Antimicrobial finishes for textile materials

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Textile materials are not only related to microorganisms such as pathogenic bacteria, odour generating bacteria and mould fungi, but also good media for growth of microorganisms. Nowadays people are very conscious about hygiene and cleanliness. Microbial infestation poses danger to both living and non-living matters. Obnoxious smell from the inner garments such as socks, spread of diseases, staining and degradation of textiles are some of the detrimental effects of bad microbes. Though the use of antimicrobials have been known for the decades, it is only in the recent couple of years several attempts have been made on finishing textiles with antimicrobial compounds.

  1. Microorganisms or Microbes:

Microbes are very small lives on the earth which can’t be seen by the naked eyes. They may be known as micro-organisms like bacteria, fungi, algae and viruses, etc. Warmth and moist atmosphere is very much suitable for bacterial growth.

These bacteria are sub classified into different groups namely Gram positive (Staphylococcus aureus), Gram negative (E-Coli), spore bearing or non-spore bearing types. Apart from that some are pathogenic and cause cross infection bacteria. Whereas some microbes like fungi, molds or mildew are shown slower growth rate due to its complex nature.

Microbes will deteriorate the performance properties and quality of the fabrics by eating cellulose content in the textile material and causes staining on the fabrics. It is observed that fungi’s are active at a 6.5pH. Algae is a kind microorganism which grows under water and sun light, it produces darker stains on the fabrics. The dust particles which are present in the environment may stick to the human skin and can cause allergic reactions and also respiratory disorders.

A clear understanding of the microorganisms, who they are, where they come from, and why they grow on certain textile materials provide us a basis for controlling them and their negative effects. This control capability, with right technology can provide a valuable feature on a wide range of textiles. The relevant specimens for textiles mainly are bacteria and fungi are listed in table 1.  

Table 1: Antibacterial chemicals



Inorganic chemicals and metal compounds Silver zeolite, titan oxide, silver silicate, soluble glass powder with metallic ions, silver sulphonate, iron-phtalozyanat, copper sulphonate
Tenside Organic silicon with tertiary ammonium salts
Phenol Biozol, Thimol, Alkylenbisphenol sodium salt
Anilin 3,4,4-Trichlorocarbanilin
Natural products Chitosan


Under favourable conditions of humidity, heat and nutrition (sweat and urea), bacteria can grow rapidly on human skin and on the textiles. They convert sweat into stinking substances like acids, aldehydes and amines causing undesired diseases shown in table 2.

Table2: Micro-organism causing diseases

Sr. No.

Type of Bacteria

Type of Fungi

1 Staphylococcus pyogens PenicilliumFuniculosum
2 Staphylococcus aureus Aspergilusniger
3 Pseudomonas aeruginosa Chaetomiunglolosum
4 Coagulase-negative Staphylococci Aureobasidiumpullulans
5 Enterococci TrichodermaSporogenes
6 Escherichia coli Epidermophylon


Reactions like colour change, mould stains on textiles. The types of textiles which are mostly affected by bacteria attacks are sportswear, leisure wear, military garments, upholstery garments, quilts, carpets and cushions. In addition to degradation of textiles, bacteria can also affect the various chemicals to use. The most affected once are aqueous emulsions, dispersions, dyestuff liquors, printing paste etc. the desired properties such viscosity and stability may be badly affected.

  1. Necessity of antimicrobial finishes:

Antimicrobial treatment for textile materials is necessary to fulfill the following objectives:

  • To control micro-organisms
  • To protect from viral infections caused by pathogenic bacteria
  • To optimise the rate of metabolism in microbes to reduce the generation of odour
  • To save the quality of the textile materials from unexpected staining, fade out of colour and quality deterioration.
  1. Antimicrobial finish should possess following facts:

Garments are supposed to go through the more wear and tears during the chemical processing and its service time. The following facts should be fulfilled for the satisfactory performance of the finish:

  • Durability to wash, dry clean and hot press process.
  • It should not be hazardous to the producer, final user and the environmental conditions.
  • Suitability with the various chemical processes.
  • Ease of application.
  • Retention of fabric quality up to the mark.
  • To avoid body fluids.
  • To avoid the disinfections/sterilization.
  1. Operations of antimicrobial activity:

The antimicrobial activity is measured in terms of occurrence of the zone of inhibition. The resisted zone by finish and which is not affected by the bacteria is known as antibacterial and that of fungi is antimycotin. Antimicrobials are classified according to the functional behavior as follows:

a). Leaching Type (Conventional antimicrobials).

b). Non leaching Type

Leaching type:

The conventional leaching type of antibacterial diffuses from the garment forming a sphere of activity any microbe coming in contact with sphere and destroyed. These antimicrobials leave the textile and chemically enter or react with the microorganisms acting as poison. This type shows poor durability and cause health problems.

Non Leaching Type:

These antimicrobials being bound to the garment do not migrate off but destroy the bacteria coming in contact with the surface of garment. The chemical gets attached to the substrate either by chemical bonding or by polymerizing, forming a layer on the surface of treated fabric. The microbes do not consume the chemical, instead, the chemical acts on the cell membrane of the microbes. Hence the finishing will be permanent and will remain effective for substantial length of time. The finish may be withstood for more than 40 laundry washes.

  1. Applications of antimicrobial finishing activity:

The chemical which is used as an antimicrobial activity, it can be applied to the textile material by exhaust, pad-dry-cure, coating, spray and foam techniques. The substances can also be applied by directly adding into the fiber spinning dope. Various methods for improving the permanence of the finish such as:

  • Insolubilisation of the capable substances in/on the fibre;
  • Apply the resin on the fibre, and improve the adhesion by cross linking agents;
  • With the help of microbial agents protect the fibre matrix by micro covering;
  • Application of finish on the fibre surface;
  • Modifying the chemical structure of the fibre by forming the covalent bond; and
  • Application of nano polymers, homo polymers and/or copolymer on to substrate.
  1. References:
  1. Gopalakrishnan and R.K.Aswini, “Antimicrobial finishes”, Melliand International Journal, vol.8, pp.148-151, (May 2002).
  2. Sheila Shahidi and Jakub Wiener, “Antibacterial agents in Textile Industry”, Science of the Total Environment, vol.19, pp.388-404. (2006).
  3. Yuan Gao and Robin Cranston., “Recent Advances in Antimicrobial Treatments of Textiles”, Textile Research Journal, Vol.78, pp. 60-72 (2008).
  4. Jyothi D., “Experimental study on Antimicrobial Activity of Cotton Fabric Treated with Aloe gel Extract from Aloe vera Plant for Controlling the Staphylococcus aureus (bacterium)”, African Journal of Microbiology Research, Vol.3, No.5, pp.228-232 (May 2009).
  5. Ammayappan L. and Jeyakodi Moses J., “Study of antimicrobial activity of alovera, Chitosan, and curcumin on cotton, wool, and rabbit hair, Fibres and Polymers”, Vol.10, No. 2, pp.161-166 (2009).
  6. Sathianarayanan M. P, Bhat N. V, Kokate S. S, and Walunj V. E., “Antimicrobial Finish for Cotton Fabric from Herbal Products”, Indian Journal of Fibre and Textile Research, Vol.35, pp.50- 58 (March 2010).
  7. JeoungSoo Lee, Yun Jin Jung, YounTaeg Kim, and Young Mi Kim., “Formation, Properties, and Antimicrobial Activity of a Cotton Xanthate-Cu (II)-Metronidazole, Textile Research Journal, Vol.70, 2000, P 641-645.
  8. Sun Y. & Sun G., “Novel regenerable N-halamine polymeric biocides. I. synthesis, characterization, and antibacterial activity of hydantoin-containing polymers, Journal of Applied Polymer Science, Vol. 80 (13), 2001, P 2460-2467.
  9. Jawahar Abraham T, Nagarajan J. and Shanmugan S. A., “Antimicrobial Substance of Potential Biomedical Importance from Holothurian Species, Indian Journal of Marine Science, Vol.31, No. 2, June 2002, P 161-164.
  10. Lee H. J, Yeo S. Y. & Jeong S. H., “Antibacterial effect of nanosized silver colloidal solution on textile fabrics”, Journal of Materials Science, Vol.38 (10), 2003, P 2199-2204.
  11. Mahltig B, Fiedler D,&Bottcher H., “Antimicrobial sol-gel coatings”, Journal of Sol-Gel Science and Technology, Vol.32(1), 2004, P 219-222.
  12. Mahltig B, HaufeHelfried&Bottcher H., “Functionalisation of textiles by inorganic sol–gel coatings”, Journal of Materials Chemistry, Vol.15, 2005, P 4385-4398.
  13. Roman Jantas, and KatarzynaGorna., “Antimicrobial Finishing of Cotton Fabrics”, Fibres and Textiles in Eastern Europe, Vol.14, No. 1(55), January/March 2006, P 88-91.
  14. Gouda M., “Enhancing Flame-resistance and Antimicrobial Properties of Cotton Fabric”, Journal of Industrial Textiles, Vol.36, 2006, P 167-177.
  15. Francois N. R, Renaud, Jeanne Dore, Freney H. Jean, Bernard Clonel, and Jean-Yves Dusseau., “Evaluation of Antimicrobial Finish in a Hospital Environment”, Journal of Industrial Textiles, Vol.36, 2006.
  16. Gouda M, and Ibrahim N. A., “New Approach for Improving Antimicrobial Functions of Cotton Fabric”, Journal of Industrial Textiles, Vol.37, No. 4, April 2008, P 327-339.
  17. Abo-Shosha M. H, Hashem A. M, El-Hosamy M.B. and El-Nagar A.H., “Easy care finishing of knitted cotton fabric in presence of a reactive-type antimicrobial agent”, Journal 0f Industrial Textile, Vol.38, No.2 October 2008, P 103-126.
  18. Degoutin S., “Anticoagulant and antimicrobial finishing of non-woven polypropylene textiles”, Biomedical Materials,1-13 (2012).

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