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New Opportunities for Cotton in Wipes

October 1, 2013

Formulation change can open up doors in hard surface applications.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in New Orleans, LA are working on formulations to help increase cotton’s role in the household and industrial cleaning wipes markets. Previous applications containing antimicrobial quats have stuck to the cotton instead of transferring to the hard surface in need of cleaning or disinfecting but researchers have found that altering formulations can reverse this phenomena.

“Wipes makers want to use cotton because it’s absorbent, biodegradable, stronger and scrubbable,” explains research leader, cotton chemistry and utlization Brian Condon. “There are a lot of desirable performance attributes provided by cotton in sanitizing wipes but neutralizing the sanitizing agents has kept them out of a lot of cleaning applications”.

Because they could not change the structure of cotton, researchers instead focused their efforts on altering the cleaning solutions. They found that the use of common inexpensive component like alcohols or  nonionic surfactants can reduce the surface activity between quats and cotton and so can the inclusion of salts.

According to Condon, this three-year study has not yet reached the testing phase of the new solutions to determine kill rates on contaminated surfaces but the current studies show promise that acceptable kill rates can be achieved.

“We have not yet made wet wipe products with this solution and then done a kill rate in hard surface applications,” Condon says. “The reason for this is budget. The government sequester has impacted our research.”

Condon and his team presented these findings in June at the World of Wipes conference and have spoken to companies, on  the cotton, substrate and raw material sides of the supply chain, about the findings. “We now need someone with  the proper expertise to step in and carry the ball further,” he says.

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