Cashmere usually has to be cleaned by a dry-cleaner, and the process can be an expensive, sometimes-toxic, energy sap. But now researchers in Hong Kong have developed a new self-cleaning cashmere fabric that’s coated with an invisible layer of nanoparticles that makes stains disappear. And the best part? It’s only projected to be 1% more expensive than regular cashmere.
If you get dirt or coffee, red wine or bacteria on your self-cleaning cashmere, all you need to do is put it in some light for 24 hours. This will trigger a chemical reaction with the anatase titanium dioxide particles in the invisible coating to break down the stains.
According to Adele Peters at FastCompany, the team at the City University of Hong Kong’s School of Energy and Environment has been developing the material for over a decade, starting with cotton and wool, then moving on to cashmere, seeing as it’s one of the most difficult fabrics to clean.
"Cashmere is a sensitive protein and can be easily damaged and therefore it is notoriously expensive to clean,” one of the team, materials scientist Walid Daoud, told Peters. “It is a delicate operation, because of the risk of spoiling the cashmere in the process. How to apply nano-sized photocatalysts to cashmere and retain its delicate characteristics was a huge challenge.”
The last step in the process to get their self-cleaning cashmere to market is to complete some health testing to make sure any residue from the nano-particle coating doesn’t have any adverse affects on the wearer’s skin. So far, tests have shown the coating is durable and doesn’t harm the fibres of the fabric. "It should reach the market very soon," said Daoud. “We are currently working toward transfer of the technology to the industry.”
"Ultimately, the technology could be used in all clothing,” says Peters, “eliminating, for laundry in the US alone, more than 179 million metric tons of CO2 emissions every year.