Copper vs silver as an antimicrobial agent for synthetic clothing
- This topic is empty.
Jul 4, 2015 at 3:06 pm #1330461AnonymousInactive
I've been reading some interesting research that seems to suggest that copper, in some ways, may be a more effective and quicker acting broad spectrum antimicrobial than even silver (especially under more normal/typical conditions). For example, a copper metal surface will kill more microbes than a silver one at room temps and lower moisture.
Considering that it's also significantly cheaper, i'm interested in experimenting with it. Some of you may have read about my experiments with trying to replicate a polygiene like treatment through creating silver chloride through electrolysis and then dyeing polyester fabric with iDye Poly/silver chloride in the hopes that the dye would bond the silver chloride to the surface of the polyester fibers.
Anyways, i'm thinking of doing similar with copper chloride. First i'm going to try with some microfiber wash cloths and see how that goes. If Richard Nisley is reading, would you be interested in looking at the fibers and seeing if you can see the copper chloride on same?
I was also thinking of giving a couple of the microfiber wash cloths away to be tested out in the field. I don't hike much in the summer. Summer is kind of my winter.
If anyone with a chemistry background can speak to any issues with using copper chloride over silver chloride for this, please let me know. I do know that it oxidizes more quickly/readily than the silver, but so far i've only heard about that being a problem in relation to nanoparticles and these won't be nano.Jul 4, 2015 at 3:42 pm #2212247Scott SMember
@sschloss1Locale: New England
The internet tells me that copper is poisonous in small amounts (beyond the micro amounts you need as a nutrient).
Better living through chemistry, right? My advice: just lighten up and live with the smelly clothes.Jul 4, 2015 at 4:17 pm #2212253AnonymousInactive
It is if you ingest it. Bonded to clothing shouldn't be a problem. Considering the particles won't be nano sized, very little chance of absorbing through the skin. If the dye bonds it well to the fiber, then it should be durable.
This is akin to how polygiene is made. Silver salt is bonded to the fibers through the dyeing process.Jul 4, 2015 at 5:36 pm #2212262Diane “Piper” SoiniBPL Member
@sbhikesLocale: Santa Barbara
I was allergic to the silver when I had a pair of silver-infused socks. I would get a horrible-looking rash. The copper might give you green feet.Jul 4, 2015 at 6:06 pm #2212265Scott SMember
@sschloss1Locale: New England
The silver never comes out? I doubt that very much. Studies on silver nanoparticles have shown that they pretty much all end up in the water after a few washings.
Of course, the bigger issue remains: why waste your time trying to come up with a techno-fix for a non-problem? Wool is a great solution for smells and is totally non-toxic. I've worn nylon shirts on my last 2 thru-hikes, and while they're not totally smell-proof, I could walk into a restaurant right off the trail and not offend people with my odor.
Hikers should be proud to be smelly at the end of a hard day. It means you actually got off your butt and did some work–that's far too rare in the US nowadays.Jul 4, 2015 at 7:06 pm #2212268AnonymousInactive
"The silver never comes out? I doubt that very much. Studies on silver nanoparticles have shown that they pretty much all end up in the water after a few washings."
It gradually wears off over time, but again is unlikely to be absorbed through the skin. Polygiene btw, does not use nanoparticle size, and neither would the copper i use be nano particle size. Polygiene is rated for 100 wash cycles–hence it is fairly durable/long lasting. It is so, because it is bonded to the fiber through the dye, which is strongly bonded to the fiber.
"Of course, the bigger issue remains: why waste your time trying to come up with a techno-fix for a non-problem? Wool is a great solution for smells and is totally non-toxic. I've worn nylon shirts on my last 2 thru-hikes, and while they're not totally smell-proof, I could walk into a restaurant right off the trail and not offend people with my odor."
It is less the odor per se that i have a problem with. There is something to be said for good hygiene for health in general.
As someone that experienced a chronic jock itch infection for years and endured same during a 500 mile hike (not pleasant most of the trip is an understatement), i'm particularly aware of how synthetics, especially polypropylene and polyester promote the more pathogenic and/or stinky microbial growth. Yet, synthetics have a lot of other advantages otherwise.
So, some might ask, why not try to make them better in the area they lack the most?
Smell btw is a subjective thing that different individuals experience to different degrees. Our odor tends to be less offensive to ourselves than to others, so unless you were telepathically reading everyone elses minds that came into contact with you, you might not fully know to what degree someone else found your odor offensive or not. Many people will prefer to be polite, rather than blunt. In early grade school when i lived in Lowell MA, i was part of a reading program where i was paired with a Vietnamese-American student and read books to him to help reading learning. The horrid stench of his breath was quite something (nauseating), but i didn't say anything because i didn't want to hurt his feelings–i was being polite.
Wool btw, is good for odor prevention, but contrary to popular belief it's not the most hygienic material around either. It promotes growth of many microbes, both the stink producing ones and the none stink producing, but they keep each other in check/in balance so the stink producing ones stay at lower levels than in non treated synthetics.
But, i find most wool clothing too hot for warmer weather anyways. While i don't do a lot of over nighter and + trips in the summer, i do do some day hikes, and i just don't like wearing wool in warmer weather. I do like synthetic-wool and wool-synthetic blends for cooler and colder weather. Eventually, i would like to do a longer thru hike, and would like clothes that can be worn in a wide range of conditions and won't stink to high heaven in a matter of days.
As far as "wasting time", that's also pretty relative and subjective. I would say that watching an episode of Seinfeld is a waste of time, and it is for myself, but not necessarily for others. Well, this whole process can be done to multiple articles of clothing in the time of about 2 to 3 episodes. Most of the time is taken up in electrolysis process of creating the silver or copper chloride, but it's time i don't have to pay attention to. I plug in my little device, and it does it all on it's own. I just need to turn it off at some point. As far as active, having to participate time, most of that goes to the dyeing process which takes about 45 minutes of boiling the clothes with the dye/copper or silver. Then a quick, cool rinse in the washer after.
In other words, it's really not that much time or trouble, it's pretty inexpensive especially if using copper. Stink is apparently a big enough issue that much marketing and money is spent on designing ever better tech in this area. I'm just showing folks that DIY options are available. Waste of time in your book, but maybe not others?Jul 4, 2015 at 11:50 pm #2212292Jul 5, 2015 at 8:20 am #2212310AnonymousInactive
Plenty of studies on the efficacy of copper and different copper compounds in reducing a broad spectrum of microbial growth.
So, not sure why the gif…?Jul 5, 2015 at 9:05 am #2212319Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
Any studies that say clothing treated with copper or silver don't stink as much over a period of usage?
I wore some synthetic socks on a warm, damp trip. After one day they stunk much more than merino socks over 5 days. I don't know what would happen with silver or copper treated synthetic socks.Jul 6, 2015 at 11:49 am #2212621AnonymousInactive
"Any studies that say clothing treated with copper or silver don't stink as much over a period of usage?"
None specifically that I can remember off the top of my head. I distinctly remember Richard Nisley talking about Natick Labs doing testing with silver in relation to clothes and odor prevention and them finding it efficacious in that area.
"I wore some synthetic socks on a warm, damp trip. After one day they stunk much more than merino socks over 5 days. I don't know what would happen with silver or copper treated synthetic socks."
During my Camino hike, I wore copper infused insoles. It worked very well in keeping down the odor of my shoes. Considering that, stupidly, my main footwear had one of the older, less breathable Goretex WPB membranes, that's pretty impressive. I'm sure my wool, and "bamboo", socks helped, but it was borderline amazing the lack of strong/offensive odor.Jul 15, 2015 at 11:25 am #2214864AnonymousInactive
I understand its been used for a while in the Boating world, but may be being phased out due to environmental impact at harbors. It appears to work on a wide range including bacteria and marine invertebrates. The mechanism below sounds like it would work on prokaryotic and eurkaryotic cells (human) alike which is where your skin iritation comes in.
Mechanism of biocide
I would vote for wool socks man, with extra pairs you can wash out.
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
Our Community Posts are Moderated
Backpacking Light community posts are moderated and here to foster helpful and positive discussions about lightweight backpacking. Please be mindful of our values and boundaries and review our Community Guidelines prior to posting.