Hello Everyone, it's Earth Day today! Although it may not feel like there is much to celebrate in these isolation days of covid-19, I am thinking about the silver linings to all of this. I am hoping that our mother earth is getting a bit of a break from all of the usual mass volumes of pollution caused by our driving, flying, manufacturing, and consumption and maybe even washing our clothes. The above photo was taken by my husband in Maui last January while paddle boarding and it reminds me of how important it is to keep our waters clean for everyone including the whales. By the way, I don't want this to be another depressing, preachy article adding to the heaviness of the times so I have tried to make this a positive post about solutions. Please read ahead to hear about the steps we can take to combat microfiber pollution that involve how we wash our clothes as well as the fabric choices we make. I am also hosting an Instagram giveaway with some friends through the end of April so there is an opportunity to win a few items including a gift certificate for organic fabrics, free patterns, some of my fabric stash and best of all, a Filtrol lint filter for your washing machine! Be sure to keep checking my Instagram feed @sewhouse7 this week for more information on the giveaways. You will need to be following me as well as @iseefabric and @halfmoonatelier to participate.
A little over a year ago in December 2018, I wrote a blog post about how washing our clothes and the fabric choices we make effect microfiber pollution in our oceans and waterways. You can read that first post here if you missed it. During that blog post, I had purchased three items that help reduce microfiber pollution from washing machines (a Cora Ball, Guppyfriend laundry bag and Filtrol washing machine lint filter), however, I hadn't been able to use all of them yet and had planned on writing a review of the items after I had tried them. Well... like everything I do, things seem to take me longer than planned and now I am finally getting around to writing the review.
Just to recap - microfiber pollution is caused by producing, washing and even wearing synthetic clothing and textiles. It happens when these textiles shed tiny plastic fibers that fragmentize into bits of pieces that are smaller than 5 mm and usually aren't even visible to the naked eye. These microfibers do not biodegrade and they end up in our oceans, waterways, shorelines, birds, mammals as well as our food as our water treatment plants are not able to filter them out. There are so many facets to this problem however, I am only going to focus on clothes washing and fabric choices in this blog post since that relates the most to sewing and this product review.
Just some of the gorgeous, organic, natural fiber fabrics I have purchased from Iseefabrics.com . These beauties are on the good fiber list.
I have always preferred natural fibers to synthetic ones. Not only are synthetic fabrics bad for the environment, I think they look cheap and often feel icky against my skin. However, I am not ready to give up the comfort of my synthetic yoga pants during this isolation period and my family participates in several outdoor sports that require synthetic performance wear as well. We do practice many of the items on the list of ideas for helping reduce microfiber pollution that I mentioned in the first post and have reposted at the end of this blog. And now that I have all of these products that I am about to review for my washing machine, I feel better about using a small amount of synthetic fibers when the situation calls for them. Below are some lists that categorize the good, bad and in between fibers.
natural fibers include:
- Alpaca Wool
- Angora Wool
- Camel Hair
common synthetic fibers include:
- Elastane (often referred to as Spandex in the US, and Dupont has its own version, known as LYCRA®)
- Rayon, although made from wood pulp, takes such harsh amounts of chemicals during processing to force it into its fiber state, that it edges into the synthetic fibers category. It has also been found in the deep ocean.
- The impacts of other cellulose-derived man-made fabrics such as Bamboo fibres, Modal, Lyocell and Tencel®, are currently being studied and the jury is still out on those fabrics.
And now on to the product review. The first product I purchased was the Cora Ball.
It cost me $35 back then and it now costs $37.95 and is still relatively inexpensive. It claims to pick up microfibers as well as pet hair. I tried it during the original blog post and still use it in my laundry today however, the only thing I notice it picking up are the loose threads, no pet fur, people hair or fuzz. I am not certain exactly how it works other than the threads get tangled up in the ball. It is possible that the fibers stick to it because the fibers are so tiny that you can't see them and you wouldn't notice. However, I don't see how it could reduce all of the microfibers in one full load of laundry so I now just use mine as a back-up to catch the larger pieces.
My Coral Ball after a year and a half of use. I sometimes take off some of the threads but lately I have just been leaving them on.
My Guppyfriend bag after a year or so of use. I use it for the really nasty, fleecy and old synthetic fiber garments along with the cora ball and Filtrol Filter for added protection.
The second product I purchased was the Guppyfriend laundry bag. The cheapest option, I purchased mine for $29.97 and I believe it is around $35 now. Patagonia recommends this product and use to sell it on their website. It's producers claim that in tests, the bag captured 99 percent of fibers released in the washing process. I received my bag just after the original blog post so I wasn't able to try it out back then. Since then, I find that I mainly use it as a back-up for washing synthetic, performance clothing. The concept is great. You put your synthetic clothing in the zippered bag made of an extremely fine mesh fabric and water passes through but fine particles cannot escape. I haven't noticed any fibers in the bag but I am guessing that because the fabric is somewhat slippery, the fibers stick to the clothing rather than the bag and are released in the dryer and caught in the dryer's lint trap. This is my theory but I am not certain. I did put too many items in the bag a few times and the washing machine went off balance so this is one downfall. I guess you could purchase multiple bags to combat that problem.
Finally, I had ordered a Filtrol washing machine lint filter just before the original blog post but it hadn't arrived yet. I installed it (ehem my husband installed it) as soon as it arrived. He said it was an easy installation and I could have done it myself but he likes to take on those projects and I am happy to let him. The filter cost me $129 on sale at the time and it is now around $137 plus anywhere from $12 - $45 for replacement filters. I bought two extra filters and I reuse them. This is by far my favorite option. While the other two are great for those who just cannot afford to spend the extra money on the filter or who are not willing to install the filter, this is by far the easiest (after it's installed) and most effective way to filter microfibers. I use all of the items in tandem just for the extra added insurance but the Filtrol filter does the best job. I change the filters probably about once or maybe twice a month depending on how many new fabrics I am washing and how many performance fleecy items I am washing. It is really easy to replace the filters and you can easily see when it is time to do so through the clear body that houses the filter.
My Filtrol filter attached to the washing machine in my basement. I replaced the filter a few days ago so there isn't much lint in there but you can see a tiny amount at the bottom.
When you see a little colored build-up on the bottom of the filter, you just pop the top of the canister and take the old one out and replace it with another or just dump or wipe out the guck from that filter (if you only have the one) and put it back in. I don't worry as much about having to only put a few synthetic items in the wash that fit in the Guppyfriend bag. It also catches lots of natural fiber fuzz as well. I can tell after washing all of the new linen fabrics I recently used for a pattern that I am working on. Although, those fibers are natural, I am sure that the dyes and fuzz aren't great to put in our waters either. The Filtrol filters appear to be made out of the same fabric as the Guppyfriend laundry bag. So far I haven't had a filter rip or break but I do have two extras on hand. If that did happen, no worries - the water just escapes through the hose as usual just without being filtered.
Filtrol replacement filter.
With the original blog post in 2018, I had an Instagram giveaway and donated a Cora Ball and Guppyfriend bag to two random winners who had to read the blog post and respond with one item from the list of ideas to help reduce microfiber pollution that they already practiced or would start practicing at home in their washing and fabric buying practices. I thought I would do that again and so instead of purchasing the prizes myself, I decided to contact Filtrol to ask them if they would donate a laundry lint filter and to my surprise they agreed! I originally had ideas of a sewing challenge using only natural fibers but given the covid-19 circumstances, I just didn't have the heart to get all excited about a sewing challenge and wasn't sure how well that would be received. Instead, in honor of Earth Day, I am going to have a small giveaway on Instagram again - similar to the one from the previous year however, my friend Rebecca from Iseefabrics.com will be donating a $50 fabric gift card for free organics fabrics (check them out as they have the most gorgeous organic knits). My friend Meghann from Halfmoon Atelier will be donating a few pdf patterns as will I (Sew House Seven patterns) to winners outside of the U.S. and I will also be donating a few linen fabrics from my stash to some random winners who are out of work or have financial difficulties due to the covid-19 crisis. I am sorry to say that the filter and fabric winners will have to be within the U.S. due to shipping restraints but the patterns will be given to two winners outside of the U.S.
I am reposting the list of things you can do to help reduce microfiber pollution below because it will be used in the Instagram giveaway. I am not hosting an actual hashtag challenge however, I hope that you will post photos of your favorite natural fiber makes (cotton preferably organic but not necessary) using the following hashtags #sewnaturalfibers #stopmicrowaste #plasticfree #microfiberpollution #fashionrevolution