Antimicrobial Fabric Treatment

Antimicrobial Fabric and Nonwoven Textiles

Today’s consumers demand high performance from textiles, regardless of whether the fabric is for apparel, home textiles, or outdoor applications. A purchasing decision is often based as much on the functional aspects of fabric as on color and texture. For this reason, an antimicrobial fabric can offer added value to many different types of goods.

Bacteria, fungi, and dust mites can wreak havoc and cause many different issues. They create odors in intimate and athletic wear, proliferate in medical environments, cause allergic reactions, and can be responsible for stains in upholstery and other household items.

Microbial growth also attacks outdoor textiles such as awnings, tents, or lawn furniture and leads to discoloration and degradation.

Learn about microbes, dust mites, and more via our antimicrobial blog.

Benefits of Antimicrobial Fabric Treatment

Antimicrobial fabrics offer freshness, stain protection, and extended product life, even for heavy-duty outdoor applications.

Formulated to provide excellent durability, antimicrobial fabrics treated with Ultra-Fresh or Silpure offer effective performance after multiple cleanings or extended exposure to environmental stresses.

Ever wonder about the difference between antibacterial vs antimicrobial?

How are Antimicrobial Additives for Fabrics Applied?

Antimicrobial fabric treatments can be applied during normal textile finishing processes, meaning no special equipment or processing steps are required.

When applying by coating, padding, exhaustion, or foaming, the antimicrobial additive can typically be used in combination with other common auxiliaries such as softeners, moisture management systems, fluorocarbon, or resins.

Antimicrobial treatment for fabric can be used in textile coatings by adding directly to the liquid prior to application.

Certain antimicrobial additives for fabrics can also be included during the extrusion process of synthetic fibers such as polyester, polyamide, or polypropylene.

See our article in Ultra-Fresh Antimicrobial Treatments for Fibers

Ultra-Fresh and Silpure antimicrobial additives are applicable to a wide range of substrates, including cotton, viscose, polyester, nylon, acrylic, polyolefin, rayon, wool, and their blends.

By offering a broad selection of actives and formulations, you can be confident we will always have the right product for you, regardless of your end-use.

Our range of antifungal and antibacterial additives for fabrics ensure premium protection and performance.

Active Ingredients Used for Antimicrobial Fabric Treatment

Antimicrobial additives for textiles are selected based on the fiber type, processing conditions, and what type of protection is needed such as antibacterial and/or antifungal activity. Other requirements, such as wash durability and individual country regulations must also be considered.

Antibacterial Fabric:

The most common antibacterial additives used to treat fabric for end uses such as apparel and home textiles are zinc pyrithione, silver, silane quaternary ammonia compounds (more commonly known as silane quats) and polyhexamethylene biguanide (PHMB).

These additives have strong antibacterial activity at low concentrations and most also have excellent wash durability. High concentrations are typically required if antifungal properties are also required.

Antifungal Fabric:

Fabrics destined for industrial or outdoor end-uses often require antimicrobial treatment for mold. Isothiazolinone and thiabendazole, have robust antifungal profiles but are not as effective against bacterial attack.

Antimicrobial Fabric:

Need a fabric that has strong antibacterial and antifungal properties?

All technologies have their pros and cons regarding their degree of antimicrobial effectiveness, along with where and how they can be incorporated during the manufacturing process. No single active ingredient or product formulation will work across all situations.

Synergistic combinations of different actives can lower overall anti-microbial use levels, provide economical savings, and most importantly, deliver superior antimicrobial performance. Therefore, it is important to work with an experienced antimicrobial supplier who has a variety of options and formulations. Contact us to find out about the unique combinations we offer.

Learn more about what you should look for in an antimicrobial company.

How Is Antimicrobial Fabric Tested to Make Sure it Works?

When looking at a newly manufactured antimicrobial fabric, the antimicrobial additives can't be seen, smelled, or felt. In fact, an antimicrobial fabric looks exactly the same as untreated textiles. So how are antimicrobial fabrics tested to make sure they work under the right conditions for bacterial and/or fungal growth?

Many test methods developed by organizations such as the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC); American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM); International Organization for Standardization (ISO); and Japanese Industrial Standard (JIS) are available to evaluate the performance of an antimicrobial fabric.

Such standardized test methods are often developed for specific types of materials, end-uses or antimicrobial technologies; therefore choosing the correct test method is crucial.

Common test methods used to assess antibacterial fabric include the ISO 20743 (JIS L 1902) or the ISO 22196 (JIS Z 2801).

Anti-microbial textiles exposed to outdoor elements, where antifungal protection is key, should be tested using the AATCC Method 30, Part III, or the ASTM G21. Other methods, such as the MIL-STD-810G, Method 508.6 Annex B are also used to assess antifungal fabric when specified.

Contact our labs to learn more about the tests we routinely run for our customers.

Difference Between Antimicrobial Fabric versus Untreated Fabric

The photos below are an example of the benefits of antimicrobial fabrics. Under the right conditions, mold and mildew can flourish by using the fabric as a food source. Anti microbial fabrics provide antibacterial and antifungal protection, keeping textiles clean and safe from attack.

Both fabric samples were tested using the AATCC Method 30, Part III using Aspergillus niger as specified by the method. The untreated sample supported heavy amounts of the black mold after seven days of incubation. The anti-microbial fabric is free of fungal growth, maintaining esthetic appeal, and tensile strength.

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Ultra-Fresh antimicrobial fabric

Ultra-Fresh antimicrobial fabric

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Untreated fabric

Untreated fabric

How Does Antibacterial Fabric Work?

The photos and graph below are taken from our blog titled "Antimicrobial Socks: What They Are and Why You Need Them".

Two sock fabric samples, one treated with Ultra-Fresh antimicrobial and another without an antimicrobial treatment, were tested using the ISO 20743.

The same amounts of bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus) were added to each sample and then incubated at 37C/98F (body temperature) for 24 hours.

Afterward, both samples were assessed to determine how many bacteria were remaining.

As seen in the below photos, heavy amounts of bacteria were recovered from the untreated sock fabric. In contrast, hardly any bacteria were recovered from the antimicrobial sock fabric.

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Antimicrobial socks - fewer bacteria recovered results in reduced odor formation

Bacteria recovered from an Ultra-Fresh antimicrobial treated sock

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Sock without antimicrobial treatment

Bacteria recovered from a sock without an antimicrobial treatment

The graph below demonstrates how antibacterial fabric, used to make socks, performs over time and after washing. The same number of bacteria were added to an antimicrobial sock, the same sock after 25 home launderings, and also an untreated sock.

The samples were incubated for 24 hours at 98F/37C (body temperature). Afterward, the number of bacteria remaining was determined.

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Antimicrobial socks: how they work

Do antibacterial socks work? Yes, they do, and here is how!

The bacteria on the untreated sock fabric grew exponentially (from about 50,000 to over 400,000!).

However, the Ultra-Fresh treated antimicrobial socks, had 99.9% fewer bacteria as compared to the untreated sock after the same time period - even after 25 washes!

Therefore, the conclusion is very simple: fewer bacteria = less unwanted, embarrassing odor.

Where is an Antimicrobial Fabric Used?

Antimicrobial fabrics are used across a wide range of end-use applications. We have listed a few examples below.

  • Housewares: towels, bedding, upholstery, carpets, curtains, pillows
  • Commercial: window coverings, military fabrics, uniforms, tenting, carpets.
  • Apparel: caps, jackets, workwear, sportswear, fleeces, intimates
  • Building Products: architectural fabrics, awnings, canopies
  • Healthcare: scrubs, masks, drapery, window coverings, bedding, filters, lab coats

Manufacturers and Brands Who Use Ultra-Fresh for their Antimicrobial Fabric

Below are just a few examples of the textile and apparel companies/brands advertising the benefits of Ultra-Fresh and Silpure antimicrobial fabric:

Read our blog to learn more about antimicrobials for textiles.

We are a bluesign® system partner.

Learn more about our bluesign® partnership or visit bluesign®'s website directly.

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Learn more about our other antimicrobial applications:

Why Choose Ultra-Fresh or Silpure to Treat your Fabric?

  • Can be applied during normal textile finishing processes
  • Can be co-applied with other auxiliaries
  • Can be used with natural and synthetic fibres
  • Antibacterial & antifungal additive options available
  • EPA registered, BPR listed and Okeo-tex certified options
  • We are a bluesign® system partner
Contact Us to Learn More