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Researchers Seek New Opportunities for Cotton in Wipes

Researchers at the U.S. Department ofAgriculture in New Orleans, LA are working on formulations to help increasecotton’s role in the household and industrial cleaning wipes markets. Previousapplications containing antimicrobial quats have stuck to the cotton instead oftransferring to the hard surface in need of cleaning or disinfecting butresearchers 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 andutlization Brian Condon. “There are a lot of desirable performance attributesprovided by cotton in sanitizing wipes but neutralizing the sanitizing agentshas kept them out of a lot of cleaning applications”.

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

According to Condon, this three-year study has not yet reached the testingphase of the new solutions to determine kill rates on contaminated surfaces butthe 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 killrate in hard surface applications,” Condon says. “The reason for this isbudget. The government sequester has impacted our research.”

Condon and his team presented these findings in June at the World of Wipesconference and have spoken to companies, on  the cotton, substrate and rawmaterial sides of the supply chain, about the findings. “We now need someonewith  the proper expertise to step in and carry the ball further,” hesays.