If you’ve ever wished your stained-up clothes could clean themselves, researchers at the Hong Kong City University may just have granted that wish. The team has invented a coated cashmere textile that self-cleans when exposed to light for 24 hours. If perfected the super sweater could mean longer lasting fabrics that avoid the wear and tear that ages clothing through washing machines and dry cleaning.

Each wash or trip to the dry cleaner can degrade the color and texture of our clothing, eventually making them less desirable to wear. With this idea in mind, researchers at the City University in Hong Kong decided to tackle the durability of fabric, starting with luxurious cashmere. Led by Dr. Walid Daoud, the team has made a self-cleaning cashmere by coating the fabric in a mineral compound of anatase titanium dioxide.

When exposed to 24 hours of light, the anatase titanium dioxide starts a chemical reaction that creates oxidants that break down dust, dirt, bacteria and any general schmutz you’ve spilled on yourself during the day. The sunlight causes tiny electric currents to form, which pull away dirt particles and the like from the surface of the material.

Aside from keeping your cashmere looking bright and smooth, the process also helps tackle issues of water consumption. Although saving one garment from the washing machine may not seem like much, over time it can save a significant amount of water. The best part? The researchers coating is generally affordable, only increasing the cost of a garment by a tiny percentage, which will greatly outweigh the savings in dry cleaning and washings over time.

+ City University of Hong Kong

[Via Reuters]