Washing Machine Lint: A Major Contributor to Ocean Pollution

Washing machine lint is a significant contributor to ocean pollution. Every time we do laundry, small fibers from our clothes, also known as microfibers, are shed and flushed down the drain with the wastewater. These microfibers, which are often made of synthetic materials like polyester and nylon, are so tiny that they pass through wastewater treatment plants and end up in our oceans and they are non-biodegradable. Once in the ocean, these microfibers are ingested by marine life and can accumulate in the food chain, potentially harming the health of aquatic organisms and even humans who consume them.

Few Facts:

Synthetic materials used in clothes such as polyester, acrylic, and nylon represent approximately 60% of clothing materials worldwide.

An average household load of laundry can shed thousands to millions of microfibers in a single wash

Laundry effluent microfibers accounted for 35% of all microplastic contamination in the oceans

Plastic microfibers were found in 83% of samples taken from 159 tap water samples from cities in more than a dozen nations on five continents.


Use a lint filter: Using a lint filter can help to trap microfibers during the washing cycle. These filters can be easily installed on the washing machine and can be cleaned regularly to prevent buildup. Lint traps in standard washing machines are simply not designed to handle microfibers, and many washing machines don’t have filters that can remove microfibers.

Choose natural fiber clothing: Synthetic fibers are a significant contributor to washing machine lint. Choosing natural fiber clothing like cotton or wool can significantly reduce the number of microfibers shed during washing.

Use cold water: Using cold water for washing can help to minimize the shedding of microfibers from clothing. Hot water can cause fibers to break down, increasing the amount of lint released during washing.

Wash Load: Larger wash loads led to a decrease in the release of microfibres, due to a lower ratio of water to fabric.

Avoid Top-load machines: Top-load washing machines consume 2-3x more water compared to the front load.

Food alternatives :

Table salts (processed and unprocessed) are prone to microplastic contamination. 90 percent of sea salt contains Microplastics.


Salt: Replace sea salt with Himalayan pink salt or rock salt or Celtic salt. (Within a few weeks of using such mineral salts, you can see a significant reduction in blood pressure)

Aqua food: Prefer to consume aqua food cultured in freshwater systems. (make sure that they have not used too many antibiotics)

Startup opportunity :

An external lint filter connected to the drain pipe can trap up to 90% of microfibers.

Looks like this is an untapped market in India. Any aspiring sociopreneur can consider venturing into this. It is estimated that 20% of households in India possess a washing machine. Apart from the product sales, a perpetual recurring revenue can be generated for collecting the lint and repurposing it (recycling it).

Policy requirement :
France plans to require filters on washing machines by 2025 and the EU, UK, Australia, and California are considering a similar requirement. I am not sure if our authorities are considering any such policies. I hope an NGO or an activist working in this space considers filing a PIL


Wow - 35% textiles and 28% tyres! What we do on land tells on the 70% we don’t directly inhabit as well. TFS this.

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Nice points. But how to dispose the Lint in this case? It’s going to end up either in Landfills or oceans.

Fast fashion, “athleisure” etc.

We do not have external lint filters in India yet. In the future, hopefully the same service providers could collect the soiled lint cartridges and ‘recycle’ them.

For the time being, discard the lint along with your plastic waste so that it goes through incineration/pyrolysis

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The new “Less Microfiber” cycle, which anyone with a Samsung washer can download as an update for their machine, can reduce microfiber pollution by as much as 54%.


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