This will seem counterintuitive...the delicate wash cycle on your washing machine will release 'hundreds of thousands more plastic microfibers into the environment than standard wash cycles' according to researchers at Newcastle University. The study concluded that the volume of water used during the cycle, not the force from the washing machine itself, is the key factor in releasing micro-plastics from clothing. Roughly 800,000 more fibers are released with delicate cycles vs their standard counterparts.
“Previous research has suggested the speed the drum spins at, the number of times it changes spinning direction during a cycle and the length of pauses in the cycle – all known as the machine agitation – is the most important factor in the amount of microfibre released. But we have shown here that even at reduced levels of agitation, microfiber release is still greatest with higher water-volume-to-fabric ratios. This is because the high volume of water used in a delicate cycle which is supposed to protect sensitive clothing from damage actually ‘plucks’ away more fibers from the material." explained Environmental Science and Technology, PhD student Max Kelly, who led the research.
It may come as a surprise, but laundry is one of the main contributors to ocean micro-plastic pollution. Avoiding the delicate cycle is a small, but impactful act that assist us in our fight against plastic pollution.