Firstly, what’s a Guppyfriend bag?

In a nutshell, the Guppyfriend is a laundry bag quite like no other. The brainchild of German entrepreneurs Alexander Nolte and Oliver Spies, the Guppyfriend was created as a solution to a disturbing problem: every time we wash clothing made from synthetic fibres (like polyester), trillions of tiny plastic microfibres are released into the washing machine’s wastewater, which subsequently travels through sewage systems to contaminate wildlife and marine habitats in the world’s rivers and oceans. To counteract this, Nolte and Spies came up with the idea of washing synthetic clothing inside a self-cleaning mesh bag. The bag filters out any broken microfibres so that, instead of being washed away with the laundry wastewater, they can be removed and safely disposed of in the household trash. Independent testing shows that the bag retains at least 90 percent of fibres.

So far, so good. The Guppyfriend is on sale in the UK for £25, which, considering the bag is meant to last for far longer than 50 washes, seems like a reasonable price to pay. But does it really work? Does it actually make a difference to the number of fibres released? And just how should you use the Guppyfriend bag? Does it make laundry day even more laborious than it already is? To find out, I put the Guppyfriend to the test.

The Guppyfriend test

The first time I used the Guppyfriend, I adopted my usual carefree attitude to laundry and haphazardly stuffed whatever dirty clothes I could find into the bag, before throwing it into the washing machine. I was quite excited to see the results, fully expecting the bag to be full of nasty microfibres that I could safely throw away. Instead, the clothes inside the bag were soaking wet (despite having gone through a spin cycle) and there were no fibres to be seen. Clearly, I had done something wrong. Sheepishly googling the instructions, I found out through the company’s rather helpful video just how I should be using the bag. It turns out, I should have:

– Put only clothes made from synthetic fabrics (like polyester, acrylic and nylon) into the bag. Clothes made from natural materials like cotton and wool can be placed in the machine as normal, along with the bag – this is particularly important, as otherwise the load will be unbalanced, meaning that the machine may slow down or halt the spin cycle.

– In addition, filling the bag is a no-no; the bag should only be half full, to give the clothes space to move around.

Second time around, I was prepared. I carefully sorted through my clothes, checking the labels to separate natural from synthetic fabrics. I made sure to only fill the bag halfway, and added other clothing to the machine. The result? Beautifully clean clothes that came out damp as they should be, rather than soaking wet. Success!

However, when I inspected the bag for collected fibres, I was disappointed: I couldn’t really see any. Had it all been for nothing? No, say Guppyfriend’s inventors: because the microfibres are so tiny, they’re pretty much invisible to the naked eye, especially at the beginning. In addition, the bag itself reduces fibre loss (by up to 86 percent for clothes made entirely from synthetic fabrics). The more you use the Guppyfriend though, the more fibres you will see: after two to three washes, I began to see small clusters of microfibres gathered in the corners of the bag (which were rather satisfying to remove and throw into the bin).

Only fill the bag half way (and don’t worry about the wrinkles!)

Other useful tips I came across were:

– Never rinse the bag (as this, of course, defeats its purpose)

– Don’t leave it in direct sunlight

– Don’t iron the bag (as soon as it’s used, the bag will become crumpled, which is fine)

The verdict

Would I recommend the Guppyfriend bag? In a word, yes. It’s an inexpensive way of helping to reduce harmful microfibre waste, and, once you know how to use it correctly, it becomes second nature – rather like recycling. I quickly learnt what materials my clothes were made from (which meant, after a few times using the bag, I no longer needed to check the labels). This also felt quite enlightening: it made me more conscious of just how much clothing is made from synthetic fabrics, and made me want to opt for natural, less harmful materials instead. I’ve become more aware of the impact that an everyday task like doing my laundry has, and I’ve started to take other measures to reduce that impact – like turning the machine’s temperature down, air-drying my clothes and choosing eco-friendly laundry detergents.

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