Antimicrobial Fabrics

How to Care For Antimicrobial Medical Fabrics

Medical fabric care to mitigate cross-contamination of pathogens while ensuring the longevity of the materials and their bacteria-killing properties.


Pick any piece of equipment, from a Mercedes to a microscope, and if you don’t maintain it properly, no matter how well-built, how well-designed, or how well-engineered it is, sooner rather than later, that equipment will fail to work the way the manufacturer intended and you planned when you bought it.

As seemingly non-mechanical as a piece of fabric may be to the naked eye, the truth is, today’s medical fabrics with advanced antimicrobial properties, whether Sure-Chek mattress fabrics, pillow fabrics, curtain fabrics, or other medical textiles, are highly engineered to exacting specifications. To get the most benefit, to ensure the best performance, to maintain the warranties, you need to properly care for these materials, especially when cleaning them.

Here’s a short course on the basics of medical fabric care to mitigate cross-contamination of harmful pathogens while ensuring the longevity of the materials and their bacteria-killing properties:

General Cleaning


Vinyl fabrics are best cleaned using phenolic disinfectants. Commonly found in mouthwashes, disinfectant soaps, and handwashes, phenols (carbolic acid) are the oldest known disinfectant having first been used by the pioneering surgeon and champion of antiseptic surgery, Joseph Lister (from which the mouthwash, Listerine, takes its name). Alternatively, a 1:10 dilution of household bleaches containing 5.25% sodium hypochlorite, can also be used on these surfaces, in accordance with recommendations published by the Centers for Disease Control.


Quaternary ammonium compounds (“quats”), and quaternary/isopropyl compounds, have been found most effective for cleaning urethane materials. In addition to their bacterial-killing properties, quats, which are biocides, also kill algae and are used as an additive in large-scale industrial water systems to minimize undesired biological growth.

Vinyl and Urethane

In those instances where both medical fabrics are found, hypochlorite and chlorine oxide, can be used to eliminate bacteria lingering on the fabric surfaces.

Each of these products include dilution instructions which should be carefully followed. Used in full or highly concentrated solutions, these chemicals can reduce the useful life of the fabric and diminish your return on investment. Using iodophor-type disinfectants may result in stains on the fabric.

Soils, Stains, Spotting

To remove soils or stains from medical fabrics, whether mattress fabrics, pillow fabrics, or shower curtain fabrics, apply neutral soap diluted in lukewarm water with a sponge. Neutral soaps are those soaps which don’t contain lye (NaOH) or potash (KOH) and are therefore gentler on skin and medical fabrics. For stubborn stains or spots, use the same solution with a soft-bristle brush and let the solution pre-soak for a minute or two before attempting to brush it clean.

Do not launder vinyl-laminated medical fabrics, such as Sure-Chek, as it may shorten the useful life of the antimicrobial properties.

Polyurethane-coated medical fabrics, including Sure-Chek, may be laundered in warm water (up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit) and hung out to dry or tumbled dry at low temperatures (up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit). You may notice some wrinkling at first, but the antimicrobial properties will not be diminished.

Proper Care Is a Team Effort

Medical fabrics, such as Sure-Chek, are in many ways, miraculous. Since their development in the 1950s by Herculite Products, they have been perpetually releasing antimicrobial chemicals to the surface of the materials to help reduce the presence of common pathogens on the fabric surfaces.

But, that doesn’t eliminate the need for sound risk management practices. Use the proper disinfectants for each material as directed by the manufacturer. If anything is unclear, contact the manufacturer or distributor to get their expert advice.

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