Can clothing neutralize pollution?

Author's Note

Let's get this out of the way first -- the thought of chemical reactions taking place on my clothing is really gross. It's not because of the reactions themselves, but because it forces me to think about all that pollution.

It's hard to decide whether we'd prefer to wear more clothing (to protect us from all the pollution we're suddenly more aware of) or less (more pollutant exposure on our skin, but fewer chemical micro-explosions).

Whenever a hypothetical wearer of Catalytic Clothing is described by the company, he or she is usually pictured walking. This isn't just because walking is a pollution-free form of transportation (whereas cars are the leading cause of the aforementioned evil nitrogen oxide particles). It's because walking is the best way to contact, and therefore clean, as much air as possible. For the benefit of germophobes and other general skeptics, founder Helen Storey wants to emphasize that the clothing won't attract dirt -- rather, it directs the chemical reaction outward. Each person wearing the treated clothing will, in effect, be a little beacon surrounded by constantly cleaner air. And though, as each person walks, they're cleaning the air for their surroundings, they're the primary beneficiary of newly cleaned air.

Kind of inspiring. But if Catalytic Clothing really wants their product to take off, I think they should start with ad campaigns designed for public transportation systems. It's perfect -- a captive audience of people who (for one reason or another) are opting not to drive (and are thus assumed to be implicitly more aware of environmental issues) and who are, at the moment of impact, trapped in highly concentrated filth.

Hand sanitizer for clothing. There's an idea. And, that said, I'm going to go wash these jeans now.

Related Articles


  • Brown, Paige. "Catalytic Clothing -- Purifying Air Goes Trendy." Scientific American. March 21, 2012. (June 17, 2012)
  • Catalytic Clothing. (June 17, 2012)
  • Chua, Jasmin Malik. "Meet 'Herself,' the World's First Air-Purifying Dress." Ecouterre. Jan. 7, 2011. (June 17, 2012)
  • Loveday, Eric. "What are you wearing? Is it clothing that absorbs and neutralizes pollutants?" Autoblog Green. Oct. 5, 2011. (June 17, 2012)