It was previously believed that the faster the water moved inside a washing machine, the more microplastics would be released from certain types of fabric. By that logic, regular cycles would be most harmful.
The new research shows that it’s actually water volume, not speed, that determines how many fibers are pulled from your clothing, explains study author Max Kelly, a Ph.D. student in the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences at Newcastle University in England. Delicate cycles use the most H2O, making them worse for the environment in more ways than one.
The bottom line:
It’s okay to wash naturally derived fabrics like wool and silk on delicate since they’re biodegradable, Kelly says. Items made with synthetic materials, such as nylon and polyester, should always go in a regular load.