Scientists claim to have discovered a method of bleaching cotton which can dramatically reduce energy use and improve the quality of the material.

Reported in the American Chemical Society journal “Industrial & Engineering Chemistry”, the team led by Quan Zu developed a compound which, when combined with hydrogen peroxide, meant that cotton could be bleached at 140 degrees Fahrenheit, well below the 200F traditionally used.

The team calculate that the cooler process would require less than half the energy and less waste water, as well as improving the weight of the cotton and still whitening it.

Zu’s team also tested the process using various dyes and found no difference in its effectiveness, and showed the treatment’s efficacy on knitted cotton fabric in commercial-scale trials.