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Laundry detergent that creates pollution-eating clothing moves towards commercialization

While the suggestion of pollution-eating clothing may at first sound a little fanciful, or even utterly absurd, the fact is that thanks to the development of a special liquid laundry additive, it’s already a reality.

The latest news is that scientists behind the pollution-busting creation are in talks with a manufacturer of environmentally friendly cleaning products in a bid to bring a detergent containing the additive to market.

The additive, called ‘CatClo’ (short for Catalytic Clothing), is the result of a joint effort involving the UK’s University of Sheffield and London College of Fashion. Additional help came from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The revolutionary additive contains minuscule pollution-eating particles that its inventors claim could have a real, identifiable impact on air quality.

To turn your clothes into pollution-fighting garments, all they require is a single wash in the special additive. Tiny particles of titanium dioxide attach to the fabric during the wash which, when you’re out and about, work to oxidize harmful nitrogen oxides when they come into contact with the treated fabric. The harmless oxidized substances are then removed in subsequent washes.

The scientists behind the product estimate that a person wearing clothes washed in the additive would remove approximately 5g of nitrogen oxides from the air during a typical day, roughly the same amount which is emitted by an average-sized family car in the course of a day.

Cleaner cities

Professor Tony Ryan of the University of Sheffield believes the additive could make a discernible difference to the quality of air in a town or city, provided enough people wear treated garments.

“If thousands of people in a typical town used the additive, the result would be a significant improvement in local air quality,” Ryan said. “This additive creates the potential for community action to deliver a real environmental benefit that could actually help to cut disease and save lives.”

Coming to stores

While CatClo has been in development for some time, those who created the additive believe it is now ready to be commercialized.

“We’re now working closely with a manufacturer of environmentally friendly cleaning products to commercialize our laundry additive,” Professor Ryan said.

“We believe that using the additive in a final rinse with a full washing load could potentially cost as little as 10 pence (16 cents) – a small price to pay for the knowledge that you’re doing something tangible to tackle air pollution and increase the life expectancy of people with respiratory conditions. We’re confident there’s a really big market out there for this product.”

Do you like the sound of CatClo? Would you buy it if it only cost a little more than your regular laundry detergent?

[EPSRC via Tecca] [ Top image: James Weston; bottom: Ljupco Smokovski / Shutterstock]