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Suds turn silver nanoparticles in clothes into duds

Harsh detergents destroy antibacterial particles found in athletic clothing, hospital gowns

By
12:06pm, March 27, 2015
person pouring detergent into washing machine

WASHED OUT  Detergents with bleach or bleach alternatives can take out chunks of antibacterial silver nanoparticles in addition to tough stains.

DENVER — Life’s bleachable moments may be a death sentence for bacteria-busting silver nanoparticles.

The tiny metal balls that coat some recently manufactured athletic clothing and hospital gowns can crack and crumble when they’re washed in tough detergents that contain bleach or bleach alternatives, researchers reported March 25 at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society. The finding suggests that fabrics toting antibacterial nanoparticles may not stand the test of time – or the laundry cycle.

Silver nanoparticles are commonly used to shield clothes from smelly or infectious bacteria. But scientists know little about what happens to the silver particles over time — neither whether the nanoparticles’ bacteria-repelling powers wane nor whether they release toxic silver ions into the environment.

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