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Improving the properties of chemically damaged wool fabrics with carbohydrate polymers


Correspondence to: A. Ghosh (E-mail:


Wool is a natural composite material consisting of keratin and keratin-associated proteins as the key molecular components. During wool product processing, a variety of chemical and enzymatic reagents are used, the side-effects of which can include the removal of the outside layers of the fiber (cuticle) and damage within the internal protein matrix of the fiber. This can reduce the mechanical strength and durability of wool fabrics. We report the use of neutral, cationic, and anionic carbohydrate polymers, namely 2-hydroxyethyl cellulose, chitosan and alginate, as repair agents to improve the mechanical properties and morphology of wool fabrics damaged under harsh alkaline conditions. Tensile strength, peel adhesion, scanning electron micrographs, and fabric wettability evaluation reveal the cationic polymer, chitosan, to be most effective at remedying the effects of the alkaline treatment. The improved mechanical properties observed after chitosan treatment may offer viable remediation routes for adding value to processing-damaged wool textiles. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 130: 3105–3111, 2013