Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 24, Issue 23, pp 19313–19321 | Cite as

Release of polyester and cotton fibers from textiles in machine washings

  • Markus SillanpääEmail author
  • Pirjo Sainio
Research Article


Microplastics are widely spread in the environment, which along with still increasing production have aroused concern of their impacts on environmental health. The objective of this study is to quantify the number and mass of two most common textile fibers discharged from sequential machine washings to sewers. The number and mass of microfibers released from polyester and cotton textiles in the first wash varied in the range 2.1 × 105 to 1.3 × 107 and 0.12 to 0.33% w/w, respectively. Amounts of released microfibers showed a decreasing trend in sequential washes. The annual emission of polyester and cotton microfibers from household washing machines was estimated to be 154,000 (1.0 × 1014) and 411,000 kg (4.9 × 1014) in Finland (population 5.5 × 106). Due to the high emission values and sorption capacities, the polyester and cotton microfibers may play an important role in the transport and fate of chemical pollutants in the aquatic environment.


Microplastic Polyester Cotton Washing machine Household Emission 



Ms. Minna Sepponen (Finnish Environment Institute) is acknowledged for her technical help during the experiments and Mr. Timo Vänni for the photographs (Figs. 1 and 5). Lic.Sc. Kristiina Aalto (University of Helsinki) is thanked for the advices and input data in the estimate of annual fiber emission. This work was supported by Maa- ja vesitekniikan tuki ry.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory CentreFinnish Environment InstituteHelsinkiFinland

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