Rebecca Thomson reports that the University of Toronto’s DREAM laboratory has been enjoying success applying polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) to garments to prevent the shedding of microplastics. Dr. Sudhip Lahiri, a textile engineer by trade and a postdoctoral researcher at the DREAM Laboratory, developed a molecular primer based on his knowledge of fabric dyes. It works by creating a low-friction fabric that reduces how many microfibers are shed.

Apparently it all started with the goal of developing a non-toxic alternative to the toxic waterproof coatings found on 75 percent of water-resistant clothing in a 2022 study. But, like so may other inventions, one thing led to another. The next step in the teams’ microplastic work is to create an application process suitable for industrial use.

So why is all of this important? Because, as Thomson reminds us, “Microplastics are a particularly big problem for the fast fashion companies, which produce a high number of items made of synthetic nylon, polyester, acrylic or rayon. These materials constitute about 60 percent of all new garments made today, according to the UN, and every time they are washed, the friction caused by washing machines causes tiny tears in the fabric and small fibers break away.” And we know by now, these microplastic fibers along with all the other microplastics end up in our waterways and oceans. From there they move along the food chain and eventually show up in our food and drinking water.

If this coating process is scaled up to industrial proportions, it may affect textile screen printers depending upon whether or not it can take a print. Just another development to watch.