Does the Cora Ball capture plastic microfibres?

Cora Ball microfibre

A couple of years ago, a Kickstarter project caught my attention. It was shared on social media by someone I know who works for a leading organisation studying marine plastic pollution. I helped crowdfund the project and have been using the Cora Ball for about seven months in my front loading washing machine.

Microfibre pollution happens when agitation in the wash loosens very small fibres from clothing. Out they travel with the waste water into sewer systems and then waterways. If you guessed that there is no filter as small as a plastic microbead or filament, you’d be right. Microplastics are contaminating waterways, and to someone who enjoys eating shellfish and not destroying our special places, it’s sobering news.

Plastic microbeads from personal care products are arguably simpler to tackle. You can use microbead-free alternatives, petition producers to get the microplastics out of their formulations, and support legislative bans. But fibres from textiles are tricky. We can’t simply stop washing our clothes.

So what are we to do in the face of this disaster? The Guppy Friend, a sack to wash clothes in, has emerged as one potential solution. The Cora Ball is another. It’s a ball designed to go into the washing machine with clothing, where the arms are mean to capture plastic fuzz. The design is inspired by the filtering system of coral reefs. The inventor has even participated in studies of microfibre discharge into waterways in the US. The Kickstarter campaign was overwhelmingly successful.

The Coraball’s simplicity of use appealed to me. Toss it into the washing machine and then extract the plastic fluff that collects between the arms. It sounded simpler than stuffing and unstuffing the Guppy Friend. I also figured that once I realise my dream of dog ownership, it’d collect dog hair too. Heck, it would be great if it collected my hair, which mostly balls up on my socks in the wash. In my excitement about this possible solution, I pre-ordered three balls as part of the Kickstarter campaign. One for me and two more for family members who’d expressed interest.

Does the Cora Ball work to capture microfibres? Here’s my experience.

I have been using the Cora Ball for approximately seven months and it doesn’t collect much from any wash, including loads of synthetic clothing. We don’t have any microfleece or loose pile synthetics. Most of our synthetics are bike and yoga garb made of lycra or similar. It doesn’t collect more than a few strands of my long hair, which I still sometimes find balled up on my socks after washing. I don’t have a dog yet either (sob), so I can’t comment on its ability to catch pet hair.

Cora Ball microfibre

In the entire time I have used the Cora Ball, I’ve cleaned out fuzz twice. One load produced a noticeable amount of white fluff. I couldn’t figure out what garment was responsible. I was reassuring in a way to know that it could work. The fluff took a few minutes to remove with tweezers.

Cora Ball microfibre

Just before writing this, I removed this second pile of fluff. This is the accumulated amount of fibres since the earlier white fluff batch.

So in seven months, I’ve diverted two small fluff balls of microfibres from being discharged. Is this enough? What did I expect anyway?

Cora Ball microfibre

In truth, I’m having a hard time justifying the production of the ball (at least it’s made of recycled plastic) plus the shipping to get it from the USA, when I reconcile with how infrequently I’m removing fibres from the wash. The breakeven point is many years away, if ever, and it’s only spec’d to last five years. One of the circle end bits has already broken off.

I asked one of the people I’d given a ball to if they’ve had much success. He told me they’re not even using it. I don’t know what that tells me except that ease is relative.

Based on my own experience so far, I don’t recommend the Cora Ball as a solution for catching microfibres. I on the fence about the net benefit, and whether this is the best available solution. It captures some fuzz, but of course, my testing has no control. What if the friction of the ball creates more microfibre release? I would appreciate if the data from tests carried out by the company were made public, as I find the responses on their website to be vague in response to concerns like these.

One ultra low tech idea I’ve had is to wrap a nut milk bag (made of tight nylon mesh) around the end of the washing machine discharge hose to capture fibres on their way out. A similar idea to those nets on the ends of storm sewers that capture plastic bottles before they get out into the ocean. If I get around to trying this, I’ll let you know if it works. In the meantime, I’ll keep using the Cora Ball, if only to contribute to the knowledge base around this device and to see how long it will really last.

I’m interested to hear from any of you who’ve used the Cora Ball with different results to mine. Maybe you’ve had a completely different outcome with a top loading machine, plenty of fleece wear or pets, all factors I’d expect to increase the fuzz accumulation. I’m also interested to hear from any of you who have tried the Guppy Friend. Let me know in the comments.

54 thoughts on “Does the Cora Ball capture plastic microfibres?

  1. I have a Guppy friend that I’ve been using for about 4 months but have yet to collect a ball of fibres out of it.
    I don’t have that much synthetic clothing and I do tend to hand wash my yoga gear as it’s the best way to prolong the garment life and prevent fibres from dislodging.
    My husband is a football coach and washes his synthetic uniform constantly but pretty much always forgets to use it ?

    1. That’s kind of reassuring to hear. Maybe the types of clothing we’re both washing just don’t shed much.

  2. A few things I’ve been learning: both the Guppy friend and the Cora Ball are made of plastic and shed microplastics. Defeats the purpose.

    You all might be surprised that not just obvious athletic clothing has synthetics.
    They are in:
    almost all underwear
    fleeces
    blouses
    socks
    tights
    jeans
    acrylic, polyester, spandex, lycra, nylon, etc.
    even wool sweaters have synthetics woven in so they fit nicely

  3. The whole point of collecting microfibres is that they are too small to see and to be filtered out by water treatment plants. The ball is supposed to gather these tiny fibres, but as they are too small to see with the naked eye how can you prove you are collecting them on the ball!! If they were cheaper and had clear science behind them to prove they work then I’d buy one.

    1. I suppose if enough fibres ball together they become the fluff that we see? But yeah….I tend to agree. Save your money!

      1. I have a special textiles magnifying glass which can see all threads in fabric including microfiber fabrics and I saw nothing on my Cora Ball. I had more of my and our Pete hair on our clothes than in the Ball. Needless to say the store I bought it from refunded me. To be honest this Ball doesn’t do what it says it will and we have pleantly of clothes that she’d as well as ones that don’t after being disappointed I started looking at reviews and to be honest I don’t think anyone has had much success with it.

        1. Even with your “magnifying glass”, the fibers you see may not be microplastics. A lot of people who comment on here seem to forget that microplastics are invisible to the naked eye. They’re not the tiny little fibers you see flying around when you shake your clothes. They’re much smaller than that. You would need to catch an incredible amount of microplastics to be able to see them. I don’t think any blogger out there could prove the efficiency of the Cora Ball – sorry, I have nothing against the author of the article (I support bloggers and their work) but there are times when scientists are needed. The efficiency of the Cora Ball can only be proven by conducting scientific studies, not by posting a picture of a fuzzball. I think this article is misleading. The CoraBall has been tested by an independent organisation, and it was concluded that it catches up to 30% of microfibers per wash. Not much, but better than nothing. At the moment that’s the only proof we’ve got. People who don’t trust the Cora Ball should invest in a microfibers-catching filter for their washing machine (not a nut-milk bag), or in a Guppybag, should wash synthetic clothes less often, and buy clothes made from natural fabrics from now on, if possible. See this article for the study on the Cora Ball https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffkart/2019/02/01/science-says-laundry-balls-and-filters-are-effective-in-removing-microfibers/

          1. Hi Charlotte,

            Thanks for your comment.The CoraBall website has changed since I bought mine and there used to be a picture of the fluff that was depicted as accumulated micro plastics, so it’s not so strange for me to measure by the same yardstick. ‘Microplastics’ generally refer to anything under 5mm diameter, so they can be the larger fluff/nurdles, or the nano stuff (the ‘invisible’ fibres you mention).

            Here is copy pasted from the Coraball FAQ:

            Can I see the fibers it collects?

            On the days you wash your heavier items, like fleece, sweatshirts, etc., you are likely to see the fibers stuck in the Cora Ball. Sometimes, after everyday clothing loads, you may not see much. It may be there accumulating and tangling up with hair and larger fibers, it’s just too small to see and you will be able to remove it when the tangles do get big enough to grab.

            How does it catch tiny fibers?

            The fibers tend to tangle together into fuzz balls that you can see and pick out of the Cora Ball. When we look at a microscope image from a pinch of what a Cora Ball collected from a 3-load test, we can see different colors and sizes all bunched together.

            So Charlotte, I’d love for this solution to work, but it fails for me on usability – no one else I gave it to actually used it. When I used mine, it collected fibres – lots of large natural fibres actually, plus the fuzz you see. It’s just a review. I’m not saying it didn’t work full stop, but that I did not see a net benefit to using the CoraBall given the expected product lifespan and shipping distance involved.

            Cheers,
            Liz

  4. I have been using one for a month and am sending it back. We have 2 cats and I wear a lot of fleeces as they are comfy and warm and lightweight but I feel so guilty about polluting the oceans. So far not one single fibre has been captured by the Cora Ball so I am sending it back.

    1. Hi Jeannette,

      Shame it hasn’t worked for you under conditions I’d have assumed would collect a fair bit. I think it’s a great idea to help the makers of the product understand that it’s not working.

      Liz

  5. i have in stalled a filtrol filter outside my washer. it collects A LOT. but you have to clean out the filter often while dry or it just starts to hold water.

  6. I CANNOT RECOMMEND CORA BALLS and WISH I HAD WAITED FOR REVIEWS BEFORE BUYING. But somebody has to be first. We’ve had our Cora Ball for 5 months now and in the entire time I have collected 1 hair and a quarter inch piece of tape. Maybe it’s meant for people who are buying new clothes continually and if so then that is as big an issue for the planet. We’re a family that do not buy very many new clothes and when we buy we are more likely to purchase at second hand/charity shops.

    1. I suppose our willingness to try these solutions is a sign of how much we wish we weren’t inadvertently pollution the ocean.Thanks for sharing your experience, which will help others.

  7. I have used a Cora Ball in 2 or three loads of mixed fiber wash for three months and have yet to capture anything other than one large piece of thread. My daughter’s experience has been similar with hers. She has long hair and a very sheddy cat, so I know that there are many macrofibers in her wash, and yet she has found nothing caught in her Cora Ball. This has been a very disappointing experience. One doesn’t simple invest money in such a product but hope as well.

  8. I’ve been using a Cora Ball for almost a year now and nothing. I keep trying it expecting a different result. (Isn’t that the definition of insanity?) I’m disappointed as I, too, was hoping this was a great solution for the micorifber issue, but no luck. I’ve just stopped using it and will not recommend it to anyone.

  9. I was quite excited about the Coraball when I read about it. I even wanted to buy one.
    But then I saw the reviews and I’m glad I hadn’t bought one yet.
    I have a normal amount of synthetic clothes.(underwear, blouses, blazers)
    If the washing process is anything like the dryer the washing has to produce an equal amount of fibre like the dryer. If this is the case then I imagine the amount of lint from the dryer flushing down the drain of the washing machine!
    Is they hypothesis is correct then the Cora ball is sadly just plastic waste. The fibres in the lint are too small to be separated or seen as single fibres(like they describes microfibres) so the ball should have collected a whole portion of lint itself, which it doesn’t.
    Washing machines should have filters, just like the dryers that are cleaned regularly.

    1. For what it’s worth, I have heard that modern machines are a bit kinder on clothes and won’t cause as much shedding. If that’s really the case and by what margin, I don’t know.

  10. Okay, having read the comments on this post I’m glad that I’m not the only one, while also feeling a little embarrassed about also having spent my money on a Cora Ball. I found your blog post by Googling “Cora ball not working” as I’ve been using mine for about a month and a half now and seen no results whatsoever. While I know the website said that the microfibre build-up won’t be visible right away, I would have thought that I’d see *something* by now if the ball was working, and after weeks of using the ball it’s caught nothing more than a bit of hair. Useful, I guess, but mine is long enough that it tends to collect together of its own accord, so really all I’m doing is trying to pick it out from within the twisty confines of the ball, instead of the bottom of the washing machine.

    For extra data points, ours is a front-loading washing machine, and my partner and I don’t have a lot of fleece clothing (or a pet who sheds hair), but I do own several woolen tops and jumpers made out of synthetic material, so you’d think there’d be some fibres. Honestly, after reading all these comments I’m forced to conclude that it’s an expensive scam, and I’m sorry I bought into it.

    1. Thanks Rebecca. Imagine my embarrassment for buying three! Your review will likely help others, so it’s not a total waste in that sense.

  11. I just bought a Cora ball and I told my friends who are interested to wait to see how it works for me. So far I’ve captured one cat hair. I even used with a batch of new clothes that would likely shed a ton with their first wash and nothing was in the Cora ball. Right now I have a load of white cleaning rags in the wash with it. I’m glad I’m not the only one who isn’t catching anything. I wish there was something else we could do for microfiber pollution. It seemed so promising. I rent so I can’t go out and buy a new washing machine.

    1. It does make me think we need better studies on fibre shedding behaviours of different types of clothing. I wonder if most clothes aren’t shedding much of anything, but some clothes shed huge amounts, and we’re best knowing which are which and avoiding or laundering them separately.

  12. I have used the coraball for 3 months with no lint or fibers collected.. There was nothing for me to extract from the coraball or collect.

    I thought I would return it and get a refund as I was not happy with the product. Well, forget that. They will have no part in returning their product after a trial period. I didn’t have the wrappings anymore because I was excited about it and didn’t anticipate returning it. I was planning on telling all my friends. To me that means they don’t back their product. Is this a scam I ask myself? I don’t know but I don’t recommend buying a coraball or doing business with these people.

    1. mine catches tons of cat hair. some fibers as well, but mostly cat hair. i also have the guppie bag & it catches lint & cat hair also. i’m interested in the washer lint filter they mentioned.

  13. Over the months, the times I have used it I haven’t noticed any collection of anything…. except one time when it collected a 4 inch thread. I often forget to put it in the wash because I have little faith in it! Cora Ball told me to keep on using it, that it takes time to build up to a noticeable level. I think it’s a flawed product and a waste of money. I would not recommend it. I’m just glad I didn’t get more than one!

  14. I’d like to add my disappointing experience. Pretty much the same story. Every wash I collect tons of hair and other fibers everywhere but in the ball. Unfortunately I got too excited and bought one for my mum and even one for my sister for christmass before I tried it myself. So I wasted 100eur (here in the Netherlands) and probably quite some resources on production and shipping of this completely useless product. Wish I didn’t get tricked by manipulated numbers. As the last article in Forbes states that in scientific study it was proven that it collects up to 26% of fluff… Well if you read in between the lines you find out that that is only while washing heavy shedding fleece blankets. And even this doesn’t come close to 35% of fluff claimed on the website. What a shame. :/

    1. You raise another good point, which is the unintended consequences of alarmist headlines. Like the ones about how many fibres are released in a wash. Clearly not all washes are equal! It’s no wonder we all panicked and jumped at the first available ‘solution’.

  15. I’ve had a different (and good) experience with my Coro Ball. I’ve had it about 8 months. I’ve used it once every 2 weeks I’d say, in that time period. There is definitely a build up of very very fine – tiny – fibers at the very core now. I think some ppl are not realizing micro means invisible. Also, it depends on HOW you wash your clothes as well as the way your washer is oriented. Check this out: https://coraball.com/pages/getting-started

    Also, microfibers ARE in almost every fabric now. Socks, bras, anything stretchy like underwear.

  16. I purchased a Cora Ball last year and used it for about two months. It captured zero visible fibers and I use a lot of synthetic clothes.

    On the other hand, I now own four Guppy Friend bags and they are very effective at capturing micro-fibers. It might take more than one wash to notice them but you will certainly notice them.

    It is my opinion that the Cora Ball is a scam and it is frustrating because it is taking advantage of people’s willingness to tackle micro-plastics contamination. I guess I should have done my research before giving them money.

  17. I have looked at three products to stop microplastic from entering the ocean. Sadly there are only 3 and I also think the ball is a bit of a gimmick and doesn’t really work. Why would the fibers even stay in this plastic ball, that gets tossed around over and over? A reef looks a bit different to me.
    I am using the guppyfriend and it has been building up fiber in the corner of the bag. However, it often puts our machine out of balance and I have to push it back into the basement 🙂

    In regards to the material, I was a little skeptic at first and so I contacted guppyfriend and they are using a recyclable long chain polymer that doesn’t shed any fibers. Plus you can send it back to them and they recycle it into a new one, cool right?

    The third item I found is called the Lint UVR which is a filter on the outside of your machine. Looks like you can just go to Bunnings and make your own. But I think it is probably the best method. The next problem we then run into is what to do with your collected microfibers? You can’t put them in the bin. Perhaps stuff a Teddy, might be a long term project but hey why not.

  18. Not sure if this has been said yet, but after reading this I found a few other things to consider:
    This is a research paper about catching Microfibers— https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X18308634?via%3Dihub

    And this is a Condensed over view from Forbes— https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/jeffkart/2019/02/01/science-says-laundry-balls-and-filters-are-effective-in-removing-microfibers/amp/

    Also found that to clean the cora ball you can pull out the little blue tab at either of the ends and then pull the rings off to make cleaning easier.

  19. I wish I had seen this a few days ago, before I ordered one late at night! It may be more useful for me. I have three sheddy dogs, and I am amazed at how much fur rises to the surface in my top-loading machine! However, I assume dog fur is biodegradable, so if this gadget does pick it up better than I do by scooping it up off the surface, it probably won’t be helping the environment much.

  20. I also bought 3 Cora balls and am now paying to ship two back. I’m upset that the company does not allow returns of a Cora ball that’s been used. 8 washes and nothing visible in the Cora Ball thus far.

  21. I have washed a synthetic fleece blanket with the cora ball in place. I did not collect any fluff or indeed anything in the ball. I have used it on 60 deg wash, 40 deg wash, and just rinse. No fibres collected. What a waste of money, and as it is plastic itself, I have added more plastic pollution to the planet!

    1. Hi Margaret, I”m pretty sure the Cora Ball is made of recycled plastic, so don’t beat yourself up for trying to do the right thing.

  22. OPINION
    As far as I can tell, based on some extensive internet research, the best tools for removing/catching microplastics from the wash (only taking into account convenience and environmental efficiency) are as follows:

    #1 – Combination of a FITROL or a LINT LUV-R installed catchment system and a Cora Ball; Estimated cost – $180 – $220
    #2 – Only a FITROL or a LINT LUV-R installed catchment system; Estimated cost $150 – $200
    #3 – A Guppy Bag; – Approx. cost $30
    #4 – Only a Cora Ball – Approx. cost $40

    These are assuming that the Cora Ball can be recycled at the end of its life. If it cannot (which I believe is the case at this point) then I would suggest not purchasing one at all.

    Much like climate change this issue requires multiple solutions. More important than any of the above…STOP purchasing clothing containing synthetic fibers. As impossible as that sounds…it can be done. Just do some research.

  23. Seems a bit expensive , although I haven’t researched it yet. Cora ball is useless at catching any fibres, even very big ones!
    Margaret

  24. I use guppy friend with microfibre washing cloths and majorly synthetic clothing. Every couple of washes I pick out / brush off the accumulated fibres – they’re very small, it looks kind of like sand or dirt. I’ve looked at it magnified and much of it is indeed plastic fibre.

  25. I have been looking for reviews after I have been using the Coraball for 4 months without any noticeable collection of any type of fuzz. I have a least one load of synthetic sports clothing every week and a load of fleece type sweaters during the winter. The Coraball has not collected anything but a few threads and a couple of hairs. We also have a cat and there was no cat hair collected either. To my experience, the Coraball does not work at all, is completely overpriced and sadly, people who are creating this and similar gadgets are relying on us with eco-anxiety to spend their money on products like this to calm their conscience. I actually think the only thing that would work is a micro filter before the laundry water hits the drain. It would need to be cleared very often since it would catch everything. Got to do some research…

  26. Agreed..waste of $. Lesson learned..dont fall for the hype, do your research before spending $. Best thing to do for now is don’t wash your clothes so often.

  27. I have been using my Cora Ball since the successful fundraiser and it has collected nothing except an occasional loose thread. I have three cats and it doesn’t even trap my hair. . Most of my clothes are cotton or acrylic but even so. Very disappointed in it. It wasn’t particularly cheap either, as I recall.

  28. The reason that you cannot see anything captured by the Cora ball is that it is made from a very special and expensive type of Snake Oil which uses Cold Fusion to destroy the microfibres etc. When I am King, the people who sell Cora balls will be first against the wall!

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