Zinc oxide (ZnO) nanowires have been grown on cotton fabric to impart self-cleaning, superhydrophobicity and ultraviolet (UV) blocking properties. ZnO nanowires were grown by the microwave assisted hydrothermal method and subsequently functionalized with steraic acid to obtain a water contact angle of 150 degrees, showing their superhydrophobic nature which is found to be stable up to 4 washings. UV protection of the resulting cotton fabric was also examined and significant decrease in the transmission of UV range was observed. Self-cleaning activity of the ZnO nanowire coated cotton fabric was also studied and it showed considerable degradation of methylene blue under UV light irradiation. These results suggest that ZnO nanowires could form ideal multifunctional coatings for textiles. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.