Patagonia is making a smarter washing machine for your stinky hiking gear

Man putting detergent in drum of front-loading washing machine
(Image credit: Getty)

Patagonia and Samsung are collaborating on a new washing machine that will help trap microplastics, stopping them entering waterways.

As FashionUnited reports, the two companies are working to make a new type of filter that will catch up to 54% of microplastics. Washing machines fitted with this technology are expected to be available by the end of 2023.

Microplastics are tiny bits of plastic measuring less than 5mm across, created when plastic objects break down. They have been found everywhere on Earth, in rainwater, ocean trenches, polar ice, the air you breathe, and even human blood.

The problem with microplastics

As a recent feature in the journal Nature explains, we don't yet know exactly how dangerous they are, but Tamara Galloway, an ecotoxicologist at the University of Exeter, UK, says: “I think it is fair to say the potential risk might be high."

Synthetic materials (such as those used to make Patagonia's signature fleece jackets) are a major source of microplastics, and  machine washing exacerbates the problem. The vigorous motion and friction causes tiny bits of the thin plastic fibers to break off.

These microplastics are then carried to water treatment works, where they can't be completely removed. As a 2021 paper published in the journal Environmental Challenges explains, the percentage of microplastics removed varies hugely depending on the filtration technologies used at the plant.

If you want to reduce the amount of microplastics coming out of your washing machine, the simplest solution is to wash your things less often. When things are just too muddy and stinky, a filter like the GuppyFriend bag can trap some of the particles released by your favorite fleece and base layer.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.