For more than two decades in the apparel industry, there has been consistently high demand of wrinkle-free cotton garments for easy care and comfort. Conventional wrinkle-free finishing is based on the crosslinking reaction between molecular chains of cellulose via formaldehyde derivatives such as dimethyloldihydroxyethyleneurea (DMDHEU). DMDHEU reacts with the hydroxyl (-OH) groups in cotton, which increases wrinkle-resistance and shape retention. However, the finishing reduces the hydrophilicity of the fabric due to the reduction of the number of OH groups; consequently, the moisture sorption capacity and wicking properties are reduced, resulting in a deterioration in the comfort of cotton fabric. Therefore, recovering the hydrophilicity of wrinkle-free finished cotton has very significant practical value.
We demonstrate in this study, a wrinkle-free, superhydrophilic, cotton fabric (contact angle 0o) by attaching specially engineered nanoparticles to plasma pre-treated cotton fabric. Because of their charged nature, the nanoparticles are firmly anchored on the fabric via electrostatic interactions; the surface structures were confirmed by image and chemical analyses. The durability of wetting behavior and wrinkle-free property of the NP-coated fabrics was evaluated via aging, laundering and abrasion tests. The strongly attached coatings are stable maintaining their superhydrophilic nature even after 60 days’ aging and 50 laundering cycles. The nanoparticle-coated fabric also combines superhydrophilicity with very good wrinkle-recovery property, tensile strength and abrasion resistance (25,000 abrasion cycles) performance.