Are there other ways to decrease microfiber pollution? For example, can clothing be made without them?
We are working on functional fabric and mesh that lose fewer microfibers over their lifetimes. Other solutions besides the washing bag need to follow. Now. Not in 5 years. But it’s not only the industry that has to provide solutions. It’s also us: Buy better and less, wash only if really necessary, substitute synthetic fibers with (environmentally sustainable) wool or cotton, etc.
It’s not realistic for everybody to stop wearing synthetic fibers, but it already helps if customers are aware of alternatives.
It depends on what and how you wash (also see: What causes the breaking of microfibers?). Older apparel has the tendency to lose more fibers. The hotter your water, the more likely you’ll lose fibers. And if you only wash soft fabrics, fewer microfibers will break, etc. Whenever you see fibers, take them out, but you can certainly use the washing bag several times before removing the fibers. Depending on the amount of fiber, it is recommended to clean it every two or three washes. Make sure that there are no dark microfibers left in the bag when you wash clothes with lighter colors.
GUPPYFRIEND consumers contacted us because they found very few fibers. This is because the microfibers are extremely tiny and barely visible to the naked eye. And that is part of what the bag does (see also What is the GUPPYFRIEND Washing Bag good for?): Due to its soft surface and the structure of the filament, fewer fibers actually break.
The washing bag has no effect on the washing result. Washing agent and water reach the textiles. As long the textiles are able to move around in the washing bag (do not overfill) your laundry gets clean while the sea stays unpolluted. The German Textile Research confirms the bags efficiency. They tested among others stains of blood, chocolate, clay and ketchup. We recommend removing coarse dirt and animal hair before doing the laundry.
Unfortunately, most of the PFCs used to impregnate textiles are water-soluble. Consequently, they cannot be filtered out. If possible, always purchase garments without PFCs.
No. Do your laundry as you would do it without the washing bag. For example, a dark-colored shirt inside the bag with whites outside the bag doesn’t make sense. The washing bag doesn’t change that.
The mesh is made out of monofilaments, which are more like sticks than threads, and thus does not release fibers itself. On rare occasions, depending on the mechanical condition of your washing machine, the binding tape around the bag may release a few fibers. The binding tape’s total surface is 0.05m2 and about 100 times smaller than the textiles inside. A washing bag filled with three fleece jackets has an approximate potential fiber-losing surface of 1,9m2 (inside and outside). We are working on alternatives, but we have accepted this compromise at the moment because it extends the overall lifetime of the bag. We constantly test and improve the overall quality of the bag itself and its washing and stability performance.
During the washing process, all clothes lose fibers. The fibers break out of the garment’s structure because of mechanical bending and abrasion stress. These broken fibers are typically from 50 µm up to 15mm long and often not thicker than 10µm. Keep in mind: 1µm = 0.001 mm, or about 0.000039 inch.
Our filter mesh is fine enough to filter out even the smallest of these broken fibers. Consequently, we can theoretically filter 100% of fibers.
Broken fibers float in the bag and eventually end up at the edges, where they gather in the seams and corners. When enough microfibers collect, take them out with your finger and dispose of properly. (Also see: What do I do with the captured microfibers?).
- Put synthetic textile into GUPPYFRIEND. Max half full and separate colors.
- Close the GUPPYFRIEND and wash as usual.
- Take out the wet textile after washing.
- Remove the released microfibers from the hems inside the GUPPYFRIEND and dispose properly.
So far, we haven’t come to the end of a GUPPYFRIEND Washing Bag’s useful life, even though we have done extensive testing. Certainly, it depends on how you treat it: Use liquid detergent preferably, avoid zippers and any other edges, avoid direct sunlight and don’t wash it above 95°C/ 203°F, and you’ll enjoy the washing bag for many washing cycles. After a few washes, the washing bag doesn’t look new anymore, but still does its job perfectly.
The GUPPYFRIEND Washing Bag was designed to reduce microfiber loss at the source. The structure of the filter surface is optimized to achieve the smoothest surface possible, to protect your garment, to avoid pilling and to reduce fiber loss.
Mechanical forces, one of the main causes of fibers breaking, are reduced by the softness of the filter mesh. The microfibers are extremely tiny and barely visible to the naked eye, and most of the (added) plastic fibers in your textiles are transparent. So, it is hard to detect them, especially in a wet filter bag.
Hence it is perfectly fine when you don’t find microfibers at first. But they will collect over time. You’ll find them mostly in the upper corners or the seam.
But don’t expect to find a lot. It’s the few tiny microfibers that make their way from each washing machine into rivers and oceans that – taken all together – cause harm to oceans and sea life.
Recycled material doesn’t work (yet) for this kind of high-tech mesh. But the washing bag is designed so it can easily be recycled with identical materials at the end of its lifecycle: The whole bag – except the zipper – is made of a single material. Please send your GUPPYFRIEND back at the end of its lifecycle. We’ll reuse and eventually recycle them into new GUPPYFRIEND Washing Bags.
The fibers break out of the garment’s structure because of mechanical bending and abrasion stress during washing and daily use. But there are many other causes of fiber loss: e.g. the fiber properties themselves, the textile design, the blend of fibers, the spinning method, the weaving and knitting processes. Washing habits also heavily impact the release of microfibers. The overall number of washes is relevant, but also the water temperature, the hardness of the water, the amount and kind of detergent, the duration of each wash, the type of washing machine, rotations per minute, the kind of textiles that are washed together and many more.
It depends on where you live. Most European countries have a landfill ban. In this case you can simply put it into the household trash. In general, it is not a good idea to put it into the recycling cycle (gelber Sack, Wertstofftonne, Grüner Punkt). It may get blown away and eventually end up in the waterways.
In Germany household waste is incinerated to generate electricity and does not end up in landfills. The fumes are in fact being filtered and are 99% non-toxic.
We are working on further information here on the website on how best to locally dispose the microfibers. If you know how it is best taken care of in your area, please let us know. Check out the STOP! MICRO WASTE collection bin. It’s the best way to collect the fibers in your bathroom before you dispose of them properly, and it’s meant to be a conversation-starter around the topic of microfiber pollution.
We are also currently getting our heads around solutions to re-use the fibers and discuss with NGOs and industrial partners a take-back system similar to the one for batteries.
We have found that clothes lose fewer microfibers when washed in cold water and at a lower spin speed. Using a front loader will also result in fewer microfibers being shed. Having the right detergent will affect the lifetime of your GUPPYFRIEND: some detergent powders contain mineral abrasives to achieve a better cleaning result. These powders can harm any piece of clothing and should be avoided. With liquid detergent, you’ll always be on the safe side. Wash less often. Purchase clothes made of (environmentally sustainable) natural materials.
Do not rinse the bag under running water and do not overfill it. If your clothes are really dirty, fill the bag less. In any case, the clothes have to be able to move inside the bag to get properly clean. We recommend filling it halfway, and removing coarse dirt and animal hair before doing the laundry.
Wash only clothes of similar colors together in the bag, and before you wash other colors in the bag, take out all remaining microfibers.
Do not iron the washing bag – the crumpled surface is normal. As we don´t use any toxic UV blockers, it is essential to avoid direct sunlight on the bag.
All garments consisting of synthetic fibers are causing harm. According to the MERMAIDS Life+ project acrylic, nylon and polyester are the major culprits.
However, you’ll find different numbers in different sources. In the end, it doesn’t really matter how many exactly. It’s a lot and we need to prevent them from harming the marine ecosystem.
First, the GUPPYFRIEND Washing Bag protects your apparel. The textiles lose fewer microfibers compared to washing without the bag. It reduces wear and tear and hence you can enjoy your clothes much longer. That’s why you’ll find only a few microfibers in the washing bag.
Second, the microfibers that do break are caught by the mesh and do not make their way into the marine ecosystem. And finally, the washing bag is a daily reminder to wash less and to buy better.
Every textile will lose microfibers, but it is the synthetic materials (polyester, acrylic, nylon, etc.) that shed the harmful fibers. Most apparel contains synthetic fibers to some degree (unfortunately, even when it is not stated on the label. Labelling rules are flexible, and a 100% wool sweater can contain 10+% of synthetic components).
You can also put pure cotton and wool inside the bag. Textiles from natural materials also lose fibers. The bag reduces fiber breakage and thus protects your garments and reduces wear and tear. You’ll enjoy your clothes much longer – another sustainability benefit of the GUPPYFRIEND Washing Bag.
Apart from the zipper the bag is entirely made of Polyamide 6.6. The material is untreated, undyed, and does not contain any additives. It’s pure and can even be used in a medical context.
What sizes are available? Why isn’t the GUPPYFRIEND Washing Bag big enough for a full laundry load?
We are starting with a standard size medium: 50×74 cm / 19.7×29.1 inches. We’ll offer other sizes in the future; special solutions for hospitals, textile production and industrial laundries are available upon request. However, the medium-size bag is the most efficient for household use. If you put all your clothes into one big bag, they will lose more microfibers by rubbing against each other than if you use two GUPPYFRIENDs.
So, it’s better to use two medium washing bags than one big one.
We produce shoes and textiles under the LANGBRETT brand in the most sustainable and fair way possible. LANGBRETT is a group of surfers and nature lovers. Our products are made of natural materials. However, we also offer selected outdoor apparel from other brands. After having spoken to a marine activist, we realized that we are contributing to the micro waste problem, too. We founded the nonprofit STOP! MICRO WASTE. The idea for the GUPPYFRIEND Washing Bag was born after a brainstorming session in our favorite beer garden in Berlin.
The idea took only a couple of beers; creating the bag, a lot longer.
For more information on STOP! MICRO WASTE please check here.
The diameter of a thread is as small as 15μm (μm = microns, 1mm = 1,000 μm). It could theoretically slip through the tiny openings of the GUPPYFRIEND bag. But it doesn’t. To get through, it would need to poke directly through the mesh. Most often even if it sticks out, the fiber will be pushed back inside the bag.
Let’s take scenario A): We wash an used fleece jacked that we just wore for a run (mechanical forces) together with a pair of jeans and a shirt in the GUPPYFREIND washing bag. The fabrics inside the bag will lose many ‘bigger’ microfibers. In this scenario, the bag will capture almost all the microfibers. Its efficiency is 100% (or close).
In scenario B), we’ll put a new, cheaper fleece jacket inside the GUPPYFRIEND washing bag. Only a few fibers break, because it is new and washed alone in the bag. Tiny nanoparticles are on the surface of the fabric, for example from the manufacturing process. These will not be held back by the bag. The overall microfiber loss is approx. 1.4 g of residues. The bag does not capture dissolved substances, nanoparticles or dust. Only two-thirds of the released fibers will be held back by the bag in this scenario. The efficiency of the bag is somewhere close to 70%.
We have done uncountable wash tests with various test institutes, universities and industrial partners in Europe and the USA. We will do more testing with the Fraunhofer Institute and the German Textile Research Institute to understand more about the parameters affecting microfiber shedding. Based on these results, we have come up with ideas for reengineering textiles and insights on how to gradually improve the GUPPYFRIEND, come up other filter solutions, and alternatives to existing, harmful textiles and production methods.
We are also working on a film to make the testing process and results transparent and public.
Conclusion: What we can claim is that textiles washed inside the GUPPYFRIEND lose fewer fibers compared to those washed without the bag, and that the washing bag reliably filters out the microfibers that break during washing.
The microfibers are so tiny that they would block the filters immediately, literally within seconds (please see why GUPPYFRIEND and not any other solution?). The pressure of the water would also push the fibers through the mesh and the filter would have to be changed constantly. We have a working prototype and there are others working on it too, but it will still take some time until these filters work effectively and are available on the market. Until than GUPPYFRIEND will do its job.
Why is the GUPPYFRIEND washing bag able to filter out the microfibers if other filter solutions aren’t?
It’s the backflushing effect. For clothes inside the bag, water pressure comes from both directions. Thus, the fibers are not pressed through the mesh.