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Self-Cleaning Clothes May Make the Washing Machine Extinct

Imagine never having to do laundry again. No more washers, detergent or dryers. Thanks to advances in research using nanotechnology, this may soon become a reality. Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia have developed a new, efficient and inexpensive method to grow nanostructures, which can degrade organic matter on textiles when exposed directly to light. You may one day be wearing clothing that can spontaneously clean itself while exposed to light bulbs or the sun!

Imagine, clothes that can clean themselves in sunlight.

Imagine, clothes that can clean themselves in sunlight.

Dr. Rajesh Ramanathan of RMIT says in the recent research study,

Basically, what we do is take a simple cotton textile, we have a few different methodologies to grow nanostructures directly on them, and then once these structures are formed we can just shine light on them. Because the nanostructure is metal-based (copper and silver) they absorb visible light. What that does is basically excite the metal nanoparticles which are present on the surface. And because of this energy, it’s able to degrade organic matter which is present on it so that’s how it’ll get rid of stains. So now what we are trying to do is use more consumer-related products, like wine stains and food stains, and try to degrade that and how quickly it can degrade, and how much material is actually required to degrade these kinds of stains.

Close-up of nanostructures grown on cotton textiles

Close-up of nanostructures grown on cotton textiles

The researchers took the novel approach of growing the nanostructures directly onto the textiles by dipping them into a few solutions, resulting in the development of stable nanostructures within 30 minutes. When exposed to light, it took less than six minutes for some of the nano-enhanced textiles to spontaneously clean themselves. The method is also non-toxic.

Before the researchers can announce the end of washing machines and the like, industry standards and regulations need to be established.

Ramanathan adds,

There’s more work to do before we can start throwing out our washing machines, but this advance lays a strong foundation for the future development of fully self-cleaning textiles.

The next step is to produce antibacterial textiles that could kill bacteria and superbugs.

When this technology hits the marketplace, it will give all of us an excuse to clean out our closets, purchase a new wardrobe and help the economy in the process.