In tumble dryers, fabric conditioners minimise the emission of microfibres.

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In tumble dryers, fabric conditioners minimise the emission of microfibres.

 Microfibre pollution is produced when garments are tumble dried, but it may be practically half by using a tumble dryer sheet and an anti-wrinkle fabric conditioner.

Tumble-drying garments produces the same amount of microfibres as washing them, but switching to a fabric conditioner and using a dryer sheet will significantly reduce this.

Microfibres are microscopic strand-like particles that separate from our garments, especially when they are washed and dried. They can contaminate the air, land, and water, posing a threat to humans and wildlife.

They discovered that regular fabric conditioners decreased microfibre emissions by up to 22%, depending on the type and dose, whereas anti-wrinkle fabric conditioners reduced them by up to 36%.

Fabric conditioners make the fibres cling together, making them more likely to become stuck in the lint filter of the dryer, according to Lant. Anti-wrinkle conditioners smooth out creases in clothing, reducing friction and resulting in reduced microfibre release.

Microfibre release can be reduced by up to 35% when using tumble dryer sheets that gather fibres. Microfibre emissions were decreased by 45 percent when an anti-wrinkle fabric conditioner and a tumble dryer sheet were used combined. The size of the pores on the lint filter were also reduced, which helped to reduce fibre output.

While these solutions can help to minimise microfiber pollution in the near term, tumble dryer manufacturers, according to Lant, need to improve their filtering systems. Moving away from vented tumble dryers and toward condensed tumble dryers, which don't discharge microfibres into the environment, is also a good idea, he says.

"There will be a variety of technology that we can put in tumble dryers to assist reduce the discharge of microfibres," says Northumbria University in Newcastle, UK team member Kelly Sheridan. "However, nothing will help as much as preventing fibre release from garments in the first place, and more study will help us figure out how to do that."

"This is a pretty extensive research," adds Kenneth Mei-yee Leung of City University of Hong Kong, "further validating our discovery that tumble dryers might discharge microfibres into the environment." According to him, the researchers used a net with 0.2 mm holes to gather microfibres, therefore microfibres smaller than this would not have been counted in the study. "Their technique most certainly underestimates the overall number of microplastics discharged into the atmosphere."

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