Just Add Sunlight for Clean Clothes
Researchers have developed self-cleaning wool, where all that is needed to get rid of stains and dirt is sunlight. Instead of throwing your clothes in the washing machine, you'd just hang them up in the sun for a few hours.
Walid Daoud of Monash University in Melbourne led the research, which uses nanoparticles to achieve the self-cleaning effect. The scientists altered the surface of the wool fibers so that they could attach to a thin film of titanium dioxide nanoparticles.
When exposed to light, titanium dioxide nanoparticles naturally clean themselves. This is because light triggers an oxidation reaction that decomposes dirt and bacteria, but leaves wool and skin unharmed.
Because the nanoparticles are so tiny, they don't change the color of the wool. The researchers explained that different types of stains take different amounts of time to go away. Coffee stains disappear after two hours, ink stains after 17 hours, and red wine - which is very difficult to get rid of - after 20 hours.
Although currently the method requires sunlight (natural or simulated), the researchers hope to make it work with normal indoor lighting, as well. They have already developed a similar self-cleaning method for cotton fabrics, and hope to apply these methods to silk and other textiles in the future.
The scientists explain that one of the advantages of self-cleaning clothes is to prevent garments from harboring tiny disease-causing microorganisms.