Depending on the moisture, nutrients and temperature levels of their surroundings, commonly found bacteria and fungi are able to quickly multiple. A single bacteria cell, under ideal conditions, can multiply to over a million in the span of just 8 hours. Negative effects can be controlled by the durable antimicrobial finishing of the fabric.
What is antimicrobial and how does it work?
Let’s start by explaining the term antimicrobial. One speaks of ‘microbial’ when something relates to or is caused by microorganisms such as bacteria, algae or fungi. Antimicrobial is an agent that seals off the surface of the fabric and stops microorganisms from penetrating it which effectively slows down their growth within the internal structure of the fabric at the smallest of scales. It’s worth underlining here that we take for granted that antimicrobial agents would kill all dangerous microbes, however, its main purpose is to stop them from penetrating and multiplying inside the fabric.
Most of the antimicrobial agents used in commercial fabrics are biocides. These biocides contain particles of silver, utilising their bio-resistant properties. Fabric treated with a biocide is protected from undesirable bacterial and fungal infection. The active agent protects the user from microorganisms for aesthetic, hygiene, or medical reasons, and protects the fabric from biodeterioration caused by mould, mildew, and fungi.
Microorganism growth in fabric causes a range of undesirable effects, not only on the fabric itself but also on the user. Some effects include the generation of unpleasant odour, fabric structural damage that reduces its mechanical strength, stains and discolouration and an increased likelihood of contamination.
Graph: A – fabric treated with an antimicrobial biocide. B – non-antimicrobial fabric.