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Skip the Wash Cycle -- These Clothes Are Cleaned by Sunlight!

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Some people still pin up cotton garments on the line to dry in the sun after washing. But what if you could skip the washing machine step and go straight to the line?

Researchers at Hubei University for Nationalities in Hubei, China, have developed a cotton fabric that gets cleaned and deodorized with just sunlight -- even stains and bacteria are ousted.

According to the release appearing in the American Chemical Society's Applied Materials & Interfaces, Mingce Long and Deyong Wu say their fabric uses a coating made from a compound of titanium dioxide. ACS reports that titanium dioxide is the white material used things like white paint and sunscreen. The compound is known to break down dirt and kills microbes when exposed to certain types of light, and has already found been used things like self-cleaning windows, kitchen and bathroom tiles and odor-free socks, according to ACS.

Popular Science reports that other research has shown titanium dioxide to clean fabrics, but it required exposure to ultraviolet light. Long and Wu's material uses ordinary sunlight. Here's how they modified it to work:

[...] they doped some TiO2 with nitrogen, which had been previously shown to work as a light-activated catalyst in visible light. They developed a new method to put this nanoparticle solution in liquid form, dunked cotton in it for one minute, then pressed the cotton, dried it and re-rinsed it. Then they added some silver iodide nanoparticles, which were intended to improve the fabric’s overall light sensitivity. The researchers stained the fabric with orange dye, and then exposed it to sunlight. The cotton broke down the orange, and also sterilized bacteria.

But what happens if you want to wash these fabrics the usual way with a washer and dryer? Long and Wu's fabric reportedly will still be fine and the compounds allowing sunlight to clean them will not break down.

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