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Researchers develop natural, washable antimicrobial cleaning wipes

Researchers develop natural, washable antimicrobial cleaning wipes
Photographs of raw and scoured/bleached cotton fibers before, during, and after the heat treatment in an aqueous solution of AgNO3 (from top to bottom). The color change of the fibers resulting from the surface plasmon resonance of silver nanoparticles indicates that raw cotton fiber can effectively produce silver nanoparticles, but scoured/bleached cotton fiber cannot. Credit: Molecules (2023). DOI: 10.3390/molecules28031051

Most antimicrobial wipes, which are predominantly made of synthetic fibers like polyester and polypropylene, are discarded after a single use and end up in landfills where they can stay for hundreds of years and become a source of environmental microplastic fiber pollution. But, researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) recently developed sustainable machine-washable antimicrobial wipes that can be used at least 30 times for cleaning hard and nonporous surfaces.

There has been a remarkable increase in the use of antimicrobial wipes due to the growing awareness of personal health protection. According to the Antimicrobial Wipes Market Outlook report, the worldwide antimicrobial wipes market is estimated to reach $21.6 billion by 2030.

ARS researchers developed antimicrobial wipes by using raw fiber that naturally produced silver nanoparticles inside the fiber in the presence of a silver precursor. These embedded can then release silver ions that act as and kill harmful bacteria.

"Silver nanoparticles are one of the popular antimicrobial agents used for producing odor-inhibiting, anti-infective textile products and other personal health products," said Sunghyun Nam, research engineer at ARS's Cotton Chemistry and Utilization Research Unit in New Orleans.

According to Nam, people will be able to clean surfaces by wetting the antimicrobial cloths with tap water and then wiping surfaces. In their research, scientists found that the wipes killed 99.9% of harmful bacteria S. aureus and P. aeruginosa on surfaces.

The technology behind this research is advantageous in several aspects. It omits the conventional pretreatments of raw cotton fibers (such as scouring and bleaching), which consume a large number of chemicals and energy. It does not require any chemical agents except for a silver precursor.

It also transforms cotton fibers themselves into antimicrobial agents rather than serving as a carrier of antimicrobial agents, which is what makes them reusable. The antimicrobial wipes are made from natural cotton fibers, rather than conventional petroleum-based .

To reuse the wipes, people can simply wash them in the laundry.

"We also found that the wipes still successfully killed pathogens even after being washed 30 times in the laundry," said Nam. "The wipes regenerate their antimicrobial surface every time they are wet or washed because the embedded nanoparticles act as a reservoir of silver ions."

Nam said that another important benefit of the embedding technology is to minimize the negative environmental impacts related to the leaching of nanoparticles.

"These wipes are designed to gradually give off low levels of ions from the nanoparticles embedded inside the cotton fiber over the full course of the time of use and deplete ," said Nam.

By developing reusable and washable antimicrobial wipes, Nam and her colleagues are aiming to find sustainable alternatives to reduce environmental waste from the disposal of antimicrobial wipes.

More details about the study and the technology behind the antimicrobial are published in the journal Molecules.

More information: Sunghyun Nam et al, Washable Antimicrobial Wipes Fabricated from a Blend of Nanocomposite Raw Cotton Fiber, Molecules (2023). DOI: 10.3390/molecules28031051

Citation: Researchers develop natural, washable antimicrobial cleaning wipes (2023, April 11) retrieved 19 June 2024 from https://phys.org/news/2023-04-natural-washable-antimicrobial.html
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