Harold Stewart is a 23-year-old electrical engineer who quit his full-time job with the Department of Defense last month. What could possibly prompt a smart young man to leave behind a stable income? A hydrophobic spray. Stewart is the entrepreneur behind LiquidOff, a hydrophobic and oleophobic spray currently raising funds on Kickstarter.
His inspiration stemmed from occasionally babysitting his niece and nephew (we all know how kids can spill liquids just about anywhere). Stewart started to wonder why there wasn't a hydrophobic solution for use with kids' clothes. "With my background in engineering, I went out to create a solution that was safe yet effective, after realizing that all of the existing applications are toxic and unhealthy. Some even contain carcinogens which are known to cause cancer," he tells CNET.
Since this magic spray didn't exist, Stewart decided to make it. "R&D definitely took a few months. Trying to learn as much about the technology and its intrinsic properties, as well as learning how certain chemical agents bond to create a desired effect, was a process," he says. He found a team of nanotechnology researchers to usher the project along. The breakthrough was in deciding to make LiquidOff water-based in order to reach the goals of a safe and eco-friendly product.
"It took us much longer than anticipated to pull this off, but we did it. So while the other guys are chemical-based, we are completely water-based. Also, it was imperative for us to stay away from the use of aerosols (those are toxic and completely harmful for the environment), which just happens to be what everyone in this industry uses," Stewart says.
LiquidOff comes in a spray bottle and it's geared for use on fabrics and leathers. Shirts, pants, and shoes are all prime targets. Unlike rival NeverWet (which is aimed mainly at wood, metal, and concrete) the water-based spray leaves no haze behind.
Users spray LiquidOff on fabric or shoes and allow it to dry. Its lifespan for nonwashable items like shoes or furniture is between three and five years. For clothing, it will last for 20 or more wash cycles before wearing off. The Kickstarter is currently topping $17,000 toward a $25,000 goal with 31 days to go. A 375ml bottle goes for a $55 pledge. That's enough to treat seven T-shirts or up to 28 pairs of shoes.
Stewart won't reveal all the details of the proprietary solution, but he will say it's composed of "various nano particles, dispersing additives, and de-ionized water, which bonds to form our hydrophobic and oleophobic barrier."
LiquidOff could become a true contender in the hydrophobic-treatment market if it meets its goal and lives up to its promises of effectiveness and greenness. "It was just finding alternatives to mainstream methods and applying a greener touch to every aspect of the development that led to our finished LiquidOff solution," says Stewart.