Your clothes release microplastics when you wash them, a liner could be the solution

A team of researchers at the University of Toronto has developed a solution to reduce the amount of plastic microfibers released when washing synthetic fabrics.

In a world awash in fast fashion, which churns out huge volumes of cheap clothing at immense cost to the environment, over two-thirds of clothing is now made from synthetic fabrics such as nylon, polyester, acrylic and scratch.

When clothes made from synthetic fabrics are put in the washing machine, the friction caused by the cleaning cycles produces small tears that cause microplastic fibers less than 500 micrometers long to break and go down the laundry drains to enter the washing machine. to wash. waterways, where particles can be difficult to remove and take decades or more to fully decompose.

Researchers at the University of Toronto have discovered a silicon-based organic polymer coating that smoothes hair. It is a bilayer coating based on polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), which are linear chains of a single polymer that grow from a substrate to form a nanoscale surface layer.

In their experiments, the researchers showed that this coating can significantly reduce microfiber shedding from nylon clothing after repeated washingsaccording to the results published in Nature Sustainability.

The coating has previously been used on other surfaces, such as glass and metals, and has very low friction, which is why PDMS is used in shampoos and conditioners to shine and detangle hair, and also as a food additive in oils to prevent it from falling apart. liquids foam when bottled.

One of the biggest challenges the researchers faced during the study was getting the PDMS to stay in the tissue. Together with the techniques used in the dyeing of clothes, they managed to reduce the shedding of microfibers by more than 90% after nine washes.

The PDMS coating is eco-friendly because it doesn’t come from petroleum.

treated fibers

Scanning electron microscope images of uncoated (upper left and right) and coated (lower left and right) nylon fabrics after nine wash cycles (University of Toronto).

Since PDMS is a hydrophobic material, meaning it naturally repels water, researchers are working to make the coating hydrophilic so that the coated fabrics can better absorb sweat. The team also expanded the search beyond nylon fabrics to include polyester and synthetic blends.

Governments around the world have been looking for ways to minimize the waste produced by washing synthetic fabrics, as it can accumulate in oceans, lakes and rivers, threatening marine life and entering the human food chain through its presence in food and water. from the tap. An example is filters for washing machines, which have emerged as one of the main solutions to prevent microplastic fibers from entering waterways.


Textiles coated with polydimethylsiloxane with minimized microplastic pollution

Source: University of Toronto

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