MDT – Antimicrobial Textiles

Academic leader: Amaya Igartua Aranzabal, Fundacion TEKNIKER (Spain), e-mail:

Academic co-leader: Brian McCarthy, University of Manchester (UK), e-mail

Industrial co-leader: John Ellis, Devan Chemicals (UK), e-mail:

Antimicrobials are applied to textiles to preserve the textile in use or to impart hygienic finishes to clothing or medical textiles. Antimicrobial products which are likely to record the strongest sales gains are those that offer the highest efficacy and durability while posing little or no threat to the safety of consumers or the environment.

Many antimicrobial treatments – both organic and inorganic – have been developed at laboratory scale, but it is necessary to scale up to industrial scale. The EU Biocidal Products Regulation has reduced the number of active agents available for use in the textiles and clothing sectors.

There is a lack of common academic or industrial specifications for antimicrobial textiles: e.g. durability, Drop absorption times, antimicrobial properties, biodegradability, impact on the environment in terms of eco-toxicity.

Initial discussion have generated interest in the water filtration, personnel protection and medical textiles areas.

The use of antimicrobials in textiles are as follows:

  • Requirements of antimicrobial agents used in the textile and clothing sectors
  • Compounds used to impart antimicrobial functionality to textiles
  • Technologies used in bulk, coatings and treatments
  • Antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral compounds
  • Incorporation into the fibre itself or via fibre surface deposition

Some drawbacks have been identified as immediate market requirements:

  • Reduction of costs
  • Application technologies scale-up using advanced coating and other sophisticated deposition processes
  • Lack of comparative figures relating to in-service performance
  • Lack of knowledge of environmental impact of antimicrobial compounds
  • Correct formulation to provide product synergy
  • Health related issues reflecting long term use
  • Correct selection of active again specific target organisms – e.g. bacteria, fungi and viruses

The Antimicrobials MDT is now developing the NANOEMI proposal – focussing on the development of alternatives for nano-encapsulation. A number of project partners are preparing an overview of novel technologies that could be used to generate nano-capsules to deliver reduced active concentrations (safe for people and the environment) but applied at effective and durable levels.