We all would love clothing that always stays clean, but as long as humans sweat and shed, pit stains and smelly socks will always be part of our lives. Sure, there are products like Febreeze to eliminate some of the bacteria and wonderful fragrances that emanate from a used pair of gym socks, but these products wear off when said socks hit the wash.
Jason Locklin, a professor of chemistry at the University of Georgia, hopes to combat the problem of germ-infested clothing and fabrics with a new anti-microbial treatment he’s invented. It works on a wide variety of fabrics and materials, including materials used in military gear and plastic food packaging. What is also special about the new anti-microbial technology, made from copolymers of hydrophobic N-alkyl and benzophenone containing polyethylenimines, is that it is permanent – placing a treated piece of clothing through the wash doesn’t remove the anti-microbial layer, so it only needs to be applied once. Nor does the antibacterial agent leach out after being exposed to harsh conditions, which could be beneficial in applications such as food products and IV bags.
The spread of pathogens on clothing and materials is a real problem. In addition to the unsightly stains and odors that, bacteria, yeasts and molds can cause disease and break down fabrics. Hospital lab coats, scrubs, and gowns are known to harbor microbes responsible for much of the hospital-acquired infections that occur in patients.
In a study of the antimicrobial agent’s effectiveness, Locklin and his team tested it against many pathogens common in healthcare settings, such as staph, strep, E. coli, pseudomonas and acetinobacter. After just a single application of the agent, they observed no bacterial growth on the treated textile samples, even after the samples incubated for 24 hours at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
Journal Abstract in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces: One-Step Photochemical Synthesis of Permanent, Nonleaching, Ultrathin Antimicrobial Coatings for Textiles and Plastics