Pollution-Cleaning Clothing Created With Special Laundry Detergent

red laundry photo
CC BY 2.0. orphanjones

orphanjones/CC BY 2.0

Pollution-cleaning clothing apparently isn't too far off from being a reality. Simply by walking around in your own favorite jeans and t-shirt, you could help scrub the air of nitrogen oxides. The secret is in the detergent.

Researchers at the University of Sheffield are developing an additive for laundry detergents that contain particles of titanium dioxide, which react with the nitrogen oxides in the air to eliminate them.

According to the team that invented "CatClo", "The items of clothing only need to be washed in the additive once, as the nanoparticles of titanium dioxide grip onto fabrics very tightly. When the particles then come into contact with nitrogen oxides in the air, they react with these pollutants and oxidise them in the fabric. The nitrogen oxides treated in this way are completely odourless and colourless and pose no pollution hazard as they are removed harmlessly when the item of clothing is next washed, if they haven’t already been dissipated harmlessly in sweat. The additive itself is also completely harmless and the nanoparticles are unnoticeable from the wearer’s point of view. One person wearing clothes treated with CatClo would be able to remove around 5g of nitrogen oxides from the air in the course of an average day – roughly equivalent to the amount produced each day by the average family car."

A whole lot of people would need to wear additive-washed clothes if larger results are to be expected. Professor Tony Ryan OBE of the University of Sheffield says, "In Sheffield, for instance, if everyone washed their clothes in the additive, there would be no pollution problem caused by nitrogen oxides at all."

Of course, to achieve this the researchers would have to prove to consumers that such an additive doesn't have long term health effects on the humans wearing the clothing, nor any negative environmental impacts in production or use. And there's also the ick factor of knowing you're adding an extra chemical to your wash, then wearing it. The type of people who care enough about air quality to want to use this might also be the same people who actively seek out detergents that are as natural as possible. So, getting this into the market is probably going to be a bigger challenge than it was to come up with it in the first place.

Tell us, would you use this for your laundry?