more damage to the environment than was previously known.
Textile and garment manufactures have made their garments more adaptable to the home washer and dryer, but in doing so, they have had to add microfiber plastics in the process. Actually, the synthetic fibers that make up many of today’s fashion items are made from hydrocarbon-based petrochemicals. When these fibers are released – literally hundreds of thousands per wash are released – they end up in rivers, lakes, and oceans and degrade back to hydrocarbons which then seep into our environment through food sources and ingestion by animals and humans.
At the Sustainable Apparel Coalition Membership meeting in Vancouver last month, the topic was presented as a major problem. Over 70% of the major global garment and footwear brands are members of the association and they are concerned about the public fallout associated with microfiber pollution through aftercare.
Dry Cleaning Industry representatives met in New York the following week with a collaborative group from Europe who are championing solving this problem and representatives of our industry put forward the proposition that professional garment care providers could help provide a solution. They were very receptive to our involvement and we are looking forward to assisting.
The reality is that all professional cleaners are subject to environmental laws that require them to have installed the systems and equipment to prevent the flow of any pollutants into the ecosystem. A home laundry machine does not have these. As well, federal, provincial, state and municipal regulations require that all cleaners be environmentally certified.
There has also been a fallacy that dry cleaning shortens the life of garments. This has been proven false. Frequent cleaning prolongs the life of a garment. Not only do stains set with age, making the garment unwearable, but ground-in dirt and soil act as an abrasive, like sandpaper, causing rapid wear of fibers. Also, insects are attracted to soils such as food, beverages, feces, perspiration, and oils from hair on the clothes and will cause further damage.
Research was conducted by the Department of Clothing and Textiles at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in cooperation with the School of Textiles at North Carolina State. The research showed that the various dry cleaning processes have no negative effect on the properties of wool in men’s suiting fabrics and do not shorten the life of garments.
It is important to let the public know that in their desire to buy easy care garments, they are contributing to the pollution of our ecosystem. Faced with this knowledge, consumers can make their own decisions on whether they want to continue to wash these garments in their home washer or take them to a professional cleaner to be cleaned and pressed.
In respect to those offering “Wetcleaning”, the products Canadian Fabricare Association (CFA) professional cleaners use are “No VOC’s” (Volatile Organic Compounds), meaning non-toxic, contain no phosphates, are safe for septic systems, kosher, NOT tested on animals and are NOT hazardous to the natural environment.
It’s also important to note that almost all garments in the world can be handled with water. One component most people outside of the industry fail to consider is finishing and pressing. The home may be equipped with a great washing machine but does not have the proper finishing and tension equipment. Cleaning is only one part of the equation. A professional garment care facility will be able to do more to insure the garments will not be compromised.
I encourage the public to visit the following website or in their search engine, type in “Washing Clothes May Release Hundreds of Thousands of Microfibers into Wastewater”. There are a number of scientific papers that have been written about the subject.
For further information, contact the Executive Director.
Canadian Fabricare Association,
Released July 19, 2018
120 Promenade Circle #910,
Thornhill, Ontario L4J 7W9.