Efforts to create self-cleaning cotton fabrics are bearing fruit in China.
Engineers have created a chemical coating that causes cotton materials to clean themselves of stains and remove odours when exposed to sunlight.
The researchers say the treatment is cheap, non-toxic and ecologically friendly.
Retail experts say the innovation could prove a hit with retailers thanks to a growing demand for “functional clothing”.
The research was carried out by engineers at Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Hubei University for Nationalities, and is published in the latest issue of the Applied Materials and Interfaces journal.
The study focuses on titanium dioxide – a chemical known to be an “excellent catalyst in the degradation of organic pollutants”.
The substance is already used in self-cleaning windows, odour-free socks and stay-clean kitchen and bathroom tiles.
Initial efforts to extend its use to cotton fabrics proved limiting because the substance’s self-cleaning properties could only be “excited” under ultraviolet lights, making it impractical for everyday use.