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Self-cleaning clothes: would you?

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Self-cleaning clothes: would you?” was written by Rosie Swash, for guardian.co.uk on Thursday 15th December 2011 13.29 UTC

First they gave us two giant pandas, now China has gifted the UK (and, actually, the rest of the world) with a new fabric which scientists say cleans itself. Mingce Long and Deyong Wu of Shanghai Jiao Tong University claim to have developed a type of cotton that rids itself of stains and dirt when exposed to sunlight.

In a report in the Applied Materials & Interfaces journal (required reading on the fashion desk, you know), the material is described as featuring a coating of titanium dioxide and nitrogen compound, which is used in white paint, foods and sunscreen lotions. Titanium dioxide breaks down dirt and kills microbes in some types of light, leading Chris Johnson of the Mercury Press to describe this process as “sky cleaning”.

Two things spring to mind. First, functional clothing is often incredibly unstylish – the slanket being a case in point – so, nice as it would be to answer coos of “ohh, where did you get that from?” with a whip-fast response of “why, it’s my new titanium dioxide coated peplum top, do you like it?”, we’re not holding our breath on the fashion desk. Second, sorry, but this sounds a bit gross. Far be it for us to argue with science, but hanging your T-shirt in the sunlight to give it a clean is all too reminiscent of seeing laundry “airing” on hangers outside halls of residences inhabited by stoned students who can’t be bothered to pause Call of Duty: Black Ops and go down to the communal laundrette.

But on the plus side, self-cleaning clothes would be better for the environment and in a week when the Durban climate change conference agreed on a “save the planet” strategy, it may be that Long and Wu’s invention is one small but significant step for man. In self-cleaning socks, of course.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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