Some people dry their laundry for heating or outside on a clothesline. People are increasingly using the tumble dryer to dry their clothes. Within a few minutes of drying, a huge amount of microfibers is released into the air. A new study published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters informed about it.

Using a dryer increases microplastic contamination

The study measured the fibers that escape from a household vented tumble dryer into the surrounding air.

“The results suggest that driers of this type are a potential source of air contamination by microfibers, releasing 433,128–561,810 microfibers during 15 min of use,” the study authors concluded.

The fibers can be from natural fabrics or synthetic fabrics such as polyester. When synthetic fibers are released into the air, they contaminate the environment as well as the oceans. Until now, it has been assumed that the fibers are only released during laundry. Wastewater travels to wastewater systems and eventually enters the ocean. How many microplastics get into the oceans? For example, scientists estimate that two full microplastic garbage trucks enter the European oceans each week.

However, new research has focused on drying clothes because not enough attention is paid to it. The microfibers travel through the vents and eventually enter the air. Conventional filters cannot hold all the fibers. The fibers can collect organic or inorganic compounds and thus transfer contaminants.

“Once we know the source, we can begin to control it using simple methods,” study lead author Professor Kenneth Leung, who directs the State Key Laboratory of Marine Pollution (SKLMP) and the department of chemistry at City University of Hong Kong, told The Guardian.

How dangerous is your tumble dryer?

SchiTech Daily explained how the researchers tested whether tumble dryers were a source of air pollution:

„The researchers separately dried clothing items made of polyester and those made of cotton in a tumble dryer that had a vent pipe to the outdoors. As the machine ran for 15 minutes, they collected and counted the airborne particles that exited the vent. The results showed that both types of clothing produced microfibers, which the team suggests comes from the friction of clothes rubbing together as they tumbled around.”

What are the research estimates? The average Canadian household dryer releases between 90 and 120 million microfibers into the air every year.

How to solve the problem?

There was a big difference between the release of cotton and polyester fibers. The amount of cotton does not matter so much because the fibers clump together and so many do not escape. Cotton microfibers pose no danger because they break down easily. However, polyester fibers are a problem. The more synthetic laundry was in the dryer, the more fibers came loose.

“To minimize the release of these microfibers into the air, an appropriate engineered filtration system should be developed and adopted as an effective control measure for individual household driers,” the study authors wrote.

If you do not want to burden the environment with microfibers, you can dry the laundry so that the material does not rub. You can dry clothes for heating, outdoors, on clothes racks, etc.


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