Cleaner clothes

Today, wool skirts and silk ties cost a lot to dry clean. But in the future, they may be able to clean themselves according to Australian researchers.

Wool and silk, which are composed of natural proteins called keratins, are among the most widely used fabrics in the clothing industry. However, they are difficult fabrics to keep clean and are easily damaged by conventional cleaning agents.

But in the future they may be able to clean themselves, according to Australian researcher Dr Walid Daoud of Monash University in Australia.

In recent research, Dr Daoud prepared a wool fabric with a nanoparticle coating composed of anatase titanium dioxide, a substance that is known to destroy stains, dirt, and harmful microorganisms upon exposure to sunlight.

He then stained the fabric sample with red wine. After 20 hours of exposure to simulated sunlight, the coated fabric showed almost no signs of the red stain, whereas an untreated fabric remained deeply stained.

The coating, which is non-toxic, can be permanently bonded to the fibre and does not alter its texture and feel.

In a recent laboratory study, wool treated with a new nanoparticle coating (bottom row) removed red wine stains more effectively than plain wool (top row) and wool coated with another stain-fighting chemical (middle row). Credit: Courtesy of the American Chemical Society

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