Technical Fabrics in the Wake of COVID
By Debbie McKeegan
As the current health crisis continues to challenge every aspect of our daily lives, one sector in particular has seen a significant impact—changing the hospitality sector forever.
The hospitality industry has been adversely affected by the global health crisis, with hotel and leisure businesses closed or preparing to reopen, the virus has presented a new set of challenges to be addressed. Viral security is a new operational mantra for the hospitality sector and one which must be conquered. In order to secure the safety of each visitor, all surfaces must be safe and free from viral contamination. That’s a huge issue for a global industry servicing billions of visitors across the world daily.
Surfaces offer a breeding ground for uninvited microbes and the technical textile industry offers solutions that protect us all from harm. Antiviral surfaces offer a glimmer of hope for a return to some form of normality.
Antibacterial fabrics were once mainly prevalent within the medical sector, but 2020 offers a whole new spectrum of opportunities. Traditional textiles, wallpapers, and hard surfaces are now potential obstacles for the industry, which must either instigate control of the environment or source surfaces that offer protection within their product design.
This offers many new opportunities for convergence; fabrics, wallcoverings, hard surfaces and coatings that were once used for medical interiors will now migrate across to the hospitality sector. Even textiles used for PPE may well now be used for bedlinens and other high contact uses. Its early days for such developments to become mainstream, but the science is required for the industry to regain the confidence of the visitor and regain its clientele.
The challenge is that the interior industry is also highly regulated for both durability and flame retardancy. Contract fabrics, where qualities such as fire resistance, waterproofing, tear resistance, and rub resistance are the touchstones of the product.
Fire resistance is particularly important, since the growth of international regulation has forced users to insist on an ever-tighter specification if a fabric is to be used in a commercial environment. Worldwide standards vary from M1/B1 in Europe, to BS 5867 or Crib 5 in the UK to various NFPA tests in the USA. However, the important thing is that conformity is required, and around the world many textile manufacturers offer certified fabrics for use in the contract sector.
Certification for antiviral properties is now also becoming an important requirement for the industry. Technical textiles are already a given for the sector, making them widely antiviral as well will take some savvy innovations, and these are well underway. However, US sales of antiviral technical textiles are complicated by US law, which prohibits public health claims for textiles treated with antiviral or antibacterial agents.
The current pandemic has spawned a plethora of antiviral fabrics and treatments, which have progressed swiftly from research to production in order to serve the needs of the world’s population. Worthy of note is the Viroblock process from HeiQ, and the patented Virustatic Shield supplied by Pincroft. In just a few months, HeiQ have developed their Viroblock technology which has recently been certified by the Doherty Institute.
“Virologist Thierry Pelet of HeiQ’s scientific advisory board brought us a depth of knowledge and accelerated our efforts to address the urgent problem of a global pandemic,” says Carlo Centonze, HeiQ Group CEO. “Our goal is to prevent textiles from becoming a host surface for propagating harmful viruses and bacteria and contribute to reduce the risk and speed of contamination and transmission.”
Similarly, Carrington Textiles and its main manufacturing facility in the UK, Pincroft, have teamed up with a UK biotech firm that developed a snood with technologies that prevent and protect against airborne virus transmission, including infections like influenza, MERS, SARS, the common cold, and COVID-19. Such innovations and coatings can potentially be applied to linens by example, for use within the hospitality and leisure sectors.
The technical textile sector is primed to embrace this new requirement for antiviral surfaces. As a sector built on science, the technology, knowledge, and thought leadership is in place to deliver the necessary innovations at speed.
Camira fabrics specialize in contract fabrics, providing the hospitality industry with textiles built for durability and performance. They offer a wide selection of enhanced fire-resistant textiles produced to international standards. Their textile collections already include antimicrobial finishes, meeting the upholstery market’s immediate impetus for restaurants, public transport, aircraft refurbishment, and community spaces.
Pongs, a world-renowned supplier and manufacturer of technical and decorative textiles, has a wide range of fabrics and performance textiles for multiple applications within the interior design sector, visual merchandising, trade fair construction, stage and theatre, and digital printing. As a vertical supplier, with in-house warping, weaving, and knitting along with finishing, digital textile printing, and innovative material manufacture, Pongs control all stages of production from start to finish.
Pongs- Descor Textiles
Innovations are apparent throughout the Pongs range; one of their products is Descor: sound-absorbing properties balance the sound of the room, the Sanitized hygiene function reliably protects health, and certified enhanced fire resistance comes as standard.
For the designer, architect, and specifier, the pandemic has created a new requirement for antiviral specifications and a near-vertical learning curve. The design and manufacturing communities must collaborate and adapt at speed to refurbish and redesign the hospitality spaces and surfaces of the past, present, and the future to protect clientele from viral harm, and in doing so diminish the risk of infection and host surface contamination.
For more information about antiviral textile claims, see https://www.aatcc.org/do-not-be-misled/.