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Interview with an Expert - Antimicrobial Fabrics with Ben Lewis

We are delighted to have interviewed Ben Lewis, from Sunbury Design about this topical subject.

What are the benefits of using antimicrobial fabric?

Antimicrobial fabrics have a composition that kills or inhibit growth of microorganisms, particularly bacteria, which can easily reproduce in most environments and will do so on many fabrics that are not antimicrobial. In healthcare environments in particular, inhibiting the build-up of bacteria is an important part of infection control, keeping fabric hygienically cleaner and fresher and reducing odours.
Do antimicrobial fabrics stop the COVID-19 virus?

Unlike bacteria, viruses cannot reproduce on their own, needing a host (us!) to do so. This means that viruses will not reproduce or 'grow' on fabric surfaces; indeed they tend to get trapped on soft surfaces, making them less likely to be spread. Fabrics are not felt to be a major concern in the onward transmission of COVID, antimicrobial or not.

Is there a difference between antimicrobial and antibacterial?

It may seem as though the terms are interchangeable, but this is actually not the case. Bacteria is just one common type of microbe amongst many others. All antimicrobial fabrics are therefore antibacterial and work against mould, mildew and algae as well as bacteria.

What are the active ingredients in microbial fabrics and are the chemicals used harmful to people or the environment?

Sunbury Design promote Everclean+, Aquaclean Safe Front and Stylecare all of which have antimicrobial properties.
All of these contain treatments which are Oekp-Tex Standard 100 certified - meaning they do not contain harmful substances. The chemicals used are biodegradable and recyclable, do not cause skin irritation and are metal free.
How do you ensure that antimicrobial fabrics are correctly tested? Is this recognized internationally?

Independent laboratory testing is undertaken to assess how certain microorganisms grow and spread on  fabric surfaces. Testing includes international standards ‘ISO 18184:2019 determination of antiviral activity of textile products’ and ‘ISO 20743:2013/2021 determination of antibacterial activity of textile products’. 
Where can antimicrobial fabrics be used?

Antimicrobial fabrics can be used in exactly the same way that standard fabric can be used, for all upholstery, fixed seating cushions etc - but as always, choose a fabric that  has the required durability and fire resistance.
What's particularly good about Everclean+?

Sunbury Design have been supplying fabrics with antiviral/antibacterial properties for many years, specifically in healthcare and senior living interiors.  Everclean+ , like Aquaclean Safe Front and Stylecare, come in a wide choice of colour and design all with high performance in terms of fire retardancy, durability and practicality, giving our hospitality customers the widest choice when specifying antimicrobial fabric for the hospitality industry. 
Would it be possible to simply apply an antimicrobial finish to fabric and expect that to do the job?

You can apply an antimicrobial finish to most synthetic fibres, but our fabrics have other properties such as fire retardancy and soil and stain finish which all need to work together.

By adding an after-treatment to a fabric you can affect its fire retardancy, so we do not recommend this.  Our fabrics have all been tested and FR certified fully finished. 
Is it easy to care for antimicrobial fabrics? 

The antimicrobial treatments we use are permanent and cannot be removed by usage or washing. The type of care and cleaning a fabric requires depends on the composition and type of fabric rather than the antimicrobial properties. Every fabric we supply has a dedicated care guide which includes detailed instructions for daily care and deep cleaning.
What changes may occur in the way materials and fabrics are designed moving forward?

It’s impossible to predict how things will change post COVID, but in the same way that soil and stain treatments are now expected to be ‘standard’ on our new collections, we think anti-viral treatment will inevitably follow.
Sunbury Design will certainly continue to supply products that are commercially priced, durable, easily cleanable and serviceable for demanding hospitality environments. We have always put an emphasis on how a fabric will perform over time, making them as easy as possible to look after. We supply detailed care and cleaning guides with every roll of fabric, and these have now been updated to include recommended deep cleaning guidelines.
That said, the threat from COVID will pass but the threat from other environmental concerns will not.  We believe these issues will strongly influence decisions we make in the future, more so than the recent pandemic. Sustainability must be at the forefront of the products we offer and the way we run our businesses. 
Thank you Ben!

If you have any questions on this important subject, please do get in contact.... 

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By Charles Nicholson Charles Nicholson on 20/10/21 10:44
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