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Microfiber Pollution Caused by Domestic Laundering of Synthetic Garments

SafeGuardSApril 12, 2017

Microplastics are small plastic particles in the environment that are generally smaller than 5 mm in size and possibly microscopic. They are of particular concern due to their potential toxicity to the animals that ingest them. Human-health concerns are being raised, since many of the marine animals affected enter our food chain. After entry into the ocean, microplastics can become globally distributed and have been found on beaches, in surface waters, seabed sediments and in a wide variety of invertebrates, fish, birds and mammals.

Microfiber – Microplastic from textile products

Recently, the release of microplastic-sized fibres (also known as microfibers) as a result of domestic laundering of synthetic apparel has been widely reported as a significant potential source of microplastics.  They are a pollution problem because they can be mistaken for food by marine life. They can interrupt normal feeding and digestion processes and leach chemicals such as dyes and chemicals. 

In addition, microfibres can act as a “vector” to adsorb persistent organic pollutants and endocrine disruptors from the external environment on their surfaces. For these reasons, microfibers can contain potentially harmful ingredients that go into the bodies of marine organisms and could be transferred to people who consume the fish.

To date, there is no international law regulating microfibre release from textile products. However, microfiber pollution is raising international concern about the volumes of synthetic garments that are made by many retailers and brands.

To cope with the emerging environmental concerns about microfibers, SGS has developed a new testing service to assess the amount of microfiber released from each end-product during domestic laundering. This analysis can be used to pinpoint and compare the fiber-releasing properties of garments. Also it can be used for assessing and comparing the processing parameters that may affect the amount of microfiber released. For example, the degree of fibre raising and fabric brushing in fleece garments. Brands and retailers can use this information to adjust processing parameters to minimize the quantity of microfiber released during consumer laundering.

SGS Global Softlines has an extensive network of over 40 laboratories worldwide, with a strong team of committed professionals from multi-disciplinary backgrounds. Our internationally accredited state-of-the-art testing laboratories offer a comprehensive range of physical, chemical and functional testing services for components, materials and finished products. We help your company ensure quality, performance and compliance with international, industrial and regulatory standards worldwide. Discover more at

For enquiries, please contact:

Louann Spirito
Director Technical Support, Softlines
t: +1 973 461 7919

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© SGS Group Management SA - 2017 - All rights reserved - SGS is a registered trademark of SGS Group Management SA. This is a publication of SGS, except for 3rd parties’ contents submitted or licensed for use by SGS. SGS neither endorses nor disapproves said 3rd parties contents. This publication is intended to provide technical information and shall not be considered an exhaustive treatment of any subject treated. It is strictly educational and does not replace any legal requirements or applicable regulations. It is not intended to constitute consulting or professional advice. The information contained herein is provided “as is” and SGS does not warrant that it will be error-free or will meet any particular criteria of performance or quality. Do not quote or refer any information herein without SGS’s prior written consent.

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