We've all heard about the negative effects of fast fashion on the environment, workers' rights, and your wallet. But when the clothes we buy fall apart after just a few rounds in the wash, what else are we supposed to do? The answer is actually already in our laundry rooms.
Researchers at the U.K.'s University of Leeds have just released a study that takes a real deep dive into microfibers. When we launder fabrics, miniscule strands of the cloth separate during both the washing and drying cycles — it's what shows up in your lint catcher and why your t-shirts are getting thin and translucent. Microfibers also make their way into the water supply, where they can take years to disintegrate, interfering with animals and the ecosystem in the process.
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The team at Leeds, along with specialists from ubiquitous manufacturer Procter & Gamble, found pretty conclusively that the simple act of using shorter wash cycles with colder water "can significantly extend the life of garments and reduce the quantity of dye and microfibers shed 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] rather than 40°C [104 degrees Fahrenheit]" for about 30 minutes, rather than 85 minutes, "saves approximately 66 percent of the energy used per load."
And as for the biggest question: Yes, all this comes at no cost to the actual cleanliness of your clothes. Look for detergents specially made for cold washes, or that include enzymes, and get saving with your next load.