Self-cleaning cotton fabrics were obtained via chemically incorporating photosensitive 2-anthraquinone carboxylic acid (2-AQC) onto the fibers through a mild and efficient esterification reaction. The 2-AQC structures on the treated cotton were confirmed by FTIR characterization. SEM images revealed that the cotton fiber surface became rougher than that of the original cotton fiber after the treatment. TGA analysis confirmed that thermal stability of the treated fibers was almost unchanged. The 2-AQC treated cotton fabrics demonstrated excellent photo-induced self-cleaning properties, including decomposition of 90% aldicarb in 3 hours of UVA exposure and inactivation of over 99% of both E. coli and S. aureus in 1 hour of the light exposure. The self-cleaning functions are a result of formation of reactive oxygen species on the light irradiated and 2-AQC treated cotton. The amount of H2O2 formed on the fabrics was determined by a titration method.