Eco-friendly and plant-based antimicrobial dry wipes could prevent the spread of disease, research shows

17 January 2022

Findings reveal new method for using plant-based substances in an innovative way



An eco-friendly, plant-based dry wipe that could be used on the hands and face for personal hygiene has been developed and could help to tackle infection, research suggests.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased awareness about hygiene and the use of antimicrobial textiles to fight disease.

Researchers have created an environmentally friendly finishing method for textiles with antimicrobial properties, using plant-based substances which can be applied to organic cotton materials that can be reused again and again.

Findings, published in the journal Coatings, suggest that this antibacterial finishing of cotton could be scaled up to help improve hygiene and health at a community level using locally produced herbs from India. 

It is hoped the wipes could provide an easily accessible hygienic cleaning option where access to water is limited.

These dry wipes could provide people all over the world with access to hygienic cleaning products where they might otherwise have limited options with clean water being scarce.

The study was funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), an internal quality research funding, with researchers at the Manchester Fashion Institute at Manchester Metropolitan University and the Department of Fibres and Textile Processing Technology at Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Mumbai.

Dr Prabhuraj Venkatraman, Senior Lecturer in Textile Technology at Manchester Fashion Institute at Manchester Metropolitan University, and lead researcher on the project, said: “These dry wipes could provide people all over the world with access to hygienic cleaning products where they might otherwise have limited options with clean water being scarce.

"The natural, plant-based coating means they are environmentally friendly and using locally sourced materials provides a sustainable product that can be used repeatedly.

“The proposed organic cotton fabrics, finished with a herbal nano-emulsion, can then be disposed of after use which will biodegrade over time without affecting the environment.”

Researchers from Manchester Metropolitan and ICT, Mumbai, and are now in discussion with industry to expand on the research.

Plant-based alternatives

Antimicrobial finishing products on commonly used textiles such as sportswear and bedding, typically use synthetic chemicals which are harmful to the environment as they can be toxic, may not decompose quickly, and can affect aquatic organisms when washed into streams.

Researchers focussed on using plant-based substances, which are widely available, are known to possess natural antimicrobial properties, and offer a more environmentally friendly approach.

Following a comprehensive analysis of plant-based substances, researchers selected a unique combination of locally sourced herbs and oils from India based on their antimicrobial properties which included the use of Moringa oleifera, Aegle marmelos, curry leaf and coconut oil.

Researchers used a combination of locally sourced herbs and oils from India based on their antimicrobial properties including Aegle marmelos (left) and Moringa oleifera (right)

Using these herbs and oils, researchers developed two nano-emulsions which when applied to locally sourced organic cotton fabrics were proven to have antibacterial and antifungal properties.

The finished organic cotton fabrics were found to be extremely durable, with the antibacterial coating lasting for 20 washes without affecting the tensile strength of the fabric, suggesting the fabric could be washed and reused.

Positive findings

Findings revealed that this new finishing method could be beneficial when applied to antimicrobial textile products for personal hygiene which could include reusable pocket tissues or handkerchiefs for the hands and face.

Professor Usha Sayed from Department of Fibres and Textile Technology, ICT, and project collaborator, said: “It is a remarkable breakthrough in antibacterial finishing of cotton. The process is novel, eco-friendly, and economical and possess good efficacy.”

The project demonstrates that herbal finished organic cotton textiles can be produced on a local scale in India, which will help to support the local community by improving hygiene and wellbeing.

Based on these findings, additional research is planned to determine a way to implement this method on a larger scale within the textile industry and discussions are ongoing around possible commercial collaborations.

For more information, please visit the project website.

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