Indoor Microfiber Exhaust from Heat Pump Laundry Dryers

Asked October 8, 2017, 10:50 AM EDT

Yesterday I laundered half-a-dozen pairs of new, micromodal men's undergarments with the machines in my apartment. Following the garment care instructions printed inside the waistband of these boxer-briefs, again, made of modern materials (90% micromodal, 10% lycra), I ran a cold wash cycle (nevermind the lack of heat-disinfection) and a low-temperature tumble dry cycle with a heat-pump dryer.

Since the heat-pump dryer exhausts into the apartment after some filtration, I was concerned about a deluge of microfibers entering my living environment indiscriminately, but went ahead with the process. After all, I had just bought underwear whose sum cost could cover the cost of my dining out ten times, and I spent as much time researching the (abysmal) options for healthy textiles as could have earned me the same amount of money were I to be working. I certainly didn't want to send them back and start from scratch with so much more important matters at hand than underwear.

I thought that, even if the filters of the machine itself were not enough to stop catch exhausted microfibers, the very fine layer of lint from the last cycle would help to capture the majority of fibers through its increased density.

I started the dryer cycle and went for a run. It was late at night, so I did not bother to do more than remove and store the garments afterward, but this morning when I began to prepare my breakfast, I was horrified by what I found. The inky black top of my ceramic stove which I had thoroughly cleaned just the night before was now a visible field of littered fibers. What is so terrifying about it to me is that what I saw was plentiful, so I reckon that what I cannot see is far worse. I now actually don't feel safe breathing the air here, but it's where I live!

It seems the best I can do within reason is to run a damp rag / mop over everything I can to capture what is possible to capture and then avoid using the machine for drying in the future, but I'm afraid the actual best thing to do is to just never use the garments. Yet then I am still troubled because even the other two pairs of underwear which I purchased, labeled 95% organic cotton and strongly marketed as to insinuate they are only organic cotton, these two also contain 5% elastane (a synonym for lycra, I believe).

What to do? Learn more. I couldn't find any existing research on the exhaust of microfibers from heat-pump laundry dryers. I can't count the density of deposits per the naked eye, and I wouldn't know where to begin in conducting the research myself, so I would like to invite the fair people of MSU to enlighten me on the subject if possible or to engage with me in conducting research if there truly is no established data on this matter.

My thanks, and all the best,
Evan Driscoll

PS These new laundry machines have been used for 13 months by myself exclusively and without ever washing microfiber textiles until now, generally restricted to cotton or linen with the addition of blended, traditional (non-micro_ polyester socks every now and then.

PPS I would be happy to help in seeking funding for such research.

[edit: clarity]

PPPS It's difficult for me to find reliable information, but the fact that microfiber products are regularly sold for sanitation products with specifications at the 3-10 micrometer range, I have to imagine plenty of PM2.5 comes along for the ride.

Kalamazoo County Michigan

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