Laundry additive removes air pollution

In as little as two years, your clothes could be purging the air around you of harmful nitrogen dioxide, thanks to a new laundry additive.

CatCo, developed by the University of Sheffield and the London College of Fashion contains microscopic particles of titanium dioxide that, in daylight, oxidise nitrogen oxides into the fabric.

Clothing only needs to be washed in the additive once for it to have its effect, says the team. One person wearing clothes treated with CatClo would be able to remove around 5g of nitrogen oxides from the air in the course of an average day – roughly equivalent to the amount produced each day by a family car.

“If thousands of people in a typical town used the additive, the result would be a significant improvement in local air quality,” says Sheffield’s Professor Tony Ryan.

“In Sheffield, for instance, if everyone washed their clothes in the additive, there would be no pollution problem caused by nitrogen oxides at all.”

The nitrogen oxides treated in this way are completely odourless and colourless – and safe, says the team, as they are removed harmlessly when the item of clothing is next washed.

“We’re now working closely with a manufacturer of environmentally friendly cleaning products to commercialise our laundry additive,” says Ryan.

“We believe that using the additive in a final rinse with a full washing load could potentially cost as little as 10 pence – a small price to pay for the knowledge that you’re doing something tangible to tackle air pollution and increase the life expectancy of people with respiratory conditions. We’re confident there’s a really big market out there for this product.”