When considering fabric for your outdoor fabric project, there are several types. In this blog, we’re going to focus on fabric for a shade structure.
A Beginner's Guide: What is Antimicrobial Fabric?
Antimicrobial fabric, how do they work? Here's what you should know about this specialty fabric and why it's great for use in many products.
Antimicrobial fabric, what is it? What’s it made of? Why is it effective? What must you know about this specialty fabric, and why is it great for many products?
First, let’s define what antimicrobial means. The term ‘antimicrobial’ is defined as: “destroying or inhibiting the growth of microorganisms, especially pathogenic microorganisms.”
Antimicrobials and Fabrics
Microorganisms “include bacteria, viruses, protozoans, and fungi, like mold and mildew.” Antimicrobial products are standard in medical facilities and are used in textiles. At first, it might seem strange that antimicrobials are found in fabrics. Still, the truth is, without this layer of protection, many fabric products would succumb to contamination and have to be discarded. Here is a quick list of where you might find an antimicrobial fabric.
Antimicrobial fabrics are used in various applications across various industries because they inhibit the growth and spread of bacteria, mold, mildew, and other microbes. Here are some common areas where antimicrobial fabrics are frequently used:
- Healthcare Facilities: Antimicrobial fabrics are crucial in healthcare settings to maintain cleanliness, hygiene, and infection control. They are used for bedding, privacy curtains, upholstery, medical uniforms, scrubs, coats, and patient gowns to help reduce the risk of cross-contamination and the spread of pathogens.
- Hospitality Industry: Antimicrobial fabrics are employed in the hospitality industry to enhance cleanliness and hygiene standards. They are used for bedding, curtains, upholstery, and towels in hotels, resorts, and guest accommodations to help maintain a sanitary environment and reassure guests.
- Sports and Active Wear: Antimicrobial fabrics find application in sports and activewear, including gym clothing, athletic uniforms, socks, and footwear. These fabrics help control odor-causing bacteria and reduce the growth of microbes resulting from sweat and moisture, thus promoting freshness and hygiene during physical activities.
- Home Furnishings: In residential settings, antimicrobial fabrics are used for curtains, upholstery, bedding, and towels. These fabrics help maintain a cleaner and more hygienic home environment by inhibiting the growth of odor-causing bacteria and minimizing the risk of mold and mildew development.
- Automotive and Transportation: Antimicrobial fabrics are utilized in the automotive and transportation industry to improve hygiene and odor control. They are used for seating upholstery, headliners, and carpeting to inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi caused by moisture and spills.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Antimicrobial fabrics are integrated into various types of personal protective equipment, including masks, gloves, aprons, and gowns. The antimicrobial properties help reduce the risk of contamination and provide additional protection against pathogens.
- Outdoor and Recreational Gear: Antimicrobial fabrics are used in outdoor and recreational gear, such as tents, backpacks, sleeping bags, and hiking clothing. These fabrics help inhibit the growth of odor-causing bacteria and maintain freshness during outdoor activities.
- Food Processing and Packaging: Antimicrobial fabrics are used in the food industry for food processing equipment, cutting boards, and packaging materials. These fabrics help prevent bacterial contamination, enhance cleanliness, and maintain food safety standards.
When it comes to specialty fabrics and antimicrobial features, it’s essential to understand that including a pathogen-fighting layer of defense prolongs the life of the textile and protects the fabric surface from microbes.
An antimicrobial is applied to a fabric to help fight off pathogens that could develop on the material's surface. This means that the antimicrobial is constantly working against microorganisms and prolonging the life of the fabric. For medical facilities, investing in antimicrobial textiles is one way to ensure the material's longevity and help keep replacement costs down.
For example, Sure-Chek® brand medical fabrics are enhanced by a controlled release system, which enables the "slow release" of a specially formulated antimicrobial system to the fabric surface, lasting for the life of the medical fabric. Sure-Chek® Healthcare medical fabrics are the original healthcare textile patented for protective covering fabrics and are the industry standard today. These fabrics are used in hospitals, dorms, prisons, and camps.
Antimicrobial Fabric Composition
Antimicrobial fabrics can be made of various textiles, including but not limited to polyester, polyester-vinyl composites, vinyl, and even acrylics. The effectiveness of an antimicrobial fabric lies in its ability to fend off microorganisms and help prolong the life of a textile. Think about hospital blankets, bedding, and even mattresses. These are constantly imbued with sweat, oils, and other contaminants and can quickly become breeding grounds for bacteria, mold, and mildew. But, using an antimicrobial, coupled with applying other features - like flame, stain and odor resistance, and waterproofing - the fabric can withstand regular wear and tear and last far longer than expected.
The primary function of antimicrobials is to help prevent bacteria and other microorganisms from attaching to the fabric surface. Keep in mind that microorganisms can live in fabric and grow. That’s why antimicrobials are so effective -- they prevent the growth and spread of microorganisms within the material. This is especially useful in the healthcare industry, where exposure to bacteria and other pathogens is possible daily, hourly. From beds to pillows, hospital gowns, and even the scrubs a nurse or doctor wears, fabrics in the healthcare industry must be designed with protection in mind. That’s why the use of antimicrobial materials is so everyday and helpful in the places like hospitals.
Antimicrobial Fabric Care
Caring for antimicrobial fabrics is essential to maintain their performance and prolong their effectiveness. While specific care instructions may vary depending on the type and brand of the fabric, here are some general guidelines to follow when caring for antimicrobial materials:
- Follow Manufacturer's Instructions: Always refer to the care instructions provided by the fabric manufacturer or consult their website for specific guidelines. They may provide tailored recommendations for cleaning and maintenance based on the particular antimicrobial treatment used on the fabric.
- Regular Cleaning: Regular cleaning helps remove dirt, oils, and other substances that can compromise the effectiveness of the antimicrobial treatment. Follow the recommended cleaning method for the specific fabric, including machine washing, hand washing, or dry cleaning. Use a mild detergent and avoid harsh chemicals or bleach that could damage the antimicrobial treatment.
- Gentle Washing: It's generally best to use a gentle cycle with cool or lukewarm water when washing antimicrobial fabrics. Avoid using hot water, as it can degrade the antimicrobial treatment. Additionally, consider turning the material inside before washing to protect the antimicrobial coating.
- Avoid Fabric Softeners: Fabric softeners can leave a residue that may affect the performance of the antimicrobial treatment. It's advisable to avoid using fabric softeners or dryer sheets when laundering antimicrobial fabrics.
- Drying: Follow the recommended drying method depending on the fabric type. Some antimicrobial fabrics can be tumble dried on a low heat setting, while others may require air drying. Excessive heat can potentially damage the antimicrobial treatment, so avoid high-temperature drying.
- Proper Storage: Store antimicrobial fabrics in a clean and dry environment when not in use. Avoid storing them in damp or humid conditions that could promote mold or mildew growth. Keep the material in a breathable bag or container to prevent dust accumulation.
- Avoid Harsh Cleaning Agents: Harsh cleaning agents, including bleach and strong chemicals, can diminish the antimicrobial properties of the fabric. Use mild cleaning agents that are suitable for the specific fabric type.
- Check for Reapplication Requirements: Some antimicrobial treatments may require reapplication over time to maintain effectiveness. Check the manufacturer's instructions or consult them to determine if reapplication is necessary and how often it should be done.
When considering the use of an antimicrobial fabric in a project, it’s always best to find the right company to provide a textile that will last and utilize other features. That’s why researching and understanding what antimicrobial means is a significant first step in finding the right supplier for your needs.