Most antimicrobial wipes, which are mostly made up of synthetic fibers such as polyester and polypropylene, are discarded after a single use and end up in landfills where they can remain for hundreds of years and become a source of environmental pollution with plastic fibers. But researchers at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) recently developed sustainable antimicrobial wipes that are machine washable and can be used at least 30 times to clean hard, non-porous surfaces.
There has been a marked increase in the use of antimicrobial wipes due to the growing awareness of personal health protection. According to the Antimicrobial Wipes Market Outlook report, it is estimated that the worldwide Antimicrobial Wet Wipes market will reach $21.6 Billion by 2030.
ARS researchers developed antimicrobial wipes using raw cotton fibers that naturally produce silver nanoparticles within the fibers in the presence of a silver precursor. These embedded silver nanoparticles can release silver ions that act as antibacterial agents and kill harmful bacteria.
“Silver nanoparticles are a common antimicrobial agent used in the production of odor-blocking, anti-infection textile products and other personal hygiene products,” said Sungyeon Nam, research engineer in the ARS Cotton Use and Chemistry Research Unit in New Orleans.
According to Nam, people will be able to clean surfaces by wetting antimicrobial cloths with tap water and then wiping down the surfaces. In their research, scientists found that the wipes kill 99.9% of harmful bacteria S. aureus and P. aeruginosa on surfaces.
The technology behind this research is useful in several respects. It omits the traditional processing of raw cotton fiber (such as drying and bleaching), which consumes a large number of chemicals and energy. It does not require any chemical agents except for a silver precursor.
It also turns the cotton fibers themselves into antimicrobial agents rather than acting as a carrier for the antimicrobial agents, which is what makes them so reusable. Antimicrobial wipes are made from natural cotton fibers, rather than the traditional petroleum-based synthetic fibers.
To reuse the wipes, people can simply wash them in the laundry.
“We also found that the wipes still managed to kill pathogens even after 30 washes,” Nam said. “The wipes renew their antimicrobial surface every time they are wet or washed because the embedded nanoparticles act as a reservoir for the silver ions.”
Another important advantage of the embedding technique, Nam said, is the reduction of negative environmental impacts related to nanoparticle leaching.
“These wipes are designed to give progressively lower levels of silver ions from the nanoparticles embedded within the cotton fibers over the entire period of use and depletion of the nanoparticles,” Nam said.
By developing reusable, washable antimicrobial wipes, Nam and her colleagues aim to find sustainable alternatives to reduce the environmental waste from throwing away single-use antimicrobial wipes.
More details about the study and technology behind antimicrobial wipes have been published in the journal Molecules.
Sunghyun Nam et al, Washable Antimicrobial Wipes made from a blend of nanocomposite raw cotton fibers, Molecules (2023). DOI: 10.3390/particles 28031051
the quote: Researchers Develop Natural Washable Antimicrobial Cleaning Wipes (2023, April 11) Retrieved April 11, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-04-natural-washable-antimicrobial.html
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