Quantifying shedding of microplastic fibers from textile washing





Microplastics, Domestic Washing, Water Resources


Fiber fragments from synthetic textile materials are a subgroup of microplastics, and the presence of this debris in the environment may have its origin from some different sources. In order to investigate the formation of these residues during domestic washing, washings were simulated on samples of textile articles consisting of three different synthetic materials (polyamide, acrylic, and polyester). The effluent generated was collected and filtered, retaining the microplastic fibers shed. Through a gravimetric process, the mass of particles adhered to the filters was determined, and with the use of a fluorescent dye (Nile Red), these particles were quantified under a fluorescence microscope. This study concluded that the different textile compositions shed microplastic fibers during five washing cycles. Acrylic samples shed the highest mass value (40.9 mg) and polyamide samples shed the lowest value (7.5 mg). It has been estimated that an acrylic blouse can shed 726 mg of microplastic fibers in a single washing. Regarding the size of these particles, dimensions ranging from 11µm to 3mm were observed. Visualization in a 1.2μm filter also suggests the existence of particles in nano-dimensions. In general, it was possible to establish that the domestic washing of textile articles highly contributes to the insertion of these pollutants into the water environment. From a national perspective, approximately 13,800 tons of synthetic fibers can be released into water resources annually from washing clothes.


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Author Biographies

Hudini Chiaramont Maciel, Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos, São Leopoldo, RS

Graduate in Environmental Engineering.

Marcelo Oliveira Caetano, Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos, São Leopoldo, RS

PhD in Mineral, Environmental and Extractive Metallurgy Technology.

Uwe Horst Schulz, Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos, São Leopoldo, RS

Professor, PhD in Biological Sciences

Amanda Gonçalves Kieling, Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos, São Leopoldo, RS

Graduated in Food Engineering from the Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos. Master's in Civil Engineering - Area of ​​Concentration: Waste Management from the Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos. PhD in Engineering - Area of ​​Concentration: Mineral, Environmental and Extractive Metallurgy Technology from the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul.


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2022-04-04 — Updated on 2022-04-12


How to Cite

Maciel, H. C., Caetano, M. O., Schulz, U. H., & Kieling, A. G. (2022). Quantifying shedding of microplastic fibers from textile washing . Ciência E Natura, 44, e4. https://doi.org/10.5902/2179460X68810 (Original work published April 4, 2022)