The use of antibacterial chemistries in textiles has grown dramatically over the last 25 years. Today’s consumers demand enhanced aesthetics and comfort in apparel, as well as higher levels of protection, performance and easy-care properties. That’s why consumers are spending their money on innerwear, socks and a variety of apparel goods containing durable antibacterial protection that controls odors.

But what antibacterial technologies are best suited for use in textiles? Obviously the next-to-skin use of most apparel warrants antibacterial technologies with strong safety profiles and with active ingredients that won’t cross the skin barrier. Biocides with the potential for bioaccumulation should specifically be avoided. The main biocidal requirements of the textile industry have been for bactericides that control odor or fungicides that protect goods from mold and mildew during shipment and storage. Of course, any biocide used in apparel should be designed so as not to impair the textile properties in any way. In addition, it should provide efficacy after multiple launderings and control a broad spectrum of microorganisms without irritating the skin. These properties can only be determined after the antimicrobial is applied and testing is performed.

In a recent International Antimicrobial Council textile study, an innovative new, polymer-based technology from The Dow Chemical Company provided the longest-lasting antibacterial protection of the products tested. The Dow product, called SILVADUR™ Antimicrobial, outperformed the particle silver and quat silane-based chemistries that are commonly used within the textile industry. According to Dow, the world’s leading microbial control company, SILVADUR’s sustainability profile is an important component of this unique antimicrobial technology. Whether used on innerwear, athletic wear, lingerie or work wear, SILVADUR’s patented, polymer-based technology delivers silver ions to the fabric surface and activates them in the presence of bacteria. This unique bio-responsive technology ensures that the active ingredient is retained wash after wash, allowing SILVADUR to be applied at very efficient levels. This new technology can also make apparel easier to care for by controlling odors and extending the number of times a garment can be worn between washes – saving consumers time, energy, water and detergent.

Apparel can be a significant harbinger of bacteria because next-to-skin surfaces contain the right combination of organic matter, moisture and temperature to create the ideal environment to support odor-causing microbiological growth. Wearing apparel that generates offensive odors is never a pleasant experience for the person wearing the apparel or for those nearby. Mixed-use garments are especially susceptible to generating offending odors in social settings. Golf, tennis and other athletic apparel are often worn before, during and following athletic events, making effective odor control a valuable asset for these goods. As market leaders such as Dow develop and manufacture microbial control technologies that deliver a higher level of performance than ever before, more textile companies will adopt the use of technologies to add value to their products and improve customer loyalty.