Why too much laundry might be bad for your clothes and bad for the planet

James Webster finding out about microfibres while doing his laundry Credit: ITV News

It's the weekly laundry day and I have a confession. I'm really bad at choosing the correct setting on the washing machine. Mixed fibres - 40 degrees. That's my go-to setting. Surely it's kind of fine for everything?

That said I've had a few washing machine accidents in my time. I have a couple of pale coloured T-shirts and jeans which have a decidedly pink tinge after putting something bright red in with them. And there was the time I ruined a jumper after washing it with something that had large velcro straps and it pulled all the fibres when it was spinning.

How much do you think about how often you are washing your clothes? Environmentalists think we should consider it more. Credit: ITV News

The moral of this story is I'm probably not the sort of person who you should ask for advice about doing your washing, but up until now I thought that the only damage I could do if I got it wrong was damage to my own garments.

It turns out that our weekly laundry could also be adding to the amount of plastics in our oceans - an issue I had never previously considered and environmentalists, including Friends of the Earth, say too many of us don't know the hidden dangers in our laundry.

Plastic waste in the ocean

Many of us have seen the pictures of large pieces of plastic, such as bottles, which litter our oceans. The waste is very visible, as is the damage when it traps marine wildlife. But tiny microfibres get eaten by such creatures and do not break down so they pass through the food chain.

Washing machine manufacturers say the problem of microfibres is something they are aware of.

Many people are unaware of the problem. I was, until I started researching the issue for this report. When I did start reading up about the problem I bought a special plastic ball to put in the washer which claims to stop your clothes shedding microfibres.

The washing ball I bought hoping it would help catch microfibres in my laundry Credit: ITV News

And I've started being more selective on which load settings I use on the machine depending on what garments are inside. (No more accidentally dyed pink T-shirts.)

But textiles experts say we could even think about washing our clothes less frequently. Rupa Ganguli is one such expert and runs a business called Inclusive Trade which promotes sustainability in the fashion industry. She says too much washing is bad for the garments.

Watch more from our interview with Rupa Ganguli where she gives more tips on looking after clothes in a sustainable way:

Environmental campaigners hope that if more of us learn to do less laundry we will not only end up with better quality clothes, but we will put fewer plastic fibres into the sea as well.


Watch full report: