The amount of detergents, solvents, and smelly kitchen-cleaners found on supermarket shelves is mind-boggling. Someday soon, though, these toxic agents of cleanliness could become relics of the past. Scientists at Purdue University have developed a Teflon-like coating for plastics, glass, and other materials that can be cleaned with water–no brand-name sprays or wipes required.
The coating, which is 20,000 times thinner than a human hair, repels oil more than water. In other words, an oil droplet placed on a surface covered with the Purdue coating could be wiped away with water and nothing else.
Purdue’s coating can be added to window cleaning sprays, paints, and sealants. And since the coating also acts as an anti-fog agent, it could be used in eyeglasses, windshields, and even scuba masks. If added to surfaces in new homes and buildings, Purdue’s coating will virtually eliminate the need for detergents, which contain toxic phosphate that seep into water supplies. That means the discovery could be a boon to dwindling fish populations.
The coating will supposedly be available commercially in a few years. When it is, there’s no telling if it will be cost-efficient enough to warrant widespread use. And while the coating will undoubtedly be useful in cleaning up pesky olive oil spills, it might not be so wonderful in cleaning up muddy floors.
Regardless, there are plenty of eco-friendly cleaning options already available. The most popular include Clorox Greenworks, a line of natural cleaning products that is biodegradable and free of petrochemicals, and Seventh Generation, a brand featuring all-natural cleaning products.