Antimicrobial textiles are designed to provide protection from algae, bacteria, fungi and viruses, and they have been in widespread use for a number of years. More recently, awareness of antimicrobial textiles has been brought to the forefront by the COVID-19 pandemic as consumers have sought ways of improving their overall hygiene and well-being.
Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has boosted demand for antimicrobial textiles which are capable of destroying viruses in particular, and several of the textile industry’s leading companies have rapidly developed antiviral treatments and launched them on the market at record speed. Antimicrobial textiles can be made by applying finishes to the surfaces of fabrics or by incorporating fibres with antimicrobial properties while the fabric is being manufactured.
To manufacture antimicrobial fibres and finishes, a broad variety of substances can be employed, including copper, graphene, silver and silane quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs). Looking ahead, applications for antimicrobial textiles are expanding beyond activewear and medical applications to include face masks, athleisure apparel and fashion products. Furthermore, antimicrobial finishes are being used in the manufacture of specialist products such as sewing threads and zippers.
BACTERIA AND VIRUSES
- Bacteria and odour
- Novel infections caused by viruses
SPREADING BACTERIA AND VIRUSES THROUGH CONTACT WITH TEXTILES
- Survival of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on textile surfaces
IMPARTING ANTIMICROBIAL FUNCTIONALITY TO TEXTILES
- Antimicrobial substances
- Polyhexamethylene biguanide hydrochloride (PHMB)
- Quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs)
- Zinc pyrithione
- Inherently antimicrobial fibres
- Leading suppliers
STANDARDS FOR TESTING ANTIMICROBIAL TEXTILES AND FINISHES
- Environmental standards
APPLICATIONS FOR ANTIMICROBIAL TEXTILES
MARKET FOR ANTIMICROBIAL TEXTILES
- Effect of COVID-19 on the market for antimicrobial textiles
- Increase in demand for antimicrobial face masks
- Increase in demand for athleisure apparel
- Increase in demand for outdoor apparel and sportswear
- Heightened consumer awareness of hygiene
- Challenges and opportunities for the antimicrobial textiles market
MARKETING ANTIMICROBIAL TEXTILES
- Ingredient branding
INNOVATIONS IN ANTIBACTERIAL AND ANTIVIRAL FIBRES, FABRICS AND FINISHES
- Ascend Performance Materials: Acteev Protect yarns, fabrics and nonwovens
- Birla Cellulose: Liva antimicrobial fabric
- HeiQ: HeiQ Viroblock NPJ03
- Further development
- Noble Biomaterials: Ionic+ Durable
- Piana Group: Piana Protection
- Polygiene: ViralOff
- Proneem: Viral Stop
- Wellman International: Wellman HealthGuard AMIC fibre
List of Tables
Table 1: Overview of viruses and bacteria
Table 2: Comparisons of the antibacterial efficacies, antiviral efficacies and odour control efficacies of selected antimicrobial substances
Table 3: Selected key suppliers of antimicrobial finishes, fibres and other technologies, 2021
Table 4: Examples of standards used to test the antimicrobial efficacy of textiles, 2021
Table 5: Examples of antimicrobial products
Table 6: Growth in sales of cleaning products, 2020
Table 7: Hygiene practices among medical students in Hong Kong, 2003
The range of market opportunities for antimicrobial textiles -- including antiviral and antibacterial textiles -- will continue to expand beyond activewear and medical applications to include athleisure and fashion apparel, according to the 40-page report Antimicrobial Textiles: Promoting Hygiene During the Covid-19 Pandemic and Beyond.
Furthermore, such expansion will continue even after the worst effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have eased.
A key driver of the expansion is that awareness of the benefits and availability of antimicrobial textiles among consumers has been raised as a result of an increase in concern about hygiene and well-being caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result, recent forecasts suggest that the market for antimicrobial textiles will grow by almost 10% a year in the medium term compared with forecasts of around 7% a year made prior to the outbreak of COVID-19.
This increase in the rate of growth can be attributed to a number of factors from which the market is set to benefit as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These include an increase in demand for antimicrobial face masks; an increase in demand for antimicrobial athleisure apparel; an increase in demand for antimicrobial outdoor apparel and sportswear; and an increase in demand for antimicrobial uniforms and workwear.
Furthermore, textiles with antimicrobial properties are being used increasingly in other types of apparel in response to the increase in concern about hygiene and well-being among consumers. These other apparel types include loungewear, and fashion apparel such as jeans. In addition, antimicrobial finishes are being used in the manufacture of specialist products such as sewing threads and zippers.
In fact, antimicrobial textiles could be used in almost any apparel application--not least because antimicrobial finishes can be easily applied to a broad range of fabrics.
Looking ahead, consumers will continue to maintain a heightened awareness of the importance of hygiene in the long term, even after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed.
More generally, consumers will continue to value functional textiles as a whole and will be prepared to invest in garments which combine multiple functions such as water repellency, breathability and resistance to microbes.
However, the market for antimicrobial textiles will face a number of challenges, including those relating to environmental sustainability. In particular, there are concerns associated with the release of silver nanoparticles into the environment, and many antimicrobial treatments are based on silver. In fact, such is the seriousness of these concerns that directives are coming into force which could significantly restrict the use of such substances in years to come.
Companies that provide antimicrobial treatments will therefore need to seek alternative substances which are safe and yet still provide the same levels of performance.
- Ascend Performance Materials
- Birla Cellulose
- Noble Biomaterials
- Piana Group
- Wellman International