Air-purifying laundry product ‘could be on sale in two years’

Plans in place to commercialise additive which can be washed into clothes so the wearer cleans the air as they walk around, writes Caelia Quinault

An additive which can be washed into clothes so the wearer purifies the air as they walk around could be available within just two years, according to its developers.

Plans are in place to commercialise a ‘revolutionary’ liquid laundry additive called ‘CatClo’, which contains microscopic pollution-eating particles, it was announced last week (September 26).

The new additive is the result of collaboration between the University of Sheffield and London College of Fashion, with initial support from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Professor Tony Ryan OBE co-led the project to develop CatClo

According to the University, 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, according to the partners, and pose no pollution hazard as they are removed when the item of clothing is next washed, if they have not already been dissipated in sweat. The additive itself is also claimed to be completely harmless and the nanoparticles 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, according to the University. This is roughly equivalent to the amount produced each day by the average family car.

Nitrogen oxides produced by road vehicle exhausts are a major source of ground-level air pollution in towns and cities, aggravating asthma and other respiratory diseases. As well as tackling pollution in general, it is thought that those suffering from respiratory conditions could wear the clothes to give themselves cleaner air to breath.

Professor Tony Ryan OBE of the University of Sheffield, who has co-led the project working closely with Professor Helen Storey MBE from London College of Fashion, said: “It’s the action of daylight on the nanoparticles that makes them function in this way. The development of the additive is just one of the advances we’re making in the field of photocatalytic materials — materials that, in the presence of light, catalyse chemical reactions. Through CatClo, we aim to turn clothes into a catalytic surface to purify air.

“If thousands of people in a typical town used the additive, the result would be a significant improvement in local air quality. This additive creates the potential for community action to deliver a real environmental benefit that could actually help to cut disease and save lives. In Sheffield, for instance, if everyone washed their clothes in the additive, there would be no pollution problem caused by nitrogen oxides at all.”

Professor Ryan added that using the additive in a final rinse with a full washing load could potentially cost as little as 10 pence. He added: “We’re confident there’s a really big market out there for this product.”

Professor Helen Storey said: “We’re now working closely with a manufacturer of environmentally friendly cleaning products to commercialise our laundry additive.”

Earlier this year, the partners said they were running trials with ecological cleaning product company Ecover.


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Paul Manktelow
Paul Manktelow
11 years ago

Sounds good in theory, but surely it would not be good to have these nitrate ending up in our water supply. It may just shift the pollution problem elsewhere.

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