Antimicrobial Fabrics

Using Medical Fabrics for Infection Control on Campus

Sure-Chek fabrics for dormitory mattresses have built-in antimicrobial properties that perpetually release pathogen-killing chemicals at the surface.


In a college dorm room, virtually anything and everything goes. And it usually does. Every day is potentially Spring Break for the students— the opportunity for the spread of infectious organisms, such as klebsiella pneumonia and methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)—is unlimited – and can virtually go wild among the student’s living quarters.

For the facilities managers responsible for infection
control and risk management in dormitories, college life poses unique challenges. Unlike a hospital setting where administrators have strict control over the environment and can enforce rigorous protocols to stop the spread of pathogens, college dorms are more like the Wild West:  Late-night pizza parties and the occasional slice that falls behind a bed can attract disease-carrying pests; students cramming for finals may overlook hygiene routines while pressing their immune systems beyond what they can reasonably handle; the very collegial nature of college itself invites potentially disease-spreading behaviors beyond those in routine life at home.

The college dorm is the perfect environment for the “5 Cs” the Centers for Disease
Control have identified as facilitating the transmission of MRSA
: Crowding; frequent skin-to-skin Contact; Compromised skin (i.e. cuts or abrasions); Contaminated items and surfaces; and lack of Cleanliness. 

To combat these heightened risks, college administrators and the facilities managers they oversee often rely on the advanced antimicrobial properties found in modern medical fabrics, everything from the mattress fabrics on dorm beds to the pillow fabrics, and the curtains used in shower cubicles.

Medical Fabric Selection

One of the best defenses against the spread of infections is a good offense—medical fabrics used for a dormitory with built-in antimicrobial properties that perpetually protect the fabric surface, whether on mattress fabrics, pillow fabrics, or curtain fabrics.

Medical fabrics, such as Sure-Chek from Herculite, are laboratory-tested to exacting standards, such as AATCC 147 and ISO 22196. Their antimicrobial properties will not be removed by washing and will perform for the life of the product. Their fluid resistance and moisture vapor transmission qualities are also tested to rigorous standards, such as ASTM D751/A and ASTM E96. Tensile strength and tear-resistance are also put to the test to ensure the fabrics perform under the hyperactive conditions a college dorm bed is likely to experience.

Medical Fabric Care and Cleaning

Along with selecting the right medical fabrics, proper care and cleaning of these textiles is critical to ensure maximum protection from cross-contamination.  While in the college setting, this is impossible on a daily or even weekly basis, routine cleanings, performed quarterly or at the beginning, middle, and end of a semester, can go a long way toward extending the life of an institution’s investment in these materials.

For vinyl fabrics, use phenolic (carbolic acid) disinfectants according to the manufacturer’s dilution directions. Too weak a solution will be ineffective at killing staph bacteria, too strong a solution will diminish the usable life of the medical fabric.

For urethane fabrics, use quaternary ammonium compounds, “quats.” These biocides not only kill pathogens but they kill algae as well.

In situations where vinyl and urethane medical fabrics are used, clean and disinfect with hypochlorites and chlorine oxide.

To treat soiling and stains, use neutral soaps (those without lye (NaOH) or potash (KOH)) and lukewarm water. Pre-soak stubborn stains and use a soft-bristle brush to gently lift the soils.

Graduating Students, Flunking MRSAs

While controlling infection spread in a hospital is by no means easy, at least hospitals can implement stringent cleaning protocols around the clock.  Facilities managers and college administrators don’t get that opportunity—they’re lucky if they can get into dorm rooms for thorough cleanings a few times a year.

Choosing the right medical fabrics for a dormitory, those with advanced antimicrobial properties, such as Herculite’s Sure-Chek, can be your secret weapon – it’s a Sure Bet!

Additional Resources:

Read the U.S. Department of Education’s Advisory on MRSA in Schools

Read the CDC’s Information and Advice About MRSA for School Officials

Read the Prevention and Control Recommendations for MRSA in Schools from the New Jersey Department of Health

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